“My breakout year came in 1980. Most people will remember
that I was riding for the Mugen Honda team that season. Through my
friend, Al Baker, I got a deal with Hirotoshi Honda, the son of Mr.
Honda. Hiro had his own motorcycle performance program. He had a big
race team in Japan and wanted to get something going in the U.S. Hiro
made the leap by signing me. I rode an all-white Honda, and I even wore
white gear. The bike was pretty crazy looking and caught a lot of people
off guard. At the time, there wasn’t anything like it in American
racing. That Mugen Honda 125 was a huge advantage for me against the
rest of the class. Heck, it was better than what the factory Honda guys
were running! It was a true works bike. Hiro only had the team for one
year, but I took full advantage of the opportunity by winning the 125
USGP at Mid-Ohio.
“NOBODY REALLY KNEW ABOUT ME IN THE UNITED STATES BEFORE THEN. I WAS A CALIFORNIA BOY, BUT WINNING THAT USGP PUT ME ON THE MAP."
“Nobody really knew about me in the United States before then. I was a
California boy, but winning that USGP put me on the map. Winning was
crucial, because it captured the attention of the factory teams. I
received several big offers from teams for the 1981 season, but it was a
no-brainer as to where I should go. I was already in the Honda family,
and the 125 was a really good bike. Naturally, I signed with Team Honda.
I was part of a dynamite team that included Donnie Hansen, Danny
LaPorte and Chuck Sun. We became the first winning U.S. Motocross des
“I was tapped as Honda’s next 125 specialist when I signed with them in
1981. During that time, Mark Barnett was on top of his game and had been
torching everyone in the 125 class. It took me until my third year on
the Honda team to dethrone Barnett for the 125 National Championship. I
had finished second behind Barnett for a few years in a row. He was
tough as nails! And while I battled with Barnett, I also had to deal
with Jeff Ward. He was a huge threat. For those few years, we were the
guys behind Mark. It seemed like every time I would step up my game,
Jeff would too. It was tough!
“Throughout my professional career, I’d say that Jeff Ward was my
toughest competitor. Jeff and I dueled incredibly hard for the title
once we knocked Mark Barnett off the top of the 125 mountain. I won in
1983, and he beat me the following year. At the time we didn’t get
along, but once we both retired, we put the past behind us and became
really good friends.
“Honda’s focus when they signed me to the team, as well as my goal, was
for me to be the top 125 rider. I hadn’t spent much time on a bigger
bike, and I put a ton of dedication into the 125. It wasn’t until after I
won the title and accomplished my goal that I made the transition to
the 250 class. Being more of a technical rider, I immediately felt comfortable on the 250 and won the 1984 250 Supercross
title. That would never have happened if Hiro Honda hadn’t taken a
chance on me.”
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