It if was fast and ridden to the very edge, Duhamel was probably on it
Yvon Duhamel was first one of my favorites on the race track not because of his incredible skills on a Yamaha or Kawasaki racing bike, but because of his all-out style on Ski-doo Blizzard snowmobiles.
Indeed, I actually met him, however briefly, in the early 1970s at the Ironwood Snowmobile Olympus in Ironwood, Mich., when he was there as a factory racer for the Bombardier Ski-doo Racing team.
Indeed, Duhamel won the World Championship of snowmobile racing at Eagle River, Wis., in 1970 aboard a Ski-doo sled. In 1972, he won the grueling Winnipeg to St. Paul 500 cross-country endurance race also on a Ski-doo Blizzard.
But, by that time Duhamel had already made a name for himself in Canada racing motorcycles on ice and snowmobiles.
He joined the Kawasaki Racing Team along with Gary Nixon and Art Bauman in the early 1970s. It was on the ferociously fast but ill-handling lime-green Kawasaki factory triples that he generated enormous excitement in pro motorcycle racing with wild on-track battles and hairy crashes—crashes he seemed to always bounce back from.
Duhamel competed in the Daytona 200 14 times between 1964 and 1984. Six of those outings were on a Kawasaki, three on Yamaha, three on Triumph, one on a BSA, and one on a Honda.
Of the fourteen starts, he had two top-10 finishes on the podium in second place in 1968 on a Fred Deeley, Ltd. Yamaha and just off the podium in fourth on a Yamaha in 1970. His best finish at Daytona for Team Green was 36th.
The lightweight class at Daytona was better for Duhamel, where he won the event in 1968 and ’69.
Duhamel even competed in a NASCAR Winston Cup race at the North Wilkesboro Speedway in 1973. He finishing tenth for Junie Donlavey in the Truxmore Ford after starting 15th. He completed 381 laps of the 400-lap Gwyn Staley 400.
In 1988 he entered the 24-hour Bol D’or with sons Mario and Miguel, becoming the first father-son team to participate in the race. In his fifties, Duhamel ran a Sportster in AMA competition and ran in vintage racing events.
In 1999, Duhamel was inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame and the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame and later he was inducted into the Canadian Motorcycle Hall of Fame.
Yvon Duhamel died on August 17, 2021, at the age of 81.
- Duhamel as part of the 24 hour, 10km, and 100km world record Kawasaki Z1 effort at Daytona 1973
- Eagle River World Championship snowmobile race 1970 Yvon Duhamel winner
- Duhamel high-side crash (by FFM Bike 70)—why he was regarded as the “Iron Man” of road racing