Bigger is not always better, even on the high banks of Daytona International Speedway.
In 1972, Don Emde proved that by winning America’s biggest motorcycle race, the Daytona 200, riding this 350cc two-stroke Yamaha TR3 against a field of bikes as big as 750cc.
Emde’s Daytona 200 win was the first for a two-stroke, and it was accomplished on the smallest bike ever to win the race. The victory was also Yamaha’s first in the 200, the first for a son of a Daytona 200 winner (Emde’s father, Floyd, won in 1948), and the first in Yamaha’s record streak of 13 consecutive Daytona wins.
For Emde, it also was the pinnacle of his road-racing career. An up-and-coming racer from Southern California, Emde earned a ride on the BSA team for 1971. But despite good results, he was a victim of budget cuts after just one season.
For the ’72 season, Emde found support from Team Motorcycle Weekly and Yamaha dealer Mel Dinesen. Dinesen had backed Emde before the BSA ride, and owned the TR3 Emde raced that year.
The bike, a production model, was fairly close to stock for a racebike. It had an extended swingarm, an aftermarket seat, a more aerodynamic fairing, Koni shocks, and some porting work.
Emde says that despite having little time to shake down the bike, he had high expectations.
“I actually was very confident—maybe in a naive way,” Emde says. “I expected to be competitive with the 750cc Kawasakis and Suzukis, which were having early season reliability problems.”
And that’s exactly what happened.
With attrition hitting the race’s early front-runners—Kel Carruthers crashed and Kenny Roberts got a flat tire—Emde kept a steady pace, moving into the lead for good with five laps to go.
You can see this piece of pre-mix-burning history in the Hall of Legends at the Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum in Pickerington, Ohio.
CLASSIC Quick List
Engine Air-cooled, two-stroke vertical twin
Brakes Front: four leading-shoe drum Rear: single leading-shoe drum