Yamaha loves its racers. From dirt to pavement, Yamaha understands its past champions played a major role in putting the Tuning Fork brand on the racing map. So when the company holds its year-end champions celebration, it’s kind of a big deal.
This year Yamaha’s Bob Starr and Racing Director Keith McCarty paid tribute to two of its biggest racing stars, three-time and first American Grand Prix champion, Kenny Roberts, and four-time 250cc motocross champion Gary Jones, by honoring them with lifetime achievement awards. Roberts, in typical King Kenny fashion, made a dramatic entrance by riding his TZ750 dirt tracker into the parking lot to the cheer of those in attendance. Check it out below.
Roberts’ contribution to the racing world needs no introduction. A three-time-consecutive Grand Prix champion starting in 1978, Roberts paved the way for American dominance in Grand Prix racing for the next two decades. With an AMA Grand National Championship, and the distinction of being one of only four people to achieve the Grand Slam of winning a mile, half-mile, short-track, TT, and road race, Roberts’ place in history is without question. Many will remember his famous line, “They [Yamaha] don’t pay me enough to ride that thing!” in reference to the infamous TZ750, so to see him ride in on one made the moment that much sweeter. Hear him talking about the monstrous machine that took him to victory lane in the 1975 Indy Mile below.
Gary Jones’ career is equally illustrious. In 1971 Jones won the U.S. 250cc motocross championship and the Baja 500 for Yamaha. He repeated the motocross championship the following year while also finishing second in the 500cc championship. Meanwhile, with support from his father, the two developed the DT-1 into what would eventually become the 1974 YZ. In 1973 Jones again won the 250cc motocross crown, this time for Honda.
The event also rewarded Josh Herrin (2013 AMA Superbike Champion), Cameron Beaubier (2013 AMA Sportbike Champion), Jessica Patterson (2013 Women’s MX Champion) and Chad Weinen (2013 ATV Champion) their 2013 championship plaques.
While the event paid tribute to Yamaha’s past and present champions, the event also signaled the culmination of a year-long, company-wide fundraising and donation effort for Feed The Children, Yamaha’s charity of choice. This year Yamaha raised more than $100,000 for Feed The Children, and even Santa Claus was on hand to witness the check being passed. What’s more, members of the Star Touring Riders Club delivered presents to other local charities, strapping the goods to the backs of their Star motorcycles.
The record funds raised for Feed the Children this year came from employee donations plus two special promotions that contributed to the 2013 donation: a charity auction held during Yamaha’s dealer meeting this summer in Las Vegas that raised approximately $60,000 and an “Assembled in U.S.A.” Sweepstakes that helped contribute another $5,500.
Yamaha champions, including Kenny Roberts and Gary Jones, were honored at Yamaha’s year-end champions celebration.
Yamaha has been holding the Feed The Children donation drop for 17 years now, but this year’s event, combined with the champions celebration, makes it the biggest one yet. We can’t wait to see what Yamaha has up its sleeves for next year. Be sure to check out the photo gallery for all the pictures from this year’s event.
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