1978 Moto Guzzi Le Mans | Me & My Bike

Photography by Jack Parker

Name: Fred Sahms
Age: 53
Home: Knoxville, TN
Occupation: Employee Benefits Specialist

I like to think of this bike as a raised middle finger to Yamaha. At Road America in May 1981, third-place Battle of the Twins Production-class finisher Michael Shilts, riding a Yamaha XV920R, protested the two Ducatis that beat him. Both used illegal ‘kit’ carbs and exhausts. After that, Ducati racers were forced to use U.S.-market pipes and EPA-legal 32mm carbs that killed top-end power. One of those Ducati racers, Madison Cox, knew a stock Moto Guzzi Le Mans would outrun his strangled 900SS, and he knew just where to get one.

“Cox mooched this Le Mans off his friend Phil Levi, and proceeded to put it on top of the box at Daytona in October ’81. Then, motivated by a full-page Cycle News ad run after the ’82 Daytona race proclaiming ‘Yamaha made pasta of the competition,’ Cox’s racing buddy Dave McClure won the Road America round on the same borrowed Guzzi. After McClure’s win, Cox took out his own Cycle News ad announcing how ‘Guzzi made fish heads and rice of the competition.’ You can image how well that was received!

“This Le Mans was never raced again. It was returned to Levi, who parked it for good in ’87. When I bought the bike from him 20 years later, I struggled to reconcile the moldering heap with the racer I remembered from two decades before. The bottom of the steel tank was rusted right through, the motor and brake calipers were seized, and the exhaust system was crumbling like stale pastry. But he still had the trophy McClure won at Road America!

“Once a week for a year I hosed the Le Mans with AeroKroil and gathered parts off eBay—including a NOS tank that cost more than I paid for the entire bike. The old lump boomed to life in January 2010 and ran like a champ. In June of that year it returned to Road America for AHRMA’s vintage weekend, bellowing around the 4-mile track for a photo-op. The old girl looked and sounded great, better than ever. I know inanimate objects can’t feel, but if they could this bike would have been happily lost in ’81, alongside Jimmy Adamo, Dave Emde, Malcolme Tunstall and the rest of the Battle of the Twins field.” MC

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