Moto XXX: The Complete Oral History

Moto XXX: The Complete Oral History

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From its inception in 1997 to the end of the line in 2008, team Moto XXX has stood for everything that was dirt bike riding, heck maybe even motorcycle riding in general. A little bit rebellious, a little bit of outlaw, and some desire to be different were the general rifts of the team. Started by three guys that just loved the sport, the Moto XXX brand helped a lot of riders over the years and spawned a career in the industry that can still be felt today. Nine riders that rode for the team had factory rides before or after being on the team, and seven former mechanics went on to be factory wrenches (this author included).

The team, started by Kurt Haller, Jordan Burns, and Erik Sandin (Ed note: Despite repeated requests Kurt Haller declined to be interviewed for this story) lasted for eleven years in various incarnations, through different managers, different bike brands and different ways of getting to the races, and it’s hard to tell the whole story of the team unless it’s through the words of the people that lived it.

We have part 1 in the newest Racer X Magazine, so pick it up if you want those details. Without further adieu, here is the good, bad, and the ugly of Team Moto XXX over the rest of the years through the words of the people that were there and lived it.

Click HERE for Part 2, HERE for Part 3, HERE for Part 4, HERE for Part 5, and HERE for Part 6.

YEAR ELEVEN—2007

Riders Kyle Lewis, Josh Summey, Mitchell Dougherty, & Yoshide Fukodome

Alan Brown, owner—“ I made a big financial investment in the team at the end of 2006. I remortgaged my house and gave Joe a chunk of his money back, and we were partners on this team. Kurt just let it go; I think he was happy to let it go to be honest.”

Jordan Burns, owner—“I think Alan tried to do what he thought would be best for the team, but in the end—in my personal outside perspective—that [he] doesn’t know that much, I don’t think he had the business side down very well.”

Kyle Lewis, rider—“Alan then said he wanted to buy some of Kurt’s portion of Moto XXX, and I’m not sure what happened there. There were bikes that were supposed to be given to me for salary, and then I sold the bikes, and Alan was pissed at me. I always thought that whatever Honda gave me was mine, but Alan thought it was for the team. So there was some of that where we both needed to communicate better with each other.”

Mitchell DoughertyPhoto: Andrew Fredrickson
Mitchell DoughertyPhoto: Andrew Fredrickson

Brown—“Chuck Miller was handling all of Honda’s racing back then, and he just suggested that if we had room, it would be cool to put [Yoshidi] Fukodome on the team. He was an HRC guy in Japan, and if we could give him a chance it would be good for us.”

Kyle Bentley, mechanic—“In 2006 I worked for Kyle Lewis for the first seven rounds of supercross, and then I got a job at Pro Circuit. Moto XXX helped me a lot, and I learned the ropes over there under Alan. Nothing but great memories for me.”

Brown—“Yoshidi rode a 250; he was the Japanese national champion, I think, and we didn’t do that much for him. It was explained to me that we just needed to give him a home, some parts, and let him do his thing. This wasn’t a Honda HRC thing; it was all his own personal doing to race in America. His mechanic emailed me a few times, and then they came over and his mechanic’s English was OK. Fukodome’s English wasn’t very good—he actually couldn’t speak it at all.”

Josh SummeyPhoto: Andrew Fredrickson
Josh SummeyPhoto: Andrew Fredrickson

Scott Roegner, mechanic—“Working for Summey that year was great; he was a lot of fun to work for. We have similar personalities, and we got along well. He showed signs here and there of really being able to finish well, and we were encouraged by his riding. But he just never could find any consistency. We were either top ten, or he crashed out and it was frustrating at times. But it was an amazing experience to work for him and for Alan as well.”

Brown—“I had a lot of fun working with Summey; he was a good guy. We had a great relationship, and we could talk about a lot of things. He would tell me what his problems were, and we’d work on them together. He was doing really well and improving each race. Supercross started out rough for him; he struggled to make main events. We were considering going back to the 250 for the East Coast, but then it started clicking for him. By round five, he figured it out and rode well on the 450.”

It was at the end of this year that Moto XXX said goodbye to a rider that was its longest tenured and put his heart and soul into the team since 2000…

Kyle LewisPhoto: Andrew Fredrickson
Kyle LewisPhoto: Andrew Fredrickson

Brown—“Kyle’s last year was 2007, and we didn’t see eye to eye. It got tough for both of us. The team was going in one direction, and he was going in another. He was getting older, and it happens to all riders at some point or another. He had been hurt a lot and missed time.”

Burns—“ Kyle was a big part of the team, especially in the early days. He was the main guy, brought attention to our team, and he was another rider that used our team to help himself out. Sure, he was a Japanese champion, but no one was looking to hire him.”

Lewis—“I had a blast at Moto XXX; there’s no doubt that racing in Japan was awesome and Clark Jones at Noleen is still a friend to me, but XXX was special. I can’t complain at all about the time there. I had some good fans that really dug me. I worked hard at what I did, I wasn’t the fastest guy, but I wasn’t the slowest either!”

THE FAREWELL—2008

Riders Eric Sorby, Antonio Balbi, and Mitchell Dougherty

Brown—“In 2008 Kurt and I struck up a deal for me to take over the clothing company, also, and I moved everything to Riverside from Santa Barbara, and Kurt had 100 percent walked away. This was now me trying to learn about clothing, and it was tough. I tried again to get Kurt to make a new video, but he wasn’t into it. We didn’t have the money to front to make a new one, and neither one of us could make it happen. We had Parts Unlimited as a distributor, but they dropped us for clothing, and that was not a fun deal.”

Burns—“Sometimes getting money from your sponsors is like pulling teeth. It happens with a lot of teams over the years, and it happened to us.”

Brown—“So I met Kevin Maret this year, who had some sponsors, and I had the infrastructure, so we teamed up. The sponsorships were bleak—we had Honda support and a few other deals—but it was tough. Joe put Kevin and I in touch with each other, and Kevin had been running a team also. He brought a Hooters deal, and I had Honda support. We got Antonio Balbi on the team, as I had met him when I helped out Team Brazil at the MXDN. Balbi worked hard and wanted to race; he was perfect. Kevin brought Sorby over to the deal and Honda was happy with everything but it was a rough year.”

Eric SorbyPhoto: Andrew Fredrickson
Eric SorbyPhoto: Andrew Fredrickson

And that’s it…fade to black. The Moto XXX team lasted a hell of a lot longer than anyone thought it would. Three different people got together with a fast-talking mechanic and actually did the impossible—they won a supercross. From there, the little team that could went up. It went down, but from Brian Deegan and Larry Ward winning races, to Nick Wey, Kyle Lewis, Tim Ferry, and Damon Huffman being top privateers, the little team that created controversy back at the 1997 LA Coliseum rolled on a lot farther and longer than most thought. All hail Moto XXX…

Eric Johnson, Racer X—“People may think I'm somewhat clean-cut and whatever, but down deep, I have a dark streak in me. It all came from motorcycles, my dad, and punk rock. Moto XXX brought all that into MX/SX and I loved them for it. I always loved that team. And what a lot of people may forget is that they all truly loved the sport. They were at it a very long time and spent a lot of money. They were different and off the wall, and quirky to some, but I loved them for it. I certainly think they get their own chapter in the U.S. MX history books.”

Brian Deegan, original team rider—“The sport needs that fan love once again, because they did love us. I see the professional side now, and I would never shun that side of the pits that hold the teams like Moto XXX—it’s needed. I do feel that my days at XXX started what I have now with the Metal Mulisha. Before then we had some stuff going on, but I had Metal Mulisha on my helmet when I won that supercross. It was rolling and XXX had a huge part in getting Mulisha going.”

Erik Sandin, owner—“I’m incredibly proud of all the people that came through the doors of Moto XXX. Proud is actually an understatement; it’s actually love I have for the team. Davey Coombs called us the most successful independent team to ever happen in the sport, and for him to say that, I’m honored. Someone of that caliber to say that was awesome, or the fact you’re calling me up for this article is cool.”

Antonio BalbiPhoto: Andrew Fredrickson
Antonio BalbiPhoto: Andrew Fredrickson

Kenny Watson, original team manager—“We weren’t playing by the rules. We were doing something different than anyone else, and there weren’t any rules to be broken. But we started breaking the rules that no one else ever broke, because there weren’t rules to break. Then we started to make our own rules, and they didn’t like our rules.”

Brown—“Moto XXX was a big part of my life. Seven years I either worked for them or I owned the team outright. I’m really proud of what I did and learned. It was a high profile privateer team and the first of its kind. If you were a privateer, wanted to do well in the 450 Class, but couldn’t get a factory ride, you wanted to ride for Moto XXX.”

Burns—“I had this whole dream that I wanted to go out with rolling into the pits with a semi truck, and then while we’re partying in the pits, we dump gas everywhere, light a match and we catch the rig on fire. And it burns down in the pits and that’s how we’d go out. That would be the Moto XXX way, everyone would remember that.”

Sandin—“If we hadn’t started the team, I would have another million dollars in my bank. That’s probably what I would’ve made from video sales over the years. But I don’t care; it was all worth it.”

Burns—“Yeah, Smelly says that because he’s got another five million in the bank!”

Thank you for reading Moto XXX: A Complete Oral History. We hope you enjoyed it, and we thank all the people that gave us some time to complete this story. After a seven year hiatus, Moto XXX is back and has re-launched the brand. You can check them out right HERE or follow them on social media:

www.facebook.com/motoxxx

www.instagram@motoxxxofficial

www.twitter@motoxxxofficial

Photo: Simon Cudby
Photo: Simon Cudby

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