There are few people in motorcycling who are instantly recognisable because of some sort of facial hair!
OK, so when we think of sideburns, we think of Ron Haslam, but when you think of a perfectly waxed moustache in the style of General Kitchener (ok, or of Blackadder’s General Melchett) it has to be Rob Muzzy.
Thanks to Rob Muzzy, we experienced the talents of Eddie Lawson, Wayne Rainey and Scott Russell in international racing, as well as Kawasaki winning the 1993 World Superbike title on the ZXR750 and a Suzuka Eight-Hour win against the best Japan could muster. Meanwhile, out on the road, we’ve had the Eddie Lawson Replica courtesy of Muzzy – in a roundabout way…
If we’re talking AMA titles, then listen to this: the Muzzy team has also taken 21 AMA number one plates in disciplines as varied as road-racing, dirt-track, motocross, over the years which is an amazing total – little wonder Rob Muzzy was inducted into the AMA Hall of Fame.
“Like a lot of enthusiasts, I fell in love with motorcycles when I was young,” says the man himself. “Right from the beginning I found it hard to leave them stock. I was always going for more performance. I was not a classically trained engineer but I read everything I could find about engine building, race modifications and such. I incorporated the knowledge I gradually gained in my own race bikes. Eventually I always had the fastest bikes out there, so the other competitors would come to me for engine building or tuning. I got involved with Kawasaki as a company by replying to an advert for a race technician.”
And the rest is history! But it’s interesting to note that Rob’s race career began in drag racing and dirt-track racing. Drag racing is where you’re always chasing power – think to our very own V&M Racing with Jack Valentine and the late, great Steve Mellor.
Obviously at the start Rob’s influence was purely based in the US of A. The Muzzy team’s titles with Eddie Lawson (1981, 1982) and Wayne Rainey (1983) led to the giant-killing 1993 World Superbike title with Scott Russell as well as the Suzuka Eight-Hour win of the same year. And let’s not make any bones about this – the Muzzy team were pretty much just that, a small team: sure they had some support from Kawasaki, but it wasn’t the factory team set-up you see today in WSB or even in the later 1990s.
Rob confirms: “The AMA and WSB machines were a combination of kit parts from Kawasaki back in Japan, more specialist works parts that money could not buy, and our own in-house parts. One of the benefits we had was being able to develop and test parts in a very short space of time. Many times when we found an improvement we would send the part to Kawasaki Heavy Industries for them to make. Equally, often we would make parts ourselves to save costs and, crucially, time.”
Time… this was indeed of the essence as the Muzzy team were awarded with the works contract to run the 1993-1996 World Superbike team for Kawasaki, replacing the Australian team run by Peter Doyle and being replaced by the Harald Eckl run factory team in 1997. Time meant everything, and if you had to ask the factory to sort something out, sometimes this took TOO much time, while a smaller team could change things and adapt much more quickly.
Overall, for the Muzzy team and Rob himself, moving to WSB meant less time in the tuning shop and more time as a manager… but, that said: “I still found myself doing all the cylinder head porting and made all development decisions so it was not like I’d turned my back on the all-important engineering side of things!”
Looking back after more than 40 years, what have been Rob’s biggest successes? He explains: “I would have to say that Doug Chandler and Scott Russell had the most success with us and worked closest with me and the team. Scott Russell was with our team the longest and had more significant wins at Daytona, WSB and Suzuka. The most memorable championship for me is that world title in 1993 plus the Suzuka Eight-Hour in the same year and both with Scott. Those achievements will stay with me forever.”
And as for machines, well: “I guess there are the Eddie Lawson and Wayne Rainey race machines from the early 1980s too. But there was also The Raptor.”
We at CB-Net reckon The Raptor was the ultimate ZX-7R. It basically encapsulated all that the Muzzy team had learned about both the ZXR and ZX-7R machines during their time winning AMA titles with Scott Russell and Doug Chandler, as well as taking Daytona 200 endurance wins too!
The Raptor – or SB750 – was based on the ZX-7R and customers had to supply a brand-new 7R to Muzzy in Oregon for work to begin. The basic Raptor would cost $18,000 (around £11,500 at the time). Firstly the frame and swingarm were finished in black. If you wanted the option, you could use the RAM cast magnesium swingarm from Italy, which would cost you $3749 back then (around £2500.) This swinger was sometimes used for much quicker wheel changes on the Muzzy race machines at the Daytona 200.
When it came to suspension, an Ohlins rear shock with different leverage ratios was installed while re-valved and modified standard forks were the standard fitment with the option of Ohlins race forks as an upgrade. Add a carbon air-box and even the possibility of gear driven cams a la ZX7-RR and the Raptor was one very special bike!
Muzzy’s handiwork at in the engine saw high lift cams, flat-slide carbs and a generous hike in the compression ratio to kick the power from just over 100bhp at the rear wheel to around 130bhp, including the option to hike the capacity to 850cc, which was a popular conversion in the States – this would see around 145bhp… Marchesini wheels and Braking discs shaved weight and added style, as did the high level pipe and hand-crafted fairing – deigned in clay by Rob himself.
For many, this was – indeed – the ultimate ZXR/ZX-7R made by the master Muzzy himself!
- A BIG THANK YOU TO: Kawasaki for the basic info on CB-Net’s last few Kawasaki pieces, including those on the Ninja name and the history of the Kawasaki Lime Green colour. We most humbly suggest you hook up with the club and GO Magazine if you love all things Kawasaki. For more go to: kawasaki-ridersclub.co.uk for GO magazine, go to: www.club-kawasaki.co.uk/KRC-magazine.aspx