There’s nothing quite like seeing a race in another part of the world. Whether you are a racer, a journalist, or a spectator, checking out how they race in foreign lands can be an eye-opening experience. It’s a chance to learn about new cultures and make new friends.
For instance, in 1996 I traveled to the Motocross of Nations in Spain and met a British kid on crutches who really, really wanted to be a graphic designer in the U.S. He also wanted to meet Jeremy McGrath in the worst way. By the end of the trip, Jeremy was drinking some post-race beers with him and his friends in their camper! His name was David Langran, and today “Langers” is the creative director for Racer X Illustrated.
My first trip to Europe was actually a chance for my big brother and me to race the Vienna Hardcross in Austria for KTM. I was fresh out of high school and had never even been to California at that point, so going to Europe to race was a bit overwhelming—especially after 250cc World Champion Heinz Kinigadner rolled up next to me on the starting gate. But the real challenge came when my brother, Tim, had a few too many beers and decided to walk back across town to the hotel, leaving our rental car in front of … well, he forgot—he got so lost walking home, he couldn’t remember how to get back! The car was a white Opel hatchback, which at the time was apparently the most popular car in Austria. We tried the key we had in maybe 500 different cars over two days with no luck. We even rented another car to drive around the city and look for the first one. I had just about giving up and was getting ready to call the police and report it stolen when we stumbled upon it, maybe six blocks from the hotel.
Jeff Cernic and I have been to every Motocross of Nations in Europe that Team USA has attended since 1993—Austria, Switzerland, Slovakia, Spain, Belgium, England, France—and we’ve had quite a lot of adventures. But the craziest was in ’95 in Slovakia, where the Belgian team finally won for the first time since 1980 and the victory party to end all victory parties broke out in the basement bar at the hotel. Just when things got out of hand and the police came down the steps with their clubs and Tasers out, we helped sneak a slightly inebriated Stefan Everts (who was wearing a curtain like a cape) out through the kitchen.
I was lucky enough to go to Tahiti for a week in 1989 with a couple of amateur prospects named Mike Stahlman and Billy Fosnock, but our return trip got screwed up and we ended up stuck there for an extra week. These were pre-cell-phone, pre-internet, pre-ATM days, and we were all broke, so we just hung out in our complimentary hotel room and learned how to play soccer on the beach with a few other stranded race travelers, including Shayne and Darryl King, who would later become New Zealand motocross legends. I also read the one book I had with me—The Count of Monte Cristo—three times.
My friend Casey Wada of the Kayo Corporation took me along on a couple of trips to Japan to see the Yokohama factory and cover the Tokyo Supercross. On the long flight over, I ended up sitting next to a couple of kids who had earned free trips by winning their classes at Loretta Lynn’s: Tim Ferry and Jimmy Button.
And then there was the strangest trip of all: traveling to Ireland in 1987 with my sister, Carrie, to check out the 125cc Grand Prix at Kilinchy, help sort things out for the one my dad was promoting later that summer at Steel City, and also write one of my very first features for Cycle News. The problem was, sometime in between the last moto and the ride back to the hotel, I lost my tape recorder with all my race notes and interviews! I was in full panic mode. We looked for that thing for hours, then gave up and went back to my room, knowing I had blown my big chance to be a race reporter. I sat on the bed and turned on the TV, just in time to hear the announcer say, “Good evening, and welcome to our comprehensive coverage of this afternoon’s motocross from Kilinchy.…”
If you ever get a chance to go to a motocross race in another land, take it. The things you’ll learn, the friends you’ll make, and the experiences you’ll enjoy make the perils of international travel all worthwhile. In the meantime, we’ll do our best to keep bringing you our own adventures and misadventures right here in the pages of Racer X.