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Yamaha's history from 1955 to 2005 – Part 8

Yamaha's history from 1955 to 2005 – Part 8

Yamaha's history from 1955 to 2005 – Part 8

1984-1988: The YZR takes three more titles

Eddie Lawson inherited King Kenny Roberts' mantle for spearheading Yamaha's 500 World Championship squad. He was a quick learner, winning the title in only his second 500 season, in 1984, and again in 1986 and 1988.

Lawson spent much of his time in 500 GPs fighting some unforgettable duels with Honda's Freddie Spencer – the cool Californian versus the God-fearing boy from Louisiana. He was very much an intelligent motorcycle racer, nicknamed Steady Eddie for his deceptively smooth but electrifyingly quick riding style. Brought up on US dirt tracks and in American Superbike racing, Lawson brought unerring consistency to GP because he was clever enough not to make mistakes.

During his first five seasons in GPs he won 26 GP victories, all the while presiding important technological improvements to Yamaha's YZR500. These included the introduction of reed-valve induction (used for the first time on a Yamaha V4) and the Deltabox twin beam aluminium chassis required to handle the rapidly spiralling power outputs. By 1988 the YZR500 was pushing out more than 150 horsepower, with plenty more to come. But further detail improvements ensured that the YZR kept getting better during the late 80's, becoming known as the most rider-friendly of the now crazily quick 500s. Upgrades included a wider-angled vee engine for smoother carburation and the creation of the so-called ‘gull-wing' swingarm, which allowed better exhaust pipe routing.

During Lawson's era Yamaha also leased a growing number of YZR500s to so-called ‘semi-factory' teams. These outfits were financed by a new generation of multinational sponsors, attracted by bike racing's growing TV audience, which helped them to afford machinery that was almost identical to the full-factory bikes ridden by Lawson. Yamaha's leasing policy worked beautifully – the factory won a hat trick of constructors' titles from 1986 to 1988. In '88 five of the first six men in the riders' World Championship were Yamaha mounted!

MotoGP, 2005

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