• Image of Yamaha YZR500 OW48 • Kenny Roberts • 1980 World Grand Prix Championship

Because Yamaha could not build a better bike to compete with Harley-Davidson at the dirt track back home in the States, Kenny Roberts decided to look for a more competitive career in the European race scene.

Back in the 70s, the motorcycle premier racing was dominated by European riders. Nobody took Roberts seriously, after all he was more of a dirt rider. Even Barry Sheen, the 1976 and 1977 world champion never saw him as a threat.

In 1978, Roberts got the world’s attention. He was a rookie in the 500cc World Grand Prix road racing trail. He showed the best riders what he was and became the first American to win the 500cc World Championship. He went on to win the 1979 and 1980 World Championships.

Roberts style of riding was very different from the rest of the riders. His dirt riding style, losing traction at rear tyre and sliding off the corner, was a comfortable technique for Roberts. Not only was the bike sliding at the corners, Roberts also had his body hanging off on the inside of the bike with his knee out, skimming the road surface. With this radical riding style, he could opened the throttle earlier in the corner and gained higher speed. And his knee sliding technique also gave him lots of stability. Duct tape at the knee was the makeshift design then. Today, a knee pad is an essential part of racing suit design.

Roberts' legacy also involved his advocation for a long overdue safety standard for the riders and the race organisers. Throughout his career he had numerous face-offs with the FIM for their poor safety standards. Only after many boycotts and attempts to walk out to form his own race series, did FIM finally improve the safety standard.

The OW48 was the first Yamaha bike with an aluminium frame. At later rounds, we saw an addition, OW48R with steel frame and rear directional exhaust. Both bikes were used by Roberts in the 1980 Grand Prix season. In those days, the engine produced power in excess of what the frames and tires could handle. That’s when Roberts' skill made the difference.

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Engine: 2-stroke 4-cylinder
Displacement: 499cc
Weight: 320Ib (145kg)
Power: 130bhp
Top Speed: 180mph (290km/h)

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Print Size: A2 (420mm x 594mm)
Approx 16.53" x 23.38"
Print Type: OffSet Lithographic 4C Printing
Paper: Maple White - Acid Free - 220gsm

Take Note: Paper stock base colour do differ slightly from batches to batches due to its 50% recycle properties.

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