Kevin Schwantz beat his rival Wayne Rainey to win the Superbike National at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in 1987. Photo by Larry Lawrence.

The 1987 AMA Superbike season featured a Wayne Rainey/Kevin Schwantz rivalry that began in America and would ultimately find its way to the other side of the Atlantic Ocean and the 500cc World Championship. At Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for the seventh round of the 10-round AMA Superbike series, the rivalry caught fire as both riders and their teams ended up protesting the other over the legality of their motorcycles.

Bubba Shobert (67) leads Wayne Rainey (6), Kevin Schwantz (34), Jimmy Filice (17), Doug Polen (23), Doug Chandler (10), Gary Goodfellow (11), and Dan Chivington (53) on the first lap. Photo by Colin Fraser.

The race itself was won by Schwantz with the Yoshimura Suzuki rider besting Rainey by 12.6 seconds on a hot and steamy day in central Ohio. Rainey started fast but Schwantz took over at the front on the seventh lap, ran lap times in the 1:35 range, and was never headed again. A lonely third went to Yamaha FZ750-mounted Jimmy Filice with two dirt trackers, Bubba Shobert, and Doug Chandler, rounding out the top five.

“It was a cakewalk,” Schwantz said, half-jokingly after the race. “Well, it wasn’t really that easy. I hit a false neutral on the second or third lap, but when I got into the 35s, I managed to get away.”

Rainey wasn’t pleased with the outcome and pointed to a lack of track time and a lot of Dunlop tires to test as a major reason for the result.

“We just need to put more time on our bikes,” Rainey said. “The sessions are too short. We have all these tires (Dunlops) to test. I just needed more time on the tires I used. I was riding comfortably, but the thing just didn’t work like it could have.”

Rainey, however, left Ohio firmly in control of the AMA Superbike Championship, 118-94, with just two rounds remaining.

Schwantz, Rainey, and Filice celebrate. Photo by Larry Lawrence.

That, however, was all pending results that weren’t initially official after the two teams – Suzuki and Honda – started World War III with protests. It began with Schwantz/Suzuki protesting the legality of the valves in Rainey’s Honda VFR750 and then Rainey and Honda countered with a protest of the rods in Schwantz’s Suzuki GSX-R750. The protested parts were taken to a metallurgy lab in Cleveland, and both were declared legal a few days after the event.