With no racing whatsoever going in Canada or around the world, my past few weeks have been about either looking back at old stories or trying to forecast what is going to happen next in our sport. Forecasting or trying to predict exactly when racing will resume is next to impossible as no one knows when this Covid-19 Virus is going to run its course. However, what is fairly easy is sharing with you some cool, old stories about either some of the people in our sport or some past races. Here is a story from November of 1994 when Carl Vaillancourt and I were invited down to Monterrey, Mexico for a Supercross.
With our season here in Canada coming to an in September,, November and December is usually the time when pro riders relax and recharge. However, for some, this time of year presents itself with a chance to travel and try to earn some much needed money. In 1994, I received a call from Carl Vaillancourt asking if I’d be interested in flying down to Mexico to race a Supercross. The race was relatively small and budgets were tight, so there wasn’t any start money or appearance fee. Basically, the promoter would pay for my plane ticket, hotel, and provide a bike for me to ride. I believe it took me all of about 20 seconds to tell Carl that I was in and then I asked, when do we leave? I didn’t care what bike I was going to be riding or how we would be getting around once we arrived in Monterrey, all I knew was that Carl was arriving from Montreal at a certain time so I had to find a flight that matched up with his arrival time so we could meet up at the Monterrey Airport and travel together to our hotel. With no direct flight from Toronto to Monterrey, I recall that I had to fly through Houston and then onto my final destination in hot and sunny Mexico.
Before I left, Carl had given me his flight times so when I arrived in Monterrey I had to sit and wait for his flight to land. As I sat there with my giant gear bag and waited for Carl to arrive, my mind was racing with what the next few days were going to hold. Although I was able to race a few International Supercross events afterwards, this race in Mexico represented my first big SX outside of Canada and the USA, so I was a little nervous. After an hour or so Carl’s plane landed and soon he was walking out of customs with his typical big smile. Moments later our ride also arrived, and this would be the first time meeting our chaperones, brothers Mauricio and Patricio. Although it was our first meeting, it didn’t take long for us to break into conversation, and as we drove into the heat and smog of downtown Monterrey. Carl and I quickly came to the conclusion that these two Mexican brothers were pretty cool and that this was going to be a fun weekend hanging out with them.
After checking into our 5-star hotel and dropping off some of our bags, we got back into the truck and headed for the track. Along the way one of the brothers mentioned that even though we were 24 hours away from our first practice, they didn’t have a bike for me. Although they had a good used Suzuki RM250 for Carl to race, they were struggling to find something decent for me. My first thought was, as long as I was paid for my flight, so be it if I wasn’t able to race. At worst, I could always be Carl’s mechanic. But then Mauricio told us that he had an idea and moments later we pulled into a Honda dealership. As Carl and I waited in the truck, Mauricio disappeared into the dealership and within ten minutes he returned and told me that he found me a bike. In the time that he was inside the dealership he had purchased a brand new 1995 Honda CR250 and was having it delivered to the track later that afternoon. Obviously, I was pumped, and I remember Carl asking in a joking manner, “Where was his brand new Honda?”
The track was actually built in a mall parking lot with portable bleachers surrounding it. For a completely man-made mini arena, the track was very cool and extremely technical. After getting we got our pit area set up and introduced ourselves to a few people, Carl and I proceeded to do what every excited rider does when they arrive at a new track, we walked it. As we walked around we commented on how hard packed the soil was and how long the whoop section was. Now, when I say that it was a long whoop section, I mean it was a long whoop section. Like, the entire length of the arena, 200 feet or so. We both agreed that the racing was going to fun, and with other riders like Larry Brooks, Kyle Lewis Phil Lawrence, Buddy Antunez and local Mexican hero Pedro Gonzalaz also on hand, the competition was going to be tough. Before I started to write this story I tried to find the official results from this race, I couldn’t find any and for the life of me I cannot recall all the American riders who were in attendance. I do remember a host of fast riders from the USA being there, no top factory riders, but a good group of fast guys. Anyway, after getting our pit area set up and walking the track, we made sure our bikes were ready to go (I actually had to ride my new Honda around the parking lot to break it in). We then went back to our hotel to relax and eat some street vendor chicken tacos outside the lobby. Day 1 of our Mexican supercross adventure was in the books and now it was time to get some rest as Saturday was practice and qualifying.
The weather that weekend was extremely hot and humid, which made riding very challenging. During the day on Saturday we both had two practices and then a 15 lap qualifier to see who would be racing the big main event on Sunday afternoon. Carl and I both easily qualified for the main event, but after, we both agreed that Sunday’s 25 lap final was going to be tough because of the track and the heat. After qualifying, we made our way back to the hotel. After taking a nap and of course eating more street meat chicken tacos, Mauricio and Patricio picked us up and drove us into the surrounding hills to a very upscale part of Monterrey. All of the riders had been invited to the house of Javier Martinez, the main guy at the time who handled all of the importing for Kawasaki. He obviously had some money as his house was massive, which came complete with a pool and a great area to host a party. And as if we didn’t get enough tacos at our hotel, the food at this party consisted of some older Mexican ladies cooking homemade tacos. The food and the party were great as the promoters treated all of the invited riders like kings. Before I get to Sunday and the big race, here are Carl’s memories from our weekend in Mexico:
“ I had just gone back to school in Trois-Rivières to complete my Finance Bachelor Degree. Boy I was hating life that first semester after spending the last 7 years racing full-time all over the world. So when we got the call for this one weekend for a SX in Mexico, I said, let’s go! I put the books aside for a few days and away we went.
I hadn’t been riding at all since the Montreal SX so I felt off the pace at first. It was a fairly small track, I would say bigger than an AX but smaller than a full on SX track. The layout was good with big jumps and a hard packed surface, so the track held up nice. The track also featured a whoop section that was sooooo long, you had to really squeeze the bike, pin it and try to ride on top of them. A few fast West Coast American riders were there so it was a pretty good field. We both made the main and I know I made top ten, I think I ended up 9th. I was pretty tired at the end of the main. It was a hot day, and with no seat time I had arm pump at the end.
The Mexican guys that took care of us were super cool – Mauricio Hernandez and his brother Patricio, both of whom I still keep in touch with on Facebook. They also paid for my mechanic so that was cool. I did return the favour the next year when I helped them get Erick Vallejo invited to the Montreal SX. He was a good up and coming kid that ended up doing the 250 West Coast SX with a Tecate deal the next year. I also remember that we went out to downtown Monterrey, we were (or we thought….) the cool SX guys at a big night club. It was a short trip but we made some quick cash, had fun and made new friends.”
Sunday morning we made our way to the track fairly early to warm-up and get ready for the big main event. We did get a short ten minute practice and then there was a cool opening ceremony complete with rider introductions. Leading up to the 250 main event there was a great vibe in the stands and in the paddock. There was music blasting over the speakers, and since the pits were open to the public, it was full of friendly fans who were eager to meet some pasty, white Canadians. After talking to a ton of people and signing some autographs, it was finally time to head to the gate for the big race of the weekend, the 250 main event.
I’d love to be able to tell you that the main event was full of battles and excitement, however, considering the temperature was 40c with the humidity, none of the riders were too eager to get into any big battles. The 25 lap main event was fun as the track was very entertaining. As I mentioned before, the long whoop section was the most difficult part of the track and each lap it took a lot of effort to get through them. As I recall, you basically charged through the whoop section and then spent the rest of the lap trying to catch your breath. It was a hot race, and by Lap 20 I was done. I didn’t get a great start and for most of the race I ran just outside of the Top 10, I could see Carl battling ahead of me but I wasn’t able to find any extra speed to catch him. In the end, I ended up finishing 11th and Carl was two positions ahead of me in 9th. Larry Brooks ended up winning after a great battle with Lawrence and Lewis. We not only survived but we both rode well. Looking back I think we both could’ve finished a little better, but given the heat and the fact that we hadn’t been riding much leading up to the race, our results weren’t too bad.
After the race there was a big pit party and fans were once again allowed to roam free through the paddock. We met some more interesting people, including one guy who wanted a photo with us and his rather lizard. It was a great conclusion to the weekend, and those few hours we spent after the race hanging out with the local fans definitely helped to shape the memories of this awesome event. After helping to load our bikes and clean up our pit area, it was time to head back to the hotel to relax, and you guessed it, eat a few more chicken tacos. The next morning we woke up and made our way to the airport for our flight home. Once again, Mauricio and Patricio drove us. Along the way we talked about what a great weekend it was. These brothers were so nice that both Carl and I ended up keeping in touch with them for years to come. In fact, even to this day we all still communicate on Facebook. I guess you just never know when you’re going to meet life-long friends.
Well, that was my Mexican SX experience from back in 1994. In the years since, any time I think about this race it brings a smile to my face as it was such a great time. The racing, the people, and hanging out with Carl, it was all a lot of fun and it’s hard to believe that it was so long ago. As you would expect, my advice to all of the pro riders these days is, if you ever get invited to a race and have the opportunity to travel and compete at the same time, go for it!! At the very least you’ll get to see a part of the world that you may never get to see again, and you’ll no doubt meet some very cool people. Thanks for reading and stay healthy my moto friends.