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 three.
By Eric Johnson/Photos: Ryne Swanberg
RICKY CARMICHAEL’S 1997 TEAM SPLITFIRE/PRO CIRCUIT/KAWASAKI KX125
ON RICKY: “Ricky was a kid we helped out on 85s. In 1997, Ricky became part of our team. Ricky was really good for us because we had won some Supercross titles, but we had not won an outdoor title. I always wanted to win an AMA 125 National Championship, but it was a harder goal than Supercross. It was a longer series. It was a lot of work. It was tough. Even to this day that’s the way it is. The 1997 Supercross series was a learning year for Ricky for sure, but when we went to Gainesville for the first round of the 125 Nationals he was amazing.”
HE AIN’T GOING TO GET TIRED: “In 1997 Ricky was small, and, truthfully, he was heavy. He wasn’t in great shape physically when you looked at him, but when you went outdoors, he would just hold it wide open and go and go. The other guys would go out and try to go really fast and then start getting tired and slow down. Ricky would just keep motoring. In that first moto at Gainesville, Steve Lamson was leading and Ricky was second. They finished one-two and Ricky said, ‘I was waiting for him to get tired!’
“And I said, ‘That dude ain’t going to get tired!’
“Ricky was confident and said, ‘I got it.’ In the second moto, Kevin Windham got the holeshot and was trying to check out. Kevin held the lead for a long time, but Ricky kept coming, and, all of a sudden, Ricky got up to Windham and passed him. It was just amazing to watch.
“What’s amazing was that our plan was for Ricky to ride a few AMA Nationals but still go to Loretta Lynns. I remember telling him, ‘We’ll do a couple of Nationals and we’ll see where you are.’
“Ricky shot back, ‘Well, what if I’m leading?’
“I said, ‘We’ll deal with that then.’
“After Gainesville, we went to Hangtown and he won there. He was fast everywhere we went. It was easy to say we couldn’t go to Loretta’s.”
TIME FLIES: “Ricky was one of those guys I was close to, and even to this day, we’re really good friends. It was fun to see him have all the success he did. The very last day of his career was at the Motocross des Nations at Budds Creek. I was actually kind of sad, because I was thinking, ‘That’s nine or 10 years gone just like that.’ It sunk in to me how fast it goes away.”
THREE-TENTHS: “Our relationship with Kawasaki was really good. They wanted to win and we wanted to win, and to do that we needed to share parts. Every piece of the bike has a small effect. In order to have the very best bike, you need every effective piece to work together. Three-tenths here, three-tenths there and three-tenths more is almost nine-tenths, which is almost a horsepower, so you need all those parts.”
MITCH PAYTON’S SUPERSONIC PLAYBOOK LIBRARY
To read Part One on Jeremy McGrath’s 1992 Team Peak Honda, click here.
To read Part Two on Mickael Pichon’s 1995 SplitFire KX125’s, click here.
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