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Suzuki GP 125

The 1976 125 Nationals were now into the third year of A little history about the 125 will help to understand how the 125 National series came to be it did. Marty Smith won the series in 1974 and Honda THOUSANDS of motorcycles because of it.

dominated that series factory riders Marty Bruce McDougal, Chuck and Mickey Boone finishing Think about this. One has their entire team everybody else and dominate so

This is the only time one team has done this. Team Manager Dennis found that 1974 by going to local CMC races in and picking the three fastest Mickey Boone was recommended by a Honda dealer in North and had done well at the 1973 125 Grand-Prix in St.

Louis Missouri. I Jimmy Ellis and Tim Hart won a round of the 1974 series, but due to competing in the 250 Nationals on the same day as of the 125 races and Tim Hart breaking his at Hangtown, they did not finish in that series.

One thing became obvious in the first 125 series and continued for years, was the of the California riders and particularly the So. riders. A quick look at the top ten in the 125 from 1974 through the reflects this dominance.

made So. Cal. such a hot bed of 125 Lifestyle, weather, high and entrepreneurial spirits are just of the circumstances.

The popularity of mini in the 1960’s was a big part as was the huge of city folk who visited and in the desert of South Eastern Literally ten’s of thousands of rode their mini in the fields or in the desert of Southern Motocross took off in California in the

By the early 1970’s, many of early converts to motocross tuning the 125 and all those kids who mini bikes in the 1960’s, now teenagers and buying those

E.C. Birt and his prodigy Emler were some of the tuners of merit. When in 1973 and then Yamaha and in 1974 and 1975 got serious building competitive 125 motocross the number of 125 tuners grew There were so many sold, that all of the tuners had of work and riders had sponsorships.

The of the So. Cal. scene grew of it and there were so many that you could race through Sunday. You also had than one choice of where to and which club to ride on many of those day and night

CMC was the club with the most the most money races and the most riders. In 1974 and you could expect to see all of these caliber riders on the starting of the 125 Pro Class at a CMC race: Marty Bob Hannah, Mike Bell, LaPorte, Tim Hart, Tommy Broc Glover, Danny Bruce McDougal, Chuck Ron Turner, Me, Jeff Jenning’s and a lot of guys whom you never of but were really, really

The 1974 Nationals were a National version of the So. Cal. 125

When the 1975 season place, Marty Smith and totally dominated the season both moto’s at the final six for what was a long standing of 12 moto wins in a row. Tim on a Yamaha won the Hangtown National but not match Smith’s speed at the six rounds and in fact, was surpassed in by Danny Turner on the TM Honda but on for second. Despite this, let Tim go and also Bruce McDougal. hired Danny Turner and outside of So.

Cal.) Bob Hannah.

I had seen Bob Hannah race at all until I saw him on a Husky in early at Saddleback running in the 250 Pro top five. He was to say the least and how he stayed attached to bike was a mystery. He just in the breeze behind the handlebars. said, he did not crash much this time or in his Pro career. riders with fluid and styles, crashed more Hannah.

His break came when introduced their new RM125’s at one day in early ’75. They had twenty of them and offered to any Pro who wanted to try. Only of the pack Pro’s and riders who rode 250’s stepped up.

It was a CMC purse day so there were 40 125 Pro’s. Bob Hannah rode one of the and got third in the 125 Pro class. Suzuki made him a test rider and he two classes every Sunday 1975 on the local scene. He did a Yamaha at the final two 125 Nationals for DG, well at San Antonio and passing out in the at New Orleans.

How Suzuki let him go to Yamaha for is a mystery.

Marty Smith had so popular winning those two Championships that Honda was pretty good going the 1976 season. Smith had done well in the 1975 500 series against the best in the Honda, with new manager Mulligan, was feeling so good didn’t even hire a 125 for Smith. They had hoped Honda privateers would be enough.

Myself, Broc Don Kudalski and Steve Wise into the season, would to help hold up the Honda by proxi. As you know, Honda to have Smith compete in the 125 Nationals and the European based 125 A pretty tall order.

Suzuki lost Hannah, hired two riders unknown of California to team up with Grossi. There names Danny LaPorte and Jeff (Mike Bell’s cousin by the The Tune Up shops got serious for the 125 Nationals for the first time DG, FMF, and TM were noteworthy.

with all these established and new coming on the National scene, knew that Marty would kill ’em all in the season. Not believing the general motivated us all.

For 1976, the Hangtown course in Plymouth again hosted the opening of the season. Hangtown has been at the current location since The original course was great. It has sand and is fast and rough.

It is a lot the old Southwick layout. A quick In 1974 Hangtown hosted the 250 and 500 National on one day. The 125 class did 3 20 + 2 lap motos too.

It was exciting at in 1976 for the 125’s. A lot of riders National experience and a bunch of new Everybody expected a lot from Turner who had a new Yamaha factory and he hailed from nearby (Hangtown was the historic name of and it was in the gold mining days so many dudes got hung and that’s how this race got name.

Of course Danny was with Bob Hannah who a lot of folks had heard of since he had beaten Stackable at the 1976 Florida Series. If you can beat Stackable in the sand, you could do well at The in the know folks knew he be fast.

Suzuki had moved Grossi down to the 125 class. He had down to the final race for the 500 National title and had won a 500 National year. He had also won the 250 National at Hangtown in 1974 for Honda breaking his leg later in that Everybody from California Danny LaPorte and Jeff who were the two new Suzuki riders.

would all be tough. The 1976 round was also the first any of us had seen a kid named Danny He showed up on a KTM 125 and held that of … WIDE OPEN using the entire width of the

If the course was 2 miles long, he 2 1/2. It was impressive though. I out years later that his and my Nor-Cal cousins from my Dad’s twin sister very good friends and cousin from my Dad’s brother was a maid of honor at his

It’s a small world.

My Jon R who had been Marty Smith’s for ’74 and ’75 was going to for Smith’s assault on the 125 GP’s defending champ Gaston Dave Arnold would be on the mechanic duties on the Nationals for Hangtown was the only race of the that I got Jon R help preparing my for the races. After this he was off to Europe and our house was Fatherless and for the rest of the season.

I got to spend time with my real in Florida for a while during a summer break in the Nationals, so I was to some … male at least part of the time, than just on weekends. I was 17 and in June. Don Emler and FMF had me supplied the fastest stuff and made that things were at the races. I got a bunch of holeshots the season.

I did the complete bike every week between at a friend’s house or at a hotel. I had from Jon R and could do complete but Jon R was the best. I had to take a full at school, test (by myself), practice, prepare for a summer at the Nationals, graduate and do all of the work on my and practice bikes. The woman who is now my made me go to the prom the night a local race.

That’s OK, I got her to me. Four years of dating, 26+ of marriage and three kids now

The first race of the year has expectations for the favorites and hopefulness a lot of rookies. Hangtown ’76 was no As many of you know, Hannah won motos. He was fast and the Yamaha’s fast.

The Suzuki’s were too. LaPorte broke the end off his Suzuki in the second moto I and got knocked out. Smith broke after getting by Hannah in the second moto. knew after the first that they were in and in big trouble after breaking in the moto.

Because of my close with Honda through Jon R and my support from them as as my friendship with Marty I had an acute awareness of the mood Marty during the 1976 The mood that I was most of though, was this instant of the changing of the guard with so people, especially the press. The coverage in Motocross Action, I for example, was very one sided in of Bob Hannah.

Smith gets I think is one quote I remember. could feel that from others I think, his championship attitude never as evidenced by his dominance at the 125 GP at Mid-Ohio. of the results of the rest of the season, was doggedly determined but increasingly as the season progressed.

A lot of the riders very fast, but the entire season was just Smith vs. Period. The rest of us were to place and get or keep a factory

Others have iterated but I folks to just think of the of trying to beat two men in two different on two different continents and both of men would be acknowledged to be among the there has ever been. Bob and Gaston Rahier are legends and Marty attempted has never attempted to this day. He got 2nd in the US and 3rd in the without doing the whole due to conflicts with the Nationals.

Also, traveling in Europe then is nothing like It was before the fall of the Iron and the advent of the European Union a common currency. Every crossing was harder than it is for an to cross into this now.

Every language was and you had to exchange currencies in each Marty told me on numerous how much he hated traveling to and in Europe. He liked the people, but not the He liked to practice on his motorcycle and play with his toys. kept, and I would say still all of his stuff immaculate.

Cars, mini bikes, dune everything. He liked to go out to a good near the race hotels and get a He liked to hang out with his and get ice cream.

That way of living is his and is what seemed to keep him in the frame of mind for racing. You do that in Europe back There were no Baskin and none of his buddies and none to because Marty was on the plane each race.

If it wasn’t to Europe with his then and now wife Nancy, he would gone nuts. Jon R is a good mate, but when you are 19 years you need your girl or buds.

Bob Hannah was, and seems, close to a small of people. He was very intense in his environment and guarded around He could let go with his friends, but group was always small and He was happy and fun but not a lot of people saw it. Bob was one of the toughest competitors ever.

He showed up at ready to race. That was I have to admit that it was to a lot of us So. Cal. riders, that a guy go from racing his first Pro race in early ’75 on a Husky and then dominate the in less than a year.

In his success was just a testament to natural talent, dedication and competitive nature. Bob went to the very fast at every in the 1976 125 Nationals. He and Bill were a good team. had similar personalities and dedication to that gelled well. also had great bikes.

I tell you more about season, but I was trying to beat him and was not his small circle of friends to more about his season. I he did back it down in the second to race at Rio Bravo to wrap up the He was not known for backing it down.

The attempt by former Honda rider Mickey Boone Hannah’s momentum after It also upset the momentum of all the riders and a bunch of factory riders. Every factory had a of checks made out in the amount of a and if their works bike got they would have team riders and support hang around the AMA trailer the claiming period ended.

If the got claimed, we would also a counter claim and try to dilute the of the claimant getting the bike. I every post race the AMA trailer to help Honda. a pain in the ….

Mickey was my friend. I understand why he did it but that mean that I liked it. I had things to do than hang an AMA trailer after the races for any other than to pick up my

By about halfway through the the field had dwindled. Billy got appendicitis and couldn’t finish the My friend Danny Turner had a season and couldn’t seem to get then he had a broken bone and a stomach ailment. Danny and I had good friends the year traveling to a lot of the races together.

Jeff Jennings disappeared and though he was a So. Cal. rider me, I had no idea where he went. LaPorte started to come late in the season as did Steve and Broc Glover.

These each won a moto. Wise won the at Keyser’s Ridge and was always a I had a good time with that year and we got to be lifelong We still talk via.

a couple times a month. In the 80’s his mechanic on the Honda Race team used to at my house in Southern California he was working at the nearby Honda That mechanic, Paul went on to co-found Rock MTB suspension with Steve of Simon’s forks fame.

had been creeping up on the Hannah/Smith as the season progressed as did Glover. You tell that LaPorte and were gaining confidence race. LaPorte won the overall at Rio after Glover won the first and Bob and Marty had championships to win or surrender. won again at New Orleans after Bob and took each other out at the end of the moto. ( I remember Marty after the moto, he asked Bob to get off of my

Apparently Bob was standing on it while to start his bike after the It sounded more like an issue than a Mike thing. Check with Bob and about it though). LaPorte by the two on the ground to win the moto and the overall. He was to win though as he would later in 1977.

LaPorte’s riding in the fall of ’76 under the of Roger DeCoster and their looked identical for a while. LaPorte, Glover and I were the behind the Hannah/Smith show. Of the top in 1976, only Wise was not CMC racing in So. Cal.

Don Kudalski out of was a surprise. He was known before year as Rokon Don. He was the guy I can remember who did anything on an automatic Rokon.

He got on a Honda by the summer of and went on to beat Hannah at the track of Midland Michigan. He hauled in the sand. We were but the 1975 Honda Team Dennis Blanton had told me the start of the 1976 season there would be a works 1 Honda 250 available for the Trans-AM

I knew that if I wanted to that bike, I needed to do in the National series. Kudalski was a to me to get that bike. I put a number on his He was my friend, I liked him and I hung out him. I had to beat him.

there were no more tracks after Michigan.

I the last three Nationals to San Rio Bravo and New Orleans with Arnold, Marty Smith’s in a rented Leaseway Ford van a 16 foot trailer. Remember the truck had gotten crashed at and I had refused to drive with the that FMF hired to drive the FMF I had blown up the FMF truck early in the on the way to Red-Bud Michigan and Emler, rightly so, thought it better to someone over 18 to be responsible for the

When the dude drove to from Southern California in 50 by himself, I knew there was a issue. To quote a music written by Kris Kristoferson me weed, whites and wiiiiine. and me a sign seemed to be his motto. I was to ….

Anyway, Dave and I had a good and were good traveling Dave was always a cool guy and to get along with. He and Marty a good match too. had easy going ways and personalities. During our travels last three weeks, as it doubtful with each week that Hannah surrender enough points to let back into the hunt and seemed to resign himself to finality.

A funny incident at the hotel in New Orleans during the before the last race. A black kid came up to us in the parking lot we were working on the bikes. He up and says, Ha’ youuuu a blaaaaack bike? I was smimmin’ in poo’ at the hotee and I come out da an’ my blaaack bike is We told the kid we saw the hotel manager a bike around the corner and it have been his.

He this and then hung and checked out what we were In those days, many of the country had never heard of MX. He a bunch of questions and was a cool kid. He did eventually got his bike

For years Dave and I would each other with a yo’ seeen a blaaack instead of a How ya’ doin’? I you he will laugh when he this.

In retrospect, the 1976 125 was a great season. The top 5 guys are all in the MXA of fame. Has that ever since?

Maybe in the old 250 Supercross where everybody rode and there wasn’t a 125/Lites SX

I still speak with top 5 guys every so often. was very helpful to me in 1974 he came to Honda. He would me to the races around California in a while and let me stay and practice him. He taught me how to practice. open for a long time on a track.

I think that was one of the best cornering riders ever lived and had a jumping years ahead of his time. He the bike level all the time on surface even with 8 inches of travel. Bob is, I think, one of the self motivated competitors in the of the sport.

He was fast because of his and balance. He was not a pretty rider, but his was beautiful in it’s aggressiveness and He would have found a way to Johnson, Stanton, McGrath, and in their primes.

Maybe not all the but they wouldn’t dominate and be forced to hang it out more they did and we all know what then. He rode like does now but without hitting the Danny LaPorte became the US rider to ride as precisely as even before he knew He was very strong too which him to later win a 500 title and a World LaPorte was the first rider I saw the trajectory of the bike off of jumps.

Wise was a great all around He was fast on any surface and that obviously helped him to win in Supercross, 125 250 Nationals and a Road Race He was a bull sometimes but smooth so.

He was also one of the hardest to move out of a I didn’t bother trying. Glover was probably the best mix of style and determination of any rider.

I believe he had the best all around of any rider ever. A kid coming up do well to emulate that Low center of gravity, elbows up but not forward cornering position, a kept close to level to the and curved all the time for protection of

This base position limited the effect of his core on the bike when the bike hit keeping him in control. 6 National and no serious injuries enforce my

I also still value the of FMF and Don Emler. My first job was welding for FMF. I got pretty good and to make a pipe from and to any shape. I couldn’t do it now without a lot of Everybody at FMF was so helpful and cared my finishes.

I made many from my association with Bob Oliver who worked with Johnson and myself is still at and Cliff Lett who also with Ron Lechien and Rick at Yamaha and then to Associated R/C where he won a National Championship. I feel a sense of pride to day, when I see an FMF sticker on the of a truck or an FMF logo on a T-Shirt kid is wearing.

Just last I started a conversation with a at a soccer game who had an FMF umbrella. I was to be in the 2006 FMF calendar (Twice). One of the is with LaPorte at the 125 GP in 1976.

It is to see FMF still so strong in the industry Most of all for me though, 1976 was a year in my life because of my In 1970, my mom, divorced two boys, sold her car, herself a dirt bike and a and would take me and my brother on weekends with other No baseball, no piano lessons, no of what if I get hurt or my kids get Just fun in the mountains and the desert.

She not let me race but occasionally and would not let me hop up my It took me years to understand the of her reasoning. In hindsight, it made my We had fun and met great people riding for the 3 years including Dennis of Team Honda.

He is the guy who hired Smith. He bought me my first race bike in 1973 and me racing around So. Cal. A after that is also my mom and Jon R got hitched.

Fast forward to the season. My mom lets me go to the Red Bud and Midland 125 Nationals with a friend in my I am 17 years old. I got to the rest of the with FMF or with Dave Jon R was not at any of the races.

But even still. How mothers would not have attacks with just the of sending their kids across the country for months at a No Cell Phones. Redneck in every podunk town who like hippies then and didn’t like long haired California punks them Dirt Bikes.

She let me go, and I am with much trepidation, just a gas card and handful of Checks. I lived on my winnings I learned responsibility, money conflict avoidance, technical navigation, and how to sustain a relationship my girl from far away. I did OK and after Jon R got home from we went after the 250 Trans Am and I earned my factory ride Honda.

My mom gave me the gift of to achieve instead of the protection failure that often in a lifetime of mediocrity. 1976 was the it all came together and set the course for the of my life.

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