It was 1983, the space shuttle Challenger made its debut, the world watched as the TV show M.A.S.H ended, the Baltimore Orioles won the World Series, the New York Islanders won the Stanley Cup again and the compact disc debuted, signaling the end of vinyl.
Bob Hannah went red in '83 and was the fastest rider but injuries set him back.
American motocross was in a good spot with a couple of World Champions over in Europe (Lackey and LaPorte), and Team USA was now the two-time and defending champion at the Motocross des Nations. The battle over here though was still raging and 1983 would prove to be a tough one indeed.
The big off-season news was defending supercross and 250 outdoor champion Donnie Hansen injuring himself while practicing for the 1982 MXDN. Hansen would never get a chance to race at a top level again. The other big news was Bob Hannah switching over from Yamaha to Honda to try and get himself back to the top. The Hurricane, never one to be shy with his opinions, took to the press to bash Yamaha. He wanted out so badly that he took a contract from the red team for a much lower salary and big win bonuses.
Hannah’s move to Honda coincided with their reborn race effort under Roger DeCoster and Dave Arnold. Sporting Hurricane II on the back of his pants, Hannah was certainly very fast that year on the works Honda HRC250, but he was unable to stay healthy enough to win any titles. In fact Bob would win the most supercrosses out of anyone (five wins) but he lost the title when he hurt his wrist. Up and coming star David Bailey captured the indoor title by the slimmest of margins over Suzuki’s Mark Barnett.
The 1983 AMA Nationals debuted a new format, as all three classes (125/250/500) were held at the same track on the same day. In past years, each weekend featured a combination of two of the classes at one track, while the other class raced somewhere else. The series also saw the addition of the Gainesville, Florida round, which would stay on the calendar for more than fifteen years, as well as the debut of the Millville, Minnesota round which is still going strong today.
1983 saw the first year of the Millville national and it hosted an epic final round that same year.
The 125 class saw Mark Barnett’s three year reign end. He was still fast, as he actually won more races than the year before, but ended the series third in the championship chase. A slow 125 and some DNF’s would haunt the Bomber, and he would have to hand his crown over to Honda’s Johnny O’Mara. O’Mara was a budding superstar on a very fast Honda who trained just as much as Barnett and used speed and consistency to win the title. Jeff Ward was right there also, and those three had to deal with a 16-year old rookie from El Cajon, California named Ronnie Lechien.
Lechien won three nationals this season and even held off Barnett at the finale in Millville for 40 minutes—a shocker. Barnett needed that moto win, also, as the Suzuki rider was going for the all-new Grand National Championship title, which combined motocross and supercross points. The winner would wear a new yellow on blue number one plate for the 1984 season. Lechien’s win in Minnesota was a clear signal that the kids were now in command in the 125 class.
In the 250 class, it was a repeat of supercross as Hannah took six wins (the most in the class) but injuries kept him from winning the national title. Hannah was by far the fastest man in the game, but the “Brittle Bob” nickname picked up due to his rising injury count. Bailey would put a capper on his fantastic year by winning the outdoor title to go along with his indoor one, and repeating what his teammate Donnie Hansen had done the pervious year. With the two titles also came that first-ever Grand National Championship and signaled that the smooth, calculated Bailey was going to be a force for the next decade. Kawasaki’s first Team Green superstar, “Bullet” Billy Liles was the only other rider other than Hannah and Bailey to win a 250 national when he captured the Lake Whitney, Texas race for his first career outdoor win.
David Bailey was the man in 1983 as he started to find his form in his second year on team Honda.
After narrowly missing out on the 250 title in 1982, Yamaha’s Broc Glover returns to the 500 class to beat down everybody else and claim his second 500cc title. The Golden Boy wins six out of the eleven nationals and tells this funny story on how he probably should have won seven.
“So I was leading the series by a good point margin and the only way Honda’s Danny “Magoo” Chandler was going to win was to have me DNF,” Glover tells us today. “At Lakewood, the Honda bike is running so much better than my bike and we were all going pretty well. Chandler was screwing with me in the first moto, he chopped me off in the air, cut over on me and in the next corner he tried brake-checking me. I finally made a clean pass and won the moto.”
“The next moto, same story, I come up on him while he got the holeshot. The whole 40 minutes of the race, he was trying to sucker me into crashing or hurting myself and I wasn’t going to do that. We came up over a hill, then came out of a gully and made a sharp 90-degree turn over this hump. I came to the top of the thing and he would stop in the rut and wait for me to run into him. This was lap after lap. So I just cleaned him out on the last lap, just ghost rode my bike into him and we both ended up falling down this hill, our bikes and everything. It was really steep! We ran down there and everything was tangled up. By the time we got going, some 30-seconds or so, Goat Breker came around the turn and won the moto. He went 3-1, I went 1-3 and Magoo went 2-2. That was what I remember from that year.”
Honda put out a series of cool team and individual stickers in the early to mid 80's.
After Honda provided the entire team for the 1981 and 1982 Motocross des Nations, the other OEM’s got onboard and sent a mixed team of Honda’s David Bailey, Suzuki’s Mark Barnett, Yamaha’s Broc Glover and Kawasaki’s Jeff Ward. The result was the same though as the American’s came home with another win.
1983 NATIONAL MOTOCROSS CHAMPIONSHIP
1983 250cc National Motocross
March 27 Sacramento, CA Bob Hannah, Carson City, NV Honda
April 10 Orange, CA Bob Hannah, Carson City, NV Honda
April 24 Gainesville, FL David Bailey, Axton, VA Honda
May 22 Fairmont City, IL Bob Hannah, Carson City, NV Honda
May 29 Mt. Morris, PA Bob Hannah, Carson City, NV Honda
June 5 Binghamton, NY Bob Hannah, Carson City, NV Honda
June 19 Lake Whitney, TX Billy Liles, Fairburn, GA Kawasaki
July 3 Buchanan, MI David Bailey, Axton, VA Honda
August 14 Washougal, WA Rick Johnson, El Cajon, VA Yamaha
August 21 Lakewood, CO David Bailey, Axton, VA Honda
August 28 Millville, MN Bob Hannah, Axton, VA Honda
1983 250cc National Point Standings
1.) David Bailey, Axton, VA Honda 440
2.) Scott Burnworth, Jamul, CA Suzuki 403
3.) Bob Hannah, Carson City, NV Honda 374
4.) Billy Liles, Fairburn, GA Kawasaki 368
5.) Donnie Cantaloupi, Stockton, CA Yamaha 285
6.) Rick Johnson, El Cajon, CA Yamaha 271
7.) Jim Tarantino, Los Angeles, CA Honda 244
8.) Jeff Hicks, Atwater, OH KTM 230
9.) Kenny Keylon, Brooksville, FL Honda 196
10.) Jim Holley, Northridge, CA Yamaha 192
The 1983 season was a battle to the wire in the supercross class with David Bailey coming out on top.
1983 500cc National Motocross
March 27 Sacramento, CA Danny Chandler, Foresthill, CA Honda
April 10 Orange, CA Broc Glover, El Cajon, CA Yamaha
April 24 Gainesville, FL Kent Howerton, San Antonio, TX Kawasaki
May 22 Fairmont City, IL Broc Glover, El Cajon, CA Yamaha
May 29 Mt. Morris, PA Danny Chandler, Foresthill, CA Honda
June 5 Binghamton, NY Broc Glover, El Cajon, CA Yamaha
June 19 Lake Whitney, TX Broc Glover, El Cajon, CA Yamaha
July 3 Buchanan, MI Broc Glover, El Cajon, CA Yamaha
August 14 Washougal, WA Broc Glover, El Cajon, CA Yamaha
August 21 Lakewood, CO Goat Breker, Riverside, CA Honda
August 28 Millville, MN Danny Chandler, Foresthill, CA Honda
1983 500cc National Point Standings
1.) Broc Glover, El Cajon, CA Yamaha 471
2.) Kent Howerton, San Antonio, TX Kawasaki 438
3.) Danny Chandler, Foresthill, CA Honda 356
4.) Alan King, Troy, MI Suzuki 328
5.) Steve Martin, St. Petersburg, FL Honda 297
6.) Warren Reid, Midway City, CA Yamaha 293
7.) Goat Breker, Riverside, CA Honda 267
8.) Phil Larson, Bremerton, WA Honda 248
9.) John Finkeldey, Westbrook, CT KTM 242
10.) Tim Locey, Ventura, CA Yamaha 234
Paul Buckley captures David Bailey, the eventual SX champion at Daytona in 1983. You can buy this photo and others at BuckleyPhoto.com
1983 125cc National Motocross
March 27 Sacramento, CA Mark Barnett, Bridgeview, IL Suzuki
April 10 Orange, CA Johnny O’Mara, Simi Valley, CA Honda
April 24 Gainesville, FL Mark Barnett, Bridgeview, IL Suzuki
May 22 East St. Louis, IL Jeff Ward, Mission Viejo, CA Kawasaki
May 29 Mt. Morris, PA Mark Barnett, Bridgeview, IL Suzuki
June 5 Binghamton, NY Mark Barnett, Bridgeview, IL Suzuki
June 19 Lake Whitney, TX Ron Lechien, El Cajon, CA Yamaha
July 3 Buchanan, MI Johnny O’Mara, Simi Valley, CA Honda
August 14 Washougal, WA Mark Barnett, Bridgeview, IL Suzuki
August 21 Lakewood, CO Ron Lechien, El Cajon, CA Yamaha
August 28 Millville, MN Ron Lechien, El Cajon, CA Yamaha
1983 125cc National Point Standings
1.) Johnny O’Mara, Simi Valley, CA Honda 462
2.) Jeff Ward, Mission Viejo, CA Kawasaki 453
3.) Mark Barnett, Bridgeview, IL Suzuki 441
4.) Ron Lechien, El Cajon, CA Yamaha 423
5.) Brian Myerscough, Calimesa, CA Honda 346
6.) A. J. Whiting, Sherman Oaks, CA Yamaha 249
7.) Chris Heisser, Westlake Village, CA Suzuki 218
8.) Rick Ryan, San Jose, CA Suzuki 213
9.) Karl Jordan, Largo, FL Yamaha 176
10.) Rodney Smith, Antioch, CA Yamaha 157
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