Photography by Kit Palmer
Nostalgia ran rampant today at the pre-Anaheim II Supercross press conference as the series prepares to celebrate its 40th anniversary on Saturday night. To help in the celebration of 40 years, 22 past champions will be present at Angel Stadium and several of them were there today for the press conference.

Among those in attendance was the first-ever AMA Supercross Champion Pierre Karsmakers and he was joined by the likes of Jeff Ward, Johnny O’Mara, Donnie Hansen and Jimmy Ellis with former champion Jeff Emig emceeing the conference. And the former greats were joined by current stars Ryan Dungey and Ken Roczen.

Here are a few snippets from the press conference.

Karsmakers on the growth of Supercross…

“I always felt that way. And I think it will grow more, I think. The Americans are very sportive people and they love the spectacle in it. I always felt that it was going to be big.

Karsmakers on arriving from his native Holland with high expectations…

“I came from Europe with my experience and because I came from Europe to here I had to prove something also. I loved being in America. I loved the atmosphere here and I was treated very well by Yamaha and Honda. That all made the results.”

Karsmakers on today’s trophy girls…

“They’ve changed a lot too. They are a lot better nowadays.”

Karsmakers on then vs. now…

“When I was racing we gave our full 100 percent and I can see now that the racers do the same. So I don’t think there’s much difference really. The only difference is that the bikes are a lot better so they can jump higher and go faster through the berms and everything. Our effort was 100 percent and their effort was 100 percent also. I don’t think there’s any difference really. The tracks are different because the bikes are a lot better. It’s more spectacular now, but at the time for us it was very spectacular also.”

Dungey on his early heroes in the sport…

“When I was first saw it on TV, Jeremy McGrath was the guy who was winning and dominating. As a kid, seeing that and realizing – I rode a little 50 at the time and I think I was 9 – to see that these guys could make a living at it, I was like ‘Wow.’ That’s what I shot for. McGrath had to be it.”

O’Mara on training Dungey a few years ago…

“I really enjoyed working with that guy and I’m super proud of what he’s been able to accomplish. I still know he’s got more in the tank and he’s already in the hunt for the championship again. I got to know him a lot and he’s a hard worker. The biggest part of his program is definitely his work ethic and being consistent week in and week out. All the champions… you have to respect them because they’ve all gone through these wars and that’s why I look up to anybody who has been a past champion. You know what they’ve been through. It’s pretty gnarly.”

Ward on his first Supercross…

“I think I was around 16 in the big class… here at Anaheim actually it was my first Supercross on a Yamaha. I was a whopping 4’ 11” and 95 pounds. So you might say it was a little difficult and I was a little awe-struck being with my heroes on the startling line – Marty Smith, Pierre Karsmakers.

Ward on growing up in the mecca of Orange County with his idols…

“I remember going to Pierre’s in Mission Viejo. [Brad] Lackey was there and [Gaylon] Mosier and Tony D. [DiStefano] and [Jimmy] Weinert. I used to ride my bicycle straight from school up to that house and hang out and circle around while they came home from riding. It was pretty cool because I was a little Team Honda rider back then on XRs.”

Hansen on bonus money earned back in the day…

“The year I won Supercross it was $100,000 grand for a championship, $80,000 for the outdoors and I think $10,000 for a win.”

Ward on training with O’Mara...

“I don’t envy Dungey training with Johnny at all because I went with him on some rides back when I thought I was in good shape and he usually kicked my butt on a lot of stuff.”

Ellis, who now lives in Australia, on the last time he was at a Supercross…

“I live in Australia now, WA… West Australia. And it’s a long way from here. The last time I was at a Supercross… I can’t even remember it. Over there we have Supercross as well, but as far as being of this standard with this category of riders, the best riders in the world, I think it was probably 1981, ’82. I’m really looking forward to this Saturday to see what these guys put on for a show. Compared to what we used to have and now… there is no comparison. It’s absolutely amazing what these guys do now.”

Hansen on his big win at the Anaheim Supercross in 1982…

“I think of it every once in awhile. My career wasn’t that long but the amount of races… I can tell you what they were and how many laps I led in each race – because it was short-lived. Johnny [O’Mara] and I lived together in Canyon Country and we trained together and we rode together and we pushed each other. In the off-season coming off of ’81, I think Johnny signed in ’81 and I signed in ’80, but in that off-season we trained, we raced locally and we pushed ourselves to be ready mentally and physically for the first race. As it turned out, I won that first race and Johnny finished third behind Wardy. It fired me up in front of all those people. At that time there were a lot of fast riders, but Johhny and I both knew we could do this.”

O’Mara on that 1982 season…

“My main goal was to be the best on the 125 and I achieved that. Then I shifted everything to try and be an all-around Supercross guy. I had good technique and skills to do that. Donnie was a year or two older and I was following in his footsteps. Being on the biggest team, Team Honda, back then was unreal. David Bailey was around then too and all three of us were almost like brothers we were so close. David won the next year and then I won it the following year. It was a pretty strong time for Team Honda. We just sent the trend in the early ‘80s.”

Ellis on advice for the young guys…

“The one piece of advice for these guys is that it’s such a short-lived career. His [Hansen] career was short, mine was short, Pierre’s [Karsmakers] was short. We all still ride and I race, not every weekend, but certainly a lot of weekends. Pierre still rides and he’s 67. That’s a tribute all by itself. I think these guys here, the younger and new generation… it’s a very short career to make the money that you can, do the training. I think if you look at the stats it’s probably only a five or six year career, a seven-year career. I don’t know anybody who has gone 10 years and be a champion for 10 years. So pay attention because it is a short career. Make the best you can out of it.”

Ward on riding bikes that weren’t always the best…

“There were quite a few years when the Kawi wasn’t always the best bike. I was the only Kawasaki on the track quite a few times. Back then with the works bikes, everything was made in Japan and sent over. We had a lot of bikes and triple clamps breaking in half and we were the test riders. Scientifically it was built light and we didn’t know how strong light would be until we rode it and how long it would last. Nobody had those answers until things broke off. There were plenty of times we had triple clamps break. We had the Uni-Trak on the Kawasaki and it would break during motos… so its definitely changed. Now they know what a metal will take. We had a big range of things that were thrown at us to make the bikes better every year.”

Cycle News Magazine

Open This Issue For Reading

AMA Supercross Photos

AMA Supercross News

Paul Carruthers | Editor

Paul Carruthers took over as the editor of Cycle News in 1993 after serving as associate editor since starting his career at the publication in 1985. Carruthers has covered every facet of the sport in his near-28-year tenure at America’s Daily Motorcycle News Source.

Comments