FLASHBACK FRIDAY: 1985 RODIL CUP

ron-lechien-1985_0002The Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme (International Motorcycling Federation, or FIM) has had an interest in US racing for a few decades. Currently they are a vital part of the World Grand Prix series (MXGP). There have been many attempts by the FIM to tack additional races onto the AMA Supercross season–the most recent being the World Supercross Championship. While it would eliminate the non-season races in 2008, the series would run a few races prior to the gate drop at Anaheim in January. Before the World Supercross Championships there was another attempt, the Rodil Cup.

By 1985 the Americans were known for their speed. Instead of Americans going over to the GP’s to compete with the best, many of the Europeans came here. The FIM set up a three race series known as the World Supercross Championship or Rodil Cup. The first two races were held overseas with the final one at the Los Angeles Coliseum. The final event featured a staggered start where there would be two gate drops. The right side of the doghouse would drop five seconds after the left side. Promoter Mike Goodwin decided to also try out another idea, an inverted start. Typically in Supercross, the best position in qualifying earns the first gate pick. The second best gets second pick and so forth. On one gate this isn’t much of an issue, but this event had two gates. With an inverted start the best two positions would get moved to the second gate. This was determined by heat race position and not qualifying time.

Goodwin’s idea was to start the 10 best Americans five seconds behind the European riders. This would give the boys across the pond a slight advantage as they were slower. The idea profoundly flopped on a technicality. Scott Burnworth would be the first to figure out the loophole. The leader, Johnny O’Mara, bolted out of the gate and held a strong lead. About mid-race he noticed what was happening. European Eric Geboers caught onto O’Mara’s tactic quickly. The heat winner Aj Whiting would have to find out what was happening after the heat race was over.

The second heat race had a domino effect. Points leader Jim Holley had little to worry about in the third race, because he would have a terrible start. The 1985 AMA National Champion Ron Lechien, however, did have a good start. A few turns before the checkered flag Lechien would fake a stall. This prompted European Jon Van Denberk to fake an injury comparable to a FIFA World Cup player. Phil Larson watched the whole thing unfold before his eyes, but would give in and take the win.

Jeff Ward would pull the stunt with more grace in the fourth heat. The track at the coliseum exited the stadium at one point and Ward decided to hide there in order to let riders pass. A frustrated Rick Johnson (who won the first heat) first lambasted Lechien and O’Mara calling them chicken, the ultimate 1980’s insult. While Johnson had a fairly effortless win in heat one, he raced it without compromise. After his television speech, Johnson proceeded to talk to the fans to vent his frustration. The speech was much more memorable than the main event that Jeff Ward would win.
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