Flashback to 1985: The US economy is finally out of a recession and the baby-boomer generation has reached financial maturity. Inspired by the success of Americans in Grand Prix roadracing, competitive motorcycling is gaining traction stateside. Under these fortuitous circumstances, a wave of twenty- and thirtysomethings find a new way to spend weekends: club racing.
Yamaha, which had just released the FJ1100, FZ750, and FJ600 in rapid succession, took note. To establish the credibility of those new bikes, the company began offering riders $500 for production class wins on any of the three models. The money paid down to fifth place. (There was also a smaller program for the RZ350 that paid $200 for a win.) In an industry first, Yamaha paid contingency money broadly to local club organizations across the country.
Scores of riders took advantage, swooping up new FJ and FZ sportbikes to try their luck at nearby circuits. One rider from New Jersey took it a little further. Bart Peterson, a motorcycle mechanic by trade, made chasing Yamaha contingency money into something of a second occupation. He crammed an FJ600 and an FZ750—plus lawn chairs, gas tanks, and toolboxes—into the back of a rusty Datsun pickup and set out all across the East Coast then into the Midwest. When his overloaded truck rolled into the paddock on race weekend, the local specialist groaned. They would most likely be racing for second place in the money races.