The ex-Graeme Crosby,
1978/79 Moriwaki Kawasaki 1,100cc TT Formula 1 Racing Motorcycle
To say that New Zealander Graeme Crosby's arrival on the UK racing scene in 1979 caused a sensation would be something of an understatement. At a time when a full fairing and clip-on handlebars were considered essential for a racing motorcycle, here was a bike wearing normal handlebars, ridden by an unknown from 'down under' sitting upright, that immediately had the measure of the home-grown stars. Only a chopper winning the Senior TT would have caused more of a stir.
Croz's machine is the one offered here: the Kawasaki Z1 tuned by Mamoru Moriwaki. By the late 1970s Crosby was a star-in-the-making in Australasia, riding for the Australian Yoshimura importer, Ross Hannan. His obvious promise brought him to the attention of Mamoru Moriwaki, who had founded Moriwaki Engineering in Suzuka in 1973. Moriwaki was married to Hideo 'Pops' Yoshimura's daughter and, like his famous father-in-law, started out by developing tuning parts for the new Kawasaki Z1 superbike. When Pops switched allegiance to Suzuki for 1978, by which time he was resident in Los Angeles, it left Moriwaki as the pre-eminent tuner of the big Kawasakis.
Crosby's first ride for Moriwaki was at the 1978 Suzuka 8-Hours Race, the most prestigious on the Japanese domestic calendar. Many years later he recalled his debut on the Moriwaki Kawasaki for Classic Racer magazine's March/April 2010 edition: 'I could not believe how fast and stable it was. First time out I was two seconds under the lap record. The bike was a real cracker. Tony Hatton and I then rode the bike in the 1978 Suzuka eight-hour race and finished in third position, despite Tony running out of gas and having to push it back to the pit area. We had a ball. The bike formed the building block for my attack on the UK racing scene in '79 and I stuck a similar one on pole for the Suzuka race in that year too.'
It had not been Crosby's intention to contest a full season of the British TT F1 Championship in 1979; in fact, he had come over with the Isle of Man TT at the top of his agenda. Newcomers are expected to do the Manx Grand Prix before tackling the TT proper, but a letter written on his behalf by Mike Hailwood got Croz a direct entry into the main event. While in the UK, the plan was to take in the two mainland events that effectively 'book ended' the TT: at Brands Hatch on 27th May and Mallory Park on 10th June.
Following the 1978 Suzuka 8 Hours, which Croz's bike finished with a cracked frame, Moriwaki realised a long held ambition and designed and built his own chassis, which used lightweight tubing and additional strengthening at key areas, as well as altered steering geometry. Armed with this new weapon, Crosby lined up on the grid for the Forward Trust/Motorcycle Weekly TT F1 race at Brands Hatch. Although he also had a TT F1-specification Moriwaki at his disposal, Croz had thrown it down the road in practice. The bike was undamaged but Croz nevertheless elected to ride the superbike; it would turn out to be an inspired choice. He had raced at Brands once before, in 1978, so at least knew which way the track went, and finished the race in 2nd place behind Ron Haslam's works Honda, having led for a couple of laps. In his autobiography, 'Croz, Larrikin Biker', he recalls the reaction: 'The sight of my blue and yellow, standard-looking Moriwaki Kawasaki Z1 with its "sit-up-and-beg" high handlebars created a lot of attention. As a consequence of my unexpected second placing, I had apparently surprised the fans and the establishment and, if the truth be known, probably myself too.'
Crosby's Isle of Man debut was equally astonishing, the talented New Zealander bringing his Moriwaki Kawasaki home in 4th place in the Formula 1 race at an average speed of 107.39mph. Unfortunately, bad luck struck in the Classic TT, his bike expiring on the mountain with a holed piston. The Mallory Park outing would end in disappointment too, a broken gearbox resulting in a 'DNF'.
Perceived as the underdog on his 'sit-up-and-beg' Moriwaki, Croz had received a rapturous reception from the Mallory crowd, resulting in deals to race the bike at Donington Park and Snetterton that netted two more 2nd places in the TT F1 Championship. After a break that saw him take in the Suzuka 8 Hours (pole position and a 'DNF') and Oran Park in Australia (1st place), it was back to the UK for the Silverstone round on 12th August (2nd place behind Alex George). Croz's next race was the Ulster Grand Prix, the second event in the two-round TT Formula 1 World Championship, where a 3rd place finish on the Moriwaki superbike coupled with his 4th at the TT left him in 3rd place overall in the 1979 World Championship. During the race he had pulled a couple of wheelies to please the crowd, which responded by egging him on to do more. 'The spectators really appreciated my style and the bike,' he recalled.
Brake problems hampered his performance at the next round of the Forward Trust/Motorcycle Weekly series at Oulton Park, resulting in a 6th place finish, and resurfaced again at Scarborough, despite which Croz still finished 3rd behind Honda-mounted winner Roger Marshall and Mick Grant. With the press and public's interest in him and the Moriwaki continuing unabated, Croz headed for the next round at Cadwell Park on 16th September. The result was another 3rd place, on this occasion behind Mick Grant and Alex George. An invitation to form part of the 'Rest of the World' team saw Croz racing a Kawasaki KR750 in the Donington and Imola AGV Cup in September, which was followed by a ride in the Castrol 6-Hour race at Amaroo Park, Australia in October on a Kawasaki Z1R.
After Cadwell Park, Mamoru Moriwaki had sold Croz's superbike to ex-racer and successful motorcycle dealer, Gordon Pantall, who loaned it to the New Zealander for the final round of the Forward Trust/Motorcycle Weekly championship at the Brands Hatch 'Powerbike' meeting on 28th October. Croz signed off with yet another 3rd place, which was good enough for him to finish 2nd overall in the championship behind Ron Haslam. The season concluded with Croz winning the one-off 'British versus the Rest' race that pitted TT F1 bikes against American-style superbikes. He then handed the Moriwaki back to its delighted new owner together with a large quantity of spares.
Interviewed by Chris Pearson for the aforementioned Classic Racer article, Pantall recalled: 'After that the bike wasn't raced again and the engine came out to be placed in one of the F1 bikes. I had Steve Manship and Chris Guy riding for me then and I'm pretty sure it's the engine Alan Jackson used to finish fourth in the F1 TT in 1980.'
In 1981 the engine was reunited with the Moriwaki, which was kept on display in Gordon Pantall's shop until 1987 when he sold up and rented the property out. With the shop now gone, the Crosby bike was dismantled and parts stored in several garages until 2006, when it was decided to embark on a restoration. The frame, swinging arm and engine covers were powder coated and new Morris magnesium wheels fitted (the same as the originals) while the Kayaba shock absorbers were reconditioned. Dents were removed from the fuel tank and the base re-welded to cure leakage. The seat, fairing and front mudguard were re-sprayed and the sign writing carried out by the same craftsman who had done it in 1979. Original Moriwaki pistons proved unobtainable so alternatives were used, and a new Dyna ignition was fitted, the original having failed. A dynamometer test in 2010 produced a rear-wheel reading of 119bhp, in line with the figure of 125bhp at the gearbox recorded in 1980.
The bike was finished in time for the TT Centenary in 2007, emerging in the livery and race numbers it wore when Crosby last rode it back in '79. Gordon Pantall rode the Moriwaki on the 2007 TT Lap of honour, and the following year Graeme Crosby rode it at Donington Park for the circuit's 30th Anniversary celebrations. More recently the bike has done a few parade laps and has been track tested by Alan Cathcart for Motorcycle Sport & Leisure magazine (May 2012 edition, copy article available) and Classic Bike Guide (October 2012 edition). Presented in perfect working order and excellent cosmetic condition, it represents a possibly once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to acquire one of the most spectacular and fondly remembered racing motorcycles of modern times.
- Please note, the engine and frame number printed in the auction catalogue do not relate to this lot. The engine number is Z1E 100054