1988 Honda NSR250 | The Bike That Changed My Life

Photography by Tom Riles

"I rode factory Yamaha Superbikes in 1986 and '87 and we didn't have much luck. Yamaha pulled out of racing in '88 and I was left without a ride. I had a new family, a two-year-old son and I just bought my first home, so I was really scrambling for something, anything, to jumpstart my career. Jerry Griffiths, Honda's dirt-track guy, was a good friend, and when he heard that Honda was looking for someone to ride the injured Masahiro Shimizu's NSR250 at the '88 USGP, he recommended me. I remember seeing a picture of Wayne Gardner at the beginning of that year on his NSR250 and thinking, "How cool!" I never imagined I'd soon have my own factory NSR250-the world's best racing bike-and Erv Kanemoto as my crew chief. Talk about a dream come true! That race was such a big event, the first USGP in 20 years, and I was up against the best of the best: Bubba Shobert (who was number one in America at the time), Christian Sarron, Sito Pos, John Kocinski-and I beat them all by 12 seconds! That bike opened up a whole new career for me. The year after that I raced full-time for HRC on a bike sponsored by Edwin Jeans, with Mick Doohan as my teammate, and I finished second at the USGP in '89 as well. That NSR250 opened so many doors, and opened some eyes too! Whenever I start feeling down, I think of that moment, that day, that bike, and feel better immediately."

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