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Did Kawasaki ever seriously think of building a 500cc Grand Prix bike?


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#1 Graham Clayton

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Posted 06 February 2013 - 05:17

I know that Kawasaki had some success in the 250cc class in the 1970's, but did they ever seriously consider building a 500cc Grand Prix bike? Did they build any prototypes? What were their reasons for not joining Honda, Suzuki and Yamaha in the major Grand Prix class?

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#2 robinmck

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Posted 06 February 2013 - 05:36

They did didn't they. Firstly the H1R in the late 60's and early 70's, as campaigned by the likes of Ginger Molley then the in 1980 to 1982 the KR500 as campaigned by Kork Ballington and others. But appears nothing in the mid to late 70's.

#3 GD66

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Posted 06 February 2013 - 08:34

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Without doubt one of the sexiest bikes ever Graham, but very temperamental until well-sorted, the H1-R triple had plenty of good results in 500 GPs from 1970 onwards as a privateer bike.



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The 1982 square-four KR500 on the other hand, in spite of Kork Ballington's bravery, was a typical half-hearted Kawasaki race effort...too late, too heavy, and too slow...

Edited by GD66, 06 February 2013 - 08:38.


#4 johnyC

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Posted 06 February 2013 - 08:46

The 1982 square-four KR500 on the other hand, in spite of Kork Ballington's bravery, was a typical half-hearted Kawasaki race effort...too late, too heavy, and too slow...


Here's Kork pulling the fairing off and giving a description of the bike: Kork Ballington, KR500

#5 Herr Wankel

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Posted 06 February 2013 - 11:02

They did didn't they. Firstly the H1R in the late 60's and early 70's, as campaigned by the likes of Ginger Molley then the in 1980 to 1982 the KR500 as campaigned by Kork Ballington and others. But appears nothing in the mid to late 70's.


Ginger's bike was only any good after the boys at Bultaco had a ferret around inside it !

HW


#6 fil2.8

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Posted 06 February 2013 - 12:59

I know that Kawasaki had some success in the 250cc class in the 1970's, but did they ever seriously consider building a 500cc Grand Prix bike? Did they build any prototypes? What were their reasons for not joining Honda, Suzuki and Yamaha in the major Grand Prix class?



Well , Dave Simmonds didn't do to badly , winning the 1971 Spanish 500GP , Kawasaki's first Senior GP win , finishing 4th in the table , and 7th the following year , his last :cry:

#7 Graham Clayton

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Posted 07 February 2013 - 02:35

THanks everyone for correcting my misapprehension that Kawasaki did not produce a 500cc GP bike!

#8 picblanc

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Posted 07 February 2013 - 09:33

Well , Dave Simmonds didn't do to badly , winning the 1971 Spanish 500GP , Kawasaki's first Senior GP win , finishing 4th in the table , and 7th the following year , his last :cry:




An absolute stonker of a photo from Jan Burgers!

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Photo Jan Burgers.






#9 zidder

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Posted 07 February 2013 - 18:59

Dont know anything about the bike other than ex-Mick Grant with Jamie Whitham riding

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#10 exclubracer

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Posted 07 February 2013 - 19:28

Dont know anything about the bike other than ex-Mick Grant with Jamie Whitham riding

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Definitely KR750, '75 model?

#11 picblanc

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Posted 07 February 2013 - 21:21

Only Kawasaki stickers original! :rotfl:

#12 greg1953

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Posted 07 February 2013 - 21:39

Dont know anything about the bike other than ex-Mick Grant with Jamie Whitham riding

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It's got yellow plates ie a 500, Mick Grant rode a 500, I've even got the sound of it on cassette at Scarboro' in 75 together with Tony Rutters Offenstadt and the Harley 500 twin ridden by Mimo Cazaniga ( probably spelled wrong ) and Read on the MV 500.
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#13 GD66

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Posted 07 February 2013 - 21:55

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I suspect it may be this 500, which Mick rode in the 1975 Senior TT, having had it seize approaching Quarter Bridge on lap 1, cruised around gingerly in the damp to complete the lap, arrived back at the finish line to find himself signalled in fourth place, opened it up and won the race... :cool:

Pic by Richard Adams.

Edited by GD66, 07 February 2013 - 21:56.


#14 picblanc

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Posted 07 February 2013 - 22:31

It's got yellow plates ie a 500, Mick Grant rode a 500, I've even got the sound of it on cassette at Scarboro' in 75 together with Tony Rutters Offenstadt and the Harley 500 twin ridden by Mimo Cazaniga ( probably spelled wrong ) and Read on the MV 500.
Greg


Old Mimo @ Mallory Race of the Year 1975.

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Photo Copyrighted to Graham Etheridge.






#15 SgtPepperoni

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Posted 08 February 2013 - 12:23

The 1982 square-four KR500 on the other hand, in spite of Kork Ballington's bravery, was a typical half-hearted Kawasaki race effort...too late, too heavy, and too slow...

Not sure that's true. I think the reason it failed was because they put all their eggs in Ballington' s basket and he simply failed to get the best out of it. He was essentially a small bike rider with no 500 experience, and he was expected to develop the bike. Hansford was drafted in to ride the bike in Spa, but broke his arm in a practice crash.
It is telling that when journalist Alan Cathcart tested all the 500's from the early eighties, he made the Kawa his #1 pick. I feel it would have been a winner in the hands of a more capable 500 rider. Ballington was simply the wrong choice IMHO .

#16 GD66

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Posted 08 February 2013 - 12:59

Hansford broke his leg, and suffered repeated clots for some time afterwards, but he'd been on the KR since its' inception in 1981. From memory, Cathcart found the KR most to his liking because it was the bike he felt most comfortable on of those tested, not because it was the quickest, lightest or fastest.

#17 SgtPepperoni

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Posted 08 February 2013 - 13:09

Hansford broke his leg, and suffered repeated clots for some time afterwards, but he'd been on the KR since its' inception in 1981. From memory, Cathcart found the KR most to his liking because it was the bike he felt most comfortable on of those tested, not because it was the quickest, lightest or fastest.

I can't recall any other race Hansford competed in on the bike. Could you refresh my old memory, maybe with a pic or a link?
If I remember correctly, Cathcart said it was his choice of the best 500 at the time, not the one he found most comfortable (it was a test of racing machines afterall). You speak of weight and speed, but don't quote any numbers. Maybe it was just your perception of the bike, or maybe something you heard? I would really love to have some figures to compare the weight and speed with other 500's of that time. It certainly didn't look any slower than the Yamaha and Suzuki in Silverstone in 1982 when Ballington mixed it up at the front until slowed by a braking problem, I think it was.

Edited by SgtPepperoni, 08 February 2013 - 13:18.


#18 GD66

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Posted 08 February 2013 - 13:17

http://classic-motor...egory/moriwaki-

Slide down the right column and click KR500. And check out the weight and horsepower comparisons at the bottom.

Edited by GD66, 08 February 2013 - 13:20.


#19 Macca

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Posted 08 February 2013 - 13:41

The first version of the KR500 had a full monocoque; this was strange, since Kawa had succeeded with the 250 by having a good engine in a relatively conventional frame, with only the Full-Floater suspension being fairly novel.

Then the second version had a twin-plate backbone semi-monocoque, with detachable tank - still different to what the other Jap works teams were running. Seems like they were trying to develop too much too quickly with too few riders (although Eddie Lawson also rode one sometimes in the USA in 1981).

Paul M

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#20 SgtPepperoni

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Posted 08 February 2013 - 14:00

http://classic-motor...egory/moriwaki-

Slide down the right column and click KR500. And check out the weight and horsepower comparisons at the bottom.

Not sure how accurate that is. It looks like a ball park figure to me. Did they actually brake test the bike themselves? Highly doubtful. I've become a sceptic regarding HP figures in articles like that one. Sorry.

#21 GD66

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Posted 08 February 2013 - 14:32

Good for you.

Here's another article mentioning Hansford's efforts on the KR500.

http://www.motorcycl...part-II/14.aspx?

Edited by GD66, 08 February 2013 - 14:45.


#22 bobness

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Posted 08 February 2013 - 15:39

My recollection of it is that it was long and heavy, maybe a touch underpowered.
Ballington rode at many UK internationals in 80/81/82 with a fair bit of success, especially at Donington IIRC, so the bike wasn't all that bad, but he never got anywhere near the top step of a 500 GP.
Could the KR500 have been competitive in another's hands? (Hansford and Lawson gave it a good go)
Was Ballington the right figurehead for the team?
Was he even a 500 rider?

For my money, Ballington was a good rider, especially on smaller bikes. Like Mang, he never seemed to be at the very top level at 500 GPs, but was dominant at 250/350. Maybe Kawasaki should have approached a proven "major" 500 rider for 1981/82, if only for comparisons to Kork? A 2 man team surely being better than a one man team to develop a new bike.

More questions than answers.

#23 tonyed

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Posted 08 February 2013 - 17:17

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Without doubt one of the sexiest bikes ever Graham, but very temperamental until well-sorted, the H1-R triple had plenty of good results in 500 GPs from 1970 onwards as a privateer bike.



Posted Image

The 1982 square-four KR500 on the other hand, in spite of Kork Ballington's bravery, was a typical half-hearted Kawasaki race effort...too late, too heavy, and too slow...


Agreed the H1-R was one of the best looking bikes of all time.

The KR500 was an abomination taking all the worst aspects of other 500s and making into a slug of a machine. Too long, too slow and too late. :wave:

#24 GD66

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Posted 08 February 2013 - 22:45

Was Ballington the right figurehead for the team?
Was he even a 500 rider?


Well, he had raced a Mach 111, which doesn't really count, but he made his reputation on an H1-R before he came to Europe, so that probably does.
I'm not sure the KR500 showed his talents to their best, but his work on the smaller Kawasakis, and Sid Griffiths' Yamahas before that, was exemplary, and I think he was better than his results may have indicated.
Always interesting to kick it around, anyway.


#25 picblanc

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Posted 08 February 2013 - 23:00

At Siverstone in 1981 he was in the scrap for the lead with Roberts Mamola & Middelburgh even leading for a lap or two.......till it went pop! :well:

#26 TZ350H

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Posted 08 February 2013 - 23:07

The gorgeous ear splitting sound of Eric Offenstat's 500 Kawasaki triple two stroke through the start finish area at dundrod during the 1971 ulster grand prix practice will live in the memory for ever.

#27 OultonPark65

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Posted 09 February 2013 - 13:34

The gorgeous ear splitting sound of Eric Offenstat's 500 Kawasaki triple two stroke through the start finish area at dundrod during the 1971 ulster grand prix practice will live in the memory for ever.


Mallory Park - Not sure of the year think it is 1973, not a great photo but is this the one.

[Posted Image

Edited by OultonPark65, 09 February 2013 - 13:38.


#28 picblanc

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Posted 09 February 2013 - 15:04

Its a great photo, thanks for sharing it. :up:

#29 Mick Robinson

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Posted 09 February 2013 - 17:26

[quote name='Graham Clayton' date='Feb 6 2013, 05:17' post='6118126']
I know that Kawasaki had some success in the 250cc class in the 1970's, but did they ever seriously consider building a 500cc Grand Prix bike? Did they build any prototypes? What were their reasons for not joining Honda, Suzuki and Yamaha in the major Grand Prix class?

A couple of shots of a 1975 replica H1RW 500 built by Nigel Everett
http://www.msrphotog...o_page_502.html
http://www.msrphotog...o_page_501.html

#30 tonyed

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Posted 09 February 2013 - 17:55

Aren't real racers (ie two strokes) much nicer when there isn't a thumping great dustbin hanging on the end of the expansion chamber?

Noise :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: compared with the polution the Septics and Biggles make over East Anglia playing their purile war games a grid full of unsilenced two strokes could enter any library (if Simple Dave hasn't closed them all down) and not a hair would be turned. :)

It's about time we fought back. :clap:

I march on Vestmunster tomorrow armed only with a LH TD3 exhaust and my trust in DOG. :smoking:

Edited by tonyed, 09 February 2013 - 17:56.


#31 philippe7

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Posted 09 February 2013 - 20:11

Mallory Park - Not sure of the year think it is 1973, not a great photo but is this the one.

[Posted Image



Just for the record - I think this is not Eric's monocoque H1R , but the 500cc twin special he built for the 1973 season , by sawing off a cylinder from a 750 kawasaki triple ( oversimplifying things a little, but basically that's what it was ) . A clever idea and a light, torqey machine with which he scored wuite a few world championship points ; He had named it the "SMAC" after the name of his bike concession/frames and wheels business .

#32 OultonPark65

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Posted 09 February 2013 - 20:21

Just for the record - I think this is not Eric's monocoque H1R , but the 500cc twin special he built for the 1973 season , by sawing off a cylinder from a 750 kawasaki triple ( oversimplifying things a little, but basically that's what it was ) . A clever idea and a light, torqey machine with which he scored wuite a few world championship points ; He had named it the "SMAC" after the name of his bike concession/frames and wheels business .

Thanks for the info have looked at this photo several times and wondered about it's origin.

Edited by OultonPark65, 09 February 2013 - 20:22.


#33 GD66

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Posted 10 February 2013 - 00:03

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Offenstadt put the SMAC on the front row for Hockenheim 1973, alongside Newcombe, Kanaya, Agostini, Read and Saarinen. He scored four top-ten finishes that year.

#34 GD66

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Posted 10 February 2013 - 04:34

The first version of the KR500 had a full monocoque; this was strange, since Kawa had succeeded with the 250 by having a good engine in a relatively conventional frame, with only the Full-Floater suspension being fairly novel.



Found a pic of Hansford testing the first model of the KR500 at Calder. The distinctive aerodynamic front guard wasn't pursued...
Posted Image


#35 PaulMar

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Posted 10 February 2013 - 23:15

Aren't real racers (ie two strokes) much nicer when there isn't a thumping great dustbin hanging on the end of the expansion chamber?

Noise :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: compared with the polution the Septics and Biggles make over East Anglia playing their purile war games a grid full of unsilenced two strokes could enter any library (if Simple Dave hasn't closed them all down) and not a hair would be turned. :)

It's about time we fought back. :clap:

I march on Vestmunster tomorrow armed only with a LH TD3 exhaust and my trust in DOG. :smoking:


IMHO both 2 strokes & 4 strokes are real racers. I raced one of each for 4 or 5 seasons and they were undoubtedly different to ride but both thorughly enjoyable in their own way. But I whole heartedly agree on the dustbin front, neither should have had their music spoiled.

#36 greg1953

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 07:51

Alex George brought one of the 500 triples to Croft, late sixties or early seventies, he was pulling power wheelies coming out of the chicane, we were impressed to say the least.
Greg