Mid-June used to mean Loudon to the Superbike ranks. And Loudon usually meant racing in the rain. And, if you’re going to have a bench-racing session about racing in the rain at Loudon, then there is but one race to talk about, above all other–the 1993 Loudon Classic, won on June 20 that year by Scott Russell.
For a man commonly known as Mr. Daytona because of his prowess in Daytona Beach, Scott Russell’s 1993 Loudon win was one third of a trifecta which made him a legend. Russell accomplished so much in 1993, but perhaps the most impressive feat that season didn’t take place at Daytona or Suzuka or at a European racetrack. It happened at Loudon. The people who were there that day will never forget what they witnessed.
Then the reigning AMA Superbike champion, Scott Russell only raced a few rounds in the US in 1993–Phoenix, Daytona and Loudon. He was beaten at Phoenix by Doug Polen, at Daytona by Eddie Lawson but slammed home such a devastating performance at Loudon that all prior runner-up finishes were forgotten.
Russell was racing in Europe after Daytona in 1993, trying for his (and Kawasaki’s) first World Superbike championship; he was not scheduled to race in America after Daytona. However, in 1993 there was turmoil on the US side of the Muzzy Kawasaki team, at least according to Russell’s then mechanic, Gary Medley.
“Rob had Miguel DuHamel and Tiger Sohwa racing here then, and I think they thought that all the good equipment was going to Europe for Scott, because they were not doing so well.” Even Dale Quarterley on a Muzzy customer Superbike was more competitive than the factory riders, at times.
A last-minute plan was hatched after the Spanish World Superbike round at Albacete whereby Russell and Medley–who were hanging out at the Kawasaki race shop in Germany—would get flights to the US and Russell would race the event on one of Sohwa’s back-up bikes. The plan was hatched the Monday before Loudon, okayed by Kawasaki on Tuesday and flights arranged for Wednesday, which would put Medley (who now tunes for Doug Chandler on the HMC Ducati team) and Russell into New Hampshire on Thursday, for the start of practice on Friday.
The sole problem was that Russell and Medley missed their flight out of Germany and were delayed by six hours in leaving the continent. They flew into New York, according to Medley, and arranged another flight into Concord, Massachusetts, which put them into Loudon late.
This was in an era when Russell, the defending Loudon Classic winner, didn’t believe that he suffered from jet lag, at times showing he could go without sleep for days, so his body being on a euro-clock didn’t matter.
Obviously. Russell went out in a wet but drying track and went faster than anyone else–teammate or not–snatching pole from second-fastest Jamie James on the Vance and Hines Yamaha. Russell’s margin over James in qualifying was a half-second on the short little track. Conventional wisdom had it that no one could go faster in the second qualifying session because of the rain, and many riders left their bikes under the pit lane tents. Somebody just forgot to tell Russell.
It was pouring that Sunday as the riders took to the grid, rainsuits over their leathers. In appalling conditions, where you’d think twice about riding to the track, much less racing on it, Russell showed that day what made him so great—precise and fearless riding. He nailed the start and was off, with DuHamel and Sohwa trying to keep pace in the downpour. There were two races in retrospect, one for Scott Russell to see how far in the order he could lap the field (answer: eighth), while the other was to be the soul who finished behind Russell. His future brother-in-law, Mike Smith, won that one.
Kawasaki ZX7RR mounted Russell won the race by almost forty seconds; the following Monday a local paper ran an image of Russell charging through the downpour, with a huge rooster-tail of water spraying off his rear tire.
Russell did his share of winning that season in 1993–he won both the Suzuka eight hours and the World Superbike title—but he may have not have been more impressive 11 years ago than he was that afternoon at Loudon.
“Scott, just … he just had something more when it rained than a lot of riders. I mean, he had such control and confidence in the wet. A lot of riders hate racing in the rain, but Scott enjoyed it, and did really well at it,” says Gary Medley.
“I don’t think there were any questions about equipment after that race that year. In pretty typical form, Muzzy silenced it. I think that was just the way he dealt with things—head on. Not a lot of bullshit with Rob. Somebody says something, and he’s like, ‘That so? Well, I think you’re wrong and I’m gonna prove it.’ I still say he could run a winning Superbike team here.”