MOTOCROSS ACTION RACING LORE: DONNIE HANSEN’S BEST & WORST BATTLES WITH RICKY JOHNSON
“Interestingly enough, I’ve had both the best and worst race of my career against the same guy?Ricky Johnson. My worst race was at Mammoth Mountain in 1982. I was winning everything that year. I had been living with Johnny O’Mara, and we were really pushing each other while training. I decided to go compete at Mammoth in the 250 class during an off-weekend. Back then, there were 45-minute motos, and I lined up against a rookie by the name of Ricky Johnson. He was on a production-piece-of-junk Yamaha, but he didn’t care. We must have passed each other four times every single lap. It was unbelievable. Ricky happened to be right in front of me as we crossed the finish line. I bet that was the best race of his career, but I was unhappy that I lost to some young punk kid who came out of nowhere.
“A FEW LAPS LATER I HEARD ANOTHER BIKE COMING UP. SURE ENOUGH, IT WAS RICKY JOHNSON. HE PULLED UP ALONGSIDE ME, LOOKED OVER AND SHOOK HIS HEAD! I THINK HE COULDN’T BELIEVE THE WAY THAT THE DAY HAD TURNED OUT.”
“My best race, which was Ricky’s worst, came at the last round of the 250 AMA Nationals in Castle Rock, Colorado, in 1982. The title would be decided in the last two motos of the season, but I was trailing Ricky by 20 points. I knew that my chances of winning the championship were slim to none.
“I had two DNFs that year. The first came at Saddleback when Broc Glover and I were dicing for the lead. We came through a rhythm section, and I ended up landing on a fallen rider. I smashed my pipe up and was unable to finish. The second DNF happened at St. Petersburg, Florida. I had a flat tire and couldn’t do anything about it.
“I wasn’t thinking about winning the title at Castle Rock, because I figured that it was too far out of reach. My goal was to win the race. In the first moto I got the holeshot. Broc Glover and I battled hard the whole time, but I ended up winning. Ricky Johnson, being the rookie that he was, pushed his production Yamaha to the brink. He flew off a massive downhill jump that only a few of us were doing and broke a wheel while trying to catch us for the lead. Instead of settling into a pace and maintaining his points lead, he threw everything away.
“I was leading by five points going into the final moto of the season. I knew that even if Ricky won that moto, I still only needed to finish in the top three to clinch the title. I grabbed the holeshot, and after a few laps I heard a bike coming up on me. I pulled off to the side and watched as Broc Glover went by me. I jumped in behind him and maintained second place. A few laps later I heard another bike coming up. Sure enough, it was Ricky. He pulled up alongside me, looked over and shook his head! I think he couldn’t believe the way that the day had turned out. I let him go by, finished third in the moto and won the title by three points. Broc finished three points behind Ricky. We were all separated by six points. It was a close championship and a great day for me!”