Supercross and motocross legend David Bailey goes through a stack of old stickers while taking you on a trip down memory lane.
My first year at Honda came in 1982. The Honda team was so strong that, for the second year in a row, it won the Motocross des Nations all by itself. In hindsight, Jeff Ward, Broc Glover, Mark Barnett, Bob Hannah and Rick Johnson would've been good picks for the team, but since the U.S. had lost interest, Roger DeCoster convinced Japan to send an all-Honda team to re-engage in the biggest race in the world, and we delivered. Unfortunately, Donnie Hansen was injured a few days before the race and I was called in, which made it my first trip to Europe – the biggest race of my career to that point. We were such a close team with such good people guiding us, like Jeff Spencer, DeCoster, Dave Arnold and a bunch of Golden Wrench mechanics, we had the advantage. Danny “Magoo” Chandler dominated the events, and I became good friends with Johnny O’Mara over there. And I proved to myself that I could perform under pressure, which set the table for my '83 season. Coming into the Daytona SX in ’83 I felt like I had the tools to win. I won the opener at Anaheim, followed that up with a pair of seconds in Seattle, and thought I should've won Atlanta. I was starting to feel like I belonged in the lead and was getting along with the Hurricane pretty good, but I saw a different side of Bob Hannah in the days leading up to that race. He was like Muhammad Ali that week, and I was a little psyched out by him. In the end, he rode like a man on a mission to back up his pre-race predictions of a slaughter, and Johnny O’ put together a solid day to edge me out for second. Honda swept the podium and everyone was all smiles, but I wasn't very happy with third. If you raced motocross from the ‘60s to ‘80s and didn't ride at Saddleback Park, you must have been from another planet! All the best riders rode there. On Any Sunday was filmed there. My dad taught NBA legend Bill Russell how to ride motocross there for the CBS Sports Spectacular. Trans-AMAs were held there and European legends Roger DeCoster and Joel Robert raced there. My dad became the first American to ever beat the Europeans there on July 4, 1969! It had sections like Banzai Hill, a 10-story drop carved out of rock, the Magoo Double, Suicide Mountain, Webco Hill, the Matterhorn, and tons of trails all just minutes away from the factories, all of whom all tested there. I can see the tip of Saddleback Mountain from my backyard and occasionally reflect on how much fun I had riding there. There never was or will ever again be a place like Saddleback Park. Marty Smith was the most stylish rider to hit motocross in the seventies, and JT Racing was the most stylish gear to hit. The two catapulted the "cool factor" to new heights when they got together—everyone wanted to be like Marty! To make it even cooler, Team Honda was the baddest team, with the coolest bikes, and Marty was their #1 guy. It was almost ridiculous how good he had it. He was tan, ripped, handsome, had long surfer hair, the best bike, the best girl, the best gear, and the best style. He dominated until a guy named Bob Hannah came along with a duck-bill visor and mix-match gear on his Yamaha and raised the bar. Their battles were legendary. To this day, when I think of style in the sport, I think of Marty Smith. Nobody has topped what he had in the seventies. I have an autographed picture of him right behind me on the wall in my office and it smokes the looks of today! Hakan Carlqvist was the only guy I know that could bend his handlebars back straight after a crash. The guy was tough! My first memory of racing with him was at the 1983 Japanese GP. His 500cc works championship bike was on display, and I was both excited and nervous to race with him. But when the gate dropped I grabbed the holeshots and never saw him. He probably wasn't that motivated after his world title, plus we were on 250s. A year later at the Motocross des Nations in Finland on 500s, Hakan lapped me and won by 40 seconds—with no goggles! With Supercross gaining popularity through the eighties, Europe (the inventors of motocross) finally caved in with their own version: Stadium Cross! None of the indoor events in Europe that I participated in were anything like what we have here in the states, but they were interesting. Of all of them I did, Bercy in Paris was the best! The worst was in Belgium, where all the track officials wore silver space suits and the hay bales were covered in some type of toxic-smelling blue vinyl and stacked so high I felt like a mouse in a maze. There was no venting for the fumes, either. Maybe that’s why they only had 37 fans... The Winter-AMA Series taught me how to ride the sand and be in shape! No other series molded me like that one, and to this day there hasn't been a single race as rough as those tracks used to get. I'll always remember the things I saw down there, like Monte McCoy doing “Bubba Scrubs” off what would later be called "McCoy Mountain." One of the best battles I have ever seen was on the infamous Orlando Sports Stadium track between Hannah on a '78 production Yamaha against Tony D. on his factory Suzuki. They went back and forth several times a lap until Hannah rammed him with a half lap to go, then was escorted to the winner’s circle by the hottest chick in Florida! I was in awe and determined to be that good one day…. Gatorback used to be one-half whooped-out sand and half clay/limerock. It was the hardest track to figure out. I had a hard time there as an amateur during the Winter-AMAs, but in ‘83 I got my first AMA National win there! The following year, I got robbed at gunpoint at the Holiday Inn the week before the race and was scared to death to go back. I was also scared that defending '83 500cc Champion Broc Glover would make me look bad, so I worked really hard heading into that series and won my first 500 National there too. But I was never comfortable on that track and it's still weird to me that I had any success there. Larry Maiers, the host of Motoworld and the announcer at most of the races in the ‘80s, worked at Hi-Point during the Red-Dot tire days and I ran those rear tires everywhere—so did Bob Hannah. They were great. Then again I had been running Goodyear tires, so who knows? Since my dad had huge hands, he never wore gloves and neither did I until 1979, when Larry gave us some Hi-Point gloves. They were great. Then again, I hadn't been wearing any, so who knows?! I remember watching Donnie Hansen on a Can-Am running number 186. Once Honda picked him up, he had the equipment to back up his talent and training regimen. What I didn't know about him until midway through 1982 was how fit he was. I stayed with him the week before he won the SX title that year and he took me for a run that lasted forever. We finished up on what he called “Mount @#%!-er." Then we went riding and he was climbing stuff that scared the crap out of me! Plus, he is a really funny guy with a dry sense of humor. During Honda's 50th Anniversary celebration in New York City, we were in Times Square and he bought a fake Rolex and asked the guy for a receipt! I'm still bummed he got hurt right after I got to know him. Heinz Kinigadner, a former 250cc World Champion, was one of the taller European riders and always a guy we kept an eye on during the des Nations. We raced each other a couple times at the Unadilla 250cc GP and started right next to each other at the '86 des Nations in Italy. Now, he is devoting his time to finding treatments and a cure for paralysis through his foundation, Wings For Life. Heinz has a brother and a son who both suffered devastating spinal-cord injuries and even offered to fly me to Europe a couple years ago when I was in bad shape with a pressure sore. He has helped finance and build a rehab center in Austria and will not back down from his promise to find treatment for his family and others! Heinz is my kind of guy. Eric Geboers was a lot like Ricky Carmichael. He was a tough competitor and he went for it, resulting in some wild riding and great saves! He dominated the 125 GPs and had moved to the 250cc and 500cc classes by the time I got to race with him. He intimidated me—few did that during my career. I was giving him crap about being so aggressive and crashing out at Hondaland during a test one time and he set me straight! I can't remember his exact words, but basically he was saying he would rather try and fail than ride around all smooth like a pussy. I've respected him ever since! In 1984, after the Bercy SX in France, O'Mara was trying to save a little money and decided to drive with Eric to Antwerp, Belgium, while most of us flew. Eric was doing 150mph in the fog and beat us there! I challenge anyone to find Jim Holley without a smile on his face. It’s not going to happen. Jim had a larger "passion chip" installed in his body than most of us and is a blast to be around. On the track, he was aggressive and tough to pass. He won the first ever FIM World SX title in 1985 and has been helping Japanese riders come to the U.S. for years, ever since winning a Japanese Championship. He has also helped pave the way for riders to enter Hollywood doing stunts. Jim has worked on numerous movies and has been the voice of the SX webcast for years and can still ride as fast as he used to, but enjoys helping others even more. It wouldn't surprise me to find out Scott Burnworth designed that sticker back in the day. Possibly the quietest rider ever, Scott was known for his holeshots and style. We came up through the ranks together. He was a factory Suzuki rider wearing #441 and I was on Team Green. There weren't many races in the early eighties where I didn't have to get past Scott to the lead. One of his best seasons was in 1983, where he was the guy I had to beat to win the 250cc title. He was also was one of the first riders to get involved in cycling and shave down. He was and is a talented designer who did most of the design work for the popular watercraft company Jet Pilot during their early domination. Today, he still designs and he and his wife and daughters put on events like Mini Madness out at Barona Oaks. “Rocket” Rex Staten was known for his toughness. Before the Ryno, Ryan Hughes, came along, Rex was scaring the crap out of riders in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. You could strike a match on the guy. My first memory of him was his Team Bassett Yamaha with blue rims! He had red, white and blue gear and stood out on that bike. Once retired, Rex (in my mind) made racing after your pro career in the Vet Class popular by winning everything and flashing that gigantic smile. When he isn't smiling, he looks like he's going to kill you, but he's actually one of the nicest guys in MX. There was a time when Maico was THE bike. Willy Bauer, Adolf Weil, Ake Jonsson, Sylvain Geboers, and Hans Maisch all piloted these aluminum-tank beauties to wins in Europe. Ake (and Adolf) came to the U.S. and took a Trans-AMA title and some wins from DeCoster. They had a unique sound and look. The gas tank, long pipe and radial head were its trademarks. Toward the end of their run, Maicos were also known for breaking, which resulted in the nickname, "Maico Breako." Danny “Magoo” Chandler broke a few, but then again, Magoo could break a bowling ball! After two years of Team Honda's dominance, the other manufacturers wanted in, so the AMA or somebody decided Team USA should consist of one rider from each of the big four. In '83, one year after going as an alternate, I was pretty much the team leader at the MXdN. It also helped my cause that the day before we headed for Europe, I won the 250cc title as well as the Wrangler Triple Crown! I thought '82 was bad in terms of pressure, but I felt it even more in '83, and traveling to Czechoslovakia was no picnic! The team atmosphere was gone compared to the year before, but we still dominated because each of us wanted personal glory. We all rode our best and brought home the title for the third straight year. After the race, the container with all the bikes got shipped back to Honda's headquarters. Everything was works top secret stuff back, so you can imagine the reaction by the other factories! Brian Myerscough had a unique, smooth-as-silk style and was untouchable when he was on. Brian dropped out of motocross with a weird illness, but a couple years later in 1983 Honda gave him another shot. At the Unadilla 250cc USGP, Brian and I checked out in the first moto, and I won by a narrow margin. In the second moto, I grabbed the holeshot and figured that was that, but then defending world champ Danny LaPorte flew by me with Brian in tow. The overall was between me and Brian, and I couldn't catch him. At the halfway point he had gotten past LaPorte and had a huge lead. His raw speed was impressive, but it was a hot and humid day and Brian was starting to show fatigue. LaPorte retook the lead as Brian tried desperately to hold on. As I readied to pass Brian, he looked like one of those marathon runners who had gone too hard too early and had hit the wall, but it was one of the gutsiest performances I've ever seen in motocross, and it was a privilege to have raced with him. I think this is from 1978. I was riding Bultacos and determined to win an amateur title before turning pro. I had won both the 250 and Open classes at the pre-Loretta Lynn’s amateur national championship in Atlanta. At that event I had gone down on the first lap of the first moto and restarted nearly last. I thought, “Hannah could still win this,” so I pinned it like Hannah would and won the moto. The second moto felt like it was two hours long as I held on to second place, securing the overall. Suzuki's Mark Barnett was on hand to present the trophies. I was given an RM250 for winning that day, and when I got home I couldn't wait to ride it. I made it a lap, hated it and sold it. Five years later Mark and I went at it for the SX title and the Wrangler Triple Crown title, both of which I won by only a couple points. His bike had broken down a couple of times that year or he would've won it all. Funny how a bike we both thought would be awesome ended up letting us both down.