Time to take a look back at 1992 in our forty-day countdown to the start of the 2015 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship. The Anaheim SX will run on January 3, 2015, and we’ve been clicking off the years of supercross history as we close in on the forty-first version of the AMA Supercross Championship.
By the time everyone started getting ready for 1992, it was very clear to all that Jean-Michel Bayle was over racing dirt bikes. Just one year after winning all three major AMA titles, he told Honda that he wanted to go road racing, and it put the company in a tough spot. They ended up promising him a development deal, but only if he raced SX and MX one more year with all of those #1 plates: SX, 250 MX, and 500 MX. Bayle said okay, but his heart was nowhere near this kind of racing. He was also not getting along with Jeff Stanton, who simply didn’t like the way JMB rolled. Stanton was a workhorse, but it just came naturally for Bayle.
“I would go out [to the Honda test track in Simi] in the mornings and do my motos and work super-hard, and he would be playing around on the side of the hill, trying to carve his initials into the bank—JMB!” recalled Stanton when talking about Bayle in 2001 for a Racer X Illustrated feature called “Ghost in the Machine.”
“There was this huge hillside, all green, plush grass, and he went up there with his bike and started out with the ‘J.’ He would spin his tire and spell out the letter. Then he got off his bike, turned it the other way, and did the other letters until he had it all written out. It took him most of the day to do it, too. He was the kind of guy to just do weird stuff like that. Looking back, it was actually really cool. I was going, ‘Man, I wish I would have thought of that first!’”
It would also be the end of an era, as Jean-Michel Bayle switched from JT Racing to the Japanese brand Taichi, which meant the once-dominant JT Racing brand had won its last major title with JMB’s 1991 AMA Supercross Championship. But Honda, winners of the 1988-91 titles, was still on top.
As far as the politics of supercross went, the killers of Mickey and Trudy Thompson were still on the loose, but Mike Goodwin was back in town. After spending two years scuba-diving and photographing fish in the Caribbean on his fifty-seven-foot single-mast yacht Believe, Goodwin and wife turned up in Aspen, Colorado, where they spent a couple years skiing, according to LA Weekly—not bad for someone who had declared bankruptcy just before the extended trip. But then the godfather of supercross finally decided to return to Southern California. He headed to court to file a lawsuit, but then was arrested himself on secret bank-fraud charges unrelated to the murders. Of course there was a cloud of suspicion around him, given the fact that he left town shortly after the murders, and no one else had been caught. More on that later on in this series.
The 1992 AMA/Camel Supercross Championship opened in Orlando’s Cirtus Bowl, and while no one knew what to expect of Bayle, everyone figured that both Jeff Stanton and Yamaha’s Damon Bradshaw were ready to get after one another. Stanton badly wanted his title back, and Bradshaw wanted to show that 1991 was just one of those years where injuries and bad races pile up on you. Instead, it was Kawasaki’s new signee Mike LaRocco. He held off a late, relentless charge by Stanton to win the twenty-lap main event. Bradshaw would finish fourth, Bayle sixth. Here’s the main event on YouTube.
In the 125 class, Suzuki debuted their new 1-2 punch, having hired Brian Swink away from the Peak Anti-Freeze/Pro Circuit Honda team, and added Georgia prodigy Ezra Lusk. They battled back and forth before the older Swink pulled away from 16-year-old Lusk.
Bradshaw got on the board next with a win in the Houston Astrodome, and after dispatching Kawasaki’s Jeff Matiasevich on the first lap, Bradshaw took off with the win. Suzuki’s Guy Cooper tied his career best with a second-place main event finish, with Bayle coming from dead last to score third at the finish, one better than Stanton.
Swink was again the winner in the 125 class, which was an East-West race. Rounding out the podium was DGY Yamaha’s Doug Henry and West Region #1 Jeremy McGrath. Henry seemed to be ready to win, only to go off the track and get banners caught up in his rear wheel. You can watch both mains here.
Bradshaw made it to in a row with a win at the Anaheim SX in front of 63,000 fans, then extended it to three straight with a win at the Seattle Kingdome one week later. And then he ran his streak to four in a row on the Brian Lunniss-tuned white Yamaha YZ250 when he won at San Diego. By that point Bradshaw had a 20-point lead over Stanton, with Bayle one more point back. Here’s the San Diego main.
“It’s just racing, you can’t win every one,” shrugged Bayle when Cycle News’ Nate Rauba asked him how it felt to finish third for the third time in five events. Bayle was also asked about the chorus of boos that greeted him at both Anaheim and San Diego. “It’s better to feel that everyone is with you, but it’s no big deal,” said JMB. “I just adapt and do what I have to, not think about them.”
McGrath would win the 125 class when the series went back out west, and keep winning: Anaheim, Seattle, Las Vegas.
After a week off, the series traveled across the country to Atlanta, and this time Bayle seemed to wake up—he pulled the holeshot to lead for the first time in 1992. Bradshaw was back in fifth, which gave JMB a chance to sneak away, but Bradshaw passed his way to the front quickly. Motivated by his legion of fans at Fulton County Stadium, it took Bradshaw about six laps to run down Bayle and notch his fifth straight win. Bayle finished second with LaRocco third. Stanton continued to struggle to find the pace and finished fifth. Here’s Atlanta.
Watch the highlights at the 4:15 mark and you will see Jean-Michel actually trying to bail out of the lead, slowing down, riding standing up, and coasting in the turns—he surrenders the lead to Bradshaw, leading TV color commentator Larry Maiers to suggest that “he doesn’t want to lead the race” and that “I think Bayle let him by.” He obviously did.
The 125 win was back in the hands of Swink on the #1 Suzuki, with Henry second and New Jersey’s favorite son Barry Cartsen third.
When the series went outdoors for both the Gatorback National and then the Daytona Supercross, Stanton seemed to wake up all of the sudden. He won both races—Daytona for the fourth straight time—battling past Bradshaw to keep his Daytona streak alive while ending Damon’s five-race SX tear. Bayle finished a lonely third. Here’s Daytona’s 250 main event.
Stanton’s win seemed to also wake up Bayle, who went to the next round at Charlotte—Bradshaw’s hometown race—and rode like his old self. He passed three Jeffs (Stanton, Matiasevich, and Ward) including Stanton and Matiasevich at the same time. You can see it at the 1:10 mark here.
Bradshaw had run into his teammate Jeff Emig and crashed early in the race; then he had to claw his way forward to sixth. Even with three straight losses, Damon held a 16-point lead after Charlotte, which was the halfway point in the sixteen-race series.
Stanton got back on the scoreboard with a win at the old Hoosierdome in Indianapolis, but that wasn’t the biggest news of the night. Instead, it was Bradshaw’s horrific crash on the twelfth lap while right behind Stanton, knocking himself out of the race and losing the points lead in one bad moment. Check it out around the 47:00 mark.
DGY Yamaha’s Jimmy Button would win the 125 class at Charlotte, his first-ever win as a professional. One week later in Indianapolis he would win again.
The next round in St. Petersburg was the strangest yet. After sitting back and watching Stanton battle with Bradshaw and Cooper, something seemed to click inside of JMB, and he passed all three within a couple of stretches of the track. It’s classic Bayle, and it was frustrating everyone else on the track in the press box.
Watch Bayle go from fourth to first with a couple of flicks of his wrist at the 49:00 mark.
Pontiac was next, and Bradshaw got himself sorted quickly and back up front, sweeping both nights of the last doubleheader left in supercross, just like Bob Hannah had done in the seventies when Yamahas were still yellow. In winning Bradshaw jumped right back into the points lead, and now had a six-point gap on Stanton after the Silverdome, with Bayle—interested or not—just one more point behind. Here’s the Pontiac race.
And by this point the 125 East Region was over, as Swink kept on winning.
Jean-Michel Bayle would win what turned out to be his sixteenth and final AMA Supercross win at Las Vegas.
At the 6:30 mark you will see the moment where Bradshaw seemed to take his eye off of the big picture and instead reams his rival Jeff “Chick” Matiasevich. As Dave Despain says later, it’s symbolic. At the end of the race Bayle laps ninth-place Bradshaw, and Bradshaw dropped 11 points to Stanton. He was also fined $500 by the AMA’s Roy Janson.
After winning the High Point National over Bayle, it was back to supercross. The next two races—Dallas and San Jose—also both went to Bradshaw, giving him a record nine wins in the series. That would later turn out to be a dubious record, as no one with nine wins ever lost a championship like this. After San Jose he had a 6-point lead on Stanton with just one race to go, the Los Angeles Coliseum. Bayle was by now out of the title picture, as he crashed at San Jose and finished ninth. It was down #2 and #4.
The Los Angeles finale was just plain bizarre. It took place a month after the next-to-last round as a result of the Los Angeles riots that followed the Rodney King beating. The Coliseum is not exactly in the nicest neighborhood in Los Angeles, and there was concern that the riders, fans, and teams would not be safe. When they did finally run the race on July 11, it was held in the middle of the day—no one wanted to be there after dark.
Here’s a personal memory from that day: As I was pulling into the pits in my rental car, I saw Jeff Stanton jogging up the street. He had gone down into some of the riot areas just to check it out, and he didn’t seem like he was worried about a thing. When he saw me he jogged over and stopped and showed me something he had picked up right outside the pits: a bullet casing!
The race was memorable for the simple fact that Bradshaw just couldn’t move forward. He seemed lost out on the track, and as Stanton raced away without a care in the world, Bradshaw could barely hold off his younger teammate Jeff Emig, who had orders not to pass him. That led to one of the strangest moments of all: Towards the end Bayle actually slowed down in fourth-place in an attempt to let Bradshaw pass him, and Damon in turn had Emig just riding behind him, not jumping what he didn’t jump, not going past as he bounced through the whoops. It was a truly surreal supercross moment. With Stanton winning, Bradshaw needed to finish third or better to hold on to his 6-point lead. He couldn’t even get up the speed to pass Bayle, who was going out of his way to not help his Honda teammate Stanton—their relationship had soured to the point where Bayle seemingly didn’t want Stanton to win the title (and the same thing would happen later in the 500 Budds Creek National).
You can find the bizarre Los Angeles race here, in three parts, with Dave Despain in the booth and Bob Hannah and Art Eckman as the pit reporters.
Incredibly, Stanton would later credit Bayle for his 1992 success against Bradshaw: “Looking back, analyzing that year , I let him get into my head. After that I told myself that I would never worry about the other guy, and when 1992 started I didn’t, even when Damon was winning everything. Bayle taught me to just go out and race the race and not worry about anyone else. I ended up winning two more championships in ’92 [SX and 250 MX)] as a result of what happened in 1991.”
And if you’ve read this far, here’s a bonus: A short clip of the last-ever battle between the by-now-bitter rivals Stanton and Bayle, at the late-fall Bercy Supercross, which was effectively JMB’s farewell-to-motocross race (and look for a brief cameo appearance by Jeremy McGrath, the man who will be king.)
1992 AMA/Camel Supercross Championship
- Jeff Stanton Honda 331
- Damon Bradshaw Yamaha 328
- Jean-Michel Bayle Honda 320
- Mike Kiedrowski Kawasaki 262
- Guy Cooper Suzuki 251
- Mike LaRocco Kawasaki 200
- Larry Ward Suzuki 192
- Jeff Matiasevich 170
- Doug Dubach Yamaha 157
- Jeff Emig Yamaha 150
125 East Region
- Brian Swink Suzuki 217
- Jimmy Button Yamaha 166
- Doug Henry Yamaha 154
- Chad Pederson Honda 142
- Ezra Lusk Suzuki 128
125 West Region
- Jeremy McGrath Honda 195
- Buddy Antunez Honda 149
- Tyson Vohland Yamaha 118
- Phil Lawrence Suzuki 106
- Jimmy Gaddis Suzuki 88