ZN. The 1977 Superbike Manufacture’s Championship

Posted 7/30/2014

1977 was a magical year for AMA Superbikes. It was the second year of the class’ existence and there were seven AMA road races that year, up from only four in 1976. The seven Superbike races produced seven different winners on five different brands of motorcycles. It was the kind of season that promoters dream about and fans love. Can you imagine today going to an AMA Superbike race and having no idea who will win the race and on which brand? Since 1999 the class champion has been, with one exception, a Yoshimura Suzuki or Graves Yamaha rider. Honda, Ducati, Kawasaki, BMW, EBR and KTM have scored very few if any podium finishes.

The AMA did not have a Manufacturer’s Championship in 1977. It was pointless for the Class C or Formula 750 races, they were nearly all Yamahas. However, it made sense for Superbikes as there was excellent brand representation. Who was the top manufacturer? Five different brands won races that year. While doing the research for my book I wondered, who would have won the manufacturer’s championship? As an experiment I calculated how the championship would have developed if there had been one. At the start of this exercise I didn’t know who the top manufacturer would be. I was rooting for Ducati, of course, but the numbers would tell the tale.

In 1977 class points were earned 20 for first place, 16 for second, 13 for third, 11 for fourth, then one point less for each following positions down to 1 point for 14th place. There were no bonus points for earning the pole position or leading the most laps. You had to finish 14th or better to earn any points.

Manufacturer’s points are earned by the highest placing bike of the brand at each race, and only that one bike. For example, at Daytona Cook Nielson’s “California Hot Rod” Ducati finished first, giving Ducati 20 points. Even though there were other Ducati riders who earned points in that race, the manufacturer gets to count only the highest.

Daytona Manufacturer’s points:
Pts.  Brand       Highest Placing Rider
20    Ducati      Cook Nielson, 1st
16    Kawasaki    Dave Emde, 2nd
11    BMW         Reg Pridmore, 4th
10    Moto Guzzi  Mike Baldwin, 5th
4     Honda       John Fuchs, 11th
2     Laverda     Jim Haberlin, 13th

Not bad. One race and already six different brands have earned points. This is may be very interesting.

Charlotte Manufacturer’s Points
Pts. Brand	Highest Placing Rider	
20   Moto Guzzi	Mike Baldwin, 1st
13   Kawasaki   Wes Cooley, 3rd
10   Laverda    Wayne Sullivan, 5th
9    Ducati     Dieter Guttner, 6th
5    Honda      John Fuchs, 10th
Manufacturer’s Points Totals after 2 events
	30	Moto Guzzi 
(tie)	29	Ducati
(tie)	29	Kawasaki 
	12	Laverda
	11	BMW 
	9	Honda

No new brands, but five of the previous six earned some points. BMW was absent from this event as importer Butler & Smith abruptly pulled the plug on their racing effort. After two races it was basically a dead heat between three brands; Ducati, Moto Guzzi and Kawasaki.

Loudon Manufacturer’s Points
Pts.	Brand       Highest Placing Rider	
20	BMW         Ron Pierce, 1st	
16	Kawasaki    Reg Pridmore, 2nd	
13	Moto Guzzi  Kurt Liebmann, 3rd	
10	Ducati	    Kurt Lenz, 5th	
7	Honda	    John Fuchs, 8th	
2	Suzuki	    Tom Muir, 13th	
1	Yamaha	    James Metrando, 14th	
Manufacturer’s Points after 3 events
45	Kawasaki
43	Moto Guzzi
39	Ducati
31	BMW
16	Honda
12	Laverda
2	Suzuki
1	Yamaha

Two new brands quietly entered the fray, and BMW was back and kicking ass. Suzuki sneaked onto the list just ahead of Yamaha. Kawasaki took the lead due to its third straight podium finish, but had no wins yet. The top three makes stayed close and BMW was back within reach.

Sears Point Manufacturer’s Points
Pts.  Brand	   Highest Placing Rider
20    Ducati	   Paul Ritter, 1st
13    BMW	   Ron Pierce, 3rd
11    Kawasaki     Reg Pridmore, 4th
10    Moto Guzzi   Leroy Gerke, 5th
6     Triumph	   Jim Haberlin, 9th
5     Norton	   Emile Mullick, 10th
4     Honda	   Mark Fulton, 11th		
Manufacturer’s Points Totals after 4 events
59   Ducati
56   Kawasaki
53   Moto Guzzi
44   BMW
20   Honda
12   Laverda
6    Triumph
5    Norton
2    Suzuki
1    Yamaha

Nice. Two new brands appeared, both British bikes. Ducati jumped back into the lead thanks to (ahem) yours truly, but Kawasaki and Moto Guzzi were nipping at Ducati’s heels. Suzuki and Yamaha were keeping quiet. BMW gained some ground on Kawasaki and Moto Guzzi at the Sears Point round.

Pocono Manufacturers Points			
Pts.	Brand       Highest Placing Rider	
20	Kawasaki    Reg Pridmore, 1st	
16	Moto Guzzi  Mike Baldwin, 2nd	
11	Ducati      John Long, 4th	
9	Honda       John Fuchs, 6th	
5	Yamaha      Jerry Wood, 10th	
4	Laverda     Wayne Sullivan, 11th	
2	BMW         Max Schweinshaut, 13th	
Manufacturer’s Points Totals after 5 events
	76	Kawasaki
	70	Ducati
	69	Moto Guzzi
	46	BMW
	29	Honda
	16	Laverda
(tie)	6	Triumph
(tie)	6	Yamaha
	5	Norton
	2	Suzuki

The top three brands were still swapping places at the front. Kawasaki was back on top after getting its first win, but Ducati and Moto Guzzi were keeping close. BMW lost ground here after good scores at the two previous events.

Laguna Seca Manufacturers Points
Pts.	Brand	    Highest Placing Rider
20	Suzuki	    Steve Mclaughlin, 1st
16	Ducati	    Cook Neilson, 2nd
13	Kawasaki    Reg Pridmore, 3rd
10	BMW	    Ron Pierce, 5th
6	Moto Guzzi  Vance Breese, 9th
4	Norton	    Emile Mullick, 11th
3	Yamaha	    John Serra, 12th
2	Honda	    Mark Fulton, 13th				
Manufacturer’s Points Totals after 6 events
	89	Kawasaki
	86	Ducati
	75	Moto Guzzi
	56	BMW
	31	Honda
	22	Suzuki
	16	Laverda
(tie)	9	Norton	
(tie)	9	Yamaha
	6	Triumph

Suzuki woke up! After having only one measly 13th place finish in the first five races Suzuki got a win. Moto Guzzi stumbled a bit at this venue and Ducati and Kawasaki pulled out a gap on them. One more race to go.

Riverside Manufacturers Points	
Pts.	Brand	    Highest Placing Rider	
20	Kawasaki    Wes Cooley, 1st		
16	Ducati	    Cook Neilson, 2nd	
11	BMW	    Harry Klinzmann, 4th	
8	Moto Guzzi  Vance Breese, 8th	
6	Yamaha	    Bill Henry, 9th	
3	Norton	    Emile Mullick, 12th	
Final 1977 Manufacturer’s Points Totals
	109	Kawasaki
	102	Ducati
	83	Moto Guzzi
	67	BMW
	31	Honda
	22	Suzuki
	16	Laverda
	15	Yamaha
	12	Norton
	6	Triumph

It was close but Kawasaki took its second race win and went to the top of the list, up 7 points on Ducati. Ten different brands of bikes earned points during the series. TEN. And five different brands proved capable of winning a race. The only significant brand not represented here was Harley-Davidson.

It was a good year for Superbikes. Some believe the 1977 results cemented the class into the spectators minds as a class of the future. They liked being able to root for their favorite brand, and often the Superbike race was the closest race of the weekend.

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