“You wouldn’t believe the interest it stirred up,” says Reg about that initial trial period, “especially when you’re winning or finishing second and third amongst some of the really super-duper race bikes in its production class. From that point, things just went from good to better.”
Butler & Smith shoot for the top
With the introduction of BMW’s 898cc R90S in 1973, the chiefs at Butler & Smith felt they wanted to go deeper into racing, having already built successful BMW bikes for the F1 class, the American Motorcyclist Association’s top-flight national championship of the early 1970s. The decision coincided with changes in the AMA rulebook that would provide the ideal classification—a road racing series called “AMA Superbike.”
Race promoters had lobbied for the series, eventually winning backing from Jim France of Daytona International Speedway and Ed Youngblood of the AMA. Starting at Daytona in March 1976, a new “Superbike Production Class” would become part of every AMA road racing national, of which there would be four that year.
Reg Pridmore would be Butler & Smith’s lead rider in the series, and he’d be teamed with Steve McLaughlin, a 28-year old California rider who’d switched from Kawasaki, unhappy with the Z1’s handling. Just as he had been with the Japanese bike, McLaughlin likewise crabbed about the R90S before the Superbike series kicked off at Daytona. He didn’t think the BMWs would last the race. Reg, nine years McLaughlin’s senior, was keeping his cool.
“We used to talk about these bikes being turned into ‘superbikes,’ which they were,” he says. “They were producing speeds of 140 to 150 miles an hour, and some of them were getting pretty much what we might consider ‘on the other side’ of the superbike stuff.”
Attrition became a legitimate fear.