Cycle News - Archive Issues - 1990's

Cycle News 1998 06 24

Cycle News is a weekly magazine that covers all aspects of motorcycling including Supercross, Motocross and MotoGP as well as new motorcycles

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Page 86 of 87

AVIEW FROM THEERIC JOHNSON FENCE BY s the AC/DC song "Hell's Bells," penned back in 1980, thundered out of the booming public-address tem, I held my Canon EOS-l camera to my eye and aimed it at the first . It was at that poin t tha t I noticed hands were shaking. I was standing at the very bottom of ig, green valley in England, and ging to the ravine's steep sides were re than 35,000 rabid spectators, ny of them now beginning to sound . their air horns. The atmosphere, as shaking hands would attest to, was real. It was May 24, and for the first time 'my life I was in Europe watching a and Prix motocross. As I waited for 250cc pack - and Stefan Everts and astien Tortelli, in particular - to slam o the first turn, the wall of sound cred by the mass of humanity and their iling horns put a galvanizing charge o the damp English air. Back in the 1970s, young American tocross fans - including this one rshipped the European-based World ampionship Grand Prix circuit and heroes that it produced. Riders with es such as DeCoster, Robert, Ever'ts, yce, Mikkola, Moisseev and Carlqvist ing at such exotic, far-flung circuits as tendorf, Sabadell, Holice, Leningrad d Namur intrigued us kids to no end. The first big-time motocross race I attendwas the 1978 Mid-0hio 125cc.. United tes Grand Prix of Motocross, where from branch of a tree I watched Gaston Rahier, his works Suzuki, defeat the world. I in awe of the Belgian and where he came m. 'That guy came here from thousands miles away," I remember thinking. "How I it must be to travel the world and be a pion." . As time went by, I watched the percross-bred Americans take over e sport, and while I always cheered em on and took great pride in how ey ruled the world, I never lost intert in Grand Prix motocross..Which is hy it might seem strange that it took e 32 years to finally get to Europe. On Sunday morning, riding in the ck of the Team L&M Honda shuttle n, I arrived at the Foxhill circuit with ave Grant, the team's owner, and YEARS AGO... ULY 11, 1968 Francine Everts, Stefan's mother. Upon our arrival, I could see that the circuit was already charged with electriclike energy. Thousands of fans walked down the dirt roads surrounding the big, green valley, many of them carrying French, Belgian and English flags. Apparently, large groups of French and Belgian su pporters had made the trek across the English. Channel in an effort to wa tch Sebastien Tortelli, the impressive young Gaelic charger, take on Belgium's national sporting hero, Stefan Everts. The Belgians were easy to spot, as many of them had already taken to drinking beer and eating chips' - or French fries. Many of the English enthusiasts were wearing soccer jerseys or sweat suits, and a vast majority of the younger fans were sporting American race clothing. The Fox, FMF and Pro Circuit logos were present everywhere. Music by The Police, which was booming out over the P.A. system, was interrupted from time to time by various pit and circuit announcements. Ever aware of the importance of an advantageous viewing spot, many of the hard-core enthusiasts, carrying their air horns and coolers, began staking out their claims on in the steep and slippery sides of the Foxhill valley, eagerly anticipating the Everts/Tortelli showdown. "This is what it's all about," I thought to myself. "This is why I traveled thousands of miles. This is an entirely different ,world. And while I would have loved to have been back home in the United.States at the Mount Morris National, I have never experienced anything like this before." There have been many great managainst-man rivalries in motocross - Joel Robert and Sylvain Geboers, Roger DeCoster and Heikki Mikkola, Bob Hannah and Kent Howerton, Johnny O'Mara and Jeff Ward, Jeremy McGrath and Jeff Emig, to name but a few - and the Everts/Tortelli struggle is arguably the latest and greatest. Heading into the Foxhill 250cc Grand Prix - an event Everts had won the last three years - the four-time World Champion was a bit nervous. After a resouncling start which saw him win in Spain, Portugal and France - on Tortelli's muddy home turf - the Belgian had taken a bad two-moto beating at the Frenchman's hands a few weeks earlier at the European GP in Leuven, Belgium. From that event, which led into Foxhill, the talk that Tortelli now had his number had started, and Everts wasn't happy about it. "You know, you have one race in which you are beaten and everyone starts talking," lamented Everts to Dave Grant and myself in his mobile home Friday before the race. "I really want to shut some people up here," he added, hitting his fist on a countertop. The next day, Saturday, I wandered over to say hello to Tortelli, who was lying low in the Kawasaki pits. . "I started the season slowly, but I'm happy with where I am at," he explained to me. "I really want to beat Stefan on this track tomorrow. He rides really well here, so it will be tough." Saturday afternoon's qualifying session was the full-on, high-jinks showdown. Stancling in the mechanics' area, I watched Everts and Tortelli playa catand-mouse game with each other. Everts, smooth and graceful on the treacherous, super-fast Foxhill track, initially set the fastest time, but while he and his father, Harry, looked on, Tortelli went out and beat it. Upon hearing the announcement go up over the loudspeakers, Everts kicked his bike to life, went back out - and beat his adversary's time. The whole process was super-exciting and it was just like watching Formula One qualifying on Speed vision. The session would end with Everts the fast qualifier. "The champ had drawn first blood." "It's Everts! It's Everts!" screamed the Foxhill announcer at 12 p.m. on Sunday, as the Belgian led the 30-rider pack out onto the Foxhill circuit for moto number one. Urged on by 35,000 roaring fans, Everts charged around the circuit, which is made up of shale, chalk and grainy dirt. Up and down the steep and ominous hills, over the big, highspeed jumps, and through the many sweeping turns that litter the circuit, Everts kept the lead from the tenacious Tortelli. Then, just beyond the halfway mark, Tortelli dived past on one of the G;::-:::;;~=--.L20 YEARS AGO... JUNE 28, 1978 photo of a dirt tracking Dan Haaby and Bart Markel dicing for the ad a t the Louisville Downs : ational in Louisville, Kencky, gracea the cover 30 ears ago. There were also hots of off-roader Dick ean a~d drag racer Buddy oggs on the front page. arkel edged Haaby in tile O-lap Expert final; Gene omero finished third. ean took runner-up honrs at the National Off-Road Association's tardust 7-11 race, held near Las Vegas, Nevada. arry Berquist and Gary Preston teamed up to win he race; Dean paired up with John Coots. Steve cQueen and Bud Ekins combined efforts in a fourheel vehicle but did not finish the race ... Don hodes was profiled in "Meet The Dealer." Rhodes wned Auburn Suzuki in Auburn, Wa hington. His on, David, is now a multi-time ISDE gold medalist... ammoth Mountain Motocross held its first AMAanctioned event 30 years' ago. The first moto ever un there was won by Bill Pettigrew on a Steen Hodaka in the 0-100cc class. urricane and typhoon warnings headlined the Cycle News cover 20 years ago - the questioned raised was, which one packs more punch - Bob 'Hurricane' Hannah or Mike "Typhoon" Tripes? The cover story was a preview of the upcoming Superbowl of Motocross at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum... Skip Askland stole the show at round nine of the AMA Grand National Championship/Camel Pro Series road race at Loudon's Bryar Motorsports Park. Freddie Spencer won the Novice class. En route to victory, Spencer ran over a dog... Yamaha sweep: Bob Hannah won the 250cc outdoor National MX round at Cycle World USA in St. Peters, Missouri, and he also clinched the 250cc National title. Mike Bell won the 500cc class that day but still trailed Tommy Croft by 14 poin ts for the series lead... American Bernie Schreiber was the last man standing, so to speak, at the Wagner Cup World Trials round in Roaring Branch, Pennsy1vania. It was Schreiber's third World trials victory... The 11 th running of the Mammoth Mountain Motocross was held, and Broc Glover, Marty Moates and Sherman Schneller topped the 125, 250 and SOOcc classes, respectively... Tom Herron won the Isle of Man TT... John Fero took home the gold at the Trask Mountain Two-Day lSDE Qualifier in Oregon. H downhills and rode off to win by 10.701 seconds. In the FIM press tent following the moto, Everts didn't looked pleased but remained upbeat about the second moto. Tortelli, meanwhile, looked quietiy confident. From atop a big CAT bulldozer that was placed high above the valley, 1 watched the second moto with a throng of hard-drinking Englishman who had kept the owner of the nearby "Licen ed Bar and Fish and Chips" stand smiling. American Tallon Vohland grabbed the holeshot, but it didn't take long for Everts and Tortelli to find their way through to the front. The thousands of spectators crammed in along the plateau watched the two riders, clearly in a league of their own, fight for supremacy. Then, on lap seven, a large roar went up when Stefan overcooked a turn at the far end of the circuit and ended up in the banners. TorteIli went on to win by 50 seconds and Everts' three-year reign as the King of Foxhill was over. "He did the best he could," Gerrit, Everts' mechanic, told me later while he solemnly picked at a plate of pasta. Everts, obviously upset, had already left the circuit and was on his way to the airport. "At the moment, Sebastien Tortelli is fast and strong, so this is going to create a good championship fight." An hour later, Grant's mobile phone rang. It was Stefan, calling from London's Heathrow Airport, and he wanted to talk tome. "In the first moto, I didn't feel comfortable," he began to explain, sounding bummed, "but in the second race, I found some good lines and I was pushing hard. However, I made a small mistake and.. went off the track. I'll be back in Italy." Later that afternoon, as the sun began to set on the trash-strewn FoxhilJ valley, I looked up to see a silver hire car coming toward me. In it were Tortelli, his. girUriend, and his manager, former 250cc World Champion Jacky Virnond. They all smiled and waved as they rolled out of the paddock. They were happy. They had made a major advance toward winning the 1998 250cc World Championship. f'~ 10 YEARS AGO... JUNE 22, 1988 urt H'ough made the cover of Cycle News 10 years ago after winning the Idaho City Four-Day ISDE Qualifier ... Sharing the cover was an action test photo of the Honda CR250R... George Deukmejian, then the governor of California, vetoed California As embly Bill 36, which would have required all motorcyclists in the state of California to wear helmets on public highways ... Dan Ashcraft and Kurt Pfeiffer teamed up to win the S.C.O.R.E. Baja 500 aboard a Yamaha YZ490... Eric Geboers (500cc), John Van den Berk (250cc) and Davey Strijbos (l25ccJ all won their respective motocross GP series races that week... Kevin Windham won the Junior Mini class at the GeorgiaAlabama Spring MX Series at Wares Ferry MX in Alabama ... Scott Gray powered his Yoshimura Suzuki to victory at the WSMA Formula USA Series round at Willow Springs. L~ K 87

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