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Legends: Gary Nixon

Submitted by on April 15, 2011

Back-to-back AMA Grand National Champion, Daytona 200 winner, US road-racing champion, battered in crashes and duded out of a ‘world’ title. Gary Nixon, from Anadarko, Oklahoma, has seen it all – the epitome of the tough American racer.

For three years, he raced with a 45cm stainless steel pin in his left leg. He was just as tough mentally, adapting his bike set up and to lines to take on riders with faster bikes.

Nixon’s first national victory was at a road race in Pennsylvania in 1963. His two Grand National titles came as a factory Triumph rider in 1967-68, including the Daytona victory in ’67. The US tarmac crown was Nixon’s in ’73, riding an Erv Kanemoto prepared Kawasaki 750.

Suzuki’s square four 500 GP racer hurt him big time while testing in Japan in 1974, but a return to Kawasaki in 1976 should have seen him crowned FIM Formula 750 Prize winner (forerunner of a short-lived world championship).

However, results from a shambolic round two of the nine-round series in San Carlos, Venezuela were expunged from the final championship table. Nixon’s 12 points for second place were canned, handing the title to Spain’s Victor Palomo (Yamaha). The following year, Steve Baker became the first US rider to win an FIM road-racing crown, securing the newly elevated world F750 title on a works Yamaha.

Nixon’s career stretched 22 years; his last victory coming at Loudon in 1978 on Kanemoto’s bespoke Yamaha 250 (a machine which in 1979 passed to Freddie Spencer). He was a cult figure in Britain – both for his riding in the Trans-Atlantic Match Races and because Barry Sheene raced with a Gary Nixon Enterprises T-shirt under his leathers.

Gary Nixon turned 70 in January. He recently broke his leg while cutting a tree near his Maryland home. Somehow, it doesn’t surprise.

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