Roger DeCoster did it when he won the Luxemburg Grand Prix in 1980. Ricky Carmichael did it when he helped push Team USA to victory at the 2007 Motocross of Nations at Budds Creek, Maryland. What these two men did—two of the greatest motocross riders who have ever lived—was line up for the final professional race of their storied careers, ride to victory, and upon climbing atop the podium to receive their awards, retired from the sport, never again to suit up and race again against the world’s best.
While a bit less documented as well as a bit more unsung, Broc Glover—another of the greatest racers to kick a motocross bike to life—also managed to go out and win the very last race he competed in. However, what makes Glover’s accomplishment ever more pronounced and downright amazing is that he actually managed to walk off a final race winner twice.
In the span of one year, on two separate continents, on two different white motorcycles—both with two individual number plates graced with double digit numbers—in a stadium on a supercross track and on an ancient Grand Prix motocross track etched out of a farmer’s field, Broc Glover won the final race on two separate occasions. Yes, the two equations had radically different variables, but the end result came out the same: #1.
Sound a bit odd, if not impossible? Please hang with us.
In a 13-year career, the rider known as the “Golden Boy” won six AMA National Motocross Championships (a record that stood for 20 years until Ricky Carmichael broke it in 2002) for Team Yamaha and won a combined total of 45 AMA National and Supercross wins. He also rode on the victorious 1983 Motocross and Trophee des Nations team, as well as the 1984 Trophee des Nations team that won in Sweden.
Glover’s illustrious career, while he was not really cognizant of it at the time, began to slowly fade to dark in 1985 when, after he won that year’s 500cc National Championship, he broke his leg. At least as far as motocross goes, injury recovery and rehabilitation practices were still in the dark ages three decades ago. This led to a long and frustrating fight for Glover to get back into shape, back onto the starting gate, and back to the pinnacle of the sport he was so very accustomed to.
“I was just coming off of a broken tibia—a broken leg,” explained Glover of how the only serious injury of his career placed him on the injured reserve list. “It was frustrating. My doctor said to me, ‘A long bone fracture for impact sports takes a year to heal’ After five or six weeks, I was going crazy.”
With a homemade cast, complete with crude hinges to allow his knee to bend, Glover cycled and swam in a desperate attempt to stay in fighting trim. While he was doing so, perhaps conspicuous by his absence, Team Yamaha began wondering what Glover was up to.
“I kept getting calls from Larry Griffis [Team Yamaha racing chief] asking, ‘When are you going to come back?’ “Well, I said, ‘I’m doing the best I can. All I know is that I’m staying in shape.’”
“I don’t know what it was,” Glover explained of the strain he began to feel between himself and Yamaha, a brand he had been a part of for a decade. “At that point I guess they were getting tired of writing big checks to me or something. You could tell like they were almost acting like I was milking this injury. That was so unlike me! I mean, if you think about my career, I mean I wasn’t quite Ricky Carmichael, but I was damn close. I rode nine years with Yamaha and probably never really did much worse than a third in the championship and never really missed any time with them. It was surprising to me that they thought I was screwing around. The whole point of this is that you could tell there was already tension building with Yamaha. By the time I got through the summer and got back riding, it was really late. The 1987 season was over so I started racing local races to get back into riding shape.”
And while he was doing so, Glover was, basically doing it all by himself.
“At that same time Yamaha wasn’t really going, ‘Hey, we’re going to build you a practice bike and get you back in shape,’” said Glover. “There was really no support, per se, from Yamaha at all. Yamaha was out testing with Micky Dymond. He was going to be their new boy wonder. They gave him all the new upside-down forks—I didn’t even know we had upside down forks. I mean there was a lot of crap going on behind the scenes that I wasn’t aware of. I was just coming back from injury. And to Yamaha’s defense, hey, maybe the most important thing to them was to focus on Micky. Micky was healthy and I wasn’t.
“That being the case, I just went out on my own and started racing local races. I was by myself. No mechanic. Nothing. I had fuel, a toolbox, a bike, and that was it.”
Left to his own devices, Glover hooked up with a fledgling young hop-up ace named Mitch Payton who was slowly gaining a reputation as a mechanical ace with a Dremel tool and an arc welder. The two worked and tested together and Payton helped Glover with practice equipment. As time went by, Glover found himself becoming very fond of Payton’s Yamaha modifications.
Broc Glover made it back to compete in the 1988 Supercross Series (which kicked off on Houston on February 6). Glover consistently placed in the top 10 on the stadium tour, all of it leading up to what would be the last race of his career: Round 10 of the AMA Supercross/MTEG Super Crown of Stadium MX Finale in ancient Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Saturday, June 18, 1988.
Disgusted with his factory YZ250 motorcycle, that due to its high-compression engine, just didn’t work in harmony with Glover’s jet-smooth riding style and now totally at odds with Yamaha, Glover reflected on just what exactly went down that day.
“At that point, on that day in L.A., the final year of my contract was over and they weren’t even talking to me. They weren’t even acting like, ‘Maybe we can come to an agreement next year.’ There was nothing. There wasn’t even an official, ‘Hey Broc, you know what? Thanks for the long 13 years with us.’ There wasn’t any of that shit. Nobody said anything to me.
“We got to the Coliseum and this was the situation: It was the final race and I finally convinced them, I said, ‘Look, man. I’m not making a bunch of excuses here. All I’m telling you is that the bike isn’t working. I don’t feel good on this bike. I’m always getting way too tired on this bike and I know I’m in shape. So when it was all said and done and as the race grew near, my philosophy was, ‘Hey, what we’ve done for the other 10 or so races hasn’t worked, so what the hell do we got to lose? I want to ride the Pro Circuit bike.’ They weren’t too happy with that.”
With 41,892 fans up in the cramped Coliseum stands (this writer being one of them) Broc Glover’s final race as an AMA professional rider started at exactly 7:30 p.m. A few clicks up through the gearboxes of all involved, all hell immediately broke loose in the first turn when Honda’s Guy Cooper hit the dirt, taking teammates Rick Johnson—the recently crowned 1988 Supercross Champion—Georg Holland, Jeff Leisk as well as six or seven other riders with him. Yamaha’s Doug Dubach and Glover barley missed the fray, the former grabbing the holeshot with Glover chasing his white rear fender. During the fourth lap, Glover and the white #44 Yamaha motored up on Dubach, stole the lead and took off.
“Once I caught up to Dubach, he didn’t hold me back and I got him right away. From then on he just held his own and I just did what I needed to do,” said Glover.
When the checkered flag was unfurled and waved, Glover was the first to meet it and flew across the finish line with the victory.
Exclaimed Glover in the June 29, 1988, issue of Cycle News: “This is the happiest I can remember being in my whole life. It’s been a long time and a lot of hard work, and I’m really happy for Yamaha. I think of all the races to win, Los Angeles is the one. My whole family is here tonight. For me this is the biggest race of the year—I’m delighted.”
Beaming and with the winning trophy in hand (he had not had his hands on one since 1985), Glover happily skipped his way through the darkened Coliseum pits and back to his race team. Shockingly, nobody was there!
“Everybody was gone except my mechanic, Mike Chavez, who was standing there with the bike in the box van with the engine running! We’re in Downtown L.A in Watts and I’m by myself and I started walking out of the pits and Mitch Payton was right there and said, ‘Dude, where are you going?’ I remember saying, “I’m just home.’ He asked, ‘To San Diego?’ And I said, ‘Yeah.’ He goes, ‘No you’re not! You’re going out with us! We’re going somewhere!’
“We ended up driving all around L.A. and we ended up in Norwalk, of all places,” laughed Glover. “It was the only place we could find that had a restaurant open that late. We had very fun time. They sent somebody out to get beer and it was a classic Mitch Payton. It was hilarious—including standing in the parking lot talking to some homeless guy for about 58 million minutes.”
And so it was. Broc Glover had won his last race in the U.S. Ultimately, what was one of the happiest, most fulfilling victories of his career was tinged with no small amount of disappointment if not downright despair with how it had all gone to hell with Yamaha.
“Was it over with Yamaha? Pretty much, yeah. Honestly that was kind of over. I swear honest to God I think it was possibly a couple years before I talked to them again. At that point I was done racing over here. I didn’t go to any races and I took off and went to Europe.”
Kraftfahrzeug Trunkenpolz Mattighofen, better known as KTM, was founded in 1934. In 1953, the Austrian firm began manufacturing motorcycles and the race was on. Russian rider Guennady Moiseev won KTM its first FIM World Motocross Championship in 1974, and in subsequent years, the brand has ridden out highs and lows. In the 1980s, KTM was trying to find some firm footing.
During the winter of 1988, Broc Glover struck a deal to ride the FIM 250cc Motocross World Championship with KTM. So, just how did this relationship come about?
“Well, that’s a dang good question and why!” Glover laughed out loud. “Most people might not know that KTM was once in El Cajon (where Glover grew up). KTM needed—pretty badly—to tap into the largest market in the world, which was the United States. Because of that they really, really wanted to be able make a motorcycle that they could sell in the United States.
“At that same time, I was trying to get some help to go to Europe, because in my mind when I was a kid and growing up I dreamed and read and lived and saw all those magazines and all that stuff over there about Europe—the GPs and all the pageantry and all the colors and all the national flags and all of that stuff, man. You know what it’s like over there. It’s pretty bitchin. So I’m staring at my life at 28 years old and thinking, ‘Okay, what the hell am I going to do? Am I going to retire or should I go try to do something else?’ I tried real hard to go with Yamaha in Europe and got no help at all. They were already set with their riders. I looked at my options and there weren’t any.
“So Selvaraj [Narayana] of KTM North America came up to me and said: ‘Hey, we really want to tap into this market. They’re all excited over in Europe right now. They want to build a WHOLE new motorcycle and they have all this open-mindedness and they really, really, really, really want to build a bike the American market will accept, and we would love to have you help us make that bike and design that that thing and help us.’ I was like, ’Okay, let’s talk.’”
And with that, Glover was on a 747 to Austria to scope things out and attempt to get a read on KTM’s aspirations, goals, and more than anything, their supposed soon-to-be new World Class motocross bike.
“I was pretty into the mechanical side of things, too, you know? To me that was always part of the coolness of the job: The works parts and bikes and new suspensions and all the bitchin new trick shit on your bike. I always liked that. So that all being said, I had an option and thought, ‘Well, why not? This is my last chance to really do this and go over to Europe and race GPs.’ So I flew over there and met everybody and saw all the blueprints of the bike and it looked like they had everything pretty good so I agreed to do it.”
The 1989 250cc World Championship was set to open April 2, 1989, with the Grand Prix of Yugoslavia at Jastearsko. Fortuitously for KTM the race never commenced due to civil unrest in the nation state.
“The first was cancelled due to the Civil War breaking out in Yugoslavia,” reflected Glover. “That was a godsend because there was no running motorcycle the week of the first GP. We would have been out of luck and would have missed the first GP. With that all said, I struggled around through the year. I actually kept a journal where I wrote down all the struggles we had during the year.
Interestingly, one of the KTM team’s finest moments came early in the season at the Grand Prix of Austria at Sittendorf where Glover raced to 8-2 moto scores for a brilliant second overall placing. However, things would all go south from there. Glover and the KTM, haunted by mechanical gremlins, a path of scattered, broken parts, and a pronounced lack of horsepower, hobbled through the rest of the 11-round world tour until the globetrotting GP circus put stakes in the ground at the final GP of the year at the Angreau circuit in Belgium.
“Every race we went to that year, I was new to the track,” said Glover. “I had never been to any of the tracks. However, I had been to Angreau. It was another real technical, off-camber, slippery track; it was like that Austrian track in that it wasn’t just a horsepower track. Your suspension didn’t really matter that much and your horsepower didn’t matter that much. In my opinion, the rider came into effect a lot more. I was excited to be there because Angreau was the first time I’d ever raced the Motocross des Nations back in 1983. That was on 500cc bikes and in the first moto I got the holeshot and won. I loved the track. It was a naturally laid out track in a farmer’s field.
“The bike ran good. In the first moto I was having a good run and I came around a corner—and it was the same corner that if you’ve ever heard me tell the story about the Belgians throwing apples at the Americans at the American team at the 1983 Motocross des Nations—called the Apple Tree corner. I was in the top two or three in the moto and I came around the corner and in the middle of the berm was a rope—that’s how they lined the track there, they had small stakes in the ground with ropes—that was so torn that it wrapped up and got stuck in my rear wheel. I could not get the rope out of the rear wheel.”
When the whistle blew and the riders and their bikes were summoned to the Parc Ferme for the final moto of season, did Glover know it was going to be the beginning of the end?
“I certainly knew it was the last GP of my career because I sure as hell wasn’t coming back on that KTM the next year,” he howled.
And like Los Angeles, did he feel like he had one last win left in him? “No, I didn’t think I could win, but I wanted to do good and I was determined to get on the podium at least.”
When all was said and done and Glover crossed the finish line, yet again, he had won the last race he had lined up for.
“For most of the moto, Jean-Michele Bayle was back there and in the last 20 minutes or so I remember I gave everything I possibly could because he was coming,” Glover laughed when asked what he remembered most of the moto win. “He was coming, dude!
“To win it was great,” he said. “It put some icing on the cake. Actually, the best way you can possibly put it was that it put a cherry on top of a turd sundae. What else can you say? They year was up-and-down and up-and-down. I didn’t achieve what I wanted to that year. I think I struggled a lot and the bike struggled a lot. KTM was going through bankruptcy. Was the win satisfying? Yes, it was satisfying. JMB was closing in on me like a junkyard dog, but regardless, the race was 40-minutes long and I was the first guy to cross the finish line, so it was rewarding.”
Today Glover serves as Dunlop’s senior manager of off-road is still a major, highly-respected fixture on the AMA Motocross and Supercross scene. Looking back, the Californian seemed both proud and amused at all the shared variables and ironies of being able to “walk off” a winner twice in the final two races of his career.
“You know it’s kind of funny looking back at that,” he smiled. “You’re right as they were both double digit numbers. They’re both white bikes—you’re right. I never really thought that much of it, but for me to be able to be able to win the last two real pro races was cool. Those were the last two full-field legitimate races—the L.A. Coliseum and Belgium in 1989—and to be able to win them, well yeah, that was cool.”