As told by
Dave Arnold and Bill Buchka
Round 5: Delta Ohio August
were very surprised to see the works bikes back on the National
circuit. Particularly Yamaha and Honda, who have pulled all the
stops in an almost no-holds barred effort to put their rider on
top. Yamaha was back with the previously claimed watercooled
OW27 and Honda debuted the much rumored all new Type 2 RC125. Yamaha tuner Bill Buchka summed it up. “I’m not gonna bring
a bike up here that Bob’s got to struggle with to get a forth or
fifth place on.
Warren Reid’s Honda burned through the
long downhill sweeper ahead of everyone as the gate dropped to
open the 125cc National program. Arlo Englund on a Husky was
right on Reid’s rear fender and he was followed by Broc Glover.
Marty Smith was forth; Bob Hannah was around in eighth and
Danny LaPorte went down in the first turn. Meanwhile, Reid had dropped out and Englund had taken command. Glover held second, still ahead of
Smith. The three frontrunners-Englund, Glover and Smith, pulled
ahead of the rest and got involved in a scrap that put Broc in
front on lap four, Marty in second three laps later, then saw
Smith take the lead near the 15-minute mark. By that time, Bob
Hannah had moved into forth and begun making life difficult for Arlo. The dispute didn’t last for long. Within the next two laps, Hannah had overtaken both Englund and
Glover to move into second place behind Smith. At that point,
near the halfway mark, Marty had a 14-second lead and was really
hauling on his new Type 2 works Honda. He was adapting
really well to the new and much improved works bike and looked
unstoppable and then......“We went by the finish line, and there
were two lapped riders ahead of me.” Marty explained afterward,
“The flagman gave them both the blue (passing) flag, and the
first guy moved over. But the other guy just put up his elbows
and started racing with me, getting all squirrelly and
everything. We went through that left-hander before the jump; he
slid out wide all out of shape, then came right back across the
track into me.” As they hit the jump, the slower rider took
Smith out. Marty recovered after the crash, but was only able to
take a tenth in the moto. The matter was discussed and
handled in a professional manner in the pits. “I told him he may
have just cost me the
Championship.” With Marty gone, Bob Hannah had it all
to himself. Broc Glover finished second, Arlo Englund third and
Danny LaPorte had an amazing ride and came from dead last, to
Warren Reid again proved the speed
of his FMF Honda by grabbing the holeshot in the second moto. Marty
Smith was second, Arlo Englund third and Bob Hannah was in
forth. Smith reeled in Reid, took command of the lead, and
pulled away. From that point on, there was no catching his Dave
Arnold tuned RC125 type 2. Marty was riding that new bike like it
was on rails, dragging the bars in the turns, doing everything
just perfect. Three laps later, Bob Hannah also got around
Warren Reid’s Honda and settled in second. At about the same
time Jeff Jennings who was on Billy Grossi's RA125 (Billy was
out with appendicitis) in forth, dropped out when the bike quit.
Danny LaPorte had no trouble in the first turn in the second
moto and was really charging putting the works Suzuki in a solid
third place. When it was over Bob Hannah won the
overall with a 1-2. Danny LaPorte scored his best finish
of the season with a 4-3 score for second overall. Privateer
Arlo Englund had an amazing ride to finish third with a 3-4 and
Marty Smith finished forth with a 10-1.
It is clear now looking back,
that up until the 125 GP at Mid-Ohio, we had been behind the
curve with equipment performance. Getting nicked with more than
normal mechanical problems and making poor choices with slapping
together last minute on the road, on the fly, untested and
un-refined production based race bikes with poorly mixed matched
works parts, knee jerk reacting to the claiming issue which
combined, was not effectively helping our quest of keeping the
national #1 plate on Marty and at Honda.
Marty winning the 125 GP in
Ohio in such a commanding fashion on our wild card, heavily
modified case reed Type 1 works bike, certainly helped rekindle
needed momentum and confidence in general to stay in contention
for the National Title chase. Adding to this momentum was
the arrival of the heavily anticipated Type 2 works 125 just in
time for the last four remaining National Series races. Marty
didn't have much if any time on the bike prior to the Delta
race, although I remember Pierre Karsmakers had been doing quite
a bit of testing with the new Type 2 bikes of all displacements
so I was reasonably confident the new bikes had received good
input and direction.
The Type 2 arrived in the
typical Honda R&D overbuilt perfectly packaged wooden crate. I
believe Jon R and I uncrated it in the Delta hotel parking lot.
It was not a warmed over Type 1 at all, it was a totally new
bike from the ground up. The engine, frame construction &
geometry, suspension components, tank shape and ride position
looked very cutting edge. It even smelled good (something to do
with titanium and magnesium fermenting in a mahogany wooden
crate that usually translates into fast) The bike was awesome!
Marty really liked the new
bike in every way. He looked fast and was very happy and
confident in general. We finally had a bike that could
respectfully go up against Yamaha's OW27 with confidence. Marty
was hungry and ready to do business with this bike. From this
late in the game and coming from behind points wise, we would
need to dominate every moto in every race for the remainder of
the series to have any chance of retaining the #1 plate. If
there was any more misfortune going around, it had to go in
In the first moto, Marty was
out in front and pulling away with a solid 14 second gap. He was at one with the bike and
he was in perfect form. Everything seemed to be going our way
and then, while lapping traffic he got tangled with a slower
rider and went down. It was a pretty bad crash as he didn't come
around for quite a while and eventually ended up10th in the
first moto. This was the make or break point in the series
and what started out looking so good turned out not so good
which played heavy on us all. Everybody in the Honda camp was more than
disappointed but not more than Smitty. He was more upset than I
have ever seen him. Between moto's, Marty marched over to find
the lapped rider that he crashed with and let him know that the
incident just cost him the Championship. In my eye's this was
not entirely true bearing responsibility for trailing Yamaha in
the series from the start until now due to so many reasons in
and out of our control but it sure was one of the final defining
moments in this title chase.
In the second moto once Marty
got out front, there were no mishaps and he won going away.
The day before the Delta Ohio National,
I was walking through the parking lot at the race headquarters
Hotel and there it was. Dave and Jon R. were uncrating the much
rumored works Honda. That red just jumped out at you. When I saw
that motorcycle I can tell you “I got scared.” That bike was
going fast in the crate. I really got worried. Honda had just
dropped a psychological bomb on everybody. I didn’t in anyway
want to upset Bob. I thought I would let him make his own
judgment. He was the guy that had to throw his leg over his
motorcycle and compete with Marty on that bike. I really tried
to find a positive in competing with that and came to the
conclusion, “Hey, Marty has only had that bike for a week or so,
so maybe it’s not that well
developed yet.” I had to refer back to our strategic plan, one
race at a time. Luck went our way again and Marty had a mishap
as a lapper took him out while maintaining a huge lead. It was
really unfortunate for Marty as his new works bike really looked
good. To have a lead of
over fourteen seconds and have a misfortune like that must have
had a negative psychological impact on him.
Two brand new RC125M Type 2's in the Delta Ohio pits.
Marty fires up the brand new Type 2 Honda as a very happy Dave
Arnold looks on. This bike was trick.
Bob Hannah's Yamaha OW27 met it's match with the all new state
of the art Honda RC125 Type 2 at Delta. Bob Hannah
First turn action in the second moto at Delta: Warren Reid's FMF
Honda grabs the holeshot.
Bob coming up on a lapper is 8 seconds down to Marty in the
second moto. You can see Marty at the top right of this photo.
Marty Smith aboard the Type 2 at Delta: Few people got to see
Marty on the Type 2 as it was only used at Delta, Houston and
Marty ran away with the second moto at Delta.
This is me at Delta Ohio, Jofama goat skin leathers and all.
I was probably the only guy that liked those canister forks that
A privateer files a claim on Marty Smith’s RC125 Type2
opened the second half of the series with a new bike and looked
invincible on his Type 2. There was new life at team Honda and
there was plenty of time left to regroup. Then it happened
Immediately after the flag fell on the
second moto, AMA ref Ron Denny was approached by a privateer
(Bill Barlow) holding $2500.00 cash. The privateer had filed a claim on Marty
Smith’s new RC125 Type 2. While Marty was sitting in a lawn chair
cooling off after running away with the second moto, Ron Denny
walked over to the Honda pits and informed both Dave Arnold and
Marty Smith that their bike had been claimed. Both Dave and
Marty were stunned. “What…someone claimed my bike?” was Marty’s
response. The bike was immediately impounded and pushed to the
track clubhouse followed by a
large crowd of fans and a group of factory riders who filed
counter claims to help Honda keep the bike. After all the
involved parties and the Type 2 were in the club house, the door
was shut. A large group of spectators gathered outside
knowing exactly what was going on as the claiming topic was now
common fodder among the fans as well as the riders. AMA ref Ron
Denny was literally sweating bullets as he was laying down the
guidelines for the lottery. Poker chips with numbers written on
them (that were normally used for start position drawings) were
put in a Maxwell House coffee can and it was determined, the rider that drew the lowest number
owned the bike. The moment was extremely tense as the
anticipation of another works bike being claimed had been
mounting for weeks. This time the claimant's chances were
diluted with eight counter claims filed by the other teams. Still the
stakes were very high and Honda had a lot to lose. Their brand
new Type 2 works bike was loaded with top secret technology and
was very much at risk. Honda even made a large cash offer
to the privateer in advance incase the privateer won the bike.
The offer was declined. When it was time to draw numbers, Marty
(obviously upset) sarcastically remarked to the privateer "
Since you're the one who is claiming it, you draw first"
Barlow reached in the can and drew number 42. Then Marty reached
in to draw second, Marty drew number 8. Once Marty had the lower
number of the two, the other riders immediately withdrew their
claims. Marty won the bike.
The reason for the claim on
Marty Smith's Type 2 by Bill Barlow was in stark contrast to the
reason Mickey Boone claimed Bob Hannah's OW27. Boone was a
former Honda factory rider who rode works bikes and was now on a
production bike and knew the difference that a works bike would
make in his results. Barlow on the other hand was a rookie
So Cal rider in his first year on the Nationals and had never
ridden a works bike before to know the difference. He was
traveling with his family doing the entire National series in a
camper and transporter with two Honda FMF package racers. While
camping at the track on Saturday night Bill had convinced his
father into claiming the bike. The new Type 2 Honda had
been the talk amongst everybody who saw it when Dave Arnold had
pushed the bike through tech inspection earlier in the
day. The problem was, Mr. Barlow didn't have $2500.00 in
cash and it was Saturday night and there were no ATM machines in
1976. The track owner Paul Schlegel was approached and
told of the plot. Mr. Schlegel agreed to cash Barlow's
personal check with Sunday's gate money. When the
checkered flag fell as Marty won the second moto, Ron Denny was
immediately notified of the claim. Had Barlow waited until
the 29 minute mark, even Honda wouldn't have had time to counter
claim their own bike because it was several minutes after Denny
was handed the initial claim that Honda was even notified. After
this riders were instructed to wait at the AMA trailer, cashiers
checks in hand, until the
30 minute mark had passed.
listens to AMA ref Ron Denny explain the claiming rule while a very nervous Honda
Have you ever had a really
bad day? It's not bad enough that we got crashed out in the
first moto on a day we desperately needed to be taking names
(although the new bike was really cool) but now your all hot,
tired and dejected and somebody files a claim with the AMA in an
attempt to take your brand new, fresh out of the box, high tech,
super trick, one of a kind works bike away that was just sent
from Honda R&D in Japan that you happen to be almost totally
responsible for. HOLY CRAP! I was in a state of shock of
the possibility of losing our new bike. Fortunately there was
some kind of plan of sorts in place where the other factories
and factory riders would help each other with counter-claiming
each others bikes in support of each other and to substantially
minimize the chances of losing the lottery (not necessarily a
guarantee, such in the case of Marty Tripes' works 250 Honda a
few years later). The whole incident was very tense and
stressful as a handful of race team managers handed out cashiers
checks to all their supported riders, all filling out claiming
forms in Barret Jackson Lottery fashion in a very cramped club
house. I was also just a bit worried about the AMA's race
official Ron Denny's health at the time too. He was shaking like
a leaf, stuttering his speech and sweating bullets. I thought he
was going to pass out under the pressure of it all. As it played
out, Marty made the claiming party draw first and then he drew
the low number and the bike was pushed back to the Honda pits.
The impact of Honda almost
losing a factory works bike to the claiming rule would not be
fully felt in our pits until the following week prior to the
Once the privateer filed a claim for
Marty’s bike, we had a contingency plan and
cashier’s checks to also claim a bike
another manufacturer. We
immediately filed a counter claim to "support" Honda in keeping
Type 2 from a visual point of view and as it performed on the
track from a dynamic point of view was incredible. If you were
going to claim a motorcycle, that had to be the one that day. In
my opinion, just looking at it, that was a phenomenal
motorcycle. It was a complete package, even though our Yamaha
got a lot of accolades for being cutting edge. Not only was it
dynamically an effective piece of equipment, even from a static
view just looking at it, the way the whole motorcycle flowed
together. It was a phenomenal piece of
equipment. It was really a strong statement. That bike left an
impression on me that I remember to this day. We were scared
into submission for awhile. (Laughter)
Honda RC125M Type 2
The all new Type 2 Honda featured an all red engine that was
At the request of Bob Hannah, Yamaha agreed to run the OW27 even
at the risk of losing it in a claim.
Round 6: San Antonio Texas
it once before and I’ll claim it again” said 125 rider Bill
Barlow’s father. “If I have to put it in a glass case because I
can’t get parts for it I will.” Over at the Yamaha pits Bob
Hannah had his own thoughts. “Let him claim it,” said a lounging
Bob Hannah as he sat in the shade about ten feet away from his
sparkling clean watercooled OW27 Yamaha, “and then let him try
and get it.” The day had started in a war of nerves that now has
become standard operating procedure at the 125cc National
events. Yamaha, at the risk of losing their bike, had made the
decision to run the OW27 for the remainder of the season. Things
were much different over at the Honda camp though. “Honda
doesn’t like 8 to 1 odds” was Dave Arnold’s response (referring
to the claiming rule). “We are
back on the Type 1 bike.”
“Holding a National in August
at San Antonio is like
holding a National in Nome Alaska in December,” said one
journalist before the race. As much time that was expended on
the claiming controversy before the drop of the first moto gate
was also spent on discussing the weather. The riders tried to
cool off by soaking their jerseys before going to the line. Most
of their jerseys were soaked with sweat before water could be
poured on. It was that hot! After a false start, Marty Smith got
the holeshot in the first moto, followed by Broc Glover, Warren
Reid and Bob Hannah. Glover shocked the crowd by zapping Smith
before the first lap was over and putting a little ground on the
factory Honda, but Smith surged back into the lead on the second
lap and carried Warren Reid and Bob Hannah with him. Hannah
dispatched Reid a couple of laps later. The race appeared to settling down with
the top four riders maintaining a constant distance between
himself and his pursuers. That changed drastically with only ten
minutes to go in the moto. Hannah started to charge and the
crowd noticed it immediately. Down the rough potholed straight
they would come, first Smith, then a tight compact Hannah. The
next lap would find them closer, and then with two laps to go it
was Hannah coming down the straight with Smith in pursuit. Marty
didn’t break off the battle, but he couldn’t gain enough
momentum as his shocks had lost damping late in the race.
In moto two, Glover got the holeshot,
LaPorte was second, Hannah was eighth and Smith back in
fifteenth. LaPorte took the lead away from Glover and quickly
built up a twenty- second lead. Glover was immediately under
assault from Wise, who had Hannah breathing down his neck,
followed by Warren Reid, Jeff Jennings, John Savitski and Marty
Smith. LaPorte’s engine started to bog and as
he came by the mechanics area he was pointing to his rear wheel.
Bob Hannah, Steve Wise, Marty Smith and Broc Glover took
immediate advantage of his hardship. Two laps later the problem
started to clear up and LaPorte started to come back. Hannah was now firmly in command of the
overall as Marty moved past Wise to take second and LaPorte
caught and passed Wise for third. On the last lap Hannah crossed
the finish line with his hand raised in victory.
Honda almost losing their new
Type 2 works bike at the last race, didn't go over very well
back in the office. For the second time in this series, we were
instructed back to our previous and unfortunately when we needed
it most, now lesser equipment Type 1. This may have sounded OK
in theory but in reality it was devastating for Marty to take a
step backwards in equipment. Even
though we won the Mid-Ohio 125 USGP on this bike, San Antonio's
race conditions were very hot and humid and the track was rough,
semi sandy with ruts and G-force compared to Ohio's relatively
fast & smooth track and fair weather. Marty struggled with
suspension fading & bottoming due to the extreme heat and rough
track conditions in the first moto and after a tight race
between Glover, Reid, Wise and Hannah, Marty just couldn't get
back around Bob by race end.
Marty, (usually a good
starter) really didn't get a good start in the second moto,
which I believe then and today was more by choice than
circumstance. Smitty, when he put his mind to it, could
easily put himself in the top 3 or 4 spots in the start.
I'm pretty sure Marty gave it everything he had in the first
moto and came up short. He was getting very tired of
finishing second to Bob especially when it was a heads up one on
one type of race. He knew he could do better than that all
things being equal and it didn't help the situation having our
new Type 2 race bike sitting in the trailer back in the pits.
To me, this felt like the point that we were now beat in the
Championship. It was now a futile effort, the fight was
going away and eventual reality was being forced upon us. This is the exact point that this Championship was
The conditions in San Antonio were
extreme, possibly the most
extreme I have ever experienced at a motocross race.
It was 106 degrees that day and the track was in a little valley
where there was no breeze and it felt even hotter. We went over
our strategy and even though Marty
was not able to use his Type 2
motorcycle, he still had a decent
motorcycle. When you have guys like Dave Arnold and Jon R.
behind you, they’re going to put you on good equipment. Marty
was still the highest benchmark
but we were looking at other riders as well. Steve Wise was in
his home state and Danny LaPorte was
coming on strong.
We knew we were in for a tough race but we also knew Bob had
tremendous conditioning. At this point in the season, he was
completely dedicated to his conditioning.
Early on in the season Bob and I
established a mutual "no
air-conditioning" rule that
simply did not allow the use of air
conditioning in our hotel rooms
(for either of us)
while we were on the road preparing for any and all races.
Whether it was five days before the race or two hours before the
race, no air conditioning was allowed. We were going to
completely adapt to the circumstances that we were faced with in
the race venue
no matter what. This started in
and went on the whole season. You can open the windows, sleep
without covers or whatever but you’re going to get used to the
ambient conditions. Then you go out and do your conditioning
work on the motorcycle. You do it with a starting time that’s
the same time as the first moto on race day. If it’s a 1:30
start time on Sunday, then you do forty minutes starting at
1:30. Then you rest the same amount of time as you would between motos but when it was time for moto two, you go out and do
another forty-minute moto. We had the number one race bike that
was immaculately prepared for the race and we had a number two
testing and engineering works bike that we did testing on. While
on the road, Bob did two forty-minute motos every Tuesday and
Thursday and sometimes even on Wednesdays. This training was
done on the number two bike. Pierre and I developed this
practice a few years before
and I carried it over with Bob,
who fortunately (and credit
to him) was receptive to it. That
was part of our strategic plan, to make as total of a package as
we could. Not to mention the other contributions Bob made
regarding his running, calisthenics and weight work. He did this
work faithfully. As dedicated as he was, it motivated me even
Going into San Antonio
and those ambient conditions,
we knew we had the edge over everybody. As that race played out,
Bob didn’t take the lead until late in either of the two motos.
Rather than increasing his pace and decreasing his lap times,
everybody lost time to Bob. They came back to Bob. Bob’s lap
times remained consistent throughout the 106 degrees. They
didn’t vary more than a second to a second and a half per lap
for the entire two motos.
That was a long track in San Antonio with lap times of over
three minutes. To maintain your lap times within a second of
each other for forty minutes requires phenomenal ability and
understanding of your condition and what you’re doing on the
racetrack. Bob’s times remained the same even while lapping
traffic. After that race everybody knew Bob was going to be the
Bob Hannah beating the heat in Texas. No air-conditioning was
allowed in any and all Hotel space.
Bill Buchka archive
"Let him claim it"....... and then let him try and get it."
Bob Hannah watercooled and collected before moto one.
Broc Glover nails the start in moto one.
Prepping the OW27 for the second moto.
Bill Buchka archive
Hannah in between motos in the 106 degree heat.
Waiting for moto two.
Marty back on the Type 1.
Bob was just as fast on the last lap as he was on the first lap in
the extreme San Antonio heat.
Bill Buchka archive
The San Antonio Cycle rama track was real rough and no he didn't
Houston Texas August 22nd
Bob Hannah had come to Houston's Rio Bravo
Motocross Park with a huge lead over two time National Champion
Marty Smith. For Bob it was a tactical race, but for Marty
it was the whole ballgame. Honda had brought out the Type 2
Honda and said "to heck with the claims, full speed ahead!"
In the first moto Texan Mel
Newman grabbed the holeshot with Texas local Louis Presley, Ron
Turner, Broc Glover and Danny LaPorte in pursuit. Bob
Hannah was back in 16th, while Marty Smith lay back in 25th
place. Newman's home state advantage lasted two laps and
was demolished by Broc Glover. The Texas moto fans had
never heard of Glover before, but as the moto progressed Broc
Glover's name could have taken on Lone Star State herodom,
except Glover is a Californian. As easily as Glover passed
Newman he pulled away to an unbelievable 23 second lead.
Suzuki teamster Danny LaPorte dispatched Newman who threw a
chain, and Presley. With Kawasaki factory rider Mickey
Kessler on his tail the race for runner-up began. Kessler
and the green machine pressured for the first half of the moto,
but when Hannah and Steve Wise suddenly appeared on his rear
knobby Kessler began to tire. Hannah passed Kessler in a
hairpin bowl and Wise used his Honda horsepower to motor the
painfully slow Kawasaki to death down the straights. The
race quickly spread out with Glover 23 seconds ahead of Hannah
and Wise who was 20 seconds ahead of a tightly bunched pack of
riders that included Marty Smith, Warren Reid, Ron Turner and
Mickey Kessler. With two laps to go there were few changes
expected until Ron Turners front wheel fell off taking him from
the top ten to the top ten in hard luck.
For the second moto Hannah
knew that all he needed was a seventh place or better. If
he could finish in the top seven Smith would have no chance of
catching him in the final National of the year in New Orleans.
"I'm going to ride a safe, steady race and try not to get
knocked off," said Bob before the start. Marty had no
choice but to go for the win. Wise took the lead from the
start followed by LaPorte and Glover. Hannah was 13th and
Smith was 19th. In the span of four laps Glover passed LaPorte,
LaPorte re passed Glover and slipped past Wise in a tight right
hander. By the halfway point Hannah had moved up to
fifth with Marty on his tail. Bob waved Marty by and Marty would
have none of it. "We came to race" was Marty's response.
Bob later said, " I didn't want to take a chance on getting
involved in a race where one of us might get knocked down, so I
waved him past." Glover's bike began to lose compression
and Broc began to pace himself. LaPorte and Wise in a neck
and neck battle for third overall in the National standings were
not pacing themselves at all. Wise's Honda was faster down
the straights and LaPorte's works Suzuki had a handling
advantage on the rough stuff. For the moto they each gave
away their particular disadvantage and tried to capitalize on
the other guys. With two laps to go the margin narrowed to
a bike length but Wise suddenly slowed. LaPorte picked up
the breakneck pace up on the last lap to win his first ever
National Championship event. It was also Suzuki's first ever
National win in the 125 class. Wise finished second on a
flat rear tire, but had to settle for third overall behind Broc
Glover's excellent 1-3 performance. Broc also won his first
National moto. The Hannah-Smith duo came across fourth and
fifth. Bob Hannah was the new National Champion.
There were no claims made on
any of the factory equipment. Jeff Jennings suffered torn
ligaments in his foot that will keep him out of the last race.
Bob Hannah vowed to show everybody what he could do in New
Orleans and made it his goal to tie Pierre Karsmakers record of
seven National wins in one season.
At Houston we were back on the good bike
but in reality it was too little to late. Marty was never
one to give up but this Championship baring any miracles was
over in my mind and I'm sure his mind as well, although I'm not
sure spoken out loud ( I know, never say never). Hannah
was riding smart just to survive and seal the deal and although
Marty came to race, I'm sure looking back, he was riding around
feeling his two years of dominance had come to an end with Bob
sewing up the Championship. I think it was a day of
reflection and acceptance.
At Houston we were
grasp of winning the Championship. With the right
finishes for Bob and everyone else,
we could actually leave Texas with
the 125 Championship locked up.
This was the first time we backed off of our intention of
maximizing our effort for every race. Now we wanted to finish
each moto strategically,
from a points and overall championship point of view.
Events could change during the race and one of things we tried
to do as well as we possibly could was communicate during the
race as far as what was going on around Bob that he couldn’t
see. We did this with a number of
signals that we developed over time. I wouldn’t just tell
who was in second. I would tell him where his contenders were at
all times. For example, If Grossi was fourth or LaPorte was
fifth, Bob would know that periodically throughout the race as
well. Now we were really looking at the numbers to see what we
had to do versus what everybody else had to do. Our strategy was
once again, take each race in the overall picture of the
Championship. Our goal at Houston was to lock up the
Championship. We consciously went in there to do that. It was
not a fun race to do because we didn’t want Bob to slow down
to the point where it became
risky or dangerous. Something
similar happened earlier in
the season in Florida where Bob
slowed down to try and help Rick Burgett finish second in the
Florida series. That nearly
backfired on us and we vowed never
to do that again. We knew that staying close to Danny LaPorte
would be part of our strategy that day, because even though he
won, he didn’t have enough points or races left to win the
title. We also knew that deposing Marty again would guarantee us
the title. We needed to do what we needed to do that day and as
it turns out, we did. We wanted to take the pressure off
ourselves in case we had a mechanical failure either be it that
day or the final round at New Orleans.
So the title was Bob's with
one more race remaining in the Championship and it was time to
celebrate in Houston. We celebrated with pizza and beer, yes,
pizza and beer, and a lot of ribbing of Bob because he was a
rookie. This was also the first time any of us had seen Bob
drink anything other than Gatorade, fruit juice, or water. This
was definitely a new experience for Bob and he got ribbed for
this too. It was good-hearted ribbing though, and meant to keep
Bob's feet on the ground at this early stage of his career.
Knowing that there was still unfinished business to do in New
Orleans at the last round of the Championship, the celebrating
was fairly reserved and limited to a few close friends and
associates. A true champion should go out a winner and Bob had
every intention of doing so in New Orleans.
Less than an hour from becoming the new 125 National Champion,
Bob lines up next to privateer Glen Urquhart. Glen broke
into the top 10 at Houston with a 9th overall.
Broc Glover came on real strong late in the series winning his
first National moto at Houston and earning a Yamaha factory ride
as a result.
Marty Smith on the Type 2 at Rio Bravo needed a miracle.
Danny LaPorte wins his first National at Houston. It was also
Suzuki's first ever 125 National victory.
New Orleans Louisiana
With the Championship
having been decided the week before at Rio Bravo in a listless
manner, Hannah had come to New Orleans to race again. Honda
kept Marty on the Type 2 and Danny LaPorte had momentum going his
and Suzuki's way with their first win the prior week. Broc
Glover, Steve Wise and Warren Reid had now established
themselves as consistent front runners and caught the eye of the
factories for potential works rides for 1977. The New
Orleans round was held at the infamous Motocross West course on
the banks of the Mississippi River. Motocross West
was the site of the famous "Battle of New Orleans" in 1975 where
the 500 National Championship was decided in the final moto as
six riders had a mathematical chance to be National Champion.
Both Dave Arnold (Pierre Karsmakers) and Bill Buchka (Jimmy
Weinert) were involved in that with Jimmy Weinert winning the
Championship. It was also the place where a year earlier,
Bob Hannah riding for DG in his second 125 National, had passed
out from heat exhaustion as the conditions were very extreme.
Marty Smith ran away with the race that day by a wide margin.
At the drop of the first gate
it was Danny LaPorte, Ron Turner, Broc Glover, Bob Hannah, Marty
Smith and Steve Wise lumped together. Hannah wasted no
time passing Broc Glover and Ron Turner and placed his front
fender right on the rear fender of LaPorte's Suzuki.
Shortly after that on a short straight, Hannah turned up the
thermostat on his watercooled OW27 and disappeared over the
undulating terrain. Marty was not having it so easy as he
got sandwiched between LaPorte and Wise and was having a hard
time breaking free. Broc Glover had his DG racer dialed
into a solid fifth, while John Savitski on Billy Grossi's works
Suzuki (who was there as a spectator because of appendicitis)
had an unbelievable battle with Ron Turner as each rider made
frequent attempts to erase each other from the track. Savitski
eventually held the advantage as a lapper got in between.
The fans got more than their
moneys worth as Danny LaPorte held it on the longest as the
second moto got underway. Three turns into the race saw
Savitski, Hannah and Wise sorting out second place. Once
by Savitski, Hannah moved in on LaPorte and the two factory
riders collided at the hairpin that led to the front straight.
Both riders feet flew off the pegs as they wobbled onto the
straightaway. Danny grabbed a big handful, straightened
the works Suzuki out and regained his direction first. The
next lap was almost a repeat as Hannah held a much quicker
inside line. Hannah clutched the flying water-wagon, but
again LaPorte got away in front. The third time LaPorte
was not as lucky as Hannah got away first. Steve Wise
quickly capitalized on the sinking Suzuki rider as Marty Smith
displaced Savitski to take forth. Hannah had about a ten second
lead as LaPorte passed Wise and then Marty who was really
hauling on the Type 2 passed both Wise and LaPorte.
Time was running out, but
Marty picked up the pace and began to narrow the margin that
Hannah held. With four laps to go Hannah developed a flat
front tire. Luckily the tacky surface of the front portion
of the course still provided control, but out back on the slick
fast straights he was losing time. Suddenly they were side
by side coming down the straight towards the tunnel. Marty
got a wheel in front as they came into the tunnel turn and as a
result Hannah came out of the tight inside line he was on.
Hannah and Smith collided, collapsed and crashed. Smith
was on the bottom with his bike, Hannah and the Yamaha on top.
Hannah quickly scrambled to his feet and stood on Marty's bike,
in effect standing on Marty. After several seconds of
floundering and yelling, Hannah jerked his leg out of Smith's
wheel and they scrambled to their feet. LaPorte darted
under the tunnel, immediately got on the gas and was now in the
lead. Danny LaPorte
was on his was to his second straight 125 National win.
Then the Suzuki spun out, Hannah was up first and started to
close the gap. LaPorte used his
head and got going with a minimum of fuss. Going over a
jump Danny landed on his gas tank hard and was in a lot of pain.
Smith was now riding with a shock that snapped off and Hannah with a
flat front tire, the walking wounded 125 National series came to
a freakish finish. LaPorte crossed the finish line in
victory and collapsed on the tank. Smith's bike gave up
the ghost under the beating of semi-shockless riding and Hannah
wobbled in third. Wise and Savitski came in forth and
fifth far ahead of everybody else. It was interesting to
see that once a decent rider (Savitski) got a chance to compete
on a works bike, it increased his results dramatically.
Orleans has always been a really tough Deep South, very hot and
humid, tough track kind of race. I remember the 500
National's going down to the wire the previous year with six
riders in contention.
There were towards the end of
this series, a number of riders riding really well such as Broc
Glover, Steve Wise, Warren Reid and Danny LaPorte who had won
the previous weekend in San Antonio. Any case, Bob had a
better start than Marty and worked through this top group early
on and eventually won the first moto while Marty, working up
from a mid pack start and riding pretty good as well, ended up
getting by LaPorte and Wise prior to the finish for 2nd.
The second moto was a slug
fest quagmire with Bob up front, then getting a flat, Marty
catching Bob, Marty and Bob crashing into each other and then
some sort of altercation where Bob was standing on top of
Marty's bike (with Marty under it). While Bob was getting up, he
broke Marty's shock shaft in the process and while all this was
going on, Danny LaPorte slipped by for the win giving him his
second overall win for the series. Bob rode around with a
front flat and Marty rode around with a broken shock until the
end. It was quite and excitable end to one hell of a series.
Once the Championship was tied up, it
was time to go back to
racing for real in New Orleans. Bob
had a score to settle with New Orleans based on the previous
year where he was carted off in an ambulance with an I.V.
re-hydrating himself. He went there to remove the image he had
of himself from the prior year. Bob ran away with the first
race. In the second, he developed a flat tire and this led to an
altercation with Marty Smith which resulted in locking
handlebars and they went down together in a corner. This
resulted in Danny LaPorte winning the overall and Bob got
second. Bob came to race and he did what he could do barring
that mechanical problem
which prevented him from sweeping both motos.
When it was all over, I think
Bob showed he was more than
deserving of being 125
National Champion that year,
and that paved the way for the rest
of his illustrious career. As they
say, "The Rest is History !"
The new 125 National Champion tries to tie Pierre Karsmakers
record of 7 National wins in one season. A flat front tire ended
Click to enlarge image above
Bill signals Bob that Marty is on the move.
Bob Hannah lofts the OW27 off a New Orleans jump in his first
race as the new National Champ.
Bob chases first place Danny Laporte who won his second 125
National in a row.
The 1976 125 National series
was one of the toughest series I have ever been involved with.
The top 10 riders in this series seemed only a few months
before, travel to Hangtown as local So Cal (Saddleback &
Carlsbad) pros (except for Steve Wise from Texas) and by the end
of the series, were top level contenders many of which went on
to win championships of their own and established the base to
start the shift of motocross dominance from Europe to the US.
Not only Marty Smith and Bob Hannah but Danny LaPorte, Broc
Glover, Steve Wise, Warren Reid and the list goes on and on.
I have to say kudos and with
all respect to Yamaha for not only the development and
innovation of the OW27, but hiring Bob Hannah (a virtually
unknown) away from being a Suzuki support rider, plus fielding
their race effort with such seasoned and experienced technicians
such as Ed Scheidler, Bill Buchka, Don Dudak, Bob Oliver, Keith
McCarty and many others. You can feel it when you read excerpts
from Bill's memoirs. Also to Bob himself who at the time I
didn't know what to think as he was from nowhere and when you
did get to know him, he was cocky, brash and had the in your
face attitude which is exactly why Honda hired him a few years
Marty went on to be a top
contender and won his first 500cc Trans AMA race held in
Nebraska against the dominant Europeans and the following season
dominated the 250 National series (stopped short by a
mechanical) and ended up winning the 500 Nationals (when Bob had
Kudos to Terry Good of
MXWORKSBIKE.COM for putting this story together. It most
certainly would have gone forgotten as I think Terry remembered
more of what we were doing back then than we did doing it.
It's a real piece of MX history.
The 1976 AMA Motocross
season brought Bob and I together for one fabulous season of
Championship motocross. Bob came from nowhere to win the Florida
Winter AMA 500 series, the AMA 125 National Championship series,
and individual wins in the 250 and 500 AMA National Championship
series as well as the 500 Trans AMA International series. But
this was a crossroads season for both of us. Following the 1976
season, I went on to Europe to pursue my goals of winning the
motocross World Championship.
As we all now know,
Bob went on to have a truly phenomenal racing career. I'd like
to think that I had a very small part in laying the foundation
for Bob's later success in becoming one of the "Legends of
Motocross". Bob is truly a great individual and a great racer.
I hope that these
recollections of the 125 National Championship in 1976 will
bring the readers of these historical motorsports events an
inside look at what it took to win the Championship, and perhaps
emphasize what excitement and innovation took place at that
incredible time in AMA Championship motocross racing history.
Special Thanks must
also be paid to Terry Good and MXWORKSBIKE.COM for being the
catalyst of this entire historical compilation. Without Terry's
dedication, efforts, and perseverance none of this would have
Bill Buchka, Terry Good and Dave Arnold in Southern California,
I would really like to thank Dave Arnold and Bill Buchka for not
only taking the time to document this historical Championship as
they saw it, but to really make the commitment and do it
properly. Dave and Bill both took the same professional approach
to this feature that they did while turning wrenches back in the
day that earned them both so many Championships. I'm sure that
this is the first time anything like this has ever been done to
this extent. I also want to thank Warren Reid, Steve Wise and
Kim Blackseth for taking the time to provide us with their
memories. All three of them have a great insight and really
spent a lot of time preparing their articles. Also Ron Lawson
(editor for Dirt Bike magazine) Jody Weisel (editor for
Motocross Action, Jody actually covered many of these races for
Cycle News) and Kit Palmer (from Cycle News) for helping out
with the historical accounts. Many thanks to Davey Coombs for
posting this in RacerX , so many people would see this.
1976 125 Nationals
1976 125 Nationals
Memories of the 1976 125
By Warren Reid
Memories of the 1976 125
Memories of the 1976 125
Claiming rule explained
Top 10 race results by event
1976 125 National