MARTY SMITH | 1977
125cc AMA PRO MOTOCROSS CHAMPION 1974 125cc AMA PRO MOTOCROSS CHAMPION 1975 500cc AMA PRO MOTOCROSS CHAMPION 1977
MARTY’S TYPE TWO
Marty Smith was perhaps the first real motocross superstar, with his golden-boy good looks and incredible physique and conditioning. Marty won his first title in 1974, the 125cc Pro Motocross title, which he backed up in 1975. However, he told us his 1977 500cc Motocross title was perhaps his toughest since it featured some knockdown, drag-out battles with Bob Hannah.
To set the stage, there was a lot of drama the year before in ’76 because of the bike Marty rode in Europe. That year he was riding the FIM series and flying back and forth so he could also race the AMA series, which he ultimately lost to Bob Hannah.
“[In 1976], we had a Type One Honda factory bike I was riding, but we were having quite a bit of issues with it. Everybody just thought it was because Bob was new and Bob had a great bike— the Ow20—and that was why we were struggling. But we would have struggled anyway. So then Honda came out with that Type Two and I rode it a couple of events. I won every moto on that. Then Honda decided to repo the bike and take it back to Japan, take it right out of my hands. They said, ‘Hey, we’re worried that thing’s going to get claimed by the claim rule and we don’t want to take a chance.’ Bob ended up beating me that year, but that bike ended up being what Honda came out with in ’77 so I was able to ride it in the US series the next year.
“Bob and I were bitter rivals on the track. I didn’t like him at all and he didn’t like me at all. If we were anywhere near each other on the track, we kept an eye on each other. We kept our distance. It was a brutal hatred on the track, I can tell you that. But off the track, we got along. We were very cordial. We had nothing but respect for each other. I don’t think we ever came out and said to each other that we respected each other. We didn’t go that far. I never sent him a Christmas card or nothing like that, but I did respect him.
“So in ’77 I felt like I had something to prove. Our bikes were amazing. The Type Two Honda was just badass. We came out strong and I got a big lead halfway through the nationals. Everything was going great. Just after the halfway point, while Bob was struggling in the first half, I was cruising, and I had a nice 25- or 30-point lead. But then I got involved in a couple of crashes, had some bad starts. I think I had a flat and DNF’D one moto. But Bob caught me in the second half of that series and we went into St. Pete, Florida, the final round, and I think we were just literally a point or two apart. Whoever won that day was going to win the national championship.
“St. Pete was a sand track, and it was beat. Practice was a freeway just like Mammoth Mountain MX is in the morning, and then the first moto it started getting beat up. The second moto it was pretty beat. That was in my favor, to my advantage. It was hot, humid, and rough. That’s about the best I can explain it. But I loved those conditions.
“In the first moto Bob got the holeshot and I followed him around, just stayed right behind him. I kept him at bay and wouldn’t let him get away. I didn’t want to push too hard because I knew we had two motos. But right out of the blue his throttle cable broke, which made it real easy for me to just keep on putting around and win that first moto. Then all I had to do is get eighth or 10th the second moto. I think I got third and won the championship. That was my final championship, on a 500. That was a good year. I felt like I had something to prove and I really wanted to beat Bob. I got my share of moto victories that year, but to be honest with you I was just really consistent. I didn’t win every moto. I don’t know who won the majority of the motos, but it wasn’t me. I was just the guy who was right there, ready to win a championship and not really worried about winning the motos. I just knew that I had to win a championship.”