It was the morning before the first day of Superbike practice at Phoenix in 1993 and Miguel DuHamel was driving a rental car to the track. DuHamel had returned to America for 1993 and this was to be his first race back after a season in Grand Prix. Driving his rental car, DuHamel was as relaxed as riders get, arm out the window, enjoying the Arizona early morning sun, wondering where he can get a coffee, what time practice starts, talking back to the deejay on the car's radio when from nowhere ...
DuHamel's head snapped forward and back from the impact and he quickly realized that another car had run into the back of his on the Arizona hiway. He reached up to re-adjust the rearview mirror expecting to see an apologetic office queen motioning apologies for running inadvertently into his car while applying make-up, but squinting in the reflective surface DuHamel sees instead ... his new team owner Rob Muzzy, his own rental car planted right on the bumper of DuHamel's not-really-pristine-anymore hire car.
Just then Muzzy pounded the gas pedal of his rental car and pushed DuHamel's car forward.
"Okay, so this was my first race for Kawasaki," DuHamel remembers. "Rob Muzzy is my team owner. It was so great. We raced rental cars all the way to the track that morning. It was like a movie. I thought to myself then, you know, this is going to be a great year. First race and I have to pass cars on the shoulder of the road in order to beat Rob Muzzy to the track."
Miguel DuHamel's name is of course most closely associated with Honda but the Canadian rode for a variety of manufacturers in the United States. Suzuki, of course for his first Superbike win, and Harley-Davidson in 1994, but Kawasaki as well. To veteran race-watchers it was a homecoming of sorts to see a hairy French Canadian guy on a Kawasaki as Miguel's dad, Yvon, had spent almost his entire career on green bikes in the US.
"You know, in the end, it was just a strange year," DuHamel says now of 1993. "We expected that Kawasaki would do a little more to promote me being there after my dad's history with them, but it never happened."
Branding concerns fell by the wayside quickly that season. DuHamel had a decent Daytona--finishing third behind world champion Eddie Lawson and Kawasaki teamster Scott Russell, but after that the team and DuHamel struggled for race wins. It soon became apparent that DuHamel wasn't comfortable on the Kawasaki Superbike and Muzzy wasn't hugely keen on hearing DuHamel's criticism of the motorcycle.
1993 was also the season that Texan Doug Polen had his way with the AMA Superbike championship, winning six races and the title on his Fast by Ferracci Ducati.
DuHamel struggled almost the entire season on the Kawasaki. DuHamel found little to be happy with on the green bike and the team's response to suggestions that the bike wasn't up to winning races was to fly in Scott Russell for Loudon (Russell was racing WSBK for Muzzy Kawasaki that season) and watch as he won by a huge margin.
|"Okay, so this was my first race for Kawasaki," DuHamel remembers. "Rob Muzzy is my team owner. It was so great. We raced rental cars all the way to the track that morning. It was like a movie. I thought to myself then, you know, this is going to be a great year. First race and I have to pass cars on the shoulder of the road in order to beat Rob to the track."|
"In some ways Scott and I had a very similar riding style, aggressive, but in a few ways we did not," remembers DuHamel. "I liked a little different set up on the bike than he did and I had some issues with the bike."
Making matters more complicated for the French Canadian was that privateer Dale Quarterley won the Mid-Ohio AMA Superbike race--on a customer Muzzy Kawasaki Superbike.
DuHamel's season ended on a huge note when he narrowly defeated Polen's uber-dominant Superbike at the final round of the championship at Sears Point. However, it wasn't enough to salvage the relationship between him and Kawasaki. Harley Davidson had attended the summer Superbike team owner meeting and were intent on joining the Superbike class in 1994. They wanted the best rider in the series for the VR 1000's debut and hired DuHamel.
"It was just a weird year," DuHamel now says of 1993, shaking his head.