“I only had one year of racing where I really did my thing,” Donnie “Holeshot” Hansen recalls, looking back to a glorious time for him in the early 1980s. “It just all seemed to happen for me at once. That’s when I won my first race, as well as my last race. There was that one year for me, then it was all over.”
Hansen’s abbreviated time at the top—all 350 days of it—started on September 13, 1981, when he and fellow Team USA riders Danny LaPorte, Johnny O’Mara, and Chuck Sun became the first Americans to win the Motocross des Nations (for 250cc bikes) in West Germany. One week later, the quartet added the FIM Trophee des Nations title (500cc) to close out the year. When ’82 started, Hansen stayed hot, adding first wins in AMA Supercross and AMA 250 Pro Motocross, followed by both series titles.
And then on August 29, he dominated the ’82 Swedish 250cc Grand Prix finale. His last three major races had seen him win a 250 MX title, the AMA Supercross title, and the last Grand Prix of summer. Four days later, Donnie Hansen’s career was finished.
Donnie Hansen was born in March of 1959 in Simi Valley, California. While attending Royal High School, he first took an interest in motorcycle racing, riding both TT and motocross races on a Maico motorcycles before transitioning over to a one-bike Yamaha support ride, and then a better offer from Canadian brand Can-Am.