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Slow Burn: The Growth of Superbikes and Superbike Racing 1970 to 1988 [Review]

Until I read the latest book by Bob Guntrip, Slow Burn: The Growth of Superbikes and Superbike Racing 1970 to 1988, I had almost forgotten why, as an adolescent, I came to view Canadian Yvon Duhamel as one of the greatest—and toughest—motorcycle racers to ever turn a lap.

Duhamel rode those wild H1R, H2R and KR750 Kawasaki two-stroke triples to podium finishes again and again, despite a litany of reliability problems, twitchy handling characteristics and a propensity for hard crashes. Duhamel shook them all off in the early days of superbike racing and gave Kawasaki—and race fans—more than their money’s worth.

But Duhamel is not the only superbike racing hero whose exploits are covered in remarkable detail in Guntrip’s spectacular narrative about the early days of superbike racing.

Slow Burn: The Growth of Superbikes and Superbike Racing 1970 to 1988 [Review]

Guntrip covers the highs and lows of premier class racing (as defined in terms of F750, F1 TT, TT Superbike, World Superbike, etc. of the day and more) for greats including Giacomo Agostini, Dave Aldana, Steve Baker, Mike Baldwin, Kel Carruthers, Johnny Cecotto, Wes Cooley, John Cooper, Joey Dunlop, Don Emde, Dave Emde, Wayne Gardner, Mick Grant, Ron Grant, Mike Hailwood, Eddie Lawson, Dick Mann, Steve McLaughlin, Gary Nixon, Wayne Rainey, Cal Rayborn, Paul Ritter, Phil Read, Kenny Roberts, Gene Romero, Jarno Saarinen, Kevin Schwantz, Barry Sheene, Freddie Spencer, John Williams, Hurley Wilvert, Stan Woods—and believe it or not, many more.

The riders aren’t the only aspect of that incredible period of racing; the tuners and builders such as Erv Kanemoto, Pops Yoshimura, Kevin Cameron, Mamoru Moriwaki, and others are given their due, as well.

The story of the great machines and the remarkable men who rode them is told with clarity and energy; each event in each season is related such that you might be there hearing the words of the experts calling the race as it happens.

Daytona, Laguna Seca, the Isle of Man, Suzuka, Bol d’Or, all the great British racing venues and around the world, figure in the story. So, too, does Yamaha’s epic race-bred TZ750, which for years dominated the class wherever it appeared. And, how the age of the dominant two-stroke machines gave way to big four-strokes.

An interesting aspect of Guntrip’s work is how it reveals many of the technical innovations brought about during this period. They were first used for racing before finding their way into consumer bikes, many of which are in use even today. He chronicles a historic period that marked the transition from the way motorcycles were to the way they would be.

Guntrip covers the fascinating backstory, the uncommon technical details, the politics and maneuvering that happened off the track as well as on. He covers the decision-making and policy pronouncements of the FIM and AMA that made superbike racing what it was—and what it wasn’t.

Check out our review of Bob Guntrip’s other exceptional book, The Racing Line.

Book Data:

  • Title: Slow Burn-the Growth of Superbikes and Superbike Racing 1970 to 1988
  • Author: Bob Guntrip
  • Published: 2020 hardcover, 256 pages, 102 color and black & white images, page size 5.75” x 8.75.”
  • Publisher: Veloce Publishing, Parkway Farm Business Park, Middle Farm Way, Poundbury, Dorchester, DT1 3AR, England (www.veloce.co.uk)
  • Veloce Publications are distributed in North America by: Quarto Publishing Group, 400 First Ave. North, Suite 400, Minneapolis, MN 55401. Books can be ordered by e-mail at: qds@quartous.com or call: 1-612-344-8100. See: www.quartoknows.com
  • ISBN: 978-1-787113-16-9
  • MSRP: U.S. $35.00 U.K. £25.00 $46.00 CAN

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