The Longest Day | Transworld Motocross
By Eric Johnson
The dingy yellow and dog-eared issue of Cycle News was shoved down into the bottom of a box. The cover date read July 9, 1974. I yanked and pulled on the newspaper until it came free and I walked out of the garage and into the sun and started leafing through it. I came upon pages 8 and 9 and the headline Karsmakers sweeps fiery InterAm in sunset finish.
"A lot going on in that headline," I said to myself, the seven words drawing me right into the two-page feature.
The year was 1974 and the InterAMA series for 250cc motocross bikes was set to run up in the foothills of the mountain ranges above Salt Lake City, Utah. Things started going wrong right from the start. The sport of motocross was still new to the United States of America, and for that reason, so were a significant number of race promoters. A fiercely shining sun, wind and enormous plumes of dust met the best racers both Europe and American had to offer up at Salt Lake, and as a result, chaos and confusion entered the equation as nobody wanted to race that Sunday, June 30. Sensing things were slowly going sideways, AMA Motocross referee "Light Brown" Lancione postponed the original race start time of one 1 P.M. to 4:30 P.M. and then commanded the water trucks out onto the parched natural terrain circuit. Toiling away, American daredevil superstar Evel Knievel was sent out to save the day as he performed for what was rapidly becoming an impatient throng of sunburned and beer drunk fans. Then that too went wrong.
Wrote Cycle News journalist of the day John Huetter, "All this was amidst talk of not racing at all and general uniformed confusion about what was coming off. The promoters set to work with the water trucks again as Evel Knievel played to the crowd until the water trucks were diverted to a brush fire that broke out above the track. Riders stood on top of trucks and trailers watching the cars explode as the fire swept up to them while the hot, dry afternoon wore slowly on. Racer Bryar Holcomb allowed as to how the fire and exploding cars was worth the $6 admission. Many of the spectators whose transportation was in flames or caroming down the parched hillsides, or even those who merely waited in 104 degree heat, may have questioned that."
Just after 5 P.M. the premiere 250 International classification was called to the starting gate for the opening moto. Well, make that starting ditch. "When the 250 class riders put their front wheels in the starting ditch the first time (The starting gate was so rickety it wouldn't stay up or fall down, so it was passed) it was after 5 P.M. and a lot of the racer's edge had to be taken off as the riders after eight hours in the heat."
Ultimately, the gate dropped - er, we mean the racers rolled into and out of the starting ditch - and it was Gaylon Mossier and his air-suspended fire engine red Honda out front and leading the way. Immediately behind were Pierre Karsmakers (known in the U.S. as the Flying Dutchman and the racer the young Yankees chased after), Rex Staten, Jaroslav Falta (who would win the L.A. Coliseum Supercross seven days before), Jammin' Jimmy Weinert, Jim Pomeroy and Bad Brad Lackey. Not 10 minutes into what was a shortened-down 30-minute moto, part failures and broken down bikes became the norm as Lackey's Husqvarna seized, Falta's CZ front wheel came unlaced and Tripes' Husqvarna blew up both shocks. Seemingly unfazed by it all, Pierre Karsmakers and his Yamaha simply cleared out, winning the moto by over half a lap over Americans Staten and Mosier.
With the sun dipping behind the Wasatch and Oquirrh Mountains surrounding Salt Lake City and the shadows seriously lengthening over the race circuit, it was the burly Californian "Rocket" Rex Staten and his mighty Honda with the holeshot to start the all-conclusive second moto. Staten's lead would be short-lived, however, as Karsmakers went flying by before the opening lap was even complete.
"I put all my concentration on that start," Karsmakers, the 1973 AMA 500cc National Champion, said afterwards. "I knew it must go well."
It did and Karsmakers, for all intents and purposes, rode off into the sunset to win the moto and the overall with the greatest of ease. Staten would hang on to score the runner-up finish on the day, while CZ racer Zdenek Velky rounded out the top three. As an interesting historical footnote from that era - and a footnote which certainly displayed the infancy of the sport in this nation at the time - Pierre Karsmakers, brought to America by Yamaha in 1973, won three of nine 250cc Nationals and easily scored the most points in the 250cc National Championship, did not officially earn the '74 title as the AMA presented it to Gary Jones as "First American."
To many industry insiders (and even fans!) the 1974 Salt Lake City InterAMA was the longest day. The Americans were getting faster and faster, Supercross was now up and running and the sport continued to flourish at an incredible rate in the U.S. Still, taking a stroll back in time to see just how far big-time motocross and supercross has become 44 years removed from June 30, 1974 is just plain straight-up fascinating. Check out John Huetter's closing paragraph in his Cycle News race report.
"It wasn't a great InterAm, but it really wasn't as bad as a lot of people had talked themselves into believing. It just may have been the longest day, though. Cold drinks, watermelon and pineapple came out at the end, about a quarter to nine that evening as Utah stated a spectacular sunset."
Seriously, could you see Eli Tomac and the Monster Energy Kawasaki race team hanging out with Marvin Musquin and Red Bull KTM and Jason Anderson and Rockstar Husqvarna hanging out in the pits eating fruit and drinking beer and energy drinks after, say, the Monster Energy Supercross Series round at Anaheim come the January of 2019? Nah, we can't either!