Palm tree kit | October 23, 2022
Cycle News Archives
The 2023 SuperMotocross World Champion will be crowned at the place most supercross fans recognize as the birthplace of supercross, the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. It was here that the first supercross race (although it was just called indoor motocross back then) was held in 1972 in front of around 30,000 MX fans. A 16-year-old kid from San Diego took the win on a Yamaha, going 2-2-2 in the race’s three-run format. Marty Tripes beat some of the best runners in the world that night, from the United States and Europe, including New York’s Jimmy Weinert and world champion Torsten Hallman and future world champion Hakan Andersson, both of Sweden.
Although dubbed the Superbowl of motocross, the race, held again in 1973 (Tripes also won but this time on a Honda), spawned what is now the AMA Supercross Championship, which began in 1974 as a multi-racing series. The LA Coliseum has hosted several Supercross championship races over the years. Most of them happened in the 1980s. The last AMA Supercross race hosted by the LA Coliseum took place on January 21, 1998. Many historic races have been held at this iconic stadium since that first race in 1972, but the last held here in 1998 is arguably among the top 10 in sports history.
There was a lot of hype leading up to the 1998 Los Angeles race for several good reasons. First, it was the opening round of the Supercross series, and you know how it is. Just being the opener alone is usually enough. But Jeremy McGrath’s debut on the Yamaha Chaparral after his one-year stint with the factory Suzuki team soured, added to the buzz, and he had to hand over the number one plate to Jeff Emig after a four-year championship run.
Doug Henry was back on the Yamaha YZ400F four-stroke, but this time it was a production-based bike. We all wanted to see how he would fare after winning the last Supercross race in Las Vegas the year before on the factory four-stroke.
Ezra Lusk was making his Honda debut on the factory team, and Larry Ward was back aboard a factory Suzuki after a previous fallout with the team. Emig wore the number one plate for the first time and on a completely redesigned, factory-supported Kawasaki KX250.
And many international riders were on the entry list to make things even spicier. South African Greg Albertyn, Japanese Takeshi Koikeda, Frenchmen Mikael Pichon, Frédéric Bolley and Sébastien Tortelli were all eager to leave. Even Valentino Rossi was among the approximately 62,000 fans who came to watch.
And then you had the rain that poured over Southern California courtesy of the “Pineapple Express” that took Friday’s activities to the race site and made the long track a muddy, rutted and technical challenge. for Saturday night’s race.
When the main event finally happened, it seemed to be Henry’s race. He put all that four-stroke power on the wet ground, grabbed the holeshot, and then led the next 19 of the 20-lap race. Yes, Henry came within a lap of winning the race.
Seemingly out of nowhere, French Grand Prix rider Sebastien Tortelli caught and passed Henry on the final lap for a surprising victory. And it wasn’t until about five laps from the end that the announcers even mentioned Tortelli’s name as a possible race winner. Supposedly, the race had to be re-aired for TV later because announcers thought Tortelli was a lapper. But Tortelli was no prowler; in fact, he was doing a few laps himself en route to the surprising victory in his very first attempt at a Supercross race.
Tortelli was indeed the fastest driver on the track that night. He started the race in, at best, 12e place, then he gradually worked his way up through the talent-filled peloton to take the win.
“It’s my first race and my first win in the United States, and I didn’t expect to do so well,” Tortelli said. Cycle News. “I was trying my best to catch every runner, and it happened.”
As for Henry, things only got worse for the popular driver after Tortelli passed him. Moments after the pass, Henry had a small start, but he struggled to start his scorching four-stroke. He finished 10e for the night.
It would be the first and last Supercross victory of Tortelli’s career. The Frenchman was only due to race the first seven rounds of the Supercross series that year (98) before returning to Europe for the GPs, where he enjoyed great success. He beat Stefan Everts in the last race to win the 250cc MX World Championship. Tortelli returned to the United States full-time in 1999 with Honda (1999-2002) and Suzuki (2003-2005). Tortelli officially retired at the end of 2006 after a final stint in GP aboard a KTM.
The Frenchman had great success in the United States but, as mentioned, never won another Supercross race or an AMA title. He finished second to Jeremy McGrath in the Supercross Championship in 2000 and won four outdoor national races in total. Nagging injuries plagued him throughout his racing career in the United States
The Colosseum hosted another historic race that took place six years earlier. This time was the last round of the series in 1992, and Damon Bradshaw entered the race with a six-point lead over two-time Supercross champion Jeff Stanton. Six points seemed comfortable for Bradshaw, as he had won nine previous Supercross races against Stanton’s two and was clearly the faster of the two riders at the time. The race, which was delayed a month due to the Rodney King Riots, took place during the day in July, and Stanton did what he had to do: win the race. Bradshaw only had to finish third to win the title. A seemingly simple thing for him to do. At one point, Bradshaw was holding that position and looking like a shoo-in for his first SX title until the unthinkable happened – he started backing off for no apparent reason. The large crowd was amazed. He finished fifth, handing over the title to a delighted Stanton. Bradshaw, who was coming off a knee injury, never blamed the knee discoloration. Instead, he told Cycle News: “It wasn’t something physical, just mental. I was too focused on the track, riding tight and just sinking into the ground.
Bradshaw was just 19 at the time, and fans believed he would bounce back, learn from it, and many championships would follow. But Bradshaw never looked like the same rider after that 1992 race at the Coliseum and would end his premier class career without a title.
So, will there be more drama next year when the SuperMotocross World Championship brings “indoor motocross” racing back to the LA Coliseum? Guess we’ll have to wait and see, but either way, it’ll be great to see the sport’s top stars return to the birthplace of supercross and hit the peristyles once again.NC
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