the dust settled at the Toronto Supercross this past weekend—an awesome
battle between Team Kawasaki’s James Stewart and Makita Suzuki’s Ricky
Carmichael—some of the announcers in the building and on the webcast
called the opening round of the 2006 Amp’d Mobile World Supercross GP
possibly the best race since the legendary ’86 Anaheim SX. That
particular race is etched in fans’ memories, as they witnessed an
amazing battle between Honda teammates David Bailey and Ricky Johnson,
with Bailey ultimately prevailing. The Toronto race was definitely one
of the best in a long time; it also got us flashing back to some other
amazing races in the two decades between Anaheim ’86 and Toronto ’05….
Rick Johnson Atlanta 1989
photo courtesy of Moto Verte
Ricky Johnson has been dominating the Camel Supercross Series with five
wins in a row to start the year. His teammates Guy Cooper and Jeff
Stanton battle up front in the old Fulton County Stadium while Johnson
works his way through the pack. All three hook up in a duel, and Cooper
crashes spectacularly in classic “Air Time” fashion. Then Johnson tries
to knife underneath Stanton and washes out in a turn, allowing Stanton,
#7, to take his first supercross win.
The infamous “block pass” race between Kawasaki’s Jeff Matiasevich and
Suzuki’s Larry Ward. Ward has the Seattle fans on his side and the two
riders stop, bump, block, and ram each other all night. Amazingly, they
do this while pulling away from the rest of the pack! Ward ends up with
his first supercross win and the crowd goes nuts.
Jeff Ward in Atlant
photo: Dick Miller Archives
famous “Battle of Atlanta,” in which nearly 10 top supercross riders
have a shot at the win. Johnny O’Mara gets out front before yielding to
Damon Bradshaw; the Yamaha-mounted Bradshaw leads but bobbles, then Guy
Cooper takes the lead but stalls. Bradshaw takes the lead again with
Jeff Stanton close behind, but Stanton crashes; then Mike Kiedrowski
catches Bradshaw and somehow manages to take both out. Cooper leads
again, but Rick Johnson—trying to make a comeback from his wrist injury
of a year ago—makes another pass on Coop! Cooper strikes back for the
lead and a shot at what would be the first SX win of his career. But
before Johnson can retaliate, Jeff Ward comes out of nowhere to pass RJ
with two laps to go. Then, on the last lap, Ward puts a block pass on
Cooper to take the win. AMAZING! (Cooper, by the way, would retire as
one of the most beloved heroes in AMA Supercross, yet he would never
actually win a race.)
Los Angeles 1990
photo courtesy of Moto Verte
Bayle gets a very rude welcome to the venerable Los Angeles Coliseum.
After starting dead last on his factory Honda, he climbs through the
pack to pass leader Damon Bradshaw with one lap to go. But atop the
peristyle, in a dark corner, Bradshaw practically parks the Frenchman
and then sprints off for the win. One year later, JMB gets his revenge
by winning the AMA Camel Supercross title in only his second full year
of U.S. Supercross.
Jeremy McGrath wins the first five rounds in 1995, and the supercross
win-streak record sits at six. MC goes after it in Atlanta, and he even
wears a helmet cam for the ESPN2 broadcast. Early in the race he tries
jumping to the inside in a corner and crashes into Honda of Troy’s Mike
Craig, sending both riders to the ground (this becomes an infamous
helmet-cam shot). MC recovers and battles with Mike Kiedrowski and Jeff
Emig for the lead, but Mike LaRocco, coming through the pack after one
of his patented bad starts, passes everyone and takes the win.
Damon Huffman is a hot property in the 250 class after winning
back-to-back 125 West SX titles. In Seattle, Huffman and McGrath both
get bad starts and follow each other through the pack. Huffman is
faster in the whoops, but McGrath has a tricky jump combination dialed
in. They battle for about 15 laps, until Huffman’s clutch begins to go
south and he stalls. McGrath continues on in his quest for the perfect
season, until …
St. Louis 1996
… Jeremy gets to St. Louis, the next-to-last round of the series. Local
product Jeff Emig is fired up and Mike LaRocco gets a rare good start,
so MC has his work cut out for him (and “Factory” Phil Lawrence is also
in the mix). McGrath finally zaps LaRocco and looks to go after Emig,
but LaRocco comes back with one of the all-time stuff jobs in a bowl
turn. As McGrath said in Cycle News, “LaRocco stuffed the crap out of
me!” The pass takes some wind out of Jeremy’s sails, and while he is
able to get LaRocco back, he can’t get around Emig, who ends McGrath’s
13-race win streak.
Los Angeles 1998
In a muddy opener at the Los Angeles Coliseum, it’s Doug Henry getting
out front on the production YZ400F’s maiden voyage (Henry having won
the ’97 Las Vegas season finale on a white, pre-production thumper).
Henry leads all the way while an unknown rider on #103 charges from way
back in the pack. It’s 125 World Champion Sebastien Tortelli, racing in
the U.S. as a warm-up for the GPs. Tortelli passes everyone—even the
announcers think he is a lapped rider at one point—and then Henry falls
and stalls his thumper. Tortelli takes his first (and still only)
is the changing of the guard. Jeremy McGrath wins the Anaheim opener,
Ricky Carmichael strikes back at round two in San Diego, and then MC
outduels RC at round three in Anaheim in a race where RC blocks MC, but
then slows and lets the champ back by in a show of respect (sound
familiar?). It turns out to be the last win of McGrath’s career,
because two weeks later, Carmichael runs him down on lap 17 to take the
lead and the win at Anaheim 3. Carmichael would end the season with 13
straight wins, tying McGrath’s all-time record.
Midway through the main event, Travis Pastrana and Ricky Carmichael are
battling hard for the lead. RC and Pastrana then come together,
resulting in Pastrana going down and the Indy fans erupting on RC in a
chorus of boos. RC leads, but he’s not out of it yet, and David
Vuillemin passes him on the last lap in the funky bowl turn after the
finish line to take the win.
race no one wanted to win. Early in the race, Ricky Carmichael loops
out and looks to be out of contention. His Honda teammate Ernesto
Fonseca leads the first half of the race before fading a little,
handing the lead to Yamaha’s Tim Ferry. Ezra Lusk then gets past Ferry
briefly while they fight for the lead, but he falls in the whoops and
drops to eighth. David Vuillemin makes it as high as third but
has trouble and loses his momentum, finishing fourth.
Finally, Nathan Ramsey, who had fallen over early in the race, finds
himself in the lead when the checkered flag flies. RC roars back to
second, right on the rear fender of Ramsey’s CRF450R (marking the first
time a Honda thumper would win a main event). Jeremy McGrath finishes
third on his Chaparral Yamaha.
The race is a rematch of sorts between Carmichael and Reed. The two
have arguably the best AMA Supercross race of the 2003 season at Texas
Stadium. The riders swap for the lead close to a dozen times during the
20-lap final. Reed finally opens up a small gap in the latter stages of
Anaheim 3 2004
Chad Reed and Kevin Windham battle for nearly the entire race, until
Reed washes out in a turn trying for one last pass. Windham wins.
Mike LaRocco pulls the holeshot and leads all 20 laps for an upset win
in front of his incredibly loud hometown crowd, holding off a
determined Chad Reed, who had fallen off the start. People in
attendance claim it is the loudest crowd they’ve ever heard.
leading almost the entire race, now-Suzuki-mounted RC succumbs to Chad
Reed on the last lap, with defending champion Reed taking his first win
of the season. The duo set such a blistering pace that they lap
everyone except third-place Mike LaRocco (and they are maybe one turn
away from doing that).
After pulling the holeshot, Chad Reed loses the lead to RC on lap four.
Ricky then washes out in a corner and drops to third behind Reed and
Windham. After an aggressive pass on Windham, Carmichael puts his head
down and does what many thought wouldn’t happen: reels in and passes
Reed for the win.
After getting a third-place start, then getting passed by James
Stewart, Yamaha’s Chad Reed stays in the fight. Stewart crashes, then
Reed passes Carmichael and battles with Kevin Windham for several laps
before taking over the lead for the win.