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Yamaha's history from 1955 to 2005 – Part 7

Yamaha's history from 1955 to 2005 – Part 7

Yamaha's history from 1955 to 2005 – Part 7

1980-1984: The Yamaha TZ – race bike of the people

Yamaha has scored most of its GP victories with its own factory teams, just like most other racing marques. But Yamaha has also achieved a remarkable of success with two-stroke production bikes sold to privateer racers. Yamaha's TZ750 four and TZ350 and TZ250 twins all won World Championship crowns in the hands of privately-entered riders who bought their bikes and honed them into world-class winners.

Indeed the TZ was motorcycle racing in the late 70's and early 80's, packing GP grids and national grids the world over. These relatively simple but highly effective machines gave talented but no-so-wealthy racers the chance of competing with the best in the world; a 1976 TZ250C cost just 1,500 pounds, including a generous spares kit! Tuned and modified TZ twins took no less than four 250 and 350 world titres in the early eighties; French privateer Jean-Louis Tournadre winning the 1982 title, Venemotos-backed Carlos Lavado the '83 crown and Gauloises-backed Christian Sarron the '84 championship.

In 1980, gritty South African privateer Jon Ekerold defeated factory rivals to take the 1980 350 crown, while slightly over-bored versions of the TZ350 won several 500 GPs in the 70s. Indeed, many poorer club and national-level racers used the same TZ350 for both 350 and 500 races, just replacing blue 350 number plates with yellow 500 number plates and entering the bike as Yamaha 351 or 354! These bikes were wryly christened ‘Three-Five-Fablons'. At the same time, Yamaha's TZ750 four (a cousin of the YZR500) monopolised the short-lived Formula 750 series from 1977 to 1979.

The reed-valve TZ250 and 350 had their origins in the early TD1 and TD2 racers of the late 60s and 70s, themselves derived from streetbikes initiated by the RD56. The TZs were developed year by year, gaining water-cooling in 1972, disc brakes and monoshock rear suspension in 1976, YPVS power valves in 1981 and so on.

And just as the TZs had been derived from streetbikes, so did Yamaha create the legendary RD250LC and RD350LC streetbikes from the TZ. The LCs dominated club racing during the early 80's and were also converted into successful Formula Two and Three racers, proving once again the perpetual link between Yamaha road and race bikes.

MotoGP, 2005

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