During Bike Week in March of 1988, all road racing classes at Daytona International Speedway took a backseat to AMA Pro Twins. The series, formerly known as Battle of the Twins, was front and center because of the incredibly trick motorcycles entered in the race, ridden by an impressive cast of racers.
That year may have represented a peak of interest in the Daytona Pro Twins race. There was the one-of-a-kind Commonwealth Honda powered by an RS750 dirt track engine, ridden by Australian Paul Lewis; a brand new liquid-cooled, eight-valve Ducati raced by Italian Stefano Caracchi and perhaps most unique of all, a Cosworth-powered racing bike ridden by England’s Roger Marshall. All three riders had ample GP experience, giving the race undeniable international flair, that on top of the attraction of the uber-cool machines they were racing.
And that’s not even mentioning the prototype Moto Guzzi ridden by American Pro Twins racing star Doug Brauneck and the King of Battle of the Twins, Jimmy Adamo on a race-proven ‘87 Team Leoni Ducati (after his new eight-valver developed an oil leak) and Dale Quarterley on a Ferracci Ducati. Then there was Australian racing ace Chris Oldfield on a Bimota DB-1.
The field was stacked!
The Quantel Cosworth was back for the third time, having scored a second in ‘86 before suffering mechanical issues in ‘87. Early in the week Marshall was flying on the Cosworth, turning lap times just a tad off the top times turned by Superbikes. Marshall and the Cosworth were considered by most pundits the combo to beat. And then there was the spectacle of every time the Cosworth emerged from the garage Marshall had to maneuver through a crowd hoping to catch a closer glimpse of the machine powered by what was a water-cooled, Fuel-injected, parallel twin cylinder engine developed by Norton and Cosworth in the mid-1970s to establish a replacement for the Commando. Icing on the cake was the bike was being tuned by none other than former GP and F1 World Champion John Surtees, who revived the machine after 15 years of inactivity.
But then the Italians uncrated the beautiful new Ducati and Caracchi immediately showed that he was also going to be a major factor in the race.
The race was moved from Friday to Sunday because of rain. Missing in the final was the powerful Harley-Davidson team. Gene Church had crashed earlier in the week and broke his hand. Then Scott Parker also crashed and scratched from the race. Chris Carr, who qualified on row three, was forced to miss in order to race a rescheduled AMA 600cc National Short Track over at Municipal Stadium. Jay Springsteen was also a no show, due to glitches on his Buell-framed Harley.
In a hectic opening lap, Caracchi led the field into the first turn for the start of the race followed by Brauneck and Longevity Racing Ducati’s John Long. Quarterley then charged to the lead through the infield before being drafted by Brauneck entering the chicane. By the end of the lap Marshall put the Cosworth into the lead.
Contender Adamo pulled out of the race three laps in. Lewis took the lead on the Commonwealth Racing Honda, but the engine tied up on lap seven, sidelining the compact Honda.
By the closing stages of the race Caracchi and Marshall were battling hard, making contact in several turns.
“I was leaning on him and he was sliding the rear wheel,” Marshall said of his fight with Caracchi.
On the last lap Caracchi stuffed it inside Marshall going into turn one. Marshall then fought back taking over the point going into the chicane. Caracchi appeared to be in a perfect position to do a final stretch draft move, but he bobbled coming out of the chicane, while Marshall nailed a perfect drive. That was all it took. The Cosworth had the power to hold off the Ducati at the line for the win.
After the race Caracchi revealed that the windscreen on his Ducati was covered in oil, forcing him to sit up higher than he wanted to on the banking to see where he was going. Brauneck finished third on the Guzzi after drafting past Oldfield’s Bimota coming up to the finish line.
Marshall explained his rather unconventional last-lap strategy for Daytona. “I wanted to lead coming out of the chicane, because I knew if I got a good drive out my bike had the power to win. So I stuck my neck out, slid the bike a lot and got away with it.”
It was a great race, fitting for the riders and the machines involved in one of the most interesting Daytona 200 support races ever run on the high banks of Daytona International Speedway.
To view the digital editio of this story go to: http://magazine.www.cyclenews.com/i/979046-cycle-news-issue-18-may-8/147