A look back at the first Southwick National in 1976.

The last running of the Southwick Outdoor National made us a bit sentimental… Ryan Dungey won the last Motocross National at the famed sandy Motocross 338 Park, but who won the first back in 1976?

By Charles Morey

SOUTHWICK, MASS., JUNE 6 - Pierre Karsmakers ricocheted his new Merle Anderson-tuned red engine RC250 Honda through the choppy sand whoops at Motocross

338 Park to score a double moto victory in the final AMA 250cc National MX Series event. Pierre looked like a winner from the time the Honda set wheel on the course for practice.

"Does the press see this race the same way I do?" a rider asked as practice ended.

"Pierre? " a reporter responded in anticipation of the man's prediction.

"You got it. He looks fast!"

The pre-race picture looked bright indeed for Honda's 500cc GP contestant, but there were several other riders who weren't willing to accept anyone's predictions and Pierre shared some close company on his way to the winner's circle.

First Moto

The first to challenge the Dutchman's right to lead was Yamaha's Bob "Hurricane" Hannah. As the 43-rider moto literally burned off Motocross 338's paved starting line, Pierre tucked in behind Hannah's holeshot. At the completion of lap one, the initial jockeying for position put Hannah on top with Karsmakers tailing the Bill Buchka-tuned monoshocker. Kawasaki's Gary Semics held off Suzuki's Tony DiStefano for third with Husqvarna's Brad Lackey and Kent Howerton rounding out the first wave.

Tony D. made the first change in the parade unintentionally as he slipped down but quickly restarted in seventh after letting Lackey, Howerton and Rick Burgett past.

Karsmakers at first seemed satisfied to pursue Hannah and wait for the younger rider to make an error - not hard to do on the almost one-line soft surfaced track. Then, only eight minutes into the race Pierre pulled up as if to pass. Hannah held on. Brad Lackey in the meanwhile had gotten by Semics and was closing steadily on the leaders. The first three- way skirmish of the afternoon was shaping up.

Tony DiStefano, safely the 1976 250cc National Champion before the race began, was spending his day working out the new Suzuki air forks.

“It's a good day for testing," DiStefano had remarked that morning. With the only possible contender for the Number One plate, Jimmy Weinert, out of action with a broken kneecap, Tony could enjoy a low-pressure day.

Yet, racing is racing, and he couldn't do it slowly when everything's working right, The D, recovering from his second lap get-off was now in sixth and closing on a tight Gary Semics/Kent Howerton duel to make it a second closely-knit threesome.

Things started happening fast near the 15-minute mark as "Bad Brad" attacked Karsmakers and passed for second place. Once past Pierre, Lackey continued toward the front cutting seconds from Hannah's lead with each lap, At the same time, Tony D. found that the new forks were working well enough to get him past both Semics and Howerton and into fourth place.

By the 15-minute mark, lapped rider traffic had gotten heavy and the leaders were finding that the down-a-lap bunch was giving them more to think about than their immediate competitors. Hannah suffered the full impact of that problem when, as Lackey held the pressure on his rear wheel, a slower rider blocked the line. Brad immediately cut

to the inside and scooted past Hannah into the lead.

Two laps later, Pierre launched a renewed effort, passing Hannah and setting sights on Brad. As Karsmakers kept pushing the leader, Bob Hannah almost started to fade.

He was asked later if Karsmakers and Lackey's greater experience had made the difference.

"I don't ' know what it is," Bob replied, "but they're fast! I wasn't tired, and I wanted to go for 'em," Slowed repeatedly by lapped riders, Hannah steadily lost ground on the GP veterans.

Karsmakers pulled to less than a length of Brad, and as the Husky did a quick sidestep in a rough " S" tum, the red machine sneaked by. But Brad wasn't through. On the next lap, he worked the Husqvarna back into the lead: Karsmakers backed off slightly letting a half dozen lengths separate the dominant duo, then he closed and repassed for the last time.

Only moments later, Brad lost control of his front wheel in a soft berm, washed out, and stepped off. Seven seconds were lost in remounting, and that put Pierre out of reach.

Luckily for, Lackey, Hannah was still 14 seconds back. Pierre pulled almost the same stunt on the final lap of the 40-minute plus two-lap moto. As he attempted to overtake a knot of lapped riders, he was knocked over a berm and went down too. It was a tense moment for the Dutchman; he didn't know how far back Lackey was, but he safely remounted and took the checkered flag leaving second place for Brad, Bob

Hannah finished third ahead of Tony D. and Kent Howerton.

Second Moto

Honda’s Rich Eierstedt, eager to improve following a motor failure in the first round, snagged the second moto holeshot, but Pierre was right on him. Hannah got off well in third and Lackey held fourth place at the end of the opening lap.

Karsmakers didn’t waste any time in pushing to the front passing Eierstedt on the second time around. Hannah and Lackey also closed on Rich, and both overtook him on the third lap.

Kent Howerton moved into fourth place as Husky teammate brad Lackey pulled up beside Hannah in an attempt to take over second. Hannah, however, shut the door so hard on Brad that they almost touched.

Eirestedt dropped back as far as sixth place where he met Don Kudalski and started a race that carried them back up a couple places before Eirestedt’s motor quit again.

Tony D., by that time, had overcome a slow start (15th on lap one) and has worked up to seventh place.

Pierre had established a fairly secure ten second lead over Hannah. Then, coming off one of the jumps later described by Karsmarker as “weird,” Hurricane Hannah stepped off. Lackey, only two seconds behind, took over second place, and Howerton pulled up just as Hannah restarted. Hannah held off Howerton for a few frantic moments, but the Husky rider got past for good shortly thereafter.

At 25 minutes into the moto, the top five places seemed to be decided. But then things started to change the outlook. Howerton came into contact with a slower rider right at the mechanics’ area, crashing and letting Tony D. get by into third place.

Again, things seemed to settle down and hold steady, but it wasn’t over yet. Only minutes from the end of the three-quarters of an hour race, Brad Lackey, Tony D. and a couple of slower riders entered a tall bermed turn. Forced high and to the outside, Lackey’s tires sunk into the deep top part of the wall and he literally got stuck in the sand. Before he could dig the Husky out, both DiStefano and Howerton passed.

Pierre continued on to a safe win, making it a perfect 1-1 day as Tony D. improved his first round fourth with second placing; good for second overall. Lackey’s misfortune dropped him to a points tie (2-4) with DiStefano and left him third in the overall results. Kent Howerton and Bob Hannah also tied with 5-3 and 3-5 scores respectively, giving Kent the nod for fourth.

The top three spots in the AMA 250cc National MX series remained unchanged (DiStefano, Weinert and Stackable) but Kent Howerton’s last race performance edged Kawasaki rider Gary Semics from fourth place for the year. Bob Hannah also picked up one place taking sixth from Yamaha teammate Rick Burgett.

DiStefano’s summation of the 250cc gave a good part of the credit to Suzuki tuner Keith McCarty.

“Jammin’ and I were pretty well matched on the track, but he had two DNFs. I guess you could say that it was between the mechanics,” Tony D. modestly explained.

500cc Support

Local favorite Rick Granville came from behind in the second moto to put his Bultaco ahead of Chuck Sun’s Husky in the overall Support class results. Sun had held off Granville for most of the first moto despite having to ride without the use of either a shifter or back brake. Sun’s last chance went away in the final laps of the opening round when the air somehow escaped from his Fox Shox allowing the suspension to bottom out on every bump. Terry Tucker dumped Sun to third in the first round only two laps from the end.

Sun pulled to the front at the start of round two, this time to confront Michael Guerra in a battle for the win. Granville drew a slow start, back in ninth, but bettered it to a third by the moto’s end.

Following Granville’s 1-3 victory and Sun’s 3-2 second place, Mike Guerra’s last moto win (5-1) edged Terry Tucker (2-5) third.

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