Thursday, March 21, 2019

Jeremy McGrath: Motocross des Nations 1996

The 1996 Motocross of Nations was staged at the Circuito de Jerez MotoGP and Formula 1 track in Jerez de la Frontera in southwestern Spain. Team USA’s roster featured Steve Lamson (125), Jeremy McGrath (250) and Jeff Emig (500). After was all was said and done that Sunday, the Americans won every single moto. Very much like Team USA at Maggiora, Italy in 1986, the 1996 American effort displayed American supremacy of the sport.

Jeremy McGrath (1996 Supercross Champion/250cc National Vice-Champion) describes the experience, “Obviously that was a great year for me. 1996 was one of my best years. For the Motocross des Nations, it was no different. I went there feeling like I was the best rider in the world. I was going there for a point to prove, for sure. I felt that my confidence was high, I was riding well and there was no way in my mind I was going to lose that day. The track was unbelievable. It was at Jerez – by the Formula 1 track and the MotoGP track – and it was probably one of the nicest tracks I’ve ever ridden. Normally, I don’t have a liking for the European-style tracks, but this track was just awesome. I didn’t find that the track had too many jumps. What the European guys were complaining about was that there was one jump that was a 120-foot downhill quad. It was one of the bigger ones I’d ever seen, actually. It was an easy jump to do, but it was big. The Euro guys at that time had these rules where they couldn’t even have double jumps and stuff (laughter). Mentally, I think that played in the American team’s favor. There were European dudes that were trying to jump it and breaking their bikes in half. The funny part about it was that at first it was a quad, but then they just flattened out the middle jumps out and then those guys were really screwed because they’d just jump halfway out to flat. I mean it was a jump that was half the size of what we jump on a regular basis, really. Emig, Steve and myself I think we got shortsighted on the history books when it comes to that race. Yeah, for me, when people bring up the Motocross des Nations, it sure doesn’t feel like we get the credit that we deserve – or people just don’t know what really happened that day.”

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Star Sailor: Guennady Moiseev

Russian Guennady Moiseev was a three-time FIM 250cc Motocross World Champion. Moiseev won the 1974 250 World Championship in a series that was clouded with controversy involving Moiseev’s Russian teammates who had targeted Czech rider Jarolsav Falta for sabotage. At the final Grand Prix of the season, iFalta won the 250 World Title, but was then disqualified for jumping the start. The 1974 title went to Moiseev. Moiseev’s title was clouded by the circumstances and also because Falta was popular in the motocross world, while Moiseev was unpopular due to the Cold War. Moisseev won 14 FIM 250 GPs during his career. Moiseev would go on to to win the 1977 and 1978 250 World Championships after the 1974 crown and he led the Russian team to the 1978 Motocross des Nations.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Stirling Moss Victorious in the 1955 Mille Miglia

The 22nd annual running of the storied Mille Miglia, an automobile race held on a lengthy course made up entirely of public roads around Italy, took place on April 30 May 1, 1955. The route was based on a round trip between Brescia and Rome (It was also the 3rd round of the 1955 World Sportscar Championship). The '55 race was won by Mercedes-Benz factory driver Stirling Moss (and co-pilot navigator/journalist Denis Jenkinson). They completed the 992-mile distance in 10 hours, 7 minutes and 48 seconds - an average speed of 99 mph (160 km/h). The two Englishmen finished 32 minutes in front of their second-placed teammate, Argentine Juan Manuel Fangio.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Stars & Stripes in MotoGP '83

Kenny Roberts, Freddie Spencer, Randy Mamola and Eddie Lawson all pushing for the holeshot at Silverstone circa 1983.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Rising Sun: Roger DeCoster

During the late 1960s Roger DeCoster’s racing career took off in high gear. He won the Belgium 500cc National title in 1966 and started competing in the world championships the next year. Success did not come overnight.  Dedication and hard work and studious approach to motocross began to pay off. DeCoster won his first GP in Italy in 1968. In 1969, DeCoster helped give Belgium its first Motocross des Nations victory in 18 years. He would go on to help his country win the prestigious competition five more times. In 1971, DeCoster made the difficult decision to leave CZ to ride with Suzuki. It was with Suzuki that DeCoster came to fame. Riding a newly designed bike –the RN370– DeCoster promptly went out and won his first 500cc Motocross World Championship. He would go on to win four more 500cc world titles in the next five years. By the mid-1970s, DeCoster had established himself as the greatest motocross racer of his time and arguably the best ever. Besides winning world championship, DeCoster also helped spread the gospel of motocross to America. He came to the United States to race in the Trans-AMA Series, which pitted the best American riders against the top Europeans. DeCoster won the Trans-AMA Championship four years in a row (1974-1977).

Friday, October 12, 2018

Little Fauss and Big Halsy

Shot in 1970, the film Little Fauss and Big Halsy begins when Fauss runs into Halsy Knox, a professional motorcycle racer, after a race run in Phoenix, Arizona. Halsy, who has been banned from racing for drinking on the track, suggests that they form a partnership in which Halsy would race under Fauss's name with Fauss functioning as the mechanic. The two men agree and Fauss joins Halsy on the racing circuit. He is constantly faced with his inferiority to Halsy, both on and off the racetrack. Their partnership is finally broken when Rita Nebraska, a drop-out from a wealthy background, arrives at the racetrack and immediately attaches herself to Halsy, despite the attention Fauss pays her. After breaking his leg in a motorcycle race, Fauss returns home to his parents. Several months later, when his leg has mended, Halsy visits him and attempts to leave behind Rita, who is now pregnant, but Fauss refuses to take her. He tells Halsy that he plans to reenter the racing circuit. A short time later, the two men race against each other at the Sears Point International Raceway; Halsy's motorcycle breaks down, and as he leaves the track, he hears the announcement that Fauss has taken the lead. A cult film that appealed to motorcycle racing enthusiasts, it actually features good, well shot racing action from various disciplines of motorcycle racing.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

1983 Unadilla 250cc USGP

In the summer of 1983, Team Honda rider David Bailey was in the title fight of his life. On a dreary Sunday afternoon inside Foxboro, Massachusetts’ Schaefer Stadium, Bailey was able to win the Miller High Life Supercross main event, and a result, moved into a very tenuous three-point lead in the chase for the Wrangler Super Series Supercross Championship over Team Suzuki’s Mark Barnett. With only one round remaining, the Miller High Life Superbowl of Motocross, the two title combatants would have to wait for the showdown set two run inside the historic Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California on Saturday night, August 6.

It certainly seems laughable in this day age of “very long and tough schedules” and “tired and worn out riders” that before the 1983 supercross championship could be decided, some of America’s very best riders (by then the world’s best riders) would be dispatched to New Berlin, New York to fight for U.S. motocross pride and glory at the Unadilla 250cc United States Grand Prix. Certainly a different period in time, that’s exactly where Team Honda sent David Bailey to line-up on Sunday, July 31. Waiting there for him was fellow American Danny LaPorte, the reigning 250cc World MX Champion, who at that point in the globetrotting season was beating back the advances of Belgian rider Georges Jobe, who was out to take LaPorte’s #1 plate away.

Although not a championship-contending racer by any means that summer, a Honda “B” team rider named Brian Myerscough was also entered to race at Unadilla. A former minicycle and 125cc sensation, Myerscough had left the sport during the 1981 season, taking a year and a half off to sort out medical issues he was experiencing with both depression and Hypoglycemia. Back to racing for the ‘83 season, he was hired to ride for Greg Arnett’s Honda “B” team, which then provided its riders bikes, parts, salary, and a box van. Running in the highly competitive 125cc Nationals that summer, shortly before the GP at Unadilla, Myerscough received a phone call form Honda.

"Johnny O'Mara was supposed to ride the USGP, but he was in the midst of a serious run at the AMA 125cc National Championship, so they threw me on the works bike at the last minute,” Myerscough explained. “I wasn't completely prepared to ride the class, but I was going to give it my best shot.”

In what had become tradition at Unadilla, race promoter Ward Robinson had seeded the slopes, hills and valleys of his 1.19-mile track prior to the event, the results being a majestic, grass covered venue that rivaled any motocross track in the world.

A massive crowd of well over 25,000 spectators collectively roared when David Bailey and Brian Myerscough leaped out of Gravity Cavity while running one-two on the opening lap of the first 40-minute plus two-lap moto. Four laps in, Bailey, with Myerscough in his draft, had pulled clear to a 30-second lead over the rest of the pack, never to be contended with. When the checkered flag flew to signal the end of the moto, Bailey crossed the finish line 14 seconds ahead of the hard riding Myerscough.

"When the first moto started, Brian and I just took off from everyone," Bailey recalled. "I led the whole way but Brian wasn't that far behind. We just kept an eye on each other. You see, back then, they didn't score GP overalls by who won, but rather by whoever had the fastest time in both motos combined, so we kept going hard."

Although Bailey was arguably the most physically fit rider in the world at the time, the first moto on Unadilla’s notoriously rough and nasty natural-terrain circuit had taken its toll on him. "I was so tired and thirsty after the moto that I drank way, way too much water,” he said. “It made me sick."

Third, some 56 seconds back, was Jobe. LaPorte placed a credible fourth.

When the gate dropped for the final moto, Bailey, LaPorte and Myerscough all found themselves up front at the sharp end of the field. But then, a few laps in, Bailey bonked. "I just faded,” he admitted. “LaPorte blew past me, then Myerscough went by me, and I just rode around for 20 minutes until I could regroup."

At the 25-minute mark of the moto, Myerscough and his #42 Honda went by LaPorte and into the lead. He was approximately 15 minutes away from winning the biggest race of his lifetime. But as the seconds slowly clicked away, Bailey grabbed his second wind, spooled up a charge and reeled in LaPorte, who, in turn, had crept up on the tiring Myerscough. Then, with the two-lap sign was flashed, LaPorte reached for another gear and passed Myerscough for the lead. Seeing LaPorte’s move, Bailey also went after the fast-fading Myerscough.

"I had to get Brian — I didn't even care about LaPorte because he was fourth in the first moto,” Bailey explained. “I was riding as hard and as fast as I could. I kept telling myself to dig deeper and deeper…”

Out front and being the veteran that he was, LaPorte was aware of the drama going on behind him: "There was a personal thing going on between David and me to see who was the best — the World Champion or the National Champion — and Brian just got caught in the middle of that. I guess he had some things on the line for himself at Unadilla, but we couldn't think about that. I mean, we were like lions — we had to eat him up."

“He hit the wall,” added Bailey of Myerscough’s downward spiral with less than four minutes left to go. “He wanted to win that race too much. He should have played it smart and paced himself. He just didn't have anything left. He was a rag doll."

LaPorte went on to win the moto over Bailey, who, in placing second, claimed the 1983 USGP. A spent Myerscough limped across the line to finish fifth.

"I was out in front in the lead, but I lost my stamina and folded at the end,” lamented Myerscough. “I was just dead. After the race, I got sick and so did everybody else. I didn't win, but to this day I feel good about running with those guys. I should have won the USGP, but I just got too tired."

Later, sitting in a lawn chair outside of his Team Honda box van, a drained, but smiling Bailey recounted the drama he had played the lead role in.

“It’s about the most exciting race that I’ve ever been in,” he offered. “I was charging so hard and tried everything I could to catch Danny and I’m whipped. I had just enough energy left to win the overall and it’s all gone now.”

Explained Danny LaPorte to Cycle News writer Tom Kolnowski, “It was one of those races where you felt like you were going to lose your stomach in the rougher sections. You would get so tired that after a while you couldn’t get yourself up off the seat – then it got even worse. I’d have to say it was one of the hardest races I’ve ever had. The thing about racing the GPs against Jobe is that I have to ride this hard every week to beat him.”

In the end, LaPorte would lose his 250cc world title defense to new World Champion Jobe.

Just six days after his big GP win and before 67,000 fans in the Rose Bowl, David Bailey placed sixth in the final main event of the season, thus winning the Wrangler Super Series Supercross Championship over Mark Barnett by just two points.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Jeff Stanton on the 1990 Motocross of Nations at Vimmerby, Sweden.

“The race that year didn’t go great. Jeff Ward and Damon Bradshaw had or had bad luck and I had a bad start the second moto. We knew who we had to beat and it was Team Belgium. I just kept plucking away in the last and final moto and I knew that I had to pass this Dirk Guekens guy from Belgium at the very end of the race. I had to pass him. I followed him for a lap and I put him off the track. I’m not going to lie, I put him off the track with a lap to go and we won. What I remember the most about that was going back to the pits. I was still pretty young then and this guy comes racing back into the pits. He had a full beard and was this 40 year-old guy and he was ready to lay me out, dude! He was going through the roof. I remember Roger [DeCoster] and Dan [Bentley] staying in front of the guy. You do what it takes to win the race and that’s just what I did there.”

Monday, September 17, 2018

David Bailey: 1983 Motocross des Nations

David Bailey. Belgium. The 1983 Motocross des Nations was the first effort out of the U.S. that wasn’t a full Honda effort as it had been in both 1981 and 1982.  In ’83, all of the manufacturers participated with David Bailey (Honda), Mark Barnett (Suzuki), Broc Glover (Yamaha) and Jeff Ward (Kawasaki) representing the USA. David Bailey was in his second year as a Honda factory rider and he was dominating America with a Supercross title and a 250 National MX championship as well. This photo shows David, with a fresh evidence of a crash on his shoulder on the move.  He went on to hunt down Andre Vromans and win the second moto. Team USA won its third straight Motocross des Nations.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Roger DeCoster: 500cc Motocross World Champion

Roger DeCoster came to the fore in the sport of motocross in the mid 1960s. During the era, DeCoster made his mark and gained world recognition as a member of Team Suzuki from 1971-1979, bringing home five 500cc World Championships along with 37 Grand Prix victories more than any other rider in history. He also won four Trans USA series titles, numerous "Rider of the Year" awards, and was honored by the AMA as "Sportsman of the Year." Along with teammates Joel Robert and Sylvain Geboers, as well as adversaries like Bengt Aberg and Heikki Mikkola, he firmly entrenched the European contingent as the leaders in the world of motocross during the 1970s.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Randy Mamola: 2006 vs 2018

“When Nicky Hayden won the World Championship in 2006, all the manufacturers could build good bikes with good power and control,” says Randy Mamola, a four-time runner-up in the 500c World Championship and certifiable MotoGP legend. “The bikes were comfortable and had big and torquey engines and the tires went along with it. In 2007, MotoGP went to the all-new 800cc bikes and then came limitations. A rider lie Casey Stoner could ride the bike as fast as he could and not spin the rear tire. It was like the bikes were put on rails. When I raced it was battlefield. It is a battlefield in 2018. It is just that the weapons are different. We had a loaded gun and they have a gun with a muzzle on it. We were gladiators then and the riders are gladiators now. It’s amazing at what both the riders and bikes can do It’s incredible. I mean the bikes are works of technology and enterprise. But still, there was nothing like the 500s.”

Monday, August 6, 2018

Alan King: King for a Day

In 1983, after spending over half a million dollars of his own money to field a new, state-of-the-art motocross outfit called Team Tamm, Bob Tamm sold off the majority share of his auto-parts company, United Imports and Exports, and went racing. He had struck a major support deal with American Honda and would take on all of the factory teams and their then-legal works bikes in the 1984 AMA National Motocross Championship Series. Team Tamm started the season with six riders—including ex-factory riders Jeff Hicks and Alan King—six mechanics, and six identically painted red-white-and-blue box vans, as well as an extra van that served as a mobile press office. The manager of the whole program was longtime East Coast motocross fixture George Quay, founder of Keystone Motocross Works and, later, Pro-Action Suspension.

The ‘84 outdoor tour opened at Gainesville, FL, on March 4, with Team Honda rider Bob Hannah winning the overall. Round two was the first day of April at Saddleback Park in Orange County, CA, and was won by Ron Lechien, another Honda factory rider. Round three would be the Hangtown Classic, set the following Sunday outside Sacramento.

Although Team Tamm’s mission was to take on the factories and beat them at the their own game, four months into the ‘84 season, the underdog effort was already beginning to become unglued. Infighting, a wobbly business plan, bounced checks, and several unpaid expenses began to haunt and sabotage the operation. Friction between team members was also beginning to bubble to the surface, as Sunday morning at Hangtown began with a tool-throwing screaming match.

“Jimmy Ray Anderson was wrenching for Alan King, and one of his responsibilities was to carry water for the whole team,” George Quay remembers. “A couple of times during the season, Jimmy Ray had forgotten to get water, and it caused big problems because we couldn’t clean the bikes. So after practice at Hangtown, he and Bob got into a huge fight because, once again, he forgot the water. Jimmy ray stormed off, walked into the crowd, and just disappeared! So it was up to me to wrench for Alan King that day.”

The opening 250cc moto at Hangtown was a thriller. Honda rider Clint Hardick grabbed the holeshot and led Team Yamaha’s Keith Bowen, Suzuki’s Mark Barnett, and Lechien. By lap four, Bowen had caught and passed Hardick and took off with the lead. At the same time, Lechien motored into second, with Team Tamm’s King close behind in third. Then Lechien bailed off, dropping to 10th.

Bob Hannah had also been on a charge to the front, soon reeling in Bowen. The two went at it at it for a lap, banging handlebars and pointing fingers until Bowen and Hannah collided yet again, sending Bowen off the track and Hannah over a fence. King assumed the lead and would hold on to it until the final lap, when Team Yamaha’s Rick Johnson slipped by the Honda pilot on a greasy uphill off-camber turn. Johnson would win the moto, while King placed second. The team was elated.

“Johnson passed me with one lap left, but I wasn’t too upset because I had never had good luck at Hangtown,” says King, who today works construction in his native Michigan. “Between motos, I felt like I had a good chance at the overall. You know, it was so hard win something back then. The factory bikes would go by me so fast—I was 6’ 3” and weighed 190 pounds. Guys like Lechien, Jeff Ward, and Hannah were, like, 50 pounds lighter than me and would just fly by.”

Quay went right to work on King’s bike for the second moto, while Bob Tamm, in light of Jimmy Ray Anderson’s earlier exit, also got in on the action. “Bob was so happy that he completely forgot about Jimmy Ray and jumped right in to help get Alan’s bike ready for the second moto,” Quay says.

Lechien led the 40-rider field out onto the Hangtown circuit for moto two and never looked back. Meanwhile, back in second, King held station. Mark Barnett would catch and pass him a few laps later, but King kept his cool and quietly rode around in third place, knowing that the first-moto problems of Lechien and Barnett would keep them out of overall contention. With two laps to go, though, King almost botched it all. After clipping a fencepost, he hit the ground. However, he quickly got to his feet, kicked the CR250R to life, got going, and held on for third, good enough for the overall.

“I thought I was done right there when I hit the ground,” King recalls. “But less than two laps from the end, the team guys knew I had the points I needed for the overall and kept signaling me to ‘hold position.’ So that’s what I did.”

Alan King’s win was huge for both Team Tamm as well as the privateer way of motocross life in America. For not only had he won Hangtown with his 2-3 moto scores, but King had also become the first true privateer to lead an AMA Motocross Championship Series after more than one round. “Suddenly, Team Tamm’s Alan King had the points lead,” Bob Tamm offers. “It was the best moment in the history of the team.”

Sadly, Hangtown would be the last great moment for Team Tamm. By the end of the summer, the money had run out, American Honda had pulled the plug due to the financial straits the team had found itself in, and the riders were beginning to defect.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

1982 FIM 250cc Motocross World Champion Danny LaPorte on racing GP Motocross

“You’d have races where you felt like you were going to lose your stomach in the rougher sections. You would get so tired that after a while you couldn’t get yourself up off the seat – then it would get even worse. I’d have to say it was one of the hardest years I’ve ever had. The thing about racing the GPs against guys like Georges Jobe was that I have to ride this hard every week to beat him.” - Danny LaPorte

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The short, wild career of Darrell Shultz

“Carlsbad was actually the worst. The track itself was just so hard pack and brutal. There were such huge holes and bumps. Some of the uphills, I don’t think they had ever been graded in the history of Carlsbad. The uphills before and after the monster-long downhill, the holes must have been three-feet deep and they were as hard as concrete. That was bad. I really didn’t know if I was going to be able to finish the motos. In the first moto, every jolt I hit hurt my lung and me knee so bad. I just cruised around in 10th and just tried to take it as easy as I could and still get some points. I hung in there and I wrapped up the 1981 500cc championship in the first moto.”

Sitting in the shade of his box van after all was said and done, Shultz knew the handwriting was on the wall. “I wasn’t in agony, but the whole year I had been seeing signs and thinking, ‘Man, maybe this is it. I don’t even know if I’m going to be able to race next year.’ By Carlsbad those thoughts were definitely in my head. I just was feeling as invincible as I had before. I honestly thought I could take any amount of pain or bumps on the ground and could withstand it. I could tell my body was pretty much giving up on me.

“I knew it was over as far as my career after that race,” he added. “I was through with racing and immediately it was just horrible, deep depression. I had to do the sensible thing and I knew I had to quit racing. I even had a contract filled out for Honda for 1983. I was just living on pain pills and alcohol and from there it got worse. Basically, I realized I wasn’t going to be able to race again – ever. Honestly, after being a pro motocrosser, there wasn’t anything left for me. There was nothing on this world or on the Earth that I thought was worth living for. I went from the highest of all highs - to not even be able to ride for fun. It was more than I could take. Mentally, I wasn’t ready to have to quit, but I had to listen to my body and quit. As it turned out I might have just kept racing and cripple myself. It was horrible. Some of the car wrecks I had tried to do that to me. It was all downhill, man. I was trying to get it over with. It got pretty bad. I was lucky I had a really strong family. They never gave up on me or shut me out. They kept talking to me and saying, ‘You’re better than this. It’s kind of stupid what you’re doing. You’re going to kill yourself.’ I thought, ‘I can’t die and I’m not going to commit suicide and no matter how hard I crash into something, I just don’t care.’ I didn’t care about anything. All the car wrecks and all the street bikes I totaled. I was always drunk and just running from the cops. It was just all the craziness I could get into out there.”