Cycle News

Cycle News 2014 Issue 05 February 4th 2014

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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VOL. 51 ISSUE 4 JANUARY 28, 2014 P119 most memorable of his career. "Racing in front of a huge stadium crowd like that it was the first-time ever I heard the cheers of the fans over the sound of the bikes racing," Ellis said. "The last lap half the crowd came out of the stands and onto the infield. After I won it was like they were trying to tear me apart and get anything they could, my goggles, my helmet, my gloves. The cops came out and surrounded me and basically carried me out of the crowd up to the press box." Ellis won the Superbowl again in 1976, and in '78 he was signed by Honda. Ellis was just about the only rider during the '78 season who made the dominating Bob Hannah look semi-human in the outdoor Nationals. But by the time the inaugural 250cc U.S. GP came to Unadilla, Ellis was primed. He'd just won the series-ending AMA 250cc Na- tional at Mt. Morris, Pennsylvania, and was expect- ed to be a contender at Unadilla. But after quali- fying, Ellis's team was so disgusted with him they seemed ready to pack up and go home. "I just barely qualified," Ellis explained. "My dad said to me, 'We might as well go home if this is all the better you're going to ride.' I told him not to worry about it - that I was never a good qualifier and once the moto started I'd be okay. I'm not sure he believed me." Ellis was right. Starting in the worst possible gate position, on the far outside, Ellis went to work. He tore his way through traffic like a rider possessed and emerged in second place. After chasing Ger- man Hans Maisch on the factory Maico early in the first moto, a roar went up from the American fans when Ellis banged handlebars with Maisch and then took over the lead. From there Ellis pulled away to victory, earning the distinction of being the first to taste victory in a 250cc Grand Prix on American soil. The second moto is where the confusion came in and Ellis' story starts to sound a lot like Marquez' at the Australian MotoGP this past summer. In that moto, Ellis took a big rock to the gut early on that made him sick and dropped him well back in the field. Yamaha's Bob Hannah got up front and cruised to victory with Ellis' factory Honda teammate Marty Tripes running second. Ellis gathered himself after the rock incident and be- gan making his way to the front. With a couple laps to go he passed eventual World Champion Guennady Moisseev to move into third. Tripes' version of what happened next is that he and Ellis knew the finish was based on aggre- gate time, combining the first and second motos, and the two of them rode to complete exhaustion to the checkered flag, both falling off their bikes when they crossed the line with Tripes getting the victory by tenths of a second. While the part about the aggregate timing and Tripes winning by what turned out to be .073 of a second are true, Ellis remembers it a bit differ- ently. "After I moved past Moisseev into third, at that point I thought I had it won," Ellis said. "Based on my 1-3 finish, I had it. On the last lap I was wav- ing to fans and my crew as I went by. I noticed my guys were waving at me and I just thought they were celebrating with me. It turns out they were trying to tell me to go quicker. They knew the overall was based on combined times, but no one told me. After I found out Tripes won the thing I was devastated. I thought it was based [on mo- tos] and if I'd just gone a little faster on that last lap I would have won it." So now history has a new version of what hap- pened in the 1978 250cc U.S. GP. Reading the race reports of the time give us no clue really as to whose version is most accurate, Ellis' or Tripes', but one thing is certain, it adds a new twist on what became a legendary race in American mo- tocross history. CN ELLIS' ALMOST GP VICTORY Subscribe to nearly 50 years of Cycle News Archive issues:

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