History of Motocross & Supercross
'Moto-cross' is a French word, combing 'motorcycle' with 'cross country'. The sport of motocross was popularized in Europe during the 50's & 60's, primarily in Western Europe. Most events were held in open fields and pastures, and the best riders were from Europe. Even today, motocross is run outdoors, on natural terrain tracks. The races are longer (typically close to 40 minutes) and the tracks have higher top speeds.
Motocross came to the United States in the mid-60's, and the idea originated with a man named Edison Dye. He helped bring over the best riders from Europe to help showcase the sport to America. Over the next few years, some of the top riders that came over to America back then included World Champions Torsten Hallman, Bengt Aberg, Joel Robert, and Roger De Coster, along with many other great riders. Roger De Coster is a big reason why motocross became popular in the USA - De Coster really struck a nerve with American fans. His style, professionalism, the winning of 5 World Motocross Championships, and the way he conducted him-self in public and with the media made him a fan favorite. He is still involved in USA motocross today as Team Manager of US Suzuki.
In those early years, the American riders were no match for the Europeans. In most races, it was a feat for an American to even finish in the top ten. But America had fallen in love with motocross. Slowly, they learned training techniques, conditioning, and gained experience both in racing with the Europeans when they came to the USA, and by some Americans going to Europe to compete in the World Motocross Championships. In 1973, Jim Pomeroy became the first American to win a motocross world championship Grand Prix, capturing the opening round in Spain of that year's world championship series. In 1982, Brad Lackey became the first American to win a World Motocross Championship title, riding for Suzuki in the 500cc class. A few weeks later, Danny LaPorte became the second American to win a World Motocross Championship, capturing the 250cc series riding for Yamaha.
The tide had turned, in that American riders were now on par with the Europeans, and, the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) had nurtured America's National Motocross Series into something prestigious enough that some European riders were coming over to the USA to contest the AMA National Series. Today, they are two primary motocross series being contested in the world – the FIM World Motocross Grand Prix series, consisting of 15 rounds all over the globe, and the AMA National Motocross series, consisting of 12 rounds across the USA.
What is Supercross?
Supercross is an 'Americanized' version of motocross. It's basically the same riders, and same motorcycles, but the races are run on man-made tracks, mostly in major stadium venues. The races are shorter, with many big jumps and crowd pleasing obstacles, and that makes timing and precision more important than just top speed. Mike Goodwin is the man that invented supercross. The first supercross was held in the Los Angeles Coliseum in 1972, and the winner of that first event was Marty Tripes.
Supercross helped bring motocross to the public in a much easier fashion – instead of traveling out to a rural farm or pasture, the sport came to the masses – the stadium venues provide the ease of getting to the event, parking, nice seats, food, and more. Today, the sport of supercross has grown from it's humble beginnings in 1972 into the 2nd most prestigious motorsport in the USA, topped only by NASCAR in fan interest. Supercross riders like Jeremy McGrath, Ricky Carmichael, James Stewart, Chad Reed and Travis Pastrana have become household names and known the world over.
Currently, the biggest supercross series in the world is the AMA/FIM Supercross Series, which is primarily a 15 round series in the USA. It is the crown jewel of off-road motorcycling in the world. The sport is also expanding at a rapid pace worldwide. There are now supercross series in many countries, and exciting new series developing in Australia, India, and China.