If you don’t already know that I am a sucker for anything to do with motorcycle endurance racing then you haven’t been hanging around here for long. Well before the internet and social media, my fascination with what was being done in Europe in 8, 12 and 24 hour races was enormous. I devoured articles in the motorcycle press and was especially interested when the Bike Book published a half-dozen page spread at the end of 1975 featuring an in-depth article on the Godier-Genoud Kawasaki racer.
I don’t know who took the photo above, it doesn’t say, but I’ve never seen it before and it deserves a mention for a whole lot of reasons.
Firstly, it features the aforementioned Godier-Genoud Kawasaki racer. Now this machine is worthy of a book all in itself and for those of you who aren’t familiar, here’s a bit of info.
The photo above is from a bit later than the bike featured, 1977 to be precise. The G-G bike underwent constant refinements over the years and was always the standard against which all other bikes were measured. But, in 1977, it almost met its match when the Hannan brothers, Ross and Ralph (Australian distributors of Yoshimura products) set out to take on the most difficult race in the world, the Bol d’Or 24 hour race in France, right in the Godier-Genoud backyard.
While the G-G bike was filled with the very latest in trickery, the Hannans decided to take them (and everyone else) on with what was basically a warmed-over street bike. It was the Kawasaki 1000 that Kiwi ace, Graeme Crosby, had been racing in what was called back then, the Unlimited Improved Touring races, in Australia. Though it was crammed full of every “go-faster” bit available from the Yoshimura catalog, it was still an age away from the sophisticated weaponry ranged against it by the European teams.
The whole episode is filled with anecdotes and stories (some true, some perhaps not) and, like every incident of the day involving the larrikan Crosby, it gets better with the telling. We do know that Croz rode the race bike through the public streets from Paris to Le Mans to get to the track so that he would be in time for scrutineering, that should probably be enough.
It’s pretty easy to imagine what the reaction was from the “purists” at the track when they saw that Crosby and team-mate, Tony Hatton turn up for practice. Their incredulity increased considerably once the two “imports” got out on the track and started blitzing off astounding laps. As the photo above shows, both Godier and Genoud were flabbergasted when Croz cruised past their bike on the long back straight.
Sadly, it wasn’t to be. The bike couldn’t handle the flogging that Croz and Tony gave it and the result of all their efforts was a DNF. Nevertheless, it made plenty of people sit up and take notice and put the Euros on notice that Croz was a man to watch.
In 1978 Croz and Tony returned with a much more special Kawasaki, a “proper” frame, better, faster and even with a fairing (gasp). Unfortunately, despite being even faster it was less than successful again but it did provide the springboard for Croz to race in the Inaugural Suzuka 8 Hour later in the year which he won on the Moriwaki Kawasaki.
And the local connection? Well, you know the famous Croz shot from Macarthur Park in 1978 where Croz is riding the stock Z1R with the road registration? Well, he was riding it because the Hannan bike was stranded at the docks after competing at the Bol d’Or and he had no bike to ride.
Is it any wonder Croz had to write a book about his exploits? And, even then, he left out lots of stuff.
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