No doubt about it for me, the most charismatic rider I have ever seen or dealt with was American supercross legend Jeremy McGrath. Known as either the Supermac or the King of Supercross, McGrath was pure class, as cool as you would ever expect anyone to be. And in his era, the fastest man in the World.
I was lucky enough to write a column with McGrath for Dirt Bike Rider in the UK and also for an Australian magazine and if I couldn’t catch McGrath at the races, I would call him up for his quotes. Considering what a legend he was, and how much the sport adored him, he was always friendly, respectful and available to the media and his fans.
When McGrath came to Europe in the 1990s, the sport in Europe had a lot of very cool international events, and fortunately for me, I got to see him at all of them. Be it the Fastcross in Italy, Bercy supercross, his two Motocross of Nations performances and his races in Sheffield in England against Stefan Everts. A golden era for the offseason. Here are some of his thoughts on some of those events and the current situation with Team USA.
The Fastcross, it was the high point of the off-season for me. What are your memories of that event?
Obviously, when I think of Italy, I think of the Paolo Saporiti and his Fastcross, always. Saporiti was very important for motocross and even American motocross. We all came to race that race and it is sad that race isn’t there anymore and I have so many great memories of that race. It is a bummer it isn’t here, but you have other tracks like Maggiora that can take over.
What about Bercy? It is still around. Changed somewhat, but fortunately still producing good races.
Well, I have to admit, it does not really change. But that may be a good thing because the race still exists! It’s also the only European event we’re talking about in the USA. Unfortunately, the big riders have more and more trouble coming, their teams no longer allow them to make the trip here at the beginning of the season, it’s too risky. So inevitably, the show suffers, and the battles are rarer than before. I would have liked to offer the same battle that opposed me in my career to say David Vuillemin had in his era at Bercy.
It seems the European riders now have an edge over the American riders. Why is that?
I think, maybe the tracks have a little bit to do with it and the level of European motocross is much higher now and the gap used to be very different. Sometimes the US riders need to race so many races they are tired at the end of the season and I don’t think the US have their best team. I think if we send out best team, we have a chance to win, but European motocross is very strong at the moment, very strong.
What makes MXoN cool?
Motocross des Nations is cool because it puts three of the best riders from each country together at a one time a year event and the best country wins. For America, they used to do good at it. I had been on two winning teams, which is special and what is cool, is winning.
You rode the MXoN for the first time in 1992, can you tell me how that was for you?
Austria in 1993, well, for me, I had just become supercross champion, my first time in my rookie year and I had just won the title. I was really well known as being a supercross guy only and I didn’t really like motocross at that time and for me, racing motocross was a way to get to supercross and I wasn’t interested in winning motocross races or even titles for that matter. I got nominated to get on Team USA and the race was after the motocross season and I hadn’t won any motocross races that year and I went into the Nations feeling I was the weak link. It turned out I was, but I had one good moto and I think I got a fourth, and I wasn’t confident going in and I didn’t have the greatest results, but we pulled it off. It was a great year, but personally, I didn’t have a great race, it just worked out we won. The crazy thing about the Motocross des Nations in 1993, Team USA had won like 12 Nations in a row and I was pretty much crapping my pants and thinking I might be the guy who lost it for America. It is an important thing and it is a big honor to race it, but for me, I was really scared going into that race. I am thankful we pulled it off and the next year the team lost. When I got there, I wasn’t happy with the track and there weren’t many jumps and a lot of off-camber corners, typically European. It was better to be lucky than good that day and I got lucky.
Best moment at the Nations?
The best moment for me at the Nations was 1996, because we had the most dominant team since the 1986 team at Maggiora and it was Steve Lamson, Jeff Emig and myself and we won all three races going away and I even won one race after crashing early. That was when I cared more about motocross and I was pretty dominant at that time and I went in expecting to win, so a big difference from the 1993 event.