1976 BMW R90S - Steve Mclaughlin's Upside-Down BMW

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By Tim Carrithers, Photography by Mush Emmons

Steve McLaughlin's #83 BMW R90S earned a place in the history books by winning the inaugural AMA Superbike National at Daytona on March 5, 1976. But it's best remembered as #38 for this particularly painful 1/250th of a second at Laguna Seca five months later. McLaughlin was running second behind teammate and eventual three-time AMA Superbike Champion Reg Pridmore on the #163 Butler & Smith BMW. Preeminent racing photographer Mush Emmons was waiting near the exit of what was then Turn 9 with a 200mm lens on his Nikon F and three shots left on a roll of bulk-loaded Kodak Plus-X.

"Of all the race weekends I covered, Laguna was where I got the most interesting photos," recalls Emmons, who now lives in Brazil. "It's always been a favorite racetrack of mine, especially in the morning and early afternoon when this photo was shot. With black-and-white film, the overcast let you bump up the contrast and keep all the details. You could get really close to the track then, and come up with all sorts of nutty angles."

Speaking of nuts, it was clear to Emmons that #83 wasn't content to settle for the runner-up slot. "McLaughlin was in second, and he wanted to stuff it in under Reg in the final corner. I figure he just locked up the front end and threw it down," he says. "You see the front axle is the pivot-point. The front brake is the only thing that's really sharp because everything else was pivoting around it." This is the second of those last three frames. The first can be seen on page 19; the last was out of focus.

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