Photos & Musings: Golden State Series

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The Golden State series, which I believe is still running, was an eight round championship run at various tracks across California. Organised by the California Motorsports Club (CMC) it usually attracted some big names, predominantly in the 250 class, as preparation for the US supercross series. In addition to the US factory riders a handful of Euros also made the trip. I remember Jacky Vimond and Heinz Kinigadner racing previously. (I recall seeing in MXA that Heinz's racing number was, er, '57' of course). Jamie Dobb was a also regular in the schooboy classes.

We signed up over the phone when we arrived and I was asked what number I wanted. I would be racing with #6 in British championships for '87 so I requested 6 as I could then use all the cool printed-up jerseys that Answer would be making us when I got home. However I was told that number 6 was taken. "You can have 6X" the lady said. "You can have two guys with the same number racing?" I enquired? "Sure!" she replied. In the land of litigation it seemed that many rules were in fact far more relaxed than we had been used to at home.

6X was kind of cool, but 6A sounded more appropriate. So 6A it was. Hence the unusual (for us Brits) number shown on my bike in the Fran Kuhn bar drag photos.

Looking forward to some fine racing in the sun we were horrified to travel up into the high desert for the first round at Victorville and find it pouring with rain. It was a horrible mud race and after the second moto I couldn't open my eyes for hours afterwards due to the mixture of mud, water and grit.

I ended up with second overall behind Mike Fisher, Kawasaki test rider and now Kawasaki US team boss.

The first round became infamous for the fight that occurred between Rick Johnson and Ron Lechien after the first moto. Johnson, who had punched Lechien in the face, was being 'talked to' by the cops. It all happens in California!

Round two was at Lake Huron and it was marred by the tragic injury to my hero David Bailey. Huron had some tricky jump combinations, one of which was two small kickers at the start of a straight. No more than a couple of feet tall I was apprehensive at the thought that we may have to jump these. They were a long way apart and very sharp.

I went out to watch the 250 guys practice and followed David Bailey's progress as he clicked off the tricky sections of the track with ease. As he came to the two small jumps he launched them but cased the second one. The landing jump had no backside to it to carry the front wheel and he flew over the bars. Not moving, he was soon surrounded by medical staff and eventually stretchered away.

It never occurred to me that his injury was so serious. I saw Roger DeCoster walking through the pits afterwards and asked how David was. He just said "It doesn't look good".

David's injury was a bombshell. Bailey was the most precise, calculating rider of all. His technique was perfect and style unmatched. If somebody like that could get hurt what are the chances for us? It really brought it home to me what a potentialy dangerous sport we had chosen to devote our life to. Only the week earlier at the first round I had raced without my chest protector. 'The good guys don't wear them because they're too restrictive', I had told myself. That outlook changed forever after seeing Bailey crash.

During the races that day, and indeed for the next few times I rode all I could think about was Bailey getting hurt, and that at any point I could crash and it might be me next. It was not a good time for me mentally.

The third race was up near San Francisco, and Bailey had been transferred to a hospital there. I had never met David, and I'm sure he had no idea who we were, but Mark, Chris, Ian and myself went to the hospital. We just announced that we were riders over from England and were shown in to see him. David was in good spirits, but laid on a rotating table which slowly kept him moving like a chicken on a spit. He seemed appreciative of our visit but it was very sad.

As the Golden State series moved on through the remaining rounds the 500 Pro class was strengthened with the addition of Bryan Myerscough, and both he and Fisher were too consistently fast for me to make much of a challenge for the series overall. I ended up in third place in the championship, with Fisher winning and Bryan second. Bizarrely, I was presented with a first place trophy for winning the International 500cc Pro class, which basically comprised Mark and I. Cool!

Fourth place in the series was Willy Simons, with whom I had some great tussles throughout the series, including punting him clean over the fence at Carlsbad. I seem to remember him being rather upset at that, and me responding with some smart ass comment about how tough we race in Europe, or something like that. I regretted that straight away and apologised. We made up and became quite good friends for the remaining races. But, Willy, if you're reading this, I apologise again and thanks for the great racing!

Mark Banks finished 8th in the series, gradually getting back up to speed after his broken leg a few months earlier.

The race number 6A came from the Golden State series Enlarge image

I enjoyed some great racing with US Honda rider Willy Simons Enlarge image

A cool trophy for my efforts Enlarge image

My hero David Bailey, tragically injured at Lake Huron Enlarge image