Yvon Duhamel, a groundbreaking motorcycle racer from Canada, has died at age 81.
Duhamel had his greatest racing success in the US and overseas in Europe, but started his career racing in his home country of Canada. A Montrealer, Duhamel initially gained attention racing around Quebec and Ontario, winning just about every trophy the Canadian Motorcycle Association handed out in the 1960s. As per Duhamel’s bio on the Canadian Motorcycle Hall of Fame website:
Yvon won the CMA’s prestigious White Memorial Trophy, for “Best performance by a Canadian rider in all disciplines”, no less than six times. His first wins came in 1961 and ‘62, and then for four consecutive years from 1965 to ’68. This has never been repeated. In dirt track he carried the No. 1 Plate in 1963-65-66-67 and 1968. He was CMA expert champion in 1962, ’65, ’66, ’67, and ’69. He was also CMA lightweight champion in 1962.
His road racing machines also carried the No. 1 plate in 1967, and he had the coveted No. 1 plate in motocross in 1965 and 1966. This was preceded by a 250 cc CMA expert championship in 1964. In ice racing Yvon won the CMA 500 senior championship in 1961 and 1962 and the CMA 500 expert championship in 1968. The CMA records also show a second place in the 1968 national trials championship. In 70 motocross starts he would record 53 firsts, 13 seconds, three thirds, and one crash!
Impressive, for sure, but Duhamel’s greatest accolades were yet to come. In the late 1960s, he signed on with Deeley Yamaha, and started seeing success in roadracing events at Daytona. From there, he moved to Kawasaki, and became an important part of Kawi’s strong roadracing program in the 1970s, running two-stroke production machines and homologation specials, as well as four-stroke racers based on the Z1 900. Duhamel acquitted himself very well in Europe, particularly in Formula 750 competition, even pulling off a fifth at the Dutch TT in the 250 cc class. Although a Canadian by origin, his spot on Kawasaki’s US-based factory race teams made him a familiar face at American tracks, and a marketing asset to Kawi to wannabe go-fasters all around the world. He truly was an international star, one of few Canadian riders to achieve that status.
The later years of Duhamel’s career saw him focus on roadracing, leaving his dirt bike days behind for the most part. However, he also participated in snowmobile racing in the winters, earning another shelf full of hardware on the snow, and even ended up with a 10th-place finish at a 400-mile NASCAR event in 1973, after starting the race in 15th.
Impressive indeed! Duhamel continued to race through the 1980s, but far less seriously, as he had moved on to helping his sons (Miguel and Mario) start their own impressive riding careers. All three riders suited up for the 1988 Bol D’Or 24-hour endurance race in 1988, the first-ever father/sons team to tackle that event.
Duhamel’s family announced his death earlier this week. His passing marks the end of an era for Canadian motorcycle racing, but also arguably the sport as a whole, as this sort of multi-discipline talent is almost unheard-of these days.