MOTOCROSS ACTION RACING LORE: JEAN-MICHEL BAYLE RECALLS RACING IN AMERICA
“As a little boy, I dreamed of coming to the United States and racing with the best guys in the world. When I got older, I was riding for the factory Honda team in Europe. Roger DeCoster was working for American Honda at the time. It was perfect for me, because Roger was a big fan of mine. That relationship made it easy for me to get on the race team here in the U.S. Not only would I achieve my dream, but I’d be able to race on a Honda, which at the time was the best bike on the track.
“THINGS CHANGED EVEN MORE FOR ME AFTER I WON THOSE TITLES. IT WASN’T EASY WINNING EVERYTHING AS A FRENCH RIDER.”
“It wasn’t easy moving to the U.S. Not very many riders before me made the move from Europe to America. I didn’t really know what to expect. Many people weren’t used to Europeans coming and racing in the U.S. During that time, Americans were dominating everything. Breaking onto the scene and challenging the top Americans as a French rider was difficult for many fans to grasp.
“Ricky Johnson was my first main competitor when I came here. After Johnson got hurt in 1989, Jeff Stanton became my biggest foe. He was really tough, and so was Damon Bradshaw. By no means was it easy to win. However, I managed to win three titles in 1991. That year, I was happy to win the 250 Supercross crown. And then when I won the 250 National title, I was really interested in also taking the 500 title. I knew that I could ride a 500 really well, so it was great to put all of those titles together.
“Things changed even more for me after I won those titles. It wasn’t easy winning everything as a French rider. That’s why I quit so fast and moved on to a career in road racing. Maybe if things were easier for me, then I would have stayed and raced another year or two, but there was so much pressure; I didn’t feel that welcome in the U.S. Honestly, it was a little bit like a war from the standpoint of the fans. However, that wasn’t the case from my side. My passion was to ride motocross and Supercross. I didn’t decide to come to the U.S. specifically to beat Americans; I came here to compete against the best riders in the world. People didn’t understand that concept when I was racing, but I think they do now.
“It’s easy to come over to the U.S. as a racer if you’re not winning races. Then, once you win races, things get a bit more difficult. People treat you differently. That’s normal, I guess. America is a very big country, and all the people are very proud to be American. I have a lot of respect for American people. My grandfather fought in World War II with American troops. We respect America.”