Roberts reuniting with TZ-750 dirt tracker

"They don't pay me enough to ride that thing"

By Motorcycle.Com Staff, Jul. 22, 2009
Three-time Grand Prix Champion Kenny Roberts will return to Indianapolis Motor Speedway to ride the Indy Mile.

Roberts will recreate his 1975 Indy Mile victory riding the infamous Yamaha TZ-750-powered dirt tracker as built and tuned by former 250cc World Champion Kel Carruthers for a few laps of the dirt track on Aug. 29 as part of the Indianapolis Grand Prix activities.

“This will truly be a memorable event for motorcycle fans the world over,” says Bob Starr, general manager of communications for Yamaha Motor Corporation. “Kenny’s accomplishments years ago formed the basis of what Yamaha’s performance image is today and we are all excited to have him and this extraordinary motorcycle on the track once again.”

Roberts won the 1973 and 1974 AMA Grand National Championship riding twin-cylinder four-stroke Yamaha bikes. In 1975 however, Yamaha was outpaced by Harley-Davidson’s XR750. Carruther’s solution was to replace the engine with the two-stroke four-cylinder engine from its TZ-750 road racer.

Capable of producing 125 hp, 50 more than the Twin, the TZ-750 engine could push the dirt tracker to speeds of 150 mph on the Indy Mile’s straight. The extra power also made the motorcycle difficult to control. The bike was so dangerous, Roberts later commented: “They don’t pay me enough to ride that thing.”

Kenny Roberts' 1975 Indy Mile victory was so dangerous the AMA to change the rules.

Roberts trailed Harley-Davidson riders Rex Beauchamp, Corky Keener and Jay Springsteen on the final lap. Roberts reached 145 mph over the final quarter mile and surged past the XR750s for the win.

The 1975 Indy Mile was the fearsome motorcycle’s first and only win. Roberts tried to ride the bike at two more races but both times opted to go back to the Twin. After the season, the AMA wrote new rules banning any similar setups.

At Indianapolis, Roberts will be reunited with the TZ-750-powered dirt bike at the site of legendary race.

“After the race in 1975 I said they didn’t pay me enough to ride that thing,” says Kenny Roberts, “and this year will be no different! But it should be fun for the fans to hear that Yamaha TZ once again up against the bales.”

Fiat Yamaha MotoGP Champion Valentino Rossi says he is excited about seeing Roberts ride the legendary bike.

“For sure Kenny’s win at this event on the Yamaha 34 years ago was monumental” says Valentino Rossi, “and the fact that I was not born yet makes it even more exciting for me to be there this time!”

Watch footage of the 1975 Indy Mile on this YouTube video:

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