Watch Kawasaki’s Z1 900 break the 1972 24-hour speed record

The 1972 Kawasaki Z1 900 was so fast that TV cameras of the day had trouble keeping up.

The Daytona Motor Speedway from 1972 was very different from today Daytona International Speedway. The stacks of bleachers had not yet been built, as well as the buildings that adorn the infield. Instead, we see a long stain of earth and grass, surrounded by this even familiar oval.

It was here 50 years ago that Kawasaki brought its new Z1 900 (three of them, actually) to demonstrate the new Bicycle at journalists — and attempt to break one 24 hours the rapidity registration. The feat would put the Z1 on the map as the fastest production motorcycle in the world.

In the short documentary, So far so fast, the narrator calls the Kawasaki a “touring bike. But frankly, that was one of the first Japanese superbikes. According this auction listing for a beautiful model from 1973the Z1 900 really broke the mold when it came to Japanese motorcycles, with his 900-cc 4 cylinder engine developing 81 hp at 8,500 rpm and a top speed of 130 mph. At the time, most high performance motorcycles were around 750cc.

To prepare for the record-breaking event, the three Z1 900s were decked out in racing fairingsso they didn’t exactly look like showroom bikes. Other adjustments have been made to the handlebars and seats to better prepare the bikes for a 24 grueling hours on the track, covering an equivalent distance to drive from Los Angeles to Baltimore.

The documentary is not very long, just under 28 minutes. The film crew follows the riders and crew as they prepare the bikes for the long, high speed ride ahead. It was hard work for everyone – meet the crew push the start of a bike to get it back on track. And consider the horsemen, sitting astride a major power – dominated by 70s brake technology.

At the end of the 24-hour marathon, Kawasaki clinched the FIM and AMA 24-hour endurance records, covering 2,631 miles at an average speed of 109.64 mph. Can you imagine running this bicycle, for so many hours, at this speed? In total, according to the documentary, Kawasaki broke 52 different recordings at Daytona.

Although the Z1 900 wasn’t the world’s first superbike, it set a precedent for the replica racing machines we love today. Kawasaki would continue to push the limits even further: The Z1 has finally gone to 1000cc, and today we have Kawasaki’s Delicious Z900RSa retro-inspired design that debuted 2018. Although not the original Z1 900, it stays true to its superbike origins, while bringing its braking technology up to modern standards.

Floyd N. Morlan