During the mid 60s Kawasaki led the world in two-stroke race technology, the pinnacle of this arguable being the 125cc KR-3 V four two stroke. The complex but efficient design proved to be uncompetitive but set the company on the right track, eventually developing a twin cylinder racer, that Englishman Dave Simmonds took the 1969 125cc world title.
May 1966 saw Kawasaki launch its new 250cc road machine named the Samurai. This air-cooled disc valve machine quickly became the machine to have with its wild power delivery and stunning performance, so it made perfect sense for Kawasaki to develop a racer version. The A1-R followed in December that year ready for the 67 season and used many features of the roadster. The frame maintained much of the look of the Samurai but the main differences lay inside the engine with its close ratio gearbox and special lightweight cylinders. The outboard Mikuni carburettors feature remote float chambers, the idea being to richen the mixture during acceleration and weaken it when braking to avoid plug fouling when the throttles are cracked open on the corner exit. Power was down slightly when compared to the Yamaha TD1 series but good handling and braking meant the Kawasaki was competitive allowing Simmonds to take the A1-R to 4th in the 67 lightweight TT and finish 10th in the final world championship standing at the end of that season.
Around 12 machines, priced at £618 each, were imported to the UK during that first season and many more saw action all around the globe. In the Us Kawasaki was gaining much ground and saw race success as a way to improve sales, their race effort was a large one on many front so the 250cc racer was joined by a bore out version the 338cc A7-R. For 1969 Kawasaki developed the A1-RA, a ground up redesign that saw new forks, frame and cycle parts upgraded to meet the Yamaha onslaught. Inside the engine a dry clutch, straight cut primary gears, larger big end bearings and forged pistons made the twin more durable. Larger, 30mm Mikuni carbs were introduced too, power was still down on the leading Yams however, the sheer numbers of TD1 riding privateers on the grid each doing their own development and with Simmonds’s world title in the smaller class, little development was thrown at the 250 twin. Before too long the 500cc triple based upon the staggering H1 roadster also saw action on the track once again watering down Kawasaki’s small race effort and, despite a mock up of the new machine being displayed at the Amsterdam show of 1970, the world would have to wait until 1975 when the factory fully developed the 250 and 350cc tandem twins.
During that time the Mikuni carburettors have been replaced for Amals but that mod apart it remained pretty faithful to the original specification and was imported to the UK in 2009 by collector and race enthusiast Martyn Harris.
1967 Kawasaki A1-R Specifications
Engine – Air-cooled disc-valve two-stroke twin
Capacity – 247cc
Bore/stroke – 53 x 56mm
Power – 40bhp @ 9500rpm
Torque – 25ft-lb @ 8250rpm
Carburation – 26mm Mikuni
Transmission – 5 speed, wet-clutch, chain final drive
Frame – Kawasaki Steel Tube
Suspension – 32mm telescopic forks, Twin shock rear
Brakes – 200mm 4-leading shoe drum, 180mm sls drum
Wheels – 2.75 x 18, 3.00 x 18
Weight – 109kgs
Top speed – 135mph
Wheelbase – 1295mm
Fuel capacity – 20lts
Kawasaki A1-R Race Bike Gallery