This week finds me pushing away from the “how to” stuff and just remembering how fortunate I have been. My camera allowed me to be a part of one of the most exciting sports in the world – motocross. It brought me close to super heroes and some of the zaniest characters ever. One of my super heroes, David Bailey, was born December 31, 1961, in San Diego California. In honor of his birthday, I’m dedicating this post to “The Icon.”
I first met David Bailey in Gaildorf, West Germany in September 1982. He was rushed to Germany to replace Donnie Hansen on the US Motocross and Trophee des Nations Team. Hansen was injured while practicing for these events. The accident was essentially the end of his career and the beginning of David Bailey’s ascension to Super Hero status. Ultimately, both riders were inducted into the Motorcycle Hall of Fame.
One of my first images of The Icon was less than flattering. It was right after the first moto of the Trophee des Nations and he was puking his guts out. In the rush to replace Donnie Hansen, David was not allowed a lot of transition time. He was exhausted from the unplanned trip, adapting to a new time zone and sleep (or lack of) schedule, and had just raced his heart out for Team USA. Against the best motocross racers the world had to offer this hardly heard of American had just hung on for an eighth place finish, enough to place his team first going into the final race. Certainly no shame in that well-earned puke.
1982 was the year after the Americans won their first ever Motocross des Nations title and the same year that one of the zaniest, most revered motocrossers of all time won all four motos of the Motocross and Trophee des Nations, a never-before-accomplished feat. And, it was to never again be accomplished. But this is not about Magoo (Danny Chandler.) It’s the Icon’s birthday.
After a brief recovery, Bailey went on to an even better finish in the second moto. He was sixth. The Americans clobbered the world, placing all four team members in the top ten of each moto and winning the Trophee des Nations Championship by 21 points.
The following week, the team was in Wohlen, Switzerland for the Motocross des Nations. Europeans looked at the 250cc bikes (Trophee des Nations) as a training ground for the “real” championship – the 500cc Open Class. Though the American team had also won the Motocross des Nations in 1981, it was still regarded as a fluke by the rest of the world. Magoo won both “big bike” motos and David Bailey was even better than on the 250; he finished fourth in the first moto behind Danny Chandler, Andre Vromans and David Thorpe. He beat everyone but Magoo in the second moto and the fluke continued.
I later wrote an article about Jim Gibson and his move to Yamaha. See the previous blog post for that article. David Bailey won both 250cc Motocross and Supercross championships in 1983, as well as again beating the world’s best by winning the 250 USGP in Unadilla. He and Brian Myerscough had one of the hardest fought most exciting motocross races I have ever seen, with Bailey taking the championship by beating such notables as Georges Jobe, Danny LaPorte, and Heinz Kinigadner — all of whom are former 250cc World Champions.
Danny Chandler made a mockery of the 500cc Support Class at that event, winning so easily that he finished riding backwards on his Honda.
Unfortunately, I never got to watch Johnny O’Mara race again, although he went on to assemble one of the most impressive motocross resumes in the history of the sport. Man, those guys could ride.
Though an unfortunate crash in 1987 ended his racing career, David Bailey still is one of the most authoritative voices in our sport. It was his open letter to the industry that finally convinced me to spend over $400 on a piece of safety equipment for my grandson. It is fun to think of those David Bailey days when I watch my grandson ride. I even have a few pictures of him that look a little like the Icon.
To the Icon, I say, “Thanks for the memories and Happy Birthday.”