Tuesday 11th March 1958
Born on this day, Eddie Lawson, four-time 500 cc Grand Prix motorcycle racing World Champion (1984, 1986, 1988, 1989). His penchant for not crashing and consistently finishing in the points earned him the nickname “Steady Eddie”.
Born in Upland, California, Lawson began his motorcycle racing career in the Southern California dirt track circuit. When it became increasingly difficult to find machinery able to compete with the dominant Harley-Davidsons, he switched his attention to road racing. In 1979, Lawson finished the season second behind Freddie Spencer in the AMA 250cc road racing National Championship. Afterwards, he was offered a ride with the Kawasaki Superbike team and won the AMA Superbike Series in 1981 and 1982. He also won the AMA 250cc road racing National Championship in 1980 and 1981 for Kawasaki.
Lawson accepted an offer from Yamaha to contest the 500cc World Championship as Kenny Roberts’ team-mate for the 1983 season. Lawson spent the 1983 season learning the ropes of the Grand Prix circuit. In 1984, Lawson began winning regularly and won the 1984 World Championship. It would mark the first of four world titles Lawson would go on to win. After winning two more titles for Yamaha in 1986 and 1988, Lawson shocked the racing world by announcing he would be leaving Yamaha to sign with their arch-rivals Rothmans Honda as team mate to his own arch rival, Australia’s 1987 World Champion Wayne Gardner. By switching teams, Lawson also fulfilled his desire to work with Erv Kanemoto. After Gardner crashed and broke his leg during the third round at Laguna Seca, Lawson went on to win the 1989 title for Honda, becoming the first rider to win back-to-back championships on machines from different manufacturers. By winning with both Yamaha and Honda, Lawson silenced his critics who believed he would not be as successful away from the factory Marlboro Yamaha team.
Lawson also won the ABC Superbikers event at Carlsbad Calif. in 1983 and 1985 which pitted the best riders from several disciplines against each other on a combined dirt and paved course. He was riding a specially equipped factory YZ 490 Yamaha.
In 1990, Lawson won the Suzuka 8 Hours endurance race on a Yamaha FZR750R paired with teammate Tadahiko Taira. Lawson also won the Daytona 200 in 1986 and came out of retirement to win it again in 1993. When he retired from Grand Prix racing in the early 1990s, he ranked third on the all-time MotoGP class (then known as 500cc) Grand Prix wins list with 31.
After finishing his motorcycle career, Lawson pursued a career in open-wheel single seater racing in the United States competing in the Indy Lights series and eventually to CART. In the 1996 IndyCar season, he competed in 11 races with his best results being two sixth-place finishes at U.S. 500 and the Detroit Indy Grand Prix. His passion for speed remains undiminished and the former World Champion now enjoys driving 250cc Superkarts often accompanied by his great friend and rival Wayne Rainey, who races in a specially modified Superkart to cope with his spinal injuries, and historic Formula One cars, with a Walter Wolf Racing WR4 at vintage events.