2000S

MIKE BROWN | 2001

Dirt Rider - - Comparison -

125cc AMA PRO MO­TOCROSS CHAM­PION 2001

LET BRANDEN BY

Mike Brown is known by most of the younger gen­er­a­tion for his off-road ex­ploits, most re­cently rid­ing a Rock­star En­ergy Husq­varna in the AMA Endurocross Se­ries as well as be­ing on the US ISDE team for sev­eral years. How­ever, two decades ago, Brownie was a mo­tocross star, and he won the 125cc Pro Mo­tocross Cham­pi­onship in 2001 af­ter a fierce bat­tle with South African Grant Langston, who was rac­ing in Amer­ica af­ter win­ning the 125 FIM World Cham­pi­onship just the year be­fore. It was an ex­cit­ing sea­son with an in­ter­est­ing twist in the end.

Brownie is not one to brag about his suc­cesses. He’s more of a quiet, blue-col­lar type, which is why so many love him. The Ten­nessee na­tive spent the 1999 and 2000 sea­sons in Europe, also rid­ing the 125cc World Cham­pi­onships, where he fin­ished third on both oc­ca­sions.

In 2001, Brownie came back to the United States and raced the AMA se­ries for Mitch Payton’s Pro Cir­cuit Kawasaki team, while Langston also came to Amer­ica and rode the se­ries for KTM.

Travis Pas­trana was the de­fend­ing 125 champ head­ing into the 2001 sea­son, but it was Langston and Brown who dom­i­nated. How­ever, Brown was slow out of the gate.

“I got off to a bad start to the sea­son; I DNF’D both motos at the first round at Hang­town,” Brownie said. “The bike broke in the first moto and then some­thing else hap­pened in the sec­ond moto, so I started the sea­son 50 points in the hole. Dur­ing the mid­dle part of the sea­son I won three races in a row, so that kind of put me back in it.”

The se­ries wound up be­ing a back-and-forth af­fair for most of the year, while in the 250cc class, Ricky Carmichael was killing and, in fact, wrapped up the ti­tle early on his Kawasaki, mean­ing he didn’t need to ride the fi­nal round at Steel City.

At that time, Ricky was tied on the all-time 125cc wins list with Mark Bar­nett and needed one more 125 win to break Bar­nett’s record. Since his 250 ti­tle was al­ready wrapped up, he was more than happy to drop down and try for the record at the se­ries fi­nale in Steel City and, at the same time, per­haps help his friend, Mike Brown, and his old team, Pro Cir­cuit Kawasaki, win the 2001 ti­tle. Many think it was team or­ders that prompted Ricky to move down for the fi­nal race. Af­ter all, if he could get be­tween Brown and Langston and help Brownie win the ti­tle, it would be in Kawasaki’s best in­ter­est.

“Go­ing into the last round, Grant had a nine-point lead on me, and there was a lot of talk go­ing around that Ricky was rid­ing so he could get be­tween me and Grant and help me out,” Brown told Dirt Rider mag­a­zine. “Maybe that’s what Kawasaki wanted, but I think Ricky was more in­ter­ested in beat­ing out Mark for the most 125 wins.”

When rac­ing got un­der­way at Steel City, Brown won the first moto, with Langston in sec­ond. Ricky got a bad start and was only able to work his way up to third, so Brownie was able to gain a few points on Langston.

Go­ing into the sec­ond moto, Langston now had a six-point lead over Brown in the ti­tle chase and just needed to stay rel­a­tively close to the Kawasaki rider to win the cham­pi­onship.

Mak­ing things eas­ier for Langston, Brown crashed on the first lap of the sec­ond moto and dropped to the back of the pack. “I was about top 10 off the start, but then I crashed at the bot­tom of the big up­hill, which put me pretty far back,” Brown said. “I was al­most dead last, but I worked my way up pretty fast. A lot of guys helped me out by let­ting me by easy; I guess they were want­ing me to win.”

Mean­while, Ricky had got­ten off to a much bet­ter start and rode away with the sec­ond moto win. But things would go ter­ri­bly wrong for Langston when the rear spokes on his 125 KTM started to break. Langston slowed try­ing to save a fin­ish, but he was even­tu­ally left stranded on the side of the track with a col­lapsed rear wheel, hand­ing the ti­tle to Brownie.

By this time, Brown had moved up into sec­ond be­hind Ricky and on the fi­nal lap, with ti­tle in hand, he slowed to al­low Branden Jesse­men to go around, hand­ing Ricky his record­win­ning 26th 125 over­all vic­tory.

“When I passed Grant, I thought he had a flat tire be­cause he was rid­ing so slow; I didn’t know what was go­ing on,” Brown said. “The next time I came around I saw him sit­ting on the side of the track and I knew it was over for him.”

WANT MORE This fea­ture story was in­spired by a “Raiders of the Archives” we did with Brad Lackey a few years back. Check it out at dir­trider.com/lackey-archives.

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