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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.”

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