As if it were to finally get rid of the doubts about whether he could beat Kenny Roberts, Steve Baker made his mark at the 1977 Daytona races by first winning the Daytona 100 for 250cc bikes and then beating Roberts in the big Daytona 200 race a day later. That year Yamaha factory rider Baker went on to become the first American road racing world champion by clinching the F750 crown.
At the Bikers' Classics Baker will not only ride a brutal OW31, but he will also be reunited with his very special Yamaha OW17. Baker cherishes special memories to this bike which was fully restored by its new owner Ferry Brouwer of the Yamaha Classic Racing Team. "De Daytona 100 was more than a pre-show for the 200 Miler, because there was some strong opposition from Grand Prix riders", says Baker, who saw Roberts, 250cc world champion Walter Villa and his Harley-Davidson team-mate Franco Uncini, Kawasaki rider Gregg Hansford and Takazumi Katayama lining up on the grid. The Japanese racer finally finished second, almost half a minute to Baker. "I never thought I would be able to win that race", says Baker. "Kenny was leading, but then suddenly his bike slowed down. When I passed him, the only thing I thought was 'now I'm going to have to finish it off'. It was a very special win for us, because we'd put the bike together only days before the race in a Dunlop pit box. Although I was riding Goodyear at the time!"
Thanks to Roberts' racing engineer Kel Carruthers Baker had got hold of a very special low Rob North frame. The special Yamaha factory parts turned the red and black #32 into a mean machine. "It was a rocket", smiles Baker. "I always enjoyed riding a 250. The funny thing is that I've only recently experienced during my classic demos how much more difficult it is to go fast on a 500 or 750. The 250 is a machine you can really ride hard."
On the 2nd and 3rd of July 58 year old Baker will be happy to demonstrate what he means at Spa-Francorchamps.