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.