“King” Kenny Roberts is an American motorcycle racing legend. He rose from the ranks of American dirt tracks to become a multi-time champion at the highest levels of motorcycle racing, including Grand Prix. During his career, there is a singular bike and a singular race that may define him more than any other. The Yamaha TZ750 he sat on top of one night in Indy during the summer of 1975 was considered an over engined, under chassied death trap. Boiled down, Yamaha shoved a 120hp road racing engine in a dirt track chassis, patted him on the back and told him to have at it.
How insane was this thing? Roberts said that he had to throw it sideways at 150mph in order to slow enough to make it around the corners on the one mile dirt oval in Indy. He started in the last place position, took the lead on the final lap and cemented his place in American motorsports lore. The bike met the same fate when it was banned from competition just a scant few weeks after the race.
Roberts’ famous quote after winning the Indy race was, “They don’t pay me enough to ride that thing.”
As you’ll hear him say in the video below, he was riding the bike like his hair was on fire, the rear wheel clipping the hay bales in the corners at far more than 100mph. The crowd, obviously understanding what they were seeing, went ape bleep. 34 years later at Indy, Kenny Roberts and that bat shit crazy motorcycle were reunited and in front of a packed house he hauled ass around the corners in the same lunatic fringe way he did during the event in 1975.
You don’t have to love or even understand dirt track motorcycle racing to get this video. Wild machines and brave men are what racing is all about. Press play below to see them both in action.