By Larry Lawrence
The father of all Superbike series, the AMA Superbike Championship sprang up organically from the increasingly popular production racing movement at club events in the early-to-mid 1970s. Motorcycles like the Honda CB750, the Kawasaki Z1, the Norton Commando, the Triumph Bonneville, the BMW R90S, the Ducati 750SS as well as the two-stroke Yamahas, Kawasakis and Suzukis were getting better handling and had so much power that you really couldn’t begin to tap their potential on the street, so more and more of the Baby Boomers, who were coming of age, took to the track on their street bikes.
Critical mass was reached by 1973 and race promoters Gavin Trippe and Bruce Cox saw an opportunity and invited the production racers to Laguna Seca in July of 1973. The Heavyweight Production class was won by Yvon DuHamel over Steve McLaughlin, both on a Kawasaki Z1s. Reg Pridmore was third on a BMW. Mike Clarke won the Lightweight Production class on a Yamaha RD350. The race proved very popular with fans so Laguna held the race alongside the AMA Road Race National again in 1974. That year the production race was featured on the cover of Cycle News and the headline read: “Superbike National”. A class was born. By 1975 Daytona and Ontario added Superbike Production racing to their national schedules and the AMA could no longer ignore the growing popularity of the class.
It should be noted, the extensive coverage of Superbike racing in Cycle magazine, and the exploits of racer/editor Cook Neilson and tuner/editor Phil Schilling, were hugely instrumental in fostering a massive fan base for the new road racing class.
By 1976 Superbike racing was part of all the AMA Road Race Nationals and even though I haven’t found definitive proof that the series was actually designated a national championship, somewhere along the line, perhaps in the middle of the season or maybe sometime before the ’77 season started, the series morphed into that and Reg Pridmore was declared the first AMA Superbike Champion (1976) on a BMW.
In the late 1970s AMA National Road Races were almost completely dominated by Yamaha TZ750s. Yamaha’s machine was so good it basically turned AMA National road races into a spec class. As a result interest in the AMA’s Formula 750/F1 class stagnated. At the same time Superbike’s popularity was growing. There were a variety of motorcycles raced and fans could easily identify with the machines being raced (although bikes like BMW’s factory Superbikes had little resemblance to its street-going brethren).
When Honda entered Superbike racing in 1980 the popularity of the series exploded. With Honda’s entry there were epic battles between Honda, Suzuki and Kawasaki, with riders like Freddie Spencer, Eddie Lawson, Wes Cooley and David Aldana.
By the mid-1980s Superbike racing had exceeded that of AMA Formula 1 and when the Daytona 200 was made a Superbike race in 1985, the handwriting was on the wall. F1 was on the way out and Superbike was going to be the official national championship class of American road racing (something that formally came to be in 1987).
From 1976 to 1982 AMA Superbike was a 1000cc class. In 1983 it changed to 750cc and it remained that until 2003 when it went back to 1000cc.
These results pages are version 1.0. I’m certain a few errors and omissions will be found as they are posted and eventually I hope to refine and build the final version with complete information. If you see any errors or have additions please feel free to email me with that information.
AMA Superbike Results
Championship Series Results