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Observations: 1988 Houston SX

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No, you’re not drunk, that’s right – 1988.

We’ll have some real races up here soon enough, but for now let’s look into the archives a bit and watch some real men race.  I have the single greatest DVD collection of all time, (unless part 2 comes out) The World’s Greatest Supercrosses! It’s 10 DVDs covering from 1977 to 1988 and it’s been quite simply, the only thing that keeps me from stepping in front of a train every day. (That’s a little bit of an exaggeration. I just put that sentence in there for dramatic effect.) So sit back and enjoy my running diary of the 1988 Houston Supercross.

1:32 – For some reason my DVD display has all the races on a continuous clock so that’s why we pick it up at this time, I’m not going to go and get all technical and reset my DVD counter. That’s too much work and coordination. If you want to complain email keith@racerxonline.com, he’s the boss of everything.

1:32.30 – The greatest announcer of all time (Sorry Weege and Buydos), Larry Huffman is sitting in a barca-lounger and setting the stage for us for this race. He happens to mention that he actually announced this back in the day and it’s a real treat. The plot point is this: Ricky Johnson got hurt at the beginning of the 1987 season when he rag dolled at Anaheim and lost the SX series to Jeff Ward. They are bitter enemies and this Houston race was the 2nd round of the 1988 series. The two big dogs are set up for a war to see who the best Supercross rider is. Kinda like RC and Stewart in ‘06 but each guy won a title so the fans actually never got a resolution to that debate.

  • Eric Kehoe
1:34 – Larry recaps the previous race at Anaheim; it seems that it wasn’t AMA sanctioned (Was JAM around then?) so Houston would really be the first round that counts. In Anaheim, RJ takes the win with Wardy second and Team Yamaha’s newest signee Mickey Dymond (The original Jason Lawrence, but like most everything, not nearly as extreme. The Mick liked to hang with Motley Crue, but he wasn’t actually part of a motley crew.) who won the award for coolest looking guy with his hair out the back and pink, black and white Answer gear on. Stewie’s gear this year at A2 was a copy of this stuff and that’s why it was the second coolest gear ever. Also extra points for how sweet his number 6 looked back then. The first time I ever hung out with his old mechanic Ron Heben at Bercy 2001, I asked him about those numbers and he was very impressed that I remembered. In fact he told me he had the original templates in his garage still!

1:35 – First heat is on the line with Team Yamaha’s Broc Glover who is racing his first race in 2 years after breaking his leg. Larry tells us that RJ has never beaten Wardy in Houston and there is a guy lined up in the first heat on a Cagiva! We never see weirdo bikes anymore on the line, that’s why whoever lines up for a Supercross on a BMW will be my favorite rider ever.

1:36.06 – Glover takes the lead on the hard packed Houston track. There is a whoop section that the guys are jumping halfway through then rolling the rest. I don’t want to get on a “who’s better” tangent, but let me just say that James Stewart would have jumped the whole thing – while walking the track.

On another note, during my podcast with Jeff Ward, Wardy kind of called me out for an earlier podcast when Weege and I were saying how much better the riders of today are. Ward’s points were, and they are valid, the bikes weren’t ideal for supercross yet, the tracks were inconsistently built and that the guys really didn’t practice supercross that much. I’m not going to argue with Jeff Ward, he’s ten times the man I will ever be.

1:36.45 – Glover would probably get second behind Dymond for best dressed. He has a pink and blue motif with a bitchin’ paint job on his JT ALS- 2. Team Yamaha really stunk this year but they could take solace in the fact they were the best dressed team in 1988. The newest team member, Jeff Stanton, brought them down a bit with his plain wrap Hi – Point gear but Mickey and Broc make up for that.

1:37 – Team Suzuki’s Eric Kehoe is second and the dude on the Cagiva is fourth! Did you know that I just sent Kehoe a copy of this DVD set a year or so ago? Just another example of me giving back to the guys that have given me so much joy in my life. (I also gave Ron Lechien and Larry Brooks the same set.) This number 8 on a Yamaha, Jeff Stanton doesn’t look very good here, very stiff on the bike. I bet he never amounts to anything.

1:38.19 – Theres a monster triple that the riders can only do once in a while. We never see the face of it but it does look pretty big, it’s funny how back then only a perfect run at something would allow you to clear it. Now the guys can get sideways, get their boot caught in the chain, stop, and then still seat-bounce the crap out of a big jump.

1:40 – Glover wins the heat followed by Kehoe and Doug Dubach. Broc is on the podium with Larry Maiers. He looks like he has stepped right out of the pages of GQ, perfect hair, perfect gear. Come to think of it, he still looks like that now at the races.

1:41 – Heat two is on the line and Larry tells us the favorites are Team Suzuki’s Johnny O’Mara and wait for it… Canada’s own Ross “Rollerball” Pederson!!!! I’m having trouble typing because I’m starting to hyperventilate.

1:41.10 – Breathing into a paper bag seems to help as Jeff Friz and Tommy Watts battle for the lead early in the race. (I wonder if anyone has ever typed that before in the history of Supercross.) Larry Brooks is running third and I think I see “Screw Vital MX” on the back of his Hallman pants.

1:42 – Brooks is catching Friz by doing that triple, and look who’s in third!  None other than The Ross has sliced his way through the pack.

1:42.45 – Friz airs the triple and while he does that, he checks out the roof of the Astrodome as he is very front wheel high. Johnny O’ is mid-pack and wondering if leaving Honda two years earlier was a good idea.

1:43.15 – Friz is casing everything so hard that I’m sure he’s still feeling it 20 years later. Brooks and The Ross air the triple out and make up a ton of time. Friz rolling all the whoops didn’t exactly help him out either.

1:44.20 – Friz crashes, Brooks in the lead, Rollerball 2nd and Tommy “Machine-Gun” Watts in 3rd. O’Mara coming up fast. Larry tells us that Brooks is fast but wild and “has a tendency to crash big time.” This is foreshadowing at its finest.

1:44.33 – Larry tells us that the riders don’t like to pass Pederson; he gets extremely physical and isn’t afraid to bang into you. In other news, the sun rose this morning.

1:44.54 – Brooks endos over a jump on-off and eats poop hard! Oh my God it’s a good one. Larry told me that he actually broke his back in this crash but didn’t find out till a few weeks later. I’m not making that up. That sucks for Brooks but it puts ROLLERBALL into the lead!

1:45.16 – The dreaded Ross airs out the triple while SX and National Champion O’Mara doesn’t do it. Larry tells us that O’Mara is still having knee problems and doesn’t like the triple jumps, or more specifically, the landings. Sounds like the American announcer is afraid that the big bad Canadian is going to beat the American multi-time champion Johnny O’Mara. As soon as he says that, The Ross screws up in the whoops and O’Mara makes up big time.

1:45.37 – Ross is wearing pink gloves with his all blue R&M Answer gear and his chest protector strap has come undone and is flapping in the wind. He gets passed by O’Mara in the next whoop section and my hero is really looking disheveled right now.

1:46.47 – The next shot they show is O’Mara coming around the last lap with Watts in second and The Ross in third. What happened? I’m not sure but I start yelling at the TV “GO ROSS GO!” but alas, it is not to be, he comes across in third. Maybe he doesn’t want to show everyone what he’s got so early. Maybe it was the pink gloves?

1:47.38 – O’Mara is on the podium with a great mullet and his blond hair is running down into his eyes like the lead singer of Flock of Seagulls. He thanks all of his fans for sticking with him after his switch from Honda and that he’s currently undergoing therapy for making that decision. I made that last part up.

1:48.10 – Heat three is on the line and when they are panning down the line, they show #836 on a 1985 Kawasaki. The bike is 3 years old! If I saw a guy racing SX on a 2006 KX450F, I would mock him unmercifully. Just thought you should know. Anyways, George Holland grabs the start on his new Honda CR250 with Dymond falling in the first turn but looking very stylish as he picks his bike up.

1:49.21 – RJ grabs the lead on the first lap and begins to check out. He gives the thumbs up to the crowd over the triple on the second lap! That’s confidence people. Larry tells us that the magazines (MXA) claim he makes over a million dollars a year.

1:50 – You can see why RJ was so good, he jumps the triple and makes the inside next turn, something no one else can seem to do. He kinda skims the whoops, he’s a very aggressive rider compared to his counterparts.  The top two have such a lead that Larry tells us they could stop and have dinner and still win this race.

1:51.01 – Perhaps nothing makes these DVD’s look more dated than when Larry freaks out over RJ doing one handers. “There’s nothing like seeing someone with their hand of the bar 30 feet in the air,” he says. Nope, you’re right Larry. Amazing really.  I always shook my head in disbelief whenever a KJSC rider did that. I kid people…

  • Ross “Rollerball” Pederson
1:52.35 – There is only two riders with pink gloves on this night. The Ross and RJ – two winners, two champions, two warriors. On another note, RJ laps #836 on the three year old bike. The guy waves him by on the start straight, despite RJ going mach-four faster than him. Good thing you waved pal.

1:54.39 – RJ wins by a country mile, Holland gets second and my guy Dymond comes back to third. On the podium Maiers just says to him “You’re loose” and RJ confirms “Yep, I’m loose Larry.” Compelling interview for sure. How does Maiers know the consistency of RJ’s last bowel movement just from looking at him?

1:55.08 – Fourth heat is off and Jeff Ward grabs the lead while Aussie Jeff Leisk and Wardy’s teammate Ron Lechien chase him. It cannot be confirmed that Lechien just woke up right before the gate dropped.

1:55.29 – Larry tells us that Wardy can half-squat 400 lbs, is 5’7” and is the strongest man in MX. I know you’re reading this Weege, so please get us listeners the half-squat max for James Stewart at Anaheim 1. We need that kind of info.

1:56.10 – Wardy has “Attack” on the back of his pants. That’s an odd thing to have on your ass, why would you want to remind the guy behind you that he should attack? What’s next, some dude having “I’m bad in the whoops” on his AXOs?

1:56.42 – A Tim Ferry spotting! No wait….err. That’s just another Kawasaki rider sporting number 15 and wearing O’Neal gear, current Kawi team manager Mike Fisher. I once asked Fisher if the reason he hired Ferry was because of the similarities to him in ’88 and he looked me dead in the eye and calmly said, “…No.” and walked away. I was very scared of him that day.

1:58.03 – I take that back about Dymond; Lechien is the coolest looking dude out there with his JT “Bad Bone” gear. Did you know that I also sported that same look in 1988? I lost the Manitoba 80cc expert championship by two points that year.  It went down to the last moto and I came from last to second, but it wasn’t enough. It’s ok, though, I’m totally over that.

1:58.15 – Larry tells us that Ronnie’s career “has had more ups and downs than an elevator operator.” That’s putting it a little lightly, I think. Larry then tells us that Lechien has a Motovideo out called “Pro motocross riding and racing with Ron Lechien.” What? How did I not know this? I must get a copy and watch the section where he tells you how to throw water on your face to make it look like you were sweating when your dad makes you go running. Or the part about purposely forgetting your boots when your new boat is ready to be picked up and you don’t want to test.

2:00.36 – Wardy wins and Larry about has a heart attack when he takes both feet off the pegs to celebrate. The fascination with this move continues when Maiers asks Wardy if he’s ever thought of what would happen if he didn’t get his feet back on. “I don’t know Larry, I’ve never thought of that because a four-year-old could do that trick” is what I wish Wardy would say, but instead he says that trick “Was a little wild for me.” Maiers says that RJ is his main competition but what about Lechien? Wardy replies that Lechien is riding well, but that the guys only did eight laps and the main in twenty so he’s not worried, basically saying that there is no way in hell Ron Lechien can last twenty laps. Later this season though Ronnie would win the Seattle SX and prove Jeff wrong.

2:03 – The halftime show is a guy named Monty Perman riding a 1977 Yamaha DT 400 around a Sphere of Fear. Larry tells us that other names for this stunt is “Globe of Death” and “Sphere of Death,” so Monty clearly has outdone himself with his unique choice of a name. This whole ten-minute segment can basically have a column of its own, so I won’t get into it here. Suffice to say, his buddy gets in there and they ride around, then Pamela (his wife) gets in and Larry tells us that the riders will take some flags out of her hands while they ride around. Only they never take the flags and Larry never explains why not. Maiers asks Monty how he did that and he says, “Two words – Jesus Christ.”

2:04 – The main is on the line. We have RJ, Wardy, Glover, Lechien, Holland, and Pederson—all the legends are lined up. The gate drops and Jeff Ward pulls a monster start from around the doghouse. He breaks early and Holland and Leisk go by him on the outside. There is a ten-man crash in the first turn that knocks out Leisk, Jeff Hicks, Shaun Kalos and Mike Fisher.

2:06.15 – Wardy begins to check out with Holland, Dymond and RJ all in a freight train. It’s at this point that I want any of the older readers to think back to how frickin wide that the 1988 Kawasaki KX250 was. Seriously, when you sat on it your legs were spread wider than Britney’s at her birthday party. It was a tank. How did Wardy ride this thing? Also, does anyone remember how razor thin the ’87 KX250 was? It was like an 80! Who goes from one extreme to the other in one model year? If any of you happened to be lucky enough to own Kawasakis around this time, I don’t have to tell you about the plastic chipping if you looked at it wrong, or the footpegs jangling around after four hours, or all the welds in the frame that cracked weekly. I’m getting the shivers just thinking about it.

2:09 – Well it’s refreshing to know that the producers in 1988 also just focused solely on the leader riding around by himself. Dymond and Holland are having a battle to the death for second, but we’re seeing a guy riding around by himself. Wardy is still wearing the “Attack” Sinisalo pants. I guess he didn’t have time to change into the “Go low on me in the third turn” ones.

2:10 – The camera shows Ron Lechien picking his bike up inside the over/under tunnel. He just gets going in front of Rollerball which Larry says “is around midpack.” I’m happy to report, though, that The Ross is still wearing pink gloves and has his chest protector latched.

2:11.40 – RJ gets past Dymond, who is probably also questioning his decision to leave Honda and is moving up to Holland. Larry tells us that Wardy and Lechien are wearing radio communications for the first time ever in an AMA race. Team manager Roy Turner is up in the press box talking to them; Larry then wonders how long it is going to be before the AMA bans them. Well Larry, I think history showed that it was the next race! Wonder what Turner is telling Lechien? “Ronnie? You there? Stay with me!! This isn’t God, Ronnie, it’s Roy. You’re racing a supercross right now!”

2:12 – RJ gets into second and Larry tells us it’s a replay from the ’87 Coliseum where Johnson comes from seventeenth to first, only this time he’s come from fourth to second. Uhhhh, Larry? Passing sixteen guys is a little harder than passing two.

2:14 – Just for the record, I bet you could slap a set of Wardy’s 49mm conventional forks on today’s bikes and not even notice a difference. Those forks were sweet. I had a 1989 KX125 that was slower than poop but soaked up bumps like no other.

2:14 – Rollerball sighting! But sadly, he is getting lapped. That’s ok Ross, you will just take out your anger on Dyck, Harnden and Hoover when you get back to the motherland. Those poor saps don’t even know what’s coming.

2:16.11 – White flag and RJ closing up on Wardy but it’s not enough as Jeff Ward wins and continues his Houston winning streak. Jeff slows way down in the last turn, lets Ricky close up and then looks over and gasses it over the finish. I don’t think these guys were buddies back then, that’s for sure. Dymond gets third and Lechien uses the voice of God in his helmet to come from way back to fourth.

Well, that’s it folks! What an exciting race, for sure. I’m sure you guys were on the edge of your seats with each and every sentence. Next week there will be an actual report on a race that happened this century. Email me at matthes@racerxonline.com if you want.

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