1976 BMW R90S

Riding the first-ever Superbike winner, Steve McLaughlin’s 1976 BMW R90S.

bmw r90s 4

Steve McLaughlin's 1976 BMW R90S.

Photo by BMW Motorrad/Arnold Debus

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It’s 1975. Teams are preparing for the new AMA Superbike series scheduled for 1976, and Steve McLaughlin is in a pretty good spot. Mclaughlin, one of the road racing world’s multi-achievers, is best known for creating the World Superbike Championship.

He was also the winner of the first Superbike Production race, the Daytona 200, on March 5, 1976, at Daytona International Speedway.

“In 1975 I was doing OK — I had led the Daytona 200 on a Yamaha TZ750, and I’d been racing in Heavyweight Production on a Racecrafters Kawasaki, and won a few races for them,” McLaughlin recalls of events leading up to that first Superbike race. “I first heard from Yoshimura when a guy calls me up and says, ‘We want you to ride for us next year in this new AMA support race called Superbike,’ and I said, ‘Cool, how much?’ And he said, ‘No, no, no, for the honor of riding for Pops.’ And I said — ‘Well, thanks, it is indeed an honor, but honor doesn’t pay the rent, and I make money from this.’ The day after Yoshimura contacts me, Helmut somebody from Butler & Smith calls and asks me to ride for BMW on their R90S.

“BMW had heard that Yoshimura was going to get me, and they got worried and came and made a bid. Well, it turned out that I was able to charge them more money than they paid Reggie Pridmore, who Butler & Smith had actually been racing with all these years. I got paid $500 a race plus bonuses, and I think Reggie got $1,000 for the season. MC  

Order the January/February 2010 issue of Motorcycle Classics to read more about the 1976 BMW R90S, including a road test by Alan Cathcart. Contact Customer Service at (800) 880-7567 or contact us by email.