Remembering Yvon DuHamel 1939-2021

Photo: D. Randy Riggs

Yvon DuHamel, one of the leading motorcycle racers of the 1960s and ’70s, passed away August 17 at age 81 in Montreal, Quebec.

French Canadian DuHamel began racing in the late 1950s on a BSA Gold Star, and by the mid-’60s was competing in the U.S. at major races such as Daytona where, in 1967, Canadian Yamaha Distributor Fred Deeley Ltd. sponsored him in the Lightweight 250cc class, where he finished 8th. His reputation as a hard charger led to a Deeley Yamaha 350 ride for the 1968 Daytona 200, DuHamel turning in an impressive 2nd-place finish. In 1969 he sat on the pole for the 200, the first rider to qualify above 150mph, at that time qualifying taking place entirely on the NASCAR oval. In the race he was a DNF.

Kawasaki added DuHamel to its factory road racing team in 1971, and his performances aboard the Mean Green machines gained him national stardom among road racing fans, making famous the No. 17. The 3-cylinder, two-stroke Kawasakis were quick but sometimes unreliable, but above all difficult to ride with hair-trigger throttle response. DuHamel sometimes tamed these wicked machines like at Talladega in September ’71, when he gave the brand its first AMA national victory. Yet at other times crashes kept him from winning, although he was victorious in five other AMA Nationals.

In 1999, DuHamel was inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame in Pickerington, Ohio. He was also inducted into the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame.

DuHamel is survived by his sons Miguel and Mario, both of whom became professional motorcycle racers.