John Kocinski is a legend and a double world champion, winning the 250cc Grand Prix world title in 1990, but also the World Superbike series in 1997.
John’s career was phenomenal. In his late teens the rider from Little Rock, Arkansas, was picked up by Yamaha and took the AMA 250 championship in 1987, 88 and 89. By this time he was working closely with Kenny Roberts Senior, who helped him get a break with a series of rides, including his 250cc debut in 1988 and his 500cc debut in 1989.
For 1990, John would be part of Kenny’s Marlboro-backed Yamaha super-team, dubbed ‘The Evil Empire’. Kocinski would gun for the 250cc title, while in the 500cc team was reigning champ Eddie Lawson and soon-to-be-champ Wayne Rainey. John won the title first time out, soon graduating to the 500cc class where he’d spend two seasons alongside Rainey in a golden era, racing against other greats such as Kevin Schwantz, Wayne Gardner and Mick Doohan.
Kocinski would take two wins on the Marlboro YZR500, with fourth and third in the championship in 1991-1992. What followed was an unsuccessful move back to the 250cc class with Suzuki in 1993, then a late-season return to the 500cc class with Cagiva. By the time his spell in the 500cc class was over at the end of the 1994 season he’d taken a further two more wins, including Cagiva’s first ‘dry’ win.
After a year off to become a professional water skier, he joined the factory Ducati team in 1996 for a tilt at the World Superbike title where he’d finish third overall. Moving to the Castrol Honda spot vacated by Carl Fogarty for 1997, John would have a superb season, taking nine wins on his way to the V4 RC45’s only world title.
This was enough to give him a works Honda 500cc V4 back in Grand Prixs, but despite two more seasons he failed to find his old form and win a race.
On retiring from racing he would help develop Yamaha’s four-stroke grand prix bike before becoming a successful real estate businessman.
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