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motocrossactionmag.com

MITCH PAYTON'S SUPERSONIC PLAYBOOK: PART ONE

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Casting one’s eyes upon championship-winning motocross bikes—the actual bikes that crossed finish lines to win number-one plates—can be, if one is open to it, a mesmerizing crash course in moto history. Nowhere is this dynamic more evident than in the lobby of the big white building visible from the 91 freeway in Corona, California. Motocross Action swung by Pro Circuit to catch up with Pro Circuit overlord and mastermind Mitch Payton. We let Mitch hand picked six of the bikes in his museum. Here is bike number one.

By Eric Johnson Photos: Ryne Swanberg

JEREMY MCGRATH’S 1992 TEAM PEAK/PRO CIRCUIT/HONDA CR125

ON JEREMY: “1991 was the first year for the Pro Circuit race team. I think it was one of those things where a lot of people didn’t think we could do it. They were like, ‘Yeah, right.’ They talked a lot of garbage about us at the beginning, but our bike was above everybody else’s. Jeremy was going to be our very first rider to run a number-one plate in the 1992 season. At the first race in Houston, Jeremy was a little bit nervous and he got third place. I got sketched out and I said, ‘We have to go test!’

“Jeremy said, ‘Mitch, there’s nothing wrong. Just leave it alone. I’m fine.’

“I said, ‘No, we better double-check and make sure we didn’t miss something.’

“So, we did, and Jeremy picked exactly the same stuff and said, ‘I’m telling you, I’m fine. Leave it alone. It’s all right.’ And from there on, he was a wrecking ball.”

SUPERCROSS RACING VERSUS OUTDOORS RACING: “Jeremy and all of our guys struggled a little bit outdoors. They all had moments when they were good, but they didn’t do as well as we wanted them to. Supercross was what Jeremy was focused on. That’s what he really loved and cared about. He always thought outdoors was harder and more difficult for him. Having him on the bike for Supercross was a pretty good deal.”

HONDA JEALOUSY: “Honda was good to us, but it wasn’t like a collaborative effort between us. There was some jealousy, that I can’t, to this day, understand. They didn’t see the program for what it was, and when they decided to cut the program, I remember they told me, ‘Well, we just started the Red Riders Club and you’re running blue bikes.’ So, we were out. I had thought Honda would always keep the program going and it would be a long-term relationship because we had worked with Honda for a lot of years before the team. They got nervous, different, and decided to pull the program back inside and keep it for themselves.”

TEAM UNIFORMS: “Having Peak antifreeze as a sponsor was fun because it hadn’t been done in our sport in the way that I did it. I was racing the IMSA series and had a friend who drove for the Mazda GTU team. Mazda had identical race cars. Their truck matched the car. Its driver suits matched the trucks, and the crew shirts matched everything else. I thought, ‘Man, that’s the way a bike team should be.’ The one person who saw my vision was Jim Hale, who at that time owned AXO. Kenny Safford was AXO’s designer, and Kenny would do drawings of what our team would look like in different sponsors team uniforms. We did the deal with Old World Industries, so we had Peak antifreeze and SplitFire spark plugs. We were really fortunate.”

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