AMERICAN MOTORCYCLIST MAY 2020
Wayne Rainey’s 1983 Kawasaki GPz750
Photo by Preston Ray (www.PrestonRay.com)
In 1983, future AMA Motorcycle Hall of Famer Wayne Rainey faced an uphill battle in the AMA Superbike Series. His low-tech Kawasaki was facing off against Honda’s all-new liquid-cooled V-4 powerhouse based on the VF750F Interceptor.
In contrast, Rainey’s Kawasaki Superbike was based on the air-cooled, inline-four GPz750 introduced in 1982, which in turn was based on the older Kawasaki KZ750. The GPz was, by the racing standards of 1983, a low-tech machine.
Team Honda showcased future AMA Hall of Famers Mike Baldwin, who was the reigning Formula One champion, Steve Wise and Fred Merkel. Future Hall of Famer Freddie Spencer even raced the new VF750, winning the season-opening Daytona Superbike race before heading off to Europe that year to become the youngest 500cc world championship series winner in history at age 21.
Honda’s dream team of riders reeled off five more consecutive wins in the 14-race series.
But future Hall of Famer Rob Muzzy, Kawasaki’s engine wizard, was undaunted, finding ways to squeeze more power out of Rainey’s machine. That, coupled with Rainey’s considerable talent, helped him come to grips with the bike by midseason.
That’s when Rainey went on a remarkable streak, winning six races and eventually, the 1983 AMA Superbike title. Although Kawasaki dropped out of Superbike racing the next year, this is the bike that launched his remarkable career.
Honda went on to win five AMA Superbike titles in a row and Rainey claimed one of those titles in 1987. He then put his skills to the test in Europe, where he earned three 500cc world championships for Yamaha.
Existing examples of factory Superbikes are rare. Thanks to the generosity of Kawasaki Motor Corp. U.S.A., Rainey’s championship-winning 1983 Kawasaki AMA Superbike is just one of the fabulous machines in the permanent collection of, and on display at, the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame in Pickerington, Ohio.