Champions of Past and Present Kick Off Monster Energy Supercross 40th Anniversary Celebration in Anaheim
Angel Stadium in Anaheim, Calif., the most storied venue in Monster Energy Supercross history, was the site to preview the third race of the 2014 Monster Energy AMA Supercross, an FIM World Championship, which will serve as the 40th Anniversary Celebration Race. This historic event, which brought together champions of the past and present. Legendary champions Pierre Karsmakers, Jimmy Ellis, Donnie Hansen, Johnny O’Mara, and Jeff Ward sat alongside current competitors Ryan Dungey and Ken Roczen, both of team Red Bull KTM, while former champion Jeff Emig emceed the conference.
On Saturday night, all 22 Monster Energy Supercross titleholders will be honored for their accomplishments and their contributions to the sport.
Holland’s Karsmakers, the first Monster Energy Supercross Champion in 1974, was a standard bearer in the early era of the sport. His training for competition and his riding style helped earned him the nickname “The Flying Dutchman” and helped pave the way for international riders to follow in his footsteps.
“I always felt supercross would be big,” said Karsmakers. “Americans are sporting people and they love the spectacle of the sport. I came from Europe with experience and I had to prove something as a result. I enjoyed my time [in America] and I was treated very well during my career.”
Ellis, a native of Connecticut, became the second Monster Energy Supercross Champion in 1975, spearheading the American dominance in the sport that spanned over the next 15 years. Affectionately known as “Captain Cobalt,” Ellis’ riding style was ahead of its time, becoming the first rider to string together jumps by doubling or tripling them. He gave Can-Am its one and only Monster Energy Supercross title and cemented his legacy by winning the “Superbowl of Motocross” at the L.A. Coliseum in 1975, a nationally televised event that launched modern-day supercross into the spotlight.
“I started riding for Can-Am in 1974 and on my very first ride I broke my hip,” said Ellis. “That ultimately made me a better rider. The following year I was hungry for wins and potentially a championship. There were a few races that year and the Can-Am was as fast as any bike needed to be out there. It was good fun. You’re making history at the time, but you don’t realize it until much later.”
While injury ultimately abbreviated Hansen’s career, he made the most of him time in Monster Energy Supercross, winning four races en route to the 1982 crown. “Holeshot Hansen’s” championship triumph aboard a Honda was the first for the brand, which has gone on to win a record 15 titles. Hansen and his talented teammates Johnny O’Mara and David Bailey pushed one another to an exceptional level of competition in 1982, which proved to be a glimpse of what the future of the sport would hold.
“My career wasn’t that long, so I can tell you what races I was in, where they were, how many laps I led, and so on,” said Hansen. “Johnny [O’Mara] and I lived together, rode together, and trained together. We always pushed one another to be physically and mentally ready for the season. I ended up winning in front of 70,000 people in Anaheim in 1982 and it was a special moment because it showed I could do it, especially with how many talented riders were in the field.”
Two years later, O’Mara carried Honda to its third consecutive title in 1984. After establishing himself as a dominant force on a 125cc machine, ”Johnny O’s” progression in the 250cc division was a direct result of the talent in the class at the time, an era that many consider to be one of the most competitive of all time. O’Mara has remained an integral part of the sport, training some of its most well known over the years.
“My main goal was to be the best on a 125 and I achieved that,” said O’Mara. “Then I shifted over to be an all around supercross guy on the 250. I followed in Donnie’s footsteps and with David Bailey at Honda we had a great team and had a lot of fun. We started developing new riding techniques that guys are still using today, so it’s a great feeling to know we paved the path and still receive recognition for it.”
Ward moved into the spotlight in 1985 and ended up winning two titles in three seasons following his second championship in 1987. Ward’s natural talent was his greatest asset and he holds the distinction of winning titles on every engine size of his era – 125cc, 250cc, and 500cc – which makes him perhaps the most versatile rider in history. Once his Monster Energy Supercross career came to a close, Ward versatility led to even more success on four wheels as an IndyCar driver.
“My first race was here in Anaheim at 17 [years old],” said Ward. “I was 4’11” and like 125 pounds. It was awe inspiring to line up alongside all these guys I grew up watching. It was tough to get going at that top level, especially when you were used to winning, but luckily I kept at it and it paid off. You just have to be willing to put in the work to get there.”
Dungey made history during his title run in 2010 by joining Jeremy McGrath as the only two riders in history to claim the Monster Energy Supercross Championship as a rookie. Since then, Dungey has established himself as one of the most consistent riders in the sport, having never finished lower than third in any 450SX Class Championship he’s entered. Dungey enters this weekend’s event with back-to-back podium finishes to start the season and currently sits second in the championship standings.
“When I was growing up is was all about Jeremy McGrath and that’s who I looked up to,” said Dungey. “I even had the chance to train with Johnny O’Mara at the beginning of my career and he taught me that I didn’t really know what work ethic was. If you look at the competition back then and today, it’s not really all that different. We’re all out there to win and do whatever we can to get there.”
While he was the only rider on the stage without a Monster Energy Supercross Championship to his résumé, Roczen shocked the world in Anaheim just two weeks ago by capturing an upset win at the season opening race, the first of his career. With a maiden victory already behind him, Roczen is confident he can repeat his performance from Anaheim and remain in the thick of the title fight.
“I love riding dirt bikes and that’s why I do this,” said Roczen. “We all share that common passion so it’s an honor to be here alongside all these legends. It has always been my dream to race [in America] because of all the history and it’s amazing to be able to contribute to that history today.”
On race day, fans can take part in a meet and greet at the Legends and Heroes display in the pit area, where iconic bikes and retro memorabilia will be on display. During opening ceremonies, all 22 Monster Energy Supercross champions will be presented a commemorative watch and helmet before being introduced to the crowd.
450SX Class Champions Title(s) Year(s)
Jeremy McGrath 7 ‘93; ’94; ’95; ’96; ’98; ’99; ’00
Ricky Carmichael 5 ’01; ’02; ’03; ’05; ’06
Bob Hannah 3 ’77; ’78; ’79
Jeff Stanton 3 ’89; ’90; ’92
Ryan Villopoto 3 ’11; ’12; ‘13
Jeff Ward 2 ‘85; ’87
Chad Reed 2 ’04; ’08
Rick Johnson 2 ’86; ’88
James Stewart 2 ’07; ’09
Pierre Karsmakers 1 ’74
Jim Ellis 1 ‘75
Jim Weinert 1 ‘76
Mike Bell 1 ‘80
Mark Barnett 1 ‘81
Donnie Hansen 1 ’82
David Bailey 1 ‘83
Johnny O’Mara 1 ‘84
J.M. Bayle 1 ‘91
Jeff Emig 1 ’97
Ryan Dungey 1 ’10