Danny “Magoo” Chandler Passes

Cycle News Staff | May 5, 2010

Danny Chandler, the American hero of the 1982 Motocross des Nations, has died. He was 50. Attempts to reach friends and family were so far unsuccessful. Details of his passing are unknown at this time. Chandler has long battled illness related to paralysis.Chandler, known to his legions of motocross fans by his nickname of Magoo, was considered one of the hardest charging riders in the history of motocross racing, a rider who would attempt jumps that most others would never consider. His go-for-broke style was spectacular to watch. With the throttle pinned Magoo won a lot of races, but by his own admission he had more than his share of crashes.Chandler’s list of accomplishments includes numerous national and international motocross victories. His racing career came to a premature end when he was left paralyzed after a crash at the Paris Supercross in December of 1985. Despite his disability, Chandler became a positive influence on thousands of people by giving talks on his life story at schools, hospitals and other assemblies.Of all his racing accomplishments Chandler is perhaps best known for his amazing performances in 1982. He earned perhaps the biggest victory of his career when he won the U.S. 500cc Motocross Grand Prix at Carlsbad, California, in 1982, riding for Honda.Roger DeCoster, Honda’s motocross manager at the time, lauded Chandler for his charisma and rapport with the fans.”The fans just loved him,” said DeCoster in a 2000 interview. “He was very approachable. Even though he never won the championship, his riding style generated a tremendous amount of publicity for the team.”That same season Chandler was part of the American team for the ’82 Trophee and Motocross des Nation international team events. On the smooth and fast racing circuits of Gaildorf, Germany, and Wohlen, Switzerland, Chandler came through and won every moto in both the Trophee des Nations for 250cc bikes in Germany and again a week later in the Motocross des Nations (then for 500cc bikes) in Switzerland. Chandler became the only rider ever to win both motos of both events in the same year. Chandler returned a hero in the eyes of motocross fans everywhere.Chandler proved that he was a champion among champions when he won ABC’s Wide World of Sports’ made-for-television “Superbikers” race in 1982, predecessor to today’s Supermoto. Chandler upset Steve Wise, who had previously dominated the event, and beat other top AMA riders from road racing, dirt track and motocross racing in that special event.It’s fair to say that in 1982 Chandler reached the zenith of his popularity.Chandler was born in Sacramento, California, on October 5, 1959. He was born into a racing family. Growing up in the rural Northern California community of Foresthill, in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, some of Chandler’s earliest memories were of watching his father race in enduro and scrambles races. As Chandler likes to put it, he was potty trained at the races. Danny started riding when he was four and got involved in competition by the time he was nine. Racing in the Chandler household wasn’t restricted to the boys either. Both of Chandler’s sisters raced as well.”I always seemed to be riding bigger bikes than other kids my age,” recalled Chandler in a 2000 interview for the Motorcycle Hall of Fame, where he was inducted in 1999. “My first race bike was a Hodaka 100 then I moved up to a CZ 250. I had to have a CZ since that’s what my hero, Brad Lackey, was riding at the time.”By 1976 Chandler turned pro and by 1978 he earned his first AMA National Motocross podium finish, a third at the Trabuco Canyon (Saddleback, California) AMA 125cc National. In 1979 Chandler was signed by Maico, but at that time the German machines were heavy and unreliable compared to the Japanese motocross bikes. Chandler rarely recorded top finishes with Maico, however he began to establish his reputation among fans as an aggressive and somewhat wild rider. Chandler would ride the wheels off the powerful Maico, often making jumps over the heads of his fellow competitors. Crashing was also a frequent occurrence for Chandler. He picked up the nickname “Magoo” from the near-sighted cartoon character that was always running into things. At first, Chandler hated the nickname, but it stuck and fans could be heard trackside chanting “Magoo, Magoo!” when he came past.A solid privateer campaign for Chandler in 1981 earned him a factory ride with Honda.By the mid-1980s Chandler was contesting the World Motocross Championships. He won the 1985 French GP aboard a KTM and was solidly in contention for the world championships before a serious crash in Italy halfway through the season ended any chance he had to earn a world title.Kawasaki had signed Chandler to race in the 1986 World Championships, but in December of 1985 he suffered a paralyzing crash in the Paris Supercross.After the accident, Chandler went through a tough period. Within the span of a few years after the accident, he went through a divorce and then suffered even further when both his parents died within a few years of one another.Spurred on by support from friends and his newfound faith, Chandler worked his way back to a full and busy life. He began to promote mountain-bike races and got involved with DARE, a drug-awareness program geared towards school children. Chandler also started coordinating children’s hospital visits by top motorcycle racers through his International Riders Helping People organization.”In the long run the accident has left me a richer and fuller person,” Chandler said. “Had it not been for that I would just be another guy walking around. Now I have an interesting and compelling story to tell to the kids.”Danny Chandler was inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 1999.As soon as additional information is gathered we will update this post.