1976 Kawasaki KR750
Gary Nixon’s Road Racer
In the hands of famed tuner Erv Kanemoto and legendary rider Gary Nixon, this Kawasaki road racer might have conquered the world.
In fact, it arguably did.
Nixon rode this KR750 to an apparent victory in the international Formula 750 championship in 1976. But the record books don’t see it that way.
Formula 750 racing, roughly based on the U.S. road-racing rules of the era, was hot in the ’70s. In fact, in 1977, the Federation Internationale de Motocyclisme (FIM) planned to make it a full world championship, like the 500cc grand-prix series. For ’76, it was an FIM Prize series, one small step below the world championships.
In an effort to win that series, Kanemoto took Kawasaki’s liquid-cooled, three-cylinder, two-stroke road-racer and improved it, particularly in the handling department.
He scrapped the original frame in favor of his own innovative design, built from large-diameter, thin-wall tubing. The result was a structure that was both stiffer and lighter than the original. Kanemoto also experimented with the rear suspension, mounting the shocks in a more laid-down position for more suspension travel and more progressive action.
With that bike, and a proven rider, Kanemoto recalls that he entered the season with big plans: “We knew if everything went well, we would have a good chance of winning the title.”
The Daytona 200 was the first round of the international series, and Nixon scored a solid second. Then he appeared to win the second race, in Venezuela, but officials gave the victory to fellow American Steve Baker instead.
While appealing that decision, Nixon battled Spain’s Victor Palomo for the title all year.
At the end of the season, a Venezuela win would have given Nixon the championship by a single point. But at the series’ end, the FIM threw out the confused results of the Venezuela race, leaving Nixon in second place, behind Palomo.
A year later, Baker won the Formula 750 championship, and he, rather than Nixon, is remembered as the first American to win a world road-racing title.