The Vault:  Suzuki at the Openers

The Vault: Suzuki at the Openers

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On Saturday night after the Anaheim opener, longtime Yoshimura Suzuki mechanic Lee McCollumn, who has spun wrenches for the likes of Tim Ferry, Larry Ward, Travis Pastrana and now James Stewart, said simply, “We always have bad luck here."

The man lived it, and he knows what he's talking about. Even though Suzuki has employed plenty of high-powered riders through the years and scored race wins and titles, the team has always had a tough time at the Anaheim opener. In fact, they've only one it one time, ever.

Maybe it's a jinx or a curse, because Team Suzuki's lone A1 win came the very first time Anaheim hosted the opener, in 1981. Since then they've had one win at a season opener that didn't take place at Angel Stadium, and zero wins when the Big A started the season.

Of course, the factory team's troubles reflect even brighter considering a different Suzuki bike and team—Rockstar Energy Racing—scored the win on Saturday.

For more on this, we dug into the Race X Vault, and used a feature you might not realize is there. You can actually search results by bike brand, and find out every rider that ever competed in any AMA Supercross or National Motocross on that bike. You can search for Suzukis, BSAs, Greeves, Cannondales, whatever you'd like. Check it out here. And now, a little history for RMs at Rnd1s.

1976 Daytona Supercross

You know Supercross is in its infancy when the opener takes place in Daytona, on the same March weekend it does now. So the racing calendar has expanded forward two whole months since then.

It wasn't Anaheim, but at least Team Suzuki can say it grabbed an opening-round win courtesy of Tony Distefano. Tony D topped would-be '76 Champ Jammin' Jimmy Weinert.

Results from Daytona 1976

 

1981 Anaheim Supercross

Yeah! This is how you get it started! This is the first time Anaheim serves as the season opener, and Team Suzuki not only wins it with Rhinestone Cowboy Kent Howerton, but teammate Mark “The Bomber” Barnett finishes right behind him. Barnett goes to win the supercross title, and he and Howerton claim the 125 and 250 National Motocross Championships. It's raining yellow!

Results from Anaheim 1981

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Kent Howerton won the first-ever A1 in 1981. Since then, no such success for the brand. Until now!
MotoVerte photo

1983 Anaheim Supercross

Barnett starts the year with a tenth at Anaheim, while Honda's David Bailey takes the win. It was a somewhat controversial race as the track designers added in a sloppy mud pit the guys had to blast through. And it was pretty deep! There’s a 14-point difference between where Bailey finishes and where Barnett finishes at Anaheim. And guess what? Bailey wins the 1983 AMA Supercross Championship over Barnett by two points.

Results from Anaheim 1983

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One year, Ezra Lusk was the highest-finishing Suzuki rider at the opening round. And he finished 16th!
MotoVerte photo

1985 San Diego Supercross

San Diego opens the '85 series (Anaheim is round two) but much of Suzuki's mojo is gone by this season. At this point, Suzuki’s past hero Barnett had gone green so it was Scott Burnworth and Erik Kehoe taking 6th and 10th for the brand, while defending SX Champion Johnny O'Mara kicks off the year with a win. On a Honda. Can you imagine O'Show on a Suzuki?

Results from San Diego 1985

 

1989 Anaheim Supercross

Oh, this one hurts. O'Mara switched to Suzuki in 1987, but struggled with the bike and injuries for two seasons. But on an all-new RM250 for 1989, the O'Show was back! At Anaheim, he took off with the early lead and pulled away, an upset victory seemingly in hand....until he cased a double and snapped the steering stem on his bike. DNF. Rick Johnson cruises past for the win, and later says, “His Suzuki broke and my Honda didn't, so my Honda won the race for me.” Ouch.

Results from Anaheim 1989

 

1995 Orlando Supercross

Suzuki is sick of it! They bring Roger DeCoster back into the fold for this season, and also import 250 World Champion Greg Albertyn to the team. Ezra Lusk, the 1994 125 East Champion, is now on a RM250. And? Albee crashes out and busts his shoulder, and Lusk is the highest-finishing Suzuki rider. In 16th.

Results from Orlando 1995

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Too often, Travis Pastrana's 250 title hopes were over before the season even started.
MotoVerte photo

1997 Los Angeles Supercross

Sweet, sweet victory. Or, is that bittersweet? After two years of crashes and crashes and crashes, Albee gets the supercross thing figured out and wins the opening round for Team Suzuki at the L.A. Coliseum! Awesome! But, also, Suzuki now has defending SX Champion Jeremy McGrath in the fold after a late defection from Honda. MC gets knocked down by his old teammate Steve Lamson, and finishes 15th. That would prove quite costly in the championship chase.

Results from Los Angeles 1997


1999 Anaheim Supercross

Anaheim is finally back as the season-opener. And Suzuki's bad luck is back, too. This one is particularly harsh, with the factory squad of Albertyn, Larry Ward and Robbie Reynard finishing 16th, 18th and 19th. What's crazy is, just a few weeks later Ward would win the Seattle race, and later in the year Albee would win the 250 Motocross Championship. So the bikes and riders were definitely capable, just not at round one.

Results from Anaheim 1999

 

2002 Anaheim Supercross

The Kevin Windham/Travis Pastrana superteam generates finishes of eighth and 19th, respectively. Pastrana always had trouble with inconsistency, but his luck at season openers was exceptionally bad.

Results from Anaheim 2002

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No No.1s for RC4 at A1.
Cudby photo

2004 Anaheim Supercross

When Tyler Evans is the man delivering your brand's best finish—on a privateer effort—that's not so good. But Evans finish, sixth, is actually pretty good, so there's that.

Results from Anaheim 2004

 

2005/2006/2007 Anaheim Supercross

Ricky Carmichael is on Team Suzuki! Also, Ricky Carmichael is also the most succesful rider to ever not win an Anaheim 1. Never won it. Here are the results from his three tries as a Suzuki rider.

Results from Anaheim 2005

Results from Anaheim 2006

Results from Anaheim 2007

 

2009 Anaheim Supercross

Now Chad Reed is on the team, but this bid for the win ends in the collision-heard-round-the-world with Stewart.

Results from Anaheim 2009

Since then, Ryan Dungey pulled off a pair of seconds at Anaheim 1 in 2010 and 2011, but overall, since that Anaheim win in 1981, Suzuki had generated just one other opening-night victory in 30-plus years. Until that Rockstar Energy Racing bike a few days ago, that is!

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Reed was in contention for an A1 win in 2009, but ended up third after a collision you've probably heard about.
Cudby photo

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