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Suzuka Race Lawson's Last on Motorcycle

July 28, 1994|SHAV GLICK

Eddie Lawson, one of the greatest motorcycle road racers, will make his final competitive appearance on a two-wheeler Sunday in the Suzuka eight-hour endurance test in Japan--but it will not be the last race for the 36-year-old rider from Upland.

Lawson switched from motorcycles to cars two years ago and is driving for the Tasman Motor Sports team in the Indy Lights series.

"I'm having so much fun driving my Indy Lights car, I'm anxious to get to where I'm in an Indy car running the 500," he said from his hotel in Suzuka City. "I've accomplished all I could in motorcycle racing, but I'm only beginning in cars."

So why is he in Japan to race a Yamaha on the twisting 3.5-mile course where Formula One cars race?

"To tell the truth, it's because Yamaha offered me enough money for a two-race deal, here and Daytona, to help finance my Indy Lights car this year," Lawson said. "I really hadn't planned on racing after the Suzuka race last year until Yamaha came around with some big money."

Lawson has won 500cc Grand Prix world championships in 1984, '86, '88 and '89; U.S. Superbike championships in 1981 and '82, 31 world championship Grand Prix races, two Daytona 200s, in 1986 and '93, and the 1990 Suzuka eight-hour race

The Suzuka eight-hour is considered the No. 1 motorcycle race in the world, with more than 250,000 spectators expected to line the course. During the event, each bike has two riders, who alternate riding an hour at a time.

"I'd rather talk about my first Indy Lights win (two weeks ago) in Cleveland," said Lawson, who also has three second-place finishes in seven races and is second to teammate Steve Robertson in the season standings.

"Steve Horne and the Tasman team are great, and their cars are absolutely fantastic. I'm in the one Bryan Herta drove last year when he won the championship, and I couldn't ask for any more."

Lawson is in only his second season of four-wheel racing. As soon as the Suzuka race is over, he will return to Tasman headquarters in Hilliard, Ohio, and begin preparations for the next Indy Lights race, Aug. 14 at Mid-Ohio.

Since he finished third in the Daytona 200 last March, Lawson has been on a racing bike only once, for a day of testing last month in Suzuka.

"I'll get out on the track this week and don't expect any problems," he said. "The bike was really fast when I rode it before and it won't take long to get in my motorcycle mode. Fortunately, even though we're on the same Formula One course where the cars race, the attitudes of the two machines are so different that there is no problem in adapting.

"You can do so much with body English on a bike when you have a problem, but with a car you just have to sit there. The braking is so much deeper with a car and the corner speeds are much higher, but the feeling is entirely different coming out of a corner. A GP bike accelerates so fast, it makes the Indy Lights feel like it's just creeping along.

"It's going to be a lot of fun Sunday. I'll have a lot of emotions thinking about it being my last race, but I won't really think about what it means until it's over."

What puzzles Lawson most is the difference in finances. To ride a motorcycle, he is being paid $250,000 for two races. To drive a car, he has to pay that much for half a season.

"I'm no different from most of the other guys who want to race cars," he said. "You've got to bring money to get a ride. The trick is to catch someone's attention who has money."

Motor Racing Notes

STOCK CARS--The fourth round of the Frontier Toyota sportsman championship series will be held Saturday night at Saugus Speedway, with drivers from other tracks battling the Saugus regulars in a 75-lap main event. Mark Wilson, from Mesa Marin Raceway in Bakersfield, is leading; Saugus veteran Ron Daniels is second. A destruction derby will cap the evening. . . . Mesa Marin will have a double attraction Saturday night when the NASCAR SuperTruck series makes its debut with a 20-lap exhibition race along with a Featherlite Southwest Tour main event. P. J. Jones will drive a Ford truck for Scoop Vessels' team. . . . The Coors Light Silver Bullet series will resume Friday night at Ventura Raceway. . . . Racing is also scheduled Saturday night at Cajon Speedway in El Cajon, Blythe Speedway, Kern County Raceway in Willow Springs, Temecula Motorsports Park and the new Sunrise Valley Raceway in Adelanto.

SPEEDWAY BIKES--After two weeks off, the Orange County Fairgrounds track in Costa Mesa will open its summer season Friday night with handicap and scratch racing. . . . Lake Perris Speedway will reopen Saturday night with an unusual two-lap match race pitting former U.S. speedway champion Mike Faria, on his speedway bike, against U.S. Supercross champion Jeremy McGrath, on his Honda motocross bike. . . . Speedway USA in Victorville will be dark until Aug. 13 because of the San Bernardino County fair.

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