1976 125 Nationals - Part 3

As told by Dave Arnold and Bill Buchka Part 3

Round 5: Delta Ohio August 1st

The fans were very surprised to see the works bikes back on the National circuit. Particularly Yamaha and Honda, who have pulled all the stops in an almost no-holds barred effort to put their rider on top. Yamaha was back with the previously claimed water cooled OW27 and Honda debuted the much rumored all new Type 2 RC125. Yamaha tuner Bill Buchka summed it up. "I'm not gonna bring a bike up here that Bob's got to struggle with to get a forth or fifth place on.

Warren Reid's Honda burned through the long downhill sweeper ahead of everyone as the gate dropped to open the 125cc National program. Arlo Englund on a Husky was right on Reid's rear fender and he was followed by Broc Glover. Marty Smith was forth; Bob Hannah was around in eighth and Danny LaPorte went down in the first turn. Meanwhile, Reid had dropped out and Englund had taken command. Glover held second, still ahead of Smith. The three front runners-Englund, Glover and Smith, pulled ahead of the rest and got involved in a scrap that put Broc in front on lap four, Marty in second three laps later, then saw Smith take the lead near the 15-minute mark. By that time, Bob Hannah had moved into forth and begun making life difficult for Arlo. The dispute didn't last for long. Within the next two laps, Hannah had overtaken both Englund and Glover to move into second place behind Smith. At that point, near the halfway mark, Marty had a 14-second lead and was really hauling on his new Type 2 works Honda. He was adapting really well to the new and much improved works bike and looked unstoppable and then......"We went by the finish line, and there were two lapped riders ahead of me.” Marty explained afterward, "The flagman gave them both the blue (passing) flag, and the first guy moved over. But the other guy just put up his elbows and started racing with me, getting all squirrelly and everything. We went through that left-hander before the jump; he slid out wide all out of shape, then came right back across the track into me.” As they hit the jump, the slower rider took Smith out. Marty recovered after the crash, but was only able to take a tenth in the moto. The matter was discussed and handled in a professional manner in the pits. "I told him he may have just cost me the Championship.” With Marty gone, Bob Hannah had it all to himself. Broc Glover finished second, Arlo Englund third and Danny LaPorte had an amazing ride and came from dead last, to finish forth.

Warren Reid again proved the speed of his FMF Honda by grabbing the holeshot in the second moto. Marty Smith was second, Arlo Englund third and Bob Hannah was in forth. Smith reeled in Reid, took command of the lead, and pulled away. From that point on, there was no catching his Dave Arnold tuned RC125 type 2. Marty was riding that new bike like it was on rails, dragging the bars in the turns, doing everything just perfect. Three laps later, Bob Hannah also got around Warren Reid's Honda and settled in second. At about the same time Jeff Jennings who was on Billy Grossi's RA125 (Billy was out with appendicitis) in forth, dropped out when the bike quit. Danny LaPorte had no trouble in the first turn in the second moto and was really charging putting the works Suzuki in a solid third place. When it was over Bob Hannah won the overall with a 1-2. Danny LaPorte scored his best finish of the season with a 4-3 score for second overall. Privateer Arlo Englund had an amazing ride to finish third with a 3-4 and Marty Smith finished forth with a 10-1.

Dave Arnold: It is clear now looking back, that up until the 125 GP at Mid-Ohio, we had been behind the curve with equipment performance. Getting nicked with more than normal mechanical problems and making poor choices with slapping together last minute on the road, on the fly, untested and un-refined production based race bikes with poorly mixed matched works parts, knee jerk reacting to the claiming issue which combined, was not effectively helping our quest of keeping the national #1 plate on Marty and at Honda.

Marty winning the 125 GP in Ohio in such a commanding fashion on our wild card, heavily modified case reed Type 1 works bike, certainly helped rekindle needed momentum and confidence in general to stay in contention for the National Title chase. Adding to this momentum was the arrival of the heavily anticipated Type 2 works 125 just in time for the last four remaining National Series races. Marty didn't have much if any time on the bike prior to the Delta race, although I remember Pierre Karsmakers had been doing quite a bit of testing with the new Type 2 bikes of all displacements so I was reasonably confident the new bikes had received good input and direction.

The Type 2 arrived in the typical Honda R&D overbuilt perfectly packaged wooden crate. I believe Jon R and I uncrated it in the Delta hotel parking lot. It was not a warmed over Type 1 at all, it was a totally new bike from the ground up. The engine, frame construction, geometry, suspension components, tank shape and ride position looked very cutting edge. It even smelled good (something to do with titanium and magnesium fermenting in a mahogany wooden crate that usually translates into fast) The bike was awesome!

Marty really liked the new bike in every way. He looked fast and was very happy and confident in general. We finally had a bike that could respectfully go up against Yamaha's OW27 with confidence. Marty was hungry and ready to do business with this bike. From this late in the game and coming from behind points wise, we would need to dominate every moto in every race for the remainder of the series to have any chance of retaining the #1 plate. If there was any more misfortune going around, it had to go in Yamaha's direction.

In the first moto, Marty was out in front and pulling away with a solid 14 second gap. He was at one with the bike and he was in perfect form. Everything seemed to be going our way and then, while lapping traffic he got tangled with a slower rider and went down. It was a pretty bad crash as he didn't come around for quite a while and eventually ended up10th in the first moto. This was the make or break point in the series and what started out looking so good turned out not so good which played heavy on us all. Everybody in the Honda camp was more than disappointed but not more than Smitty. He was more upset than I have ever seen him. Between moto's, Marty marched over to find the lapped rider that he crashed with and let him know that the incident just cost him the Championship. In my eye's this was not entirely true bearing responsibility for trailing Yamaha in the series from the start until now due to so many reasons in and out of our control but it sure was one of the final defining moments in this title chase.

In the second moto once Marty got out front, there were no mishaps and he won going away.

Bill Buchka: The day before the Delta Ohio National, I was walking through the parking lot at the race headquarters Hotel and there it was. Dave and Jon R. were uncrating the much rumored works Honda. That red just jumped out at you. When I saw that motorcycle I can tell you "I got scared.” That bike was going fast in the crate. I really got worried. Honda had just dropped a psychological bomb on everybody. I didn't in anyway want to upset Bob. I thought I would let him make his own judgment. He was the guy that had to throw his leg over his motorcycle and compete with Marty on that bike. I really tried to find a positive in competing with that and came to the conclusion, "Hey, Marty has only had that bike for a week or so, so maybe it's not that well developed yet.” I had to refer back to our strategic plan, one race at a time. Luck went our way again and Marty had a mishap as a lapper took him out while maintaining a huge lead. It was really unfortunate for Marty as his new works bike really looked good. To have a lead of over fourteen seconds and have a misfortune like that must have had a negative psychological impact on him.

A privateer files a claim on Marty Smith's RC125 Type2

Marty opened the second half of the series with a new bike and looked invincible on his Type 2. There was new life at team Honda and there was plenty of time left to regroup. Then it happened again.

Immediately after the flag fell on the second moto, AMA ref Ron Denny was approached by a privateer (Bill Barlow) holding $2500.00 cash. The privateer had filed a claim on Marty Smith's new RC125 Type 2. While Marty was sitting in a lawn chair cooling off after running away with the second moto, Ron Denny walked over to the Honda pits and informed both Dave Arnold and Marty Smith that their bike had been claimed. Both Dave and Marty were stunned. "What…someone claimed my bike?” was Marty's response. The bike was immediately impounded and pushed to the track clubhouse followed by a large crowd of fans and a group of factory riders who filed counter claims to help Honda keep the bike. After all the involved parties and the Type 2 were in the club house, the door was shut. A large group of spectators gathered outside knowing exactly what was going on as the claiming topic was now common fodder among the fans as well as the riders. AMA ref Ron Denny was literally sweating bullets as he was laying down the guidelines for the lottery. Poker chips with numbers written on them (that were normally used for start position drawings) were put in a Maxwell House coffee can and it was determined, the rider that drew the lowest number owned the bike. The moment was extremely tense as the anticipation of another works bike being claimed had been mounting for weeks. This time the claimant's chances were diluted with eight counter claims filed by the other teams. Still the stakes were very high and Honda had a lot to lose. Their brand new Type 2 works bike was loaded with top secret technology and was very much at risk. Honda even made a large cash offer to the privateer in advance incase the privateer won the bike. The offer was declined. When it was time to draw numbers, Marty (obviously upset) sarcastically remarked to the privateer "Since you're the one who is claiming it, you draw first." Barlow reached in the can and drew number 42. Then Marty reached in to draw second, Marty drew number 8. Once Marty had the lower number of the two, the other riders immediately withdrew their claims. Marty won the bike.

The reason for the claim on Marty Smith's Type 2 by Bill Barlow was in stark contrast to the reason Mickey Boone claimed Bob Hannah's OW27. Boone was a former Honda factory rider who rode works bikes and was now on a production bike and knew the difference that a works bike would make in his results. Barlow on the other hand was a rookie So Cal rider in his first year on the Nationals and had never ridden a works bike before to know the difference. He was traveling with his family doing the entire National series in a camper and transporter with two Honda FMF package racers. While camping at the track on Saturday night Bill had convinced his father into claiming the bike. The new Type 2 Honda had been the talk amongst everybody who saw it when Dave Arnold had pushed the bike through tech inspection earlier in the day. The problem was, Mr. Barlow didn't have $2500.00 in cash and it was Saturday night and there were no ATM machines in 1976. The track owner Paul Schlegel was approached and told of the plot. Mr. Schlegel agreed to cash Barlow's personal check with Sunday's gate money. When the checkered flag fell as Marty won the second moto, Ron Denny was immediately notified of the claim. Had Barlow waited until the 29 minute mark, even Honda wouldn't have had time to counter claim their own bike because it was several minutes after Denny was handed the initial claim that Honda was even notified. After this riders were instructed to wait at the AMA trailer, cashiers checks in hand, until the 30 minute mark had passed.

Round 6: San Antonio Texas August 15th

"I claimed it once before and I'll claim it again” said 125 rider Bill Barlow's father. "If I have to put it in a glass case because I can't get parts for it I will.” Over at the Yamaha pits Bob Hannah had his own thoughts. "Let him claim it,” said a lounging Bob Hannah as he sat in the shade about ten feet away from his sparkling clean watercooled OW27 Yamaha, "and then let him try and get it.” The day had started in a war of nerves that now has become standard operating procedure at the 125cc National events. Yamaha, at the risk of losing their bike, had made the decision to run the OW27 for the remainder of the season. Things were much different over at the Honda camp though. "Honda doesn't like 8 to 1 odds” was Dave Arnold's response (referring to the claiming rule). "We are back on the Type 1 bike.”

"Holding a National in August at San Antonio is like holding a National in Nome Alaska in December,” said one journalist before the race. As much time that was expended on the claiming controversy before the drop of the first moto gate was also spent on discussing the weather. The riders tried to cool off by soaking their jerseys before going to the line. Most of their jerseys were soaked with sweat before water could be poured on. It was that hot! After a false start, Marty Smith got the holeshot in the first moto, followed by Broc Glover, Warren Reid and Bob Hannah. Glover shocked the crowd by zapping Smith before the first lap was over and putting a little ground on the factory Honda, but Smith surged back into the lead on the second lap and carried Warren Reid and Bob Hannah with him. Hannah dispatched Reid a couple of laps later. The race appeared to settling down with the top four riders maintaining a constant distance between himself and his pursuers. That changed drastically with only ten minutes to go in the moto. Hannah started to charge and the crowd noticed it immediately. Down the rough potholed straight they would come, first Smith, then a tight compact Hannah. The next lap would find them closer, and then with two laps to go it was Hannah coming down the straight with Smith in pursuit. Marty didn't break off the battle, but he couldn't gain enough momentum as his shocks had lost damping late in the race.

In moto two, Glover got the holeshot, LaPorte was second, Hannah was eighth and Smith back in fifteenth. LaPorte took the lead away from Glover and quickly built up a twenty- second lead. Glover was immediately under assault from Wise, who had Hannah breathing down his neck, followed by Warren Reid, Jeff Jennings, John Savitski and Marty Smith. LaPorte's engine started to bog and as he came by the mechanics area he was pointing to his rear wheel. Bob Hannah, Steve Wise, Marty Smith and Broc Glover took immediate advantage of his hardship. Two laps later the problem started to clear up and LaPorte started to come back. Hannah was now firmly in command of the overall as Marty moved past Wise to take second and LaPorte caught and passed Wise for third. On the last lap Hannah crossed the finish line with his hand raised in victory.

Dave Arnold: Honda almost losing their new Type 2 works bike at the last race, didn't go over very well back in the office. For the second time in this series, we were instructed back to our previous and unfortunately when we needed it most, now lesser equipment Type 1. This may have sounded OK in theory but in reality it was devastating for Marty to take a step backwards in equipment. Even though we won the Mid-Ohio 125 USGP on this bike, San Antonio's race conditions were very hot and humid and the track was rough, semi sandy with ruts and G-force compared to Ohio's relatively fast, smooth track and fair weather. Marty struggled with suspension fading, bottoming due to the extreme heat and rough track conditions in the first moto and after a tight race between Glover, Reid, Wise and Hannah, Marty just couldn't get back around Bob by race end.

Marty, (usually a good starter) really didn't get a good start in the second moto, which I believe then and today was more by choice than circumstance. Smitty, when he put his mind to it, could easily put himself in the top 3 or 4 spots in the start. I'm pretty sure Marty gave it everything he had in the first moto and came up short. He was getting very tired of finishing second to Bob especially when it was a heads up one on one type of race. He knew he could do better than that all things being equal and it didn't help the situation having our new Type 2 race bike sitting in the trailer back in the pits. To me, this felt like the point that we were now beat in the Championship. It was now a futile effort, the fight was going away and eventual reality was being forced upon us. This is the exact point that this Championship was decided.

Bill Buchka: The conditions in San Antonio were extreme, possibly the most extreme I have ever experienced at a motocross race. It was 106 degrees that day and the track was in a little valley where there was no breeze and it felt even hotter. We went over our strategy and even though Marty was not able to use his Type 2 motorcycle, he still had a decent motorcycle. When you have guys like Dave Arnold and Jon R. behind you, they're going to put you on good equipment. Marty was still the highest benchmark for us but we were looking at other riders as well. Steve Wise was in his home state and Danny LaPorte was coming on strong. We knew we were in for a tough race but we also knew Bob had tremendous conditioning. At this point in the season, he was completely dedicated to his conditioning.

Early on in the season Bob and I established a mutual no air-conditioning rule that simply did not allow the use of air conditioning in our hotel rooms (for either of us) while we were on the road preparing for any and all races. Whether it was five days before the race or two hours before the race, no air conditioning was allowed. We were going to completely adapt to the circumstances that we were faced with in the race venue no matter what. This started in the Florida series and went on the whole season. You can open the windows, sleep without covers or whatever but you're going to get used to the ambient conditions. Then you go out and do your conditioning work on the motorcycle. You do it with a starting time that's the same time as the first moto on race day. If it's a 1:30 start time on Sunday, then you do forty minutes starting at 1:30. Then you rest the same amount of time as you would between motos but when it was time for moto two, you go out and do another forty-minute moto. We had the number one race bike that was immaculately prepared for the race and we had a number two testing and engineering works bike that we did testing on. While on the road, Bob did two forty-minute motos every Tuesday and Thursday and sometimes even on Wednesdays. This training was done on the number two bike. Pierre and I developed this practice a few years before and I carried it over with Bob, who fortunately (and credit to him) was receptive to it. That was part of our strategic plan, to make as total of a package as we could. Not to mention the other contributions Bob made regarding his running, calisthenics and weight work. He did this work faithfully. As dedicated as he was, it motivated me even more.

Going into San Antonio and those ambient conditions, we knew we had the edge over everybody. As that race played out, Bob didn't take the lead until late in either of the two motos. Rather than increasing his pace and decreasing his lap times, everybody lost time to Bob. They came back to Bob. Bob's lap times remained consistent throughout the 106 degrees. They didn't vary more than a second to a second and a half per lap for the entire two motos. That was a long track in San Antonio with lap times of over three minutes. To maintain your lap times within a second of each other for forty minutes requires phenomenal ability and understanding of your condition and what you're doing on the racetrack. Bob's times remained the same even while lapping traffic. After that race everybody knew Bob was going to be the Champion.

Houston Texas August 22nd

Bob Hannah had come to Houston's Rio Bravo Motocross Park with a huge lead over two time National Champion Marty Smith. For Bob it was a tactical race, but for Marty it was the whole ballgame. Honda had brought out the Type 2 Honda and said "to heck with the claims, full speed ahead!

In the first moto Texan Mel Newman grabbed the holeshot with Texas local Louis Presley, Ron Turner, Broc Glover and Danny LaPorte in pursuit. Bob Hannah was back in 16th, while Marty Smith lay back in 25th place. Newman's home state advantage lasted two laps and was demolished by Broc Glover. The Texas moto fans had never heard of Glover before, but as the moto progressed Broc Glover's name could have taken on Lone Star State herodom, except Glover is a Californian. As easily as Glover passed Newman he pulled away to an unbelievable 23 second lead. Suzuki teamster Danny LaPorte dispatched Newman who threw a chain, and Presley. With Kawasaki factory rider Mickey Kessler on his tail the race for runner-up began. Kessler and the green machine pressured for the first half of the moto, but when Hannah and Steve Wise suddenly appeared on his rear knobby Kessler began to tire. Hannah passed Kessler in a hairpin bowl and Wise used his Honda horsepower to motor the painfully slow Kawasaki to death down the straights. The race quickly spread out with Glover 23 seconds ahead of Hannah and Wise who was 20 seconds ahead of a tightly bunched pack of riders that included Marty Smith, Warren Reid, Ron Turner and Mickey Kessler. With two laps to go there were few changes expected until Ron Turners front wheel fell off taking him from the top ten to the top ten in hard luck.

For the second moto Hannah knew that all he needed was a seventh place or better. If he could finish in the top seven Smith would have no chance of catching him in the final National of the year in New Orleans. "I'm going to ride a safe, steady race and try not to get knocked off," said Bob before the start. Marty had no choice but to go for the win. Wise took the lead from the start followed by LaPorte and Glover. Hannah was 13th and Smith was 19th. In the span of four laps Glover passed LaPorte, LaPorte re passed Glover and slipped past Wise in a tight right hander. By the halfway point Hannah had moved up to fifth with Marty on his tail. Bob waved Marty by and Marty would have none of it. "We came to race; was Marty's response. Bob later said,; I didn't want to take a chance on getting involved in a race where one of us might get knocked down, so I waved him past; Glover's bike began to lose compression and Broc began to pace himself. LaPorte and Wise in a neck and neck battle for third overall in the National standings were not pacing themselves at all. Wise's Honda was faster down the straights and LaPorte's works Suzuki had a handling advantage on the rough stuff. For the moto they each gave away their particular disadvantage and tried to capitalize on the other guys. With two laps to go the margin narrowed to a bike length but Wise suddenly slowed. LaPorte picked up the breakneck pace up on the last lap to win his first ever National Championship event. It was also Suzuki's first ever National win in the 125 class. Wise finished second on a flat rear tire, but had to settle for third overall behind Broc Glover's excellent 1-3 performance. Broc also won his first National moto. The Hannah-Smith duo came across fourth and fifth. Bob Hannah was the new National Champion.

There were no claims made on any of the factory equipment. Jeff Jennings suffered torn ligaments in his foot that will keep him out of the last race. Bob Hannah vowed to show everybody what he could do in New Orleans and made it his goal to tie Pierre Karsmakers record of seven National wins in one season.

Dave Arnold: At Houston we were back on the good bike but in reality it was too little to late. Marty was never one to give up but this Championship baring any miracles was over in my mind and I'm sure his mind as well, although I'm not sure spoken out loud ( I know, never say never). Hannah was riding smart just to survive and seal the deal and although Marty came to race, I'm sure looking back, he was riding around feeling his two years of dominance had come to an end with Bob sewing up the Championship. I think it was a day of reflection and acceptance.

Bill Buchka: At Houston we were now within mathematical grasp of winning the Championship. With the right race finishes for Bob and everyone else, we could actually leave Texas with the 125 Championship locked up. This was the first time we backed off of our intention of maximizing our effort for every race. Now we wanted to finish each moto strategically, from a points and overall championship point of view. Events could change during the race and one of things we tried to do as well as we possibly could was communicate during the race as far as what was going on around Bob that he couldn't see. We did this with a number of pit board signals that we developed over time. I wouldn't just tell Bob who was in second. I would tell him where his contenders were at all times. For example, If Grossi was fourth or LaPorte was fifth, Bob would know that periodically throughout the race as well. Now we were really looking at the numbers to see what we had to do versus what everybody else had to do. Our strategy was once again, take each race in the overall picture of the Championship. Our goal at Houston was to lock up the Championship. We consciously went in there to do that. It was not a fun race to do because we didn't want Bob to slow down to the point where it became risky or dangerous. Something similar happened earlier in the season in Florida where Bob slowed down to try and help Rick Burgett finish second in the Florida series. That nearly backfired on us and we vowed never to do that again. We knew that staying close to Danny LaPorte would be part of our strategy that day, because even though he won, he didn't have enough points or races left to win the title. We also knew that deposing Marty again would guarantee us the title. We needed to do what we needed to do that day and as it turns out, we did. We wanted to take the pressure off ourselves in case we had a mechanical failure either be it that day or the final round at New Orleans.

So the title was Bob's with one more race remaining in the Championship and it was time to celebrate in Houston. We celebrated with pizza and beer, yes, pizza and beer, and a lot of ribbing of Bob because he was a rookie. This was also the first time any of us had seen Bob drink anything other than Gatorade, fruit juice, or water. This was definitely a new experience for Bob and he got ribbed for this too. It was good-hearted ribbing though, and meant to keep Bob's feet on the ground at this early stage of his career. Knowing that there was still unfinished business to do in New Orleans at the last round of the Championship, the celebrating was fairly reserved and limited to a few close friends and associates. A true champion should go out a winner and Bob had every intention of doing so in New Orleans.

New Orleans Louisiana August 29th

With the Championship having been decided the week before at Rio Bravo in a listless manner, Hannah had come to New Orleans to race again. Honda kept Marty on the Type 2 and Danny LaPorte had momentum going his and Suzuki's way with their first win the prior week. Broc Glover, Steve Wise and Warren Reid had now established themselves as consistent front runners and caught the eye of the factories for potential works rides for 1977. The New Orleans round was held at the infamous Motocross West course on the banks of the Mississippi River. Motocross West was the site of the famous "Battle of New Orleans" in 1975 where the 500 National Championship was decided in the final moto as six riders had a mathematical chance to be National Champion. Both Dave Arnold (Pierre Karsmakers) and Bill Buchka (Jimmy Weinert) were involved in that with Jimmy Weinert winning the Championship. It was also the place where a year earlier, Bob Hannah riding for DG in his second 125 National, had passed out from heat exhaustion as the conditions were very extreme. Marty Smith ran away with the race that day by a wide margin.

At the drop of the first gate it was Danny LaPorte, Ron Turner, Broc Glover, Bob Hannah, Marty Smith and Steve Wise lumped together. Hannah wasted no time passing Broc Glover and Ron Turner and placed his front fender right on the rear fender of LaPorte's Suzuki. Shortly after that on a short straight, Hannah turned up the thermostat on his watercooled OW27 and disappeared over the undulating terrain. Marty was not having it so easy as he got sandwiched between LaPorte and Wise and was having a hard time breaking free. Broc Glover had his DG racer dialed into a solid fifth, while John Savitski on Billy Grossi's works Suzuki (who was there as a spectator because of appendicitis) had an unbelievable battle with Ron Turner as each rider made frequent attempts to erase each other from the track. Savitski eventually held the advantage as a lapper got in between.

The fans got more than their moneys worth as Danny LaPorte held it on the longest as the second moto got underway. Three turns into the race saw Savitski, Hannah and Wise sorting out second place. Once by Savitski, Hannah moved in on LaPorte and the two factory riders collided at the hairpin that led to the front straight. Both riders feet flew off the pegs as they wobbled onto the straightaway. Danny grabbed a big handful, straightened the works Suzuki out and regained his direction first. The next lap was almost a repeat as Hannah held a much quicker inside line. Hannah clutched the flying water-wagon, but again LaPorte got away in front. The third time LaPorte was not as lucky as Hannah got away first. Steve Wise quickly capitalized on the sinking Suzuki rider as Marty Smith displaced Savitski to take forth. Hannah had about a ten second lead as LaPorte passed Wise and then Marty who was really hauling on the Type 2 passed both Wise and LaPorte.

Time was running out, but Marty picked up the pace and began to narrow the margin that Hannah held. With four laps to go Hannah developed a flat front tire. Luckily the tacky surface of the front portion of the course still provided control, but out back on the slick fast straights he was losing time. Suddenly they were side by side coming down the straight towards the tunnel. Marty got a wheel in front as they came into the tunnel turn and as a result Hannah came out of the tight inside line he was on. Hannah and Smith collided, collapsed and crashed. Smith was on the bottom with his bike, Hannah and the Yamaha on top. Hannah quickly scrambled to his feet and stood on Marty's bike, in effect standing on Marty. After several seconds of floundering and yelling, Hannah jerked his leg out of Smith's wheel and they scrambled to their feet. LaPorte darted under the tunnel, immediately got on the gas and was now in the lead. Danny LaPorte was on his was to his second straight 125 National win. Then the Suzuki spun out, Hannah was up first and started to close the gap. LaPorte used his head and got going with a minimum of fuss. Going over a jump Danny landed on his gas tank hard and was in a lot of pain. Smith was now riding with a shock that snapped off and Hannah with a flat front tire, the walking wounded 125 National series came to a freakish finish. LaPorte crossed the finish line in victory and collapsed on the tank. Smith's bike gave up the ghost under the beating of semi-shockless riding and Hannah wobbled in third. Wise and Savitski came in forth and fifth far ahead of everybody else. It was interesting to see that once a decent rider (Savitski) got a chance to compete on a works bike, it increased his results dramatically.

Dave Arnold: New Orleans has always been a really tough Deep South, very hot and humid, tough track kind of race. I remember the 500 National's going down to the wire the previous year with six riders in contention.

There were towards the end of this series, a number of riders riding really well such as Broc Glover, Steve Wise, Warren Reid and Danny LaPorte who had won the previous weekend in San Antonio. Any case, Bob had a better start than Marty and worked through this top group early on and eventually won the first moto while Marty, working up from a mid pack start and riding pretty good as well, ended up getting by LaPorte and Wise prior to the finish for 2nd.

The second moto was a slug fest quagmire with Bob up front, then getting a flat, Marty catching Bob, Marty and Bob crashing into each other and then some sort of altercation where Bob was standing on top of Marty's bike (with Marty under it). While Bob was getting up, he broke Marty's shock shaft in the process and while all this was going on, Danny LaPorte slipped by for the win giving him his second overall win for the series. Bob rode around with a front flat and Marty rode around with a broken shock until the end. It was quite and excitable end to one hell of a series.

Bill Buchka: Once the Championship was tied up, it was time to go back to racing for real in New Orleans. Bob had a score to settle with New Orleans based on the previous year where he was carted off in an ambulance with an I.V. insertion, re-hydrating himself. He went there to remove the image he had of himself from the prior year. Bob ran away with the first race. In the second, he developed a flat tire and this led to an altercation with Marty Smith which resulted in locking handlebars and they went down together in a corner. This resulted in Danny LaPorte winning the overall and Bob got second. Bob came to race and he did what he could do barring that mechanical problem which prevented him from sweeping both motos.

When it was all over, I think Bob showed he was more than deserving of being 125 National Champion that year, and that paved the way for the rest of his illustrious career. As they say, "The Rest is History !"

Dave Arnold Epilogue:

The 1976 125 National series was one of the toughest series I have ever been involved with. The top 10 riders in this series seemed only a few months before, travel to Hangtown as local So Cal (Saddleback, Carlsbad) pros (except for Steve Wise from Texas) and by the end of the series, were top level contenders many of which went on to win championships of their own and established the base to start the shift of motocross dominance from Europe to the US. Not only Marty Smith and Bob Hannah but Danny LaPorte, Broc Glover, Steve Wise, Warren Reid and the list goes on and on.

I have to say kudos and with all respect to Yamaha for not only the development and innovation of the OW27, but hiring Bob Hannah (a virtually unknown) away from being a Suzuki support rider, plus fielding their race effort with such seasoned and experienced technicians such as Ed Scheidler, Bill Buchka, Don Dudak, Bob Oliver, Keith McCarty and many others. You can feel it when you read excerpts from Bill's memoirs. Also to Bob himself who at the time I didn't know what to think as he was from nowhere and when you did get to know him, he was cocky, brash and had the in your face attitude which is exactly why Honda hired him a few years later.

Marty went on to be a top contender and won his first 500cc Trans AMA race held in Nebraska against the dominant Europeans and the following season dominated the 250 National series (stopped short by a mechanical) and ended up winning the 500 Nationals (when Bob had a mechanical).

Kudos to Terry Good of MXWORKSBIKE.COM for putting this story together. It most certainly would have gone forgotten as I think Terry remembered more of what we were doing back then than we did doing it. It's a real piece of MX history.

Dave Arnold

Bill Buchka Epilogue:

The 1976 AMA Motocross season brought Bob and I together for one fabulous season of Championship motocross. Bob came from nowhere to win the Florida Winter AMA 500 series, the AMA 125 National Championship series, and individual wins in the 250 and 500 AMA National Championship series as well as the 500 Trans AMA International series. But this was a crossroads season for both of us. Following the 1976 season, I went on to Europe to pursue my goals of winning the motocross World Championship.

As we all now know, Bob went on to have a truly phenomenal racing career. I'd like to think that I had a very small part in laying the foundation for Bob's later success in becoming one of the "Legends of Motocross". Bob is truly a great individual and a great racer.

I hope that these recollections of the 125 National Championship in 1976 will bring the readers of these historical motorsports events an inside look at what it took to win the Championship, and perhaps emphasize what excitement and innovation took place at that incredible time in AMA Championship motocross racing history.

Special Thanks must also be paid to Terry Good and MXWORKSBIKE.COM for being the catalyst of this entire historical compilation. Without Terry's dedication, efforts, and perseverance none of this would have been possible.

Bill Buchka

Bill Buchka, Terry Good and Dave Arnold at Tom White's museum 2006

I would really like to thank Dave Arnold and Bill Buchka for not only taking the time to document this historical Championship as they saw it, but to really make the commitment and do it properly. Dave and Bill both took the same professional approach to this feature that they did while turning wrenches back in the day that earned them both so many Championships. I'm sure that this is the first time anything like this has ever been done to this extent. I also want to thank Warren Reid, Steve Wise and Kim Blackseth for taking the time to provide us with their memories. All three of them have a great insight and really spent a lot of time preparing their articles. Also Ron Lawson (editor for Dirt Bike magazine) Jody Weisel (editor for Motocross Action, Jody actually covered many of these races for Cycle News) and Kit Palmer (from Cycle News) for helping out with the historical accounts. Many thanks to Davey Coombs for posting this in RacerX , so many people would see this.

Terry Good May 2007