Riding a Friduss Racing Moto Guzzi Lemans Superbike


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It’s not often that a race bike gets me second guessing my meager riding skills and questioning if I am man enough to get on it from 30 ft away across the paddock. That was my exact thought process however as owner Stan Friduss pulled away the remote starter and the heavily breathed on 1000cc engine of the 1976 Moto Guzzi Lemans Superbike exploded to life. Every head within earshot turned towards the pit. I approached cautiously as the biked settled into a spitting idle as if it was pissed off for being woken up, courtesy of the gaping DelOrto smoothbore carbs. This was my first introduction to my dance partner for the weekend, and the fortuitous relationship to come.

Thanks to Stan and Pearl Friduss, I got the opportunity to ride the Friduss Racing Moto-Guzzi vintage heavyweight superbike for the AHRMA season finale at the beautiful Barber Motorsport Park. I am a huge fan of the vintage superbike class, having grown up during that exciting first era of 1025cc high handlebar superbikes. This was an era when tires and chassis hadn’t quite caught up to impressive power output the superbikes were capable of. Exciting would be a huge understatement to anyone who witnessed the original spectacle. Ever since AHRMA re-introduced the class a few years ago, I had been itching to throw my leg over a heavyweight superbike. Honestly, however, a Moto Guzzi ‘Superbike’ was pretty far down the bucket list. Why would I want to ride an old quirky pushrod, shaft drive Italian V-twin originally intended for the touring market when I could be pretending to be Eddie Lawson or Wes Cooley on a 1025cc Japanese inline 4 fire breather? Part of the draw to riding one of  Stan’s bike was his history of building quick Moto-Guzzi’s. After racing against his impressively fast Daytona based Formula 2 Battle of the Twins racer, I always wondered what it would be like to ride one.

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Then 19-year-old Mike Baldwin (and friends) on the very same Guzzi superbike I would ride at Barber. 

One of the other draws to riding this particular superbike was it’s incredible racing history. This was no replica, but one of the original protagonists from the dawn of the superbike era. It was the very bike (purported to being the first Moto Guzzi Lemans brought into the U.S.) the great Reno Leoni of Ducati/Jimmy Adamo fame built for a 19 year old Mike Baldwin to ride during the 1976 season. Baldwin placed 5th at Daytona that year, then won in stunning fashion the following round at Loudon. Baldwin notched another victory on the bike the following year at the Charlotte superbike race. This was about the time Stan acquired the bike, where it went on to win countless club races, as well as several AMA Battle of the Twins victories and AHRMA races and championships. The list of names who rode the bike was a veritable who’s who of American road racing, including Rick Schlacter, Sherri Friduss, Will Harding, and even equally famed racer/announcer Richard Chambers (who just happened to be calling the races at Barber!).

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In the shadow of greatness, frantically trying to learn to understand Italian … 

Wes Orloff
1/7/2011 7:54:11 AM

Hi Peter, good catches there...I talked to Stan and he said the bike has gone through a number of tanks/bodywork/engines since 1976 and is currently running a 1000cc square fin engine, although he does have the original engine as well. It is the original Baldwin chassis. If you google Sherri Friduss (Stan's ex-wife and former AMA battle of the twins competitor) you will come up with some images of this bike on the start line of some BOT races from the early 80's with the original bodywork and engine. as you probably know, race bikes continually evolve and are rarely the same year to year...and this particular bike has 30+ years of evolution! It is definitely not in the same configuration as raced by Baldwin in 1976, but the spirit is till intact. I'll talk again to Stan tonight and see if I can get more details of the bike for you.

Peter Lucas
1/7/2011 1:35:57 AM

Great story...and a great opportunity to ride a very fine motorcycle, but something isn't right here: Baldwin is shown sitting on an early Guzzi Le Mans (tiny flyscreen fairing, jelly mould tank, late 70's origin)whereas all the other pictures show a very nicely tricked out Le Mans mk111, first manufactured around '82 (angular tank and fairing, squared-off engine cooling fins. Your correspondent doesn't mention the quirky integrated braking system, quite probably bypassed for historic racing, but a standard feature on all the Le Mans models which might have been intact on the Baldwin bike.

1/6/2011 3:07:48 PM

I was at that Loudon race in 1976 when Mike Baldwin won on the Guzzi. As I recall, second and third were taken by BMWs. The race was sponsored by Duckworth Chain (see Ms. Duckworth in the photo). There were no chain-drive bikes on the podium. Duckworth was not happy.

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