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                                 1976 Yamaha OW27    Bob Hannah

                                      1976 125 National Champion



In 1976, motocross would receive two completely unexpected shocks that would forever change the sport. They both took place in the AMA 125 National Championship series. The first was the super trick, high tech, water-cooled, works 125 Yamaha. The OW27. This bike made it's first ever public appearance on Saturday April 3rd during tech inspection for the opening round of the AMA 125 National Championship series. As veteran Yamaha mechanic Bill Buchka wheeled the bike through tech inspection that day, word traveled fast and soon crowds gathered, cameras flashed and the rumors about the bike began. The bike was a completely new, designed from the ground up works bike that featured for the first time ever in motocross, a water-cooled engine. The chassis was all new and designed for a full 10 inches of travel, featuring a rear shock with a thermostatically controlled valving system and was right on the minimum weight limit of 176lbs. The second shock that would take place that year was a rookie rider from Lancaster California that was virtually unknown outside the local Socal CMC scene. Bob "Hurricane" Hannah. Bob had received the nick-name "Hurricane" at Saddleback park in 1975 during his brief time as a Suzuki test rider in one of his soon to be patented "come from behind" to win rides. Bob had only started racing just a little over a year before as a junior in Southern California. In less than a year Bob was dominating the local CMC Pro scene and in a little over a year he was dominating the Nationals.

The OW27 drew unprecedented attention as it was the subject of numerous articles in the major motorcycle magazines. No other bike before had so much written about it as the OW27. Speculation ran wild as to how and why the coolant went from the radiator into the frame, down into the cases and then came back up through the steering stem. Some of the theories were, that you can go down several sizes on jetting due to the bike being water-cooled. There were several that thought the radiator hoses would get snagged and come loose during competition and it would prove unreliable and never make it's way into production. It would just be a fad that would come and go. Most people though, realized that Yamaha was on to something and that this bike was for real. Motocross bikes were in a hyper-evolution stage in suspension and chassis design during this time as just 4 years earlier, the common motocross bike had about 7 inches of travel up front and 4 inches in the real. Things had come a long way and were changing fast but nobody saw the water-cooling coming. The bike itself would actually send the 125 National Championship series that year into turmoil during the second round at Buchannan Michigan, when Mickey Boone tried to claim it.

Bob Hannah, was the number two rider of Yamaha's two man 125 works team. Bob's teammate Danny Turner was the top privateer on the 125's for 1975 and there was some positive speculation as to how Turner would do on this new bike. Bob was just glad to be on the team and along with everybody else, never thought he had a chance to win. Top five, maybe, but win....Never!

 Bob Hannah's comments: The bike was kind of like me, It wasn't the fastest but it just stayed there. I might not have been the fastest rider, with the fastest lap times every week, but I could run the same lap time every lap for 40 minutes. The bike was the same. The factory Honda's could out run it, but the OW27 went the whole race at the same speed.

After Mickey Boone filed a claim on my bike, we went to the prior years works air-cooled motor in the 1976 works frame and it was slow. I remember Steve Wise's production bike was faster than mine at Keysers Ridge. With the water-cooled motor, it kept going, same tone, same power all the time. After a couple of races with the old motor, I said to Yamaha, "If you guys want to win this thing, you better give me the water-cooled bike, otherwise, we're going to get beat every week". They gave the OK and from then on, I rode the full works OW27.

As far as geometry and suspension, I was just a kid at the time and didn't really know much about testing. I pretty much just rode what you put under me. Bill Buchka would set it up and I just rode it. We would try different things and I would say, "yeah that works better", but I didn't have the experience to develop a bike back then. Marty Smith was probably better than me at that point- as far as testing goes-because he had a lot more experience than me. That might have hurt him in 1976 because he might have thought about it too much. They were always on a different bike that year. As a rider, if you think like, "His bike is better than mine", it drives you crazy and that's not good. For me, I had nothing in my head, I had no pre-conceived anything. I just rode the bike. Fortunately we had a good bike.

Bill Buchka's comments: Coming soon.

Terry Good's comments: The 1976 OW27 is my favorite bike of all time. There are other bikes that have a higher pedigree for sure but this one was from the era I raced in as a pro and I was fortunate to enough to compete in the same series and see it on a weekly basis. I had been to most of the CMC races in 1975 when Bob was riding for Suzuki as a test rider and I knew how hard it was to compete at tracks like Saddleback and Carlsbad at the local level because there were so many real fast guys that had those tracks wired. The local CMC scene in Southern California at that time was part of the Southern California culture. You could race four to five days a week every week and many of the top guys did just that. On top of it all, you had the factories headquartered there and there was what seemed like a dozen speed shops (DG, FMF etc.) and all had sponsored teams that would compete in these races. To beat these guys in there own backyard seemed nearly impossible. With less that a years total racing experience, Bob Hannah was dominating the pro class at these races. I never saw him get second, he won every one of them that I saw and it was the 250 and open class in the same day. Amazing! I did hear that his first time on the 125 Suzuki he got third and he had two DNF's in the bigger classes but he won every other moto. Now, fast forward to Hangtown in 1976.

While back east preparing for the 125 Nationals I got a phone call from my CMC friend Kim Blackseth who was at Hangtown. I remember the phone call like it was yesterday. His voice had panic all over it. "Terry, your not going to believe who won....Bob Hannah!!! He's on a works Yamaha that is water-cooled with water pumps on it, you won't believe that bike". First of all, I had no idea that Bob was even riding for Yamaha at the time and the thought of anybody beating Marty Smith was almost unimaginable. For seven long weeks to the 2nd round at Buchannan Michigan, I waited to see this bike. On the way to the race that is all Kim and I talked about and when we got there, the first thing I did was look for the Yamaha truck in the pits. Upon seeing it for the first time, from a static point of view the bike was way over the top. It was beyond trick, nothing like this had been even conceived before. It was the buzz of the pits that day and everybody was talking about it. It was also just as impressive on the track and to me it completely complimented Bob's aggressive and somewhat wild riding style. It looked very well balanced and forgiving and it was obvious that the chassis design was aimed at longer travel than what was the norm at the time.

I didn't compete that day due to the AMA not bringing my license to the race so I got to watch one of the best races I've ever seen. When Hannah went to the line for the first moto on that bike, I remember thinking, boy, is the world in trouble now. He and Marty Smith had the mother of all battles in the second moto with Bob coming out on top. Every single race after that I always made my way over to the Yamaha pits to check it out and the impression it made on me is something I'll never forget. The bike and Bob did meet their match when Honda unveiled the all new Type 2 RC125 at Delta Ohio, but that story is for another day. Stay tuned!!!











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