Motocross of Nations - Lommel 1981
News Tuesday 31th July 2012
1981 Motocross of Nations - Lommel Belgium
The American Team left the United States surrounded in controversy, and they landed in Belgium in even more turmoil. The event promoter at the Trophee des Nations in Belgium stated that the American Team was a joke, and refused to raise their start money to equitable levels.
Europeans idolize winners and can care less about last year's star. Chuck Sun's victory at the 500cc USGP, O'Mara's U.S. 125 GP win, Hansen's third place National finish behind Howerton and Hannah, and Danny LaPorte's 500cc National Championship meant nothing to them.
American team kept a lid on seething anger. The Americans psyched the Europeans by playing the underdog to the hilt... "No, I've never seen sand like this... No, we don't have tracks like this in America... Yes, it is very difficult... "
And the Europeans ate it up and walked away from the American camp with broad smiles, their suspicions confirmed. In timed practice the Americans were fast. "Anyone can go fast for a lap or two, the track gets rougher during the race, the Europeans are saving themselves," was the continental line.
After the short qualifying races, used to trim the 13 entered countries down to 7, the Americans came out as the highest-qualified team. A Finnish partisan said after the American domination of the qualifiers, "No European rider was trying hard. The Americans were obviously going as fast as they could, and it was a mistake. You'll see!"
No Europeans believed what they had seen, and all were fully convinced that the 40-minute Trophee des Nations would wipe the Americans out.
TROPHEE DES NATIONS
The Trophee was the World Team Motocross Championship for 250cc bikes.
Each Nation enters four riders, and the three highest scores are added together from each moto for each country. The team with the best finishes (lowest score) wins the World Championship.
When the gate dropped, the partisan Belgian crowd lurched forward to see who would lead the pack onto the whooped-out Lommel sand track. There was a collective gasp as Johnny 0' burst into the first turn.
Fanatical Belgians leaned over the fences and urged the Belgian Team of Andre Vromans, Marc Velkeneers, Eric Geboers and Harry Everts on. In their dazzling white uniforms with blue helmets, the American team was packing the front of the field.
Sand specialist Andre Vromans got past O'Mara to win the moto. Vromans lives only two miles from the Lommel circuit. As the incensed Belgian fans screamed at their riders to go faster, the American team was running second, third, fourth and sixth! No one could believe it!
Programs were being flipped open as 20,000 people tried to find out who those guys in white were. Sun had some shock problems and slipped back to eighth at the finish, but after counting up the first-moto points the Americans had nine points (2+ 3+ 4 equal 9).
Second place was held by Belgium, with 20 points for their three best scores. In the second moto the Belgian fortunes took a turn for the better as Vromans and Geboers took the lead and squirted away, followed by Sweden's Conny Carlsson and a dynamic American duo of Danny LaPorte and Donnie Hansen.
Enthusiastic and nationalistic Belgian fans hugged each other and smiled. O'Mara and Sun were stuck back in the pack with Everts and Velkeneers. "Now," thought the Europeans, "we will whip the upstart Yanks."
But at the halfway mark the tide had turned. Sand specialist Andre Vromans still had the lead, but Geboers and Everts had bailed, and LaPorte took over the chase of the local hero. Johnny 0' had come through the pack for a solid third. Hansen faded back to 11th, but Chuck Sun hooked up with Harry Everts and zapped him on the last lap.
The Americans came in second, third and sixth. There was no question about who had won. If all of the European teams' best scores had been added together, the American team still would have won. It was a staggering display of total domination. American riders hugged their mechanics, shook their fists in the air and even had a few damp eyes. The Americans loved it. The Belgian fans hated it.
WHAT IT DID TO THEM
Joel Robert went to the head of the Belgian Motorcycle Federation after the United States' victory and offered his and Roger DeCoster's services. "We will practice two days next week, and we'll win," said Joel. "You need all the help you can get!"
Meanwhile, Roger DeCoster was taking flak from the Belgians, and having a marvelous experience at the same time. DeCoster was serving as the American Team Manager. He had won the Trophee many times for Belgium, and now his boys, his Honda team, his underdogs from America, had won the Trophee again.
Without three men, the United States Team would never have left America—Roger DeCoster, who believed in American motocross; Dick Miller, who believed in the American people; and Larry Maiers, who led a united American motorcycle industry into the whole glorious episode.
Danny LaPorte called home after the Trophee to tell his family about the win. The phone call cost him $750. His share of the purse and start money was only $400.
The Belgian promoter deducted 3500 Francs ($21) out of the U.S. prize money to pay for a hotel room that Roger DeCoster had cancelled, but apparently wasn't cancelled. It was a small way of getting even. To rub a little salt in, DeCoster offered to buy the champagne that the confident Belgian Team had bought before the event even started.
Of course, Roger only offered to pay them half price. Thuur Coen, the Bel-Ray chief in Europe, supplied all the logistical support and transportation needs of the American Honda riders. Thuur also went up to the loudspeakers after the American victory and praised the American team in perfect Flemish. "We have proven that it wasn't a joke!" was his finishing line.