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Name: Akira Yanagawa
Date of Birth: 15/Jul/1971
Nationality: Japan

Akira began racing on mini-bikes in Japan in 1987. He moved on to 250 racing eventually winning the 250 production (and formula 3) series in Japan in 1989. He raced 250cc GP machines in 1992 and was drafted into the Kawasaki Race Team in 1995 to ride in the all-Japan superbike championship where he finished 6th.

After three years in the All Japan Superbike Championship, he joined the Kawasaki factory team in 1995, and moved up from the national class to World Superbikes racing in 1997. Thanks to his input, the ZX7R 750 cc four-cylinder machine remained a top contender against the vastly superior 1000 cc twin-cylinder bikes.

Yanagawa began his career with Kawasaki in 1995 paired with Katsuaki Fujiwara on a Kawasaki in the Suzuka 8-hour endurance race where the two finished 3rd. In the same event in 1996 he finished 5th on a factory machine riding with Shunya Takeishi, a great year for Kawasaki where their teams also finished 2nd and 4th at Suzuka. In 1999 Yanagawa also had a good finish in the endurance race, 3rd paired up with Hitoyasu Izutsu.

In 1997 Akira signed for Harald Eckl's new Team Fuchs Kawasaki joining kiwi Simon Crafar riding a new and improved factory machine (the ZX7R now putting out aroung 160HP).

Yanagawa won at Zetlweg and Sugo in '97 becoming the 1st Japanese rider to win a non-Japanese leg of the superbike series. He also had three 2nd place finished at Sentul, Zeltweg Hockenheim in a season where he a lot of bad luck with falls (including a serious crash at Laguna Seca), but still ended up a respectful 4th overall at season end. That same year he and Crafar finished 7th in the Suzuka 8-hour endurance race.

1998 was a less succesful season for Kawasaki. Despite the 'vision' of Kawasaki's racign director, and a number of technical improvments to the machine, the ZX7R wasnt overly competative by this stage and all riders were having trouble managing the bike and its tendency to wheel-spin. Yanagawa had two 2nd places (Sugo and Laguna seca) and he finished 7th overall in a season won by Fogarty with Aaron Slight a close 2nd on the Honda.

1999 was a much better year for Yanagawa. The bike had been tuned to be more like the easier to manage 1997 model, power was a little more linear and at 168HP definately the top-performing 750 four. Yanagawa took a win and 2nd at Sugo, two 2nds at Albacete and a handful of 3rds at Hockenheim, Laguna Seca, Misano Adriatico and Nurburgring ending the season 5th overall.

2001 was to be the last WSB season for Akira in the Fuchs Kawasaki team. He finished 9th overall on the ZX7R with best result of the year two 3rds (behnd Bayliss and Edwards) at Monza. Team mate Gregorio Lavilla also finished well in one of the Monza races at 4th.

Next he returned to Japan to develop the new Moto GP venture for Kawasaki. He Competed in the Japanese Superbike series for 2002 to keep his racing skills tuned and competed on the new GP machine in 2002 until injuring himself following after an engine-seizure which ended his season, relagating him to a test rider role for 2003.


See Also: K Index | ZX 7 Rider Index


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