For those of you that don’t know, I raced professional motocross and supercross. I was racing ‘pro’ locally from my early teens, and started racing AMA Professional races in the early 80’s.
One of my biggest joys was winning a moto at an AMA National Motocross at Carlsbad Raceway in 1981. That was my home track. It was the 125 class. Man … I knew that track inside and out from all the local races I had done there. Carlsbad was unique, in that during morning practice, it would be muddy and sloppy. And by the time your races started later in the afternoon, the track was blue-grooved and hard as concrete.
In 1982, I got my opportunity, with Yamaha support, to race the entire Supercross and Motocross seasons. I was new to Supercross, so I certainly had my ups and downs. In motocross, Yamaha put me in the 250 class. You had three choices back then – the 125 class, 250 class, or 500 class. All two-strokes.
I did pretty well, surprising a lot of people, and leading the points standings most of the year. My main competitors were my friend and co-Yamaha rider Broc Glover, and Honda’s Donnie Hansen. I almost won the National Motocross Championship in the 250 class. It came down to the final race in Colorado … I was so excited and so ‘going for it’, that I overjumped a big downhill jump and my front wheel collasped, and Donnie Hansen won the 250 MX Championship.
I was crushed. I was heartbroken. But in hindsight, maybe it was one of the best things that happened to me.
Sometimes, when you get things that come so easily (remember, it was my first full year battling with the very top riders), you don’t really appreciate it, or understand really how much work it takes to win championships, and more importantly, to win more championships.
In 1983 I became a full factory Yamaha rider. I was stoked. I had arrived. I thought I was going to take on the whole world! But ’83 was not a great year in any way. I had a lot of injuries, bad races, and more. And the worst part was I dislocated my hip during the season. That was probably the most painful thing I’ve ever been thru.
In 1984, I won my first AMA National Championship – the 250 class.
In 1985, I didn’t have as successful as a year – no championships, although I felt like I was improving in supercross.
In 1986, 1987, and 1988 I won two championships each year, varying between Supercross, 250 National Motocross, and 500 National Motocross.
Why do I write all this? What’s my point?
My point is this – back in those days, there wasn’t a clear separation between supercross season, and the outdoor motocross season. Most years, we’d race supercross off and on for the first few weeks of the year, but then we had a National Motocross, usually in Gainesville Florida, and then we’d go back to racing supercross for a number of weeks. Some years we’d even go back to doing Nationals, then finish up with supercross even later in the year.
So, teams, and riders, had to prepare & test for both supercross, and outdoors. Most people don’t understand how much goes into testing, how the bikes and parts and set-up is different, and how much time it takes. It’s huge. We’d go back and forth between outdoor motocross and supercross testing and planning.
That leads me to today. Today, in 2009, there is a distinct separation between the two series. (Supercross is primarily indoor racing on man-made tracks, that requires excellent timing, jumping, and traction control. Motocross racing is on outdoor, natural terrain tracks, with higher speeds, and you let the bike move around a lot more underneath you.)
James Stewart is the 2009 AMA/FIM Supercross Champion. That was and is his and his team’s goal – win the supercross championship. James and his team stayed focus on bike set-up and preparation and testing solely for supercross. He was never distracted with testing for outdoor motocross racing. Most other teams, they started testing for outdoors in the middle of the supercross season. I think it made a difference in James ability to concentrate soley on supercross. Maybe even enough of a difference that it could be the difference of winning the championship or not.
With the outdoor motocross series set to start this weekend, everyone that’s going to compete gets to start from zero – they are all even. And no one has to worry about preparing for a supercross. I think the two champions (one in the 250 class, one in the 450 class) will be determined by who is able to concentrate and focus the best during what is a long season for most (if they raced supercross). Burn out will come into play, especially for the guys that raced the entire supercross season. And, some riders will be distracted by contract issues, potential new sponsors, girlfriends, wives, etc.
Should be fun!