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Observations: 1986 L.A. Supercross

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Picture yourself in 1986. You are still depressed about the space shuttle Challenger blowing up and the fact that Wham broke up. Things are looking up though as you got some acid wash jeans and can’t wait to watch Geraldo Rivera open up Al Capone’s vault on TV – imagine all the gold and secret documents that are in there! You admire the skills of a fighter named Mike Tyson as he just won the heavyweight championship of the world and the Montreal Canadians won the Stanley Cup.  You decide to settle in and watch the L.A. Supercross on the tube tonight. This is what you would’ve seen.

Oh, by the way, just to give you some context, I called my buddy Ron Lechien, who was there and raced this night, to give us some background on what was going on. Enjoy!

1:31 - The greatest announcer of all time, Larry Huffman, tells us that RJ already wrapped up the SX title and this is the last round. We are still in for some great racing however. They cut to RJ and some other guy blasting around Glamis sand dunes and tell us that “THIS IS SUPERCROSS.” No, it’s not, it’s RJ riding around in sand dunes, probably the furthest thing away from supercross you can get. I’m just waiting for RJ to get cleaned out by a nitrous quad doing 200mph coming up the other side of the dune.

1:32 - The series is sponsored by Autolite spark plugs, and the year before that it had been Fram air filters. I think the next year it was the “Little Pine Tree Air Freshener” Supercross Series.

1:33 - The legendary Bob “Hurricane” Hannah opens up the show, this is Bob’s last year full time on the circuit. He signed with Suzuki to race and develop the RMs and I always thought of him as an old man by the time he hung it up. Except that he tells us that he’s 29! 29? If you had held a gun to my head and made me guess Hannah’s age when he quit, I would’ve told you 36 or so. He seemed so… old. That’s the single biggest improvement for the riders in today’s racing – the guys can be competitive when they are as old as dirt. Look at Ferry! I remember Barnett telling me that he was washed up at 26! 26! (Exclamation points really make the statement seem important, huh?)

1:33.55 - I guess they showed us Bob because he’s in this first heat, in which Kawasaki’s Eddie Warren takes the holeshot and is immediately stuffed hard by Team Suzuki’s Eric Kehoe. Kehoe looks good in his O’Neal gear and he had the big Dirt Digit number 8s. Remember those real fat numbers that some dude at your local track always tried to fit two of on a plate? There was no way in hell they fit, but with a razor blade and some ingenuity you could make your side panel look like one of those ink blot thingies the psychiatrist shows you.

1:34.24 - Whose idea was it to paint the Suzuki’s motors blue? That should rank up there with the Scott EFS system for dumbest idea ever. I remember my dad spent 7 bajillion dollars on that Scott thing and every time I pulled it out of my gear bag, the film would be all gone from the thing just running for hours. Anyways, ace pit reporter David Stanfield just reported that David Bailey would not be racing tonight because of chicken pox.  Kehoe is stretching out his lead and looking good.

1:36.01 – Somehow, Kawasaki’s Ricky “Webster” Ryan has caught Eric and pressures him in the whoops. Eric proceeds to clip his front wheel on the step up and tumbles over and down the backside of the jump. That moves Ryan into the lead, Tuf Racing’s Alan King into second and Warren in third. Hannah, wearing number seven, is way back on his smurfalicious blue motored RM250.

1:38 - Ryan wins it after holding off a furious last lap charge from Alan King. King actually gets bucked off and rides his bike side-saddle for a bit before recovering for third. Billy “funnel-man” Frank gets second. Y’know I always thought Alan King was underrated; he rode for Factory Suzuki and got stuck in the 500 class on a dinosaur but always had a good number. He won the ‘82 500cc national at Carlsbad, the ‘84 Hangtown 250cc national, and was number 10, 14, and 17. I also remember him at the Calgary supercross when I was 11 and he was with Team Tamm. I asked him for an autograph and he said sure and asked me what kind of bike I had. Good man that Alan King, and it’s like he disappeared off the face of the earth, you never hear any Alan King news or sightings. What happened to him?

1:40 - Second heat begins but first we are treated to a ride-along on the track. It’s funny to hear Stanfield tell us the sections are all named after riders “RJ’s Rad-n-Bad” and “Hannah’s Revenge” followed by “Broc’s Bad News.” Somehow, “Broc’s Bad News” doesn’t really scare me too much; it’s a series of 2 foot high bumps that the guys are doubling. Anyway, Micky Dymond holeshots with Jim Holley and Ron Lechien right behind him. This was the first year of Lechien’s big money (for the time) deal with Kawasaki and it didn’t go so well for either of them. Not to worry though, Dogger bounced back with SX and MX wins in the two years after this.

Ron Lechien - I think the reason I struggled so badly in ‘86 was a combination of things.
  1. The new bike - it definitely was not as good as the Honda works bike that I rode in 1985.
  2. Injuries – I dislocated my shoulder in Gainesville.
  3. The constant partying.
1:41 - The Dogger takes the lead, it’s the 3rd lap and he’s sat down just twice. Phenomenal style really. Ronnie captures the win with ease. I don’t even need to tell you how effing cool he looks in his JT gear, do I?

Lechien - I think I was the highest paid guy at the time. I signed for 3 years at $350,000 a year and I remember if I stayed at Honda, RJ was going to Kawi, and if I went to Kawi, RJ was going to Honda.”

1:43 - Jeff Ward takes the lead in the third heat with Keith Bowen in second and Kawasaki’s Billy Liles in third. Huffman keeps calling Liles “The Georgia Peach,” which makes him sound like a pansy. Bowen is running the Ron Heben-designed number 9 – just a huge number 9 that looks like it belongs on a billboard. In the background we see Russ Wageman, a privateer who just absolutely eat poo off the triple. He steps off his bike in mid-air. It was probably right at this point that Russ decided he was going to quit and open Pit-Pro Cycle Shop. I know I would’ve.

1:44 - As Wardy stretches it out we go to a pit interview with Jeff where Stanfield opens it up by calling him “Jeffrey.” I bet that’s the first time Ward has been called that since Bruce Brown tried to coerce him into doing a wheelie in “On Any Sunday.”

1:45.16 - Ward wins and throws his ass sideways which causes Larry to freak out, saying he’s “completely sideways!” Bowen is second with his cool looking MSR gear and billboard number, The Georgia Peach is third followed by Danny “Career-Killer” Storbeck in fourth.

1:46 - Dressed in all black Hallman gear with a chest protector that pretty much could withstand a missile attack , Scott “Burner” Burnworth gets the holeshot but is passed by Rick Johnson quickly. It was at Anaheim earlier this year that Scott got the start and RJ cleaned him out, and then when Ricky came up to lap Scott he held RJ up so Bailey could catch him. Also in 1986 Burnworth tried to clothesline RJ off his bike at Phoenix. Can you imagine how many things people on VitalMX would say they would refuse to buy if Reed ran after Stewart trying to clothesline him? This is why I love 80’s motocross.

Lechien - Burner and RJ definitely had some animosity towards each other. I think it went way back to when they were on mini bikes at Barona Oaks. Burner would just kick RJ’s ass all the time. Then when they got on big bikes the roles reversed. RJ kinda pushed Scotty around on the track and I think any chance he got to repay the favor, he did.

1:48 - Johnny O’Mara moves through the pack and passes Brian Manley when Manley singles the finish line. Johnny gets all sideways upon landing and Larry says that “there’s no damage done except for in his underwear.” I must call Weege and make sure he knows to let the viewers when Stewie’s underwear gets soiled. No offense to any of the guys now but Larry Huffman was THE MAN.

1:49.55 - Johnson wins it after pretty much taking every appendage off the bike during the last lap. I’m surprised he didn’t stop and kiss a baby somewhere. O’Mara, Burnworth and Brian Myerscough round out the top four. This track is pretty gnarly, with a quad and some killer whoops. I think that starting this year (1986) you can really see the tracks getting tougher and more like today’s tracks. Before ’86, the jumps weren’t much and the tracks were pretty easy, they did feature more lines and braking bumps back then however.

1:50 - They show the crowd and there’s a lady there waving wearing an “Expo ‘86” sweatshirt. Hey! That was in Vancouver in ’86. I always think of that whenever I’m in Vancouver and see the giant fricking globe that really looks out of place. Anyway, the quads are on the line and Gary “Chino Charger” Denton wins it. Did you know that Gary once raced the Winnipeg Arenacross on quads and bikes? Did you know that somehow it was my family’s responsibility to pick Gary up from the airport and get him a bike and a quad? We even took him riding before the race. Me and the Chino Charger – buddies forever. The quad race is sponsored by Suzuki which is fitting because NO ONE ELSE MADE QUADS IN ’86.

1:53 - Semi two is up and this has Kehoe and Hannah in it. Bob’s up front and charges up to the whoops. He then proceeds to slam on his brakes and let 300 guys blow by him. Russ Wageman comes back from that crazy crash in the heat to grab the lead.

1:53.20 - But Russ comes up short on the triple, blows his feet off the pegs and just idles to a stop. Larry informs us that he “took a hard shot to the groin.” Yep, I think he is definitely going to open Pit-Pro now.

1:53:41 - Jeff Friz from Florida takes the lead and then falls over the bales four turns later, which puts Kehoe into the lead with Hannah behind him. Hannah is being pressured hard by Eric Eaton. The riders come up to the quad and Hannah holds his hand up! He only doubles it and Eaton sails over his head, that sound you hear is vet riders sobbing everywhere. Their hero has let them down.

1:53.50 - Eaton and Hannah are side by side in the whoops when Bob, whose mind is no doubt thinking it’s 1976, not 1986, grabs a handful and crashes off the side of the track in a flurry of hay, banners and blue motors. Hannah meekly goes to the LCQ.

1:56.14 - Semi two and Manley is winning with Aussie Jeff Leisk behind him. The start is cool, the guys go about 20 feet and are greeted by three whoops. It makes it exciting coming into the first turn. Those two hold on to take the transfer spot to the main.

1:56.30 - LCQ baby! Bob Hannah is 4th with Mike Beier leading and Jeff Hicks in second. Hicks is Hannah’s training buddy and it’s gotta be frustrating for Bob to see Hicks up front. In the background you can see that Bob is the first guy to not double the finish line. He’s not looking good for the main folks.

Lechien-“I think Bob was getting old and scared. The jumps were getting bigger and gnarly and he didn't like it. Also I think he was in the same boat I was with coming of works Hondas and trying to deal with that.”

1:57.19 - Larry mentions Winnipeg on the show. He’s talking about the similarities between Jeff and Bob and says that he was up in Winnipeg talking to Hicks! How cool is that? The ‘Peg gets a shout out. Huffman fails to mention that after the race Hicks was carried off by giant mosquitoes.

2:02 - The main is off! Ron Lechien grabs the holeshot and is looking good. Wardy and RJ follow closely behind. Jim Holley passes for third on the first lap! They show a picture of Lechien and he’s got a sweet mustache. It’s all trimmed nice and could serve him well if he worked in porn.

Lechien - “Yeah the mustache was cool. I was trying to look older and it also doubled as a flavor savor!”

2:03.26 - I guess there was also a big difference between factory and privateer bikes back in ’86 also because Holley and RJ go into the whoops side by side and Johnson stays low and skims while Hollywood looks like he is Lane Frost going for 8 seconds. Needless to say, RJ motors away.

2:04.36 - Wardy is on The Dogger while Larry tells us how both of these guys are supremely talented athletes capable of running  six minute miles and that there is no love lost between the teammates. But cue the Jaws music as RJ is getting closer and ready to strike.

2:05.11 - It’s interesting to watch the different styles of the three guys in the lead, Lechien is standing up everywhere and is real technical, Wardy is going balls out, swapping sideways and keeping the throttle pinned everywhere, while RJ is a combo of the two. Ricky is also VERY good in the whoops and gets by Wardy in them to move into second.

2:05.46 - RJ pulls right next to Dogger but Ronnie cuts over big time on the triple and then just to make it obvious that he meant to do that, moves over even more when they land! These two fought over girls, rides, and results back in the day; absolutely pure dislike for each other. RJ gets by because Ronnie jacks himself up moving over in the whoops.

Lechien - “I think there was some stuff said about me cutting RJ off on the quad jump. Looking back it was an unsafe move! I heard him coming and kinda drifted his way. Not totally malicious, but a little dirty for sure!”

2:06.50 - They show us a replay of the RJ pass on Wardy and the flagman on the side is so excited, he drops his flag and starts fist pumping! I think that if there is one rule to follow in being a flagman, it’s do not drop the flag ever. Have to ask Weigandt about that one.

2:07.51 - O’Mara is all over Ward now, Lechien is nowhere to be found. RJ just about crashes hard when a photographer leans out and blinds him with his flash. Johnson gets completely sideways in the whoops and maybe the legend of “strobegate” started here.

2:09.51 - O’Mara gets by Ward and I’m not sure if it’s Wardy or the bike but he looks terrible. Swapping, bucking, and just generally looking like it’s a handful. It looks like it’s really fast but cannot turn or absorb bumps. And I have to say, maybe I’m an old crusty guy but Wardy’s gear looks so good – white Sinisalo with a green chest pro. All the guys’ gear looks good, when I look at stuff now it just looks too busy. Gear guys need to make gear the color of the bikes, forget finding some kind of fuchsia turquoise or whatever, and just stick to solid colors with a few stripes. Oh and bring back gear that has the manufacturers names on it. There, I’m off my soapbox.

2:11 - They cut to Stanfield at Glamis with RJ talking about how he loves a 500 at the dunes. They talk about how Ricky is going to be filming stunt work for some movie called “Holeshot.” Did it come out? I’ve never heard of such a movie, maybe it starred Scott Burnworth and Mike Alessi?

2:13.33 - They show O’Mara in second, this would be his last supercross on a Honda. He signed with Suzuki for 1987 and was never the same again. I know he weeded himself on a mountain bike before the season started but once he got going, the Suzuki’s were so far behind the other bikes back then, he couldn’t do anything about it. Poor Johnny.

Lechien - “I knew O’Show moving from Honda would definitely make him more vulnerable. I think he was also coming to the end of his time and the Kawis were getting better and I was more comfortable on them. He still was fast and I think if his bike would have not broke in half at Anaheim in 1989 his season would have been a lot different.”

2:14.13 - That’s it folks! RJ gets held up in traffic but still manages to win with the O-Show closing in fast. Jeff Ward takes third, The Dogger gets fourth, and Jim Holley is fifth. That’s pretty good for Holley as he was a privateer this year.

Lechien - As far as this race in L.A., I remember getting a great holeshot and leading for a couple laps and I felt good everywhere but the whoops. I was struggling through them and started to fade. I'm not sure what I ended up but it wasn't good!

Actually Ronnie, it was fourth - not too shabby!

Thanks for reading this week’s column. Don’t worry, soon there will be current racing to talk about again!

Email me at matthes@racerxonline.com if you want.

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