Forty-nine years is a long time in the world of motocross. Few riders have careers that span more than ten years and the vast majority of competitors have never stood on the podium. Bike technology has vastly changed and few tracks have lasted from the genesis of the sport. While the sport of motocross has been around longer abroad, the U.S. National series is one of the most premiere events in the sport. Riders come from all over the world to compete in the AMA National series. Many of the top rider in our sport today like Martin Musquin, Jett Lawrence, Dylan Ferrandis and Ken Roczen came from another country to compete in U.S. motocross or Supercross. Lets look briefly at the first decade of motocross history from1972-1982.
The year was 1972 when the first National was held. Husqvarna importer, Edison Dye had been working to start a professional series in the U.S. by bringing over pros from Europe to race the local talent. Swedish rider and four time World champion, Torsten Hallman, was the pioneering pro and dominated over the American talent he raced. What formed was both the Trans-AMA Series and the Inter-Am Series. Wanting to have a series for just the natives the American Motorcycle Association (AMA) decided to start their own series in 1972. A total of 24 races were planned for the first year with eight of the races featuring both a 500 and a 250 class. The rest were either individual 500 or 250 races. Of the 21 tracks in the original series Unadilla is the only one to remain in the circuit. Some of the stops included fairgrounds and major league stadiums.
A Japanese bike wasn’t on the podium at the first AMA National in 1972. Barry Higgins won the 500 overall while Sonny DeFeo took the 250 class, both aboard a CZ. Husqvarna riders Gary Semics and Gunnar Lindstrom would take second and CZ racers would take third place. The highest placing Japanese bike rider was Gerald Hastings who took an eighth overall in the 500 class on a Yamaha.
The 1972 Nationals were only the start for Yamaha as Gary Jones would take his first championship in the 250 class riding a Yamaha. Back then it was common for riders to race both classes and Jones also took second overall in the 500 class. Brad Lackey was the championship winner in the 500 class starting his series on a CZ before switching to a KX250 Kawasaki in both classes at Owyhee M/C Clubgrounds. The switch didn’t end his five race win streak in the 500 class but he was unable to win the next six races on a 250. Back on a 500, Lackey’s streak continued for eight more races before placing second at Saddleback, the last race of the season.