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Origainally published in International Motorcycle Magazine, January 2001 Vol.11/Iss.1

The Day I Almost Beat Yvon Duhamel


You know, I've never really considered myself a racer just a track rider that set out to learn how to go fast and achieved it. But when I set out, I would never in my wildest dreams have believed that I would end up dicing with Yvon Duhamel for the win at Mosport. Here is an anecdotal account of the race with Yvon's post-race quotes in italics.

It was the McGill Masters Race at last August's VRRA Mosport Festival. An eight lap race that I didn't get a particularly good start in. By about the fifth lap I was closing on the three leaders and by the seventh lap could see the race leader quite some distance ahead, so I put in a greater effort to catch him. As I closed I kept thinking "I recognize those leathers is that Dave Roper?"

PHOTO CREDIT: HEDY HODGSON
Bar tries to wrestle away the Silver Cup from Yvon, but #17 cinched it when his ex Dick Mann Daytona winner BSA Triple made the pass on #74 in Corner Nine on the last lap.

Yvon: "I was leading the race, looked back and there was no one behind me."

When I finally saw the name across the shoulders I was astounded. "HEY!, THAT'S DUHAMEL!" Now Yvon Duhamel is one of my heroes I know there's not a tougher racer out there. And I was closing on him.

Yvon: "Then some laps later I looked back and I could see this red bike, so I picked up the pace. The speed increased but the distance didn't in fact it got shorter."

Now this is an interesting situation. Two bikes that were born in the seventies, both with riders that were born in the thirties. The rules make you run bias ply treaded street tires and we're both now pushing so hard that we're starting to pass the back markers (slower riders on slower bikes).

Yvon: "I picked up the speed again. When I looked back it was closer so I thought, What is this guy playing with me? 'Who is this guy? I don't recognize the number, they're red numbers.'

About this time I start trying to plan a strategy as it dawns on me that I might actually be able to pass him. With Yvon leading through Moss I stay close to him and I know I'm going real fast, but I can't quite comprehend that I'm about to put the pass on Yvon Duhamel in corner eight at Mosport.

Yvon: "When you passed me at the top of the straight I went 'Whoa!, where'd this guy come from?'

Leading Yvon onto the front straight, I spot my crew on the pit wall cheering ecstatically as the white flag is shown signaling the last lap. Continuing to lead through corner one and two, I'm beginning to think I have a chance of winning this race just when Duhamel comes under me in corner three. Realizing I'm gonna have to pull a rabbit out of my hat to get by him now that I've shown my hand I strategize that if I give it everything I've got, stay as close as possible to him through Moss and pass him again through eight, I might be able to scoop the BIG SILVER CUP! Yvon is a master down through the chute but I manage to not lose too much ground and to make it back up between 5A and 5B as we pass two more back markers. This is outrageous, we are racing up the back straight, throttles pinned, passing two more back markers tight quarters and neither will back off. I've got the inside approach and once again I make the pass coming into eight carrying a ferocious amount of speed when I realize there are three back markers ahead coming into corner nine. As I start to back off I say to myself, "OH NO, Mr. Experience is right behind me". As I turn into nine for a brief moment I think I might make it when all of a sudden I see Yvon's colours flash through on the inside and that's how we come home, One Two, and it's his race.

Yvon: "On the last lap, corner nine, I saw you get blocked so I went up the inside of you".

Yvon and I are riding two abreast coming out of corner one as we're reaching across to shake hands and waving to the very enthusiastic audience. Later, when we're back in the pits and Yvon is admiring the TZ he says, "Now I remember why those guys like Kenny Roberts used to catch me."

This is probably the closest I'll ever come to understanding the incredible high and emotional roller coaster that big name racers must experience. I received many congratulations that day for my race and was told that it was the race of the day, but I think that Bill Hornblower summed it up best when he walked up to me and said "You almost entered immortality today, you almost beat Yvon Duhamel".

1977 TZ 750 Yamaha
This old war horse, 1977 TZ750 D, has been campaigned by such noted individuals as Eric Buell of Harley-Davidson/Buell fame, Dave Schlosser (today Dutchman Racing), and the infamous Canadian rider, Myles Baldwin as his back-up bike. Bar considers it the pinnacle of vintage race bikes.

So Yvon got the silver cup and I got a cute little wooden plaque measuring two by three inches. Ah, well... I guess that's why you're supposed to win. I'd like to thank Ben Gartner for setting me out on the racing path and Ken Livingstone for preparing a winning bike.



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