MOTOCROSS ACTION RACING LORE: HOWERTON’S SIDE OF THE SADDLEBACK MASSACRE
“Everyone has heard Bob Hannah’s side of the so-called ?Massacre at Saddleback,’ but I don’t think that I’ve ever told it from my point of view. For starters, it should be known that Bob and I were friends before the 1981 season. Unfortunately, things took a turn for the worst at the opening round of the 250 Nationals. I beat him pretty soundly at Hangtown, and after the race I did a few interviews. One journalist asked me what I thought about how Bob was riding. I replied by saying, ?I believe that Bob is riding faster now than he ever has before.’ Somehow, my words got twisted around to the effect that Bob had never ridden as fast as I had. Bob read the comment and got fired up.
“SINCE 1981, WE HAVEN’T BEEN FRIENDS. I DON’T HAVE ANYTHING AGAINST THE GUY. HE’S JUST BOB HANNAH.”
“There’s another part of the story that a lot of people aren’t familiar with. That year I was teammates with Mark Barnett on Suzuki. We had a bet as to who would win the most races during the Nationals. This was when Mark raced in the 125 class. If he won a moto, then I would have to go win at least a moto to keep pace with him. I hated losing, but that was especially the case with this bet on the line. In the second National of the year at Saddleback, Mark won the first moto. I knew I had to win, but I had the flu. I felt horrible and didn’t get any sleep the night before. In the first moto I didn’t get a very good start, but I knew that I had to win because I didn’t want Mark to come out on top. I caught up to Hannah, and he thought that I was playing around with him because I beat him so badly at Hangtown, and I wasn’t pulling away very much. I wasn’t messing around, though. I simply didn’t have the energy, thanks to the flu. The incident started, and it escalated quickly.
“I’m not the type of guy that’s going to back down. Not many guys at the professional level would put up with what Bob was doing. It got to the point where I finally broke away from him on the Magoo double jump. I was glad that the rough riding was over because we were taking chances that were downright insane. The next thing I knew I was being hit from the side. As I saw Hannah go by me on the inside, I reached out and tried to rip him off the bike. I couldn’t get enough of his jersey, and he slipped out of my grasp. I still got back up, caught him and won the moto.
“After the first moto, the AMA approached both of us and told us that they were going to watch us closely. They didn’t want to see any dirty riding. I was wiped out for the second moto, and my arm was hurt. It was all I could do to race, and Bob came away with the win. Everyone made a big deal out of that race because we went back and forth and things escalated the way that they did.
“I had one other altercation with Hannah that year. Four rounds later, at High Point, I was leading, and Bob came down the inside of me. I knew that there wasn’t any way he was going to make the corner. He T-boned me and I fell. I got up and took my time adjusting my levers and bars. I still caught and passed him in the moto.
“Going into the last race in Colorado, Suzuki gave me strict orders to let Bob pass if he was around me. While we went by the mechanic’s area in the first moto, I waved Bob around and he flipped me off. Stuff happens, I guess. Since 1981, we haven’t been friends. I don’t have anything against the guy. He’s just Bob Hannah. There’s not much else to say.”