Mostly because by then he’d made a lot of money racing Kawasakis, racing snowmobiles, investing in hotels, selling tires, T-shirts and trinkets–and he was just about done with the racing Kawasakis part of it.
Excerpt from a Joe Scalzo interview with Duhamel, Cycle World, November `75:
Duhamel has been under contract to Kawasaki ever since… six disappointing, crash-filled years with a total of only five major U.S. victories, but lucrative seasons for all of that.
“How much did Kawasaki actually pay you last year?” I asked.
“Last year Kawasaki paid me $90,000.”
Ignoring the expression of disbelief on my face, he continued: “But that’s not all. Plus my contract with Boge shocks and a magazine in France, I make another $90,000. That’s what? That’s $180,000.
“But I never count. Because I make money from snowmobiles too. I was making almost $100,000 with snowmobiles…
“I got other businesses. I have a motel at home that with the Olympics it’s pretty busy now. I have a decal business, patches and T-shirts… I suppose last year, all told, I make about $315,000.”
I asked him to repeat the incredible figure just to be sure I’d heard him correctly.
“You must have a very good manager.”
“Oh, yes. The best. Jerry Tremllan. He does ice hockey players too. He does golf players. We’re partners in hotel management. This October 17th we’re opening a motorcycle store…
“I been racing 17 years. I been married 17 years, and my bike is number 17. Everything comes up 17.”
“But there’ve been more than 17 crashes,” I said.
“Oh, yeah, many more.”
“Doesn’t that stuff bother you?” I asked. “Everyone saying you’re a crasher and all?”
“No,” he said quickly. “You see, when I race with Yamaha I never crash too often. You ask Bob Work, I crash a few times, not many.
“But with Kawasaki, I would say that with 95 percent of crashes, I crash because something happen to my machine… Many times I’ve seen Roberts and Baker go sideways, so bad, on Yamaha… Those guys make a mistake, they pitch their bike sideways, the thing makes big black tire marks on the pavement. But they don’t crash.
“Me, I move six inches, I’m down. Like I told (Jim) Evans last year when he joined Kawasaki. I told him, `take it easy. Kawasaki’s not a Yamaha. When it starts to go sideways…’”
Evans, after two serious Kawasaki crashes, is now retired from racing.
“The way the Kawasaki frame is made,” Duhamel said, “or the way the engine is placed or something, something is wrong there. It just wants to lose traction at the rear wheel. It moves six inches and that’s it, it wants to high-side you.”
Duhamel, I realized, would never be so candid with a reporter unless something were seriously amiss between himself and Kawasaki. Something was. This year is to be Duhamel’s last with Kawasaki. It may be his last racing season, too….”
Where would he be today if, six years ago, he hadn’t changed teams and, in effect, swapped victories for cash? Less wealthy certainly. Yet happier, less battered and by now possibly the greatest road racer in the world instead of the richest.
He did go after the big buck. Who, in Duhamel’s place, wouldn’t have done exactly the same thing?