Talk about a warhorse. That’s what this Suzuki motocrosser was for the legendary “Bad” Brad Lackey back in 1982, when he used it to survive the rabid, pro-European fans and claim the first, and only, 500cc World Motocross Championship won by an American racer.
Lackey’s connection with Suzuki began when he signed a two-year deal to race the world championships in 1981. The next year proved to be his season.
Riding a factory Suzuki RN500 throughout the year, Lackey worked his way into a 4-point lead over his teammate, Andre Vromans, with one round remaining. That showdown took place in Luxembourg, next door to Vromans’ native Belgium.
At that final race, Lackey knew Vromans would be tough. But he also knew that the European fans, who wanted to see their man take the title, could be tougher.
“There were 60,000 or 70,000 fans rooting for him, and few for me,” Lackey remembers. “The fans were right next to the track, and they’d throw sand in your eyes, or worse, to mess with you.”
So, in the first moto, the American let Vromans build a big lead to avoid any trouble with the fans—a wise decision. Graham Noyce of Great Britain got the holeshot, but on the second lap a spectator swung a pole at him, breaking his hand. Lackey shrewdly let Vromans, running second behind Sweden’s Hakan Carlqvist, build a 25-second lead with five laps to go before reeling him in.
Dodging objects thrown by fans, Lackey caught and passed Vromans with half-a-lap left to take over second place and gain another 2 points on his rival. In the second moto, Vromans finished sixth, while Lackey took third to earn the world title.
The bike that carried Lackey to victory was about as trick as they came back then. The 50mm Simons upside-down forks are prototypes, and the rear shock is a factory Ohlins. The magnesium hubs feature large strengthening gussets, and bolted-in steel brake liners. The one-off swingarm is made of stamped aluminum pieces welded together.
A few years ago, Lackey was able to track the bike down through Suzuki racing contacts in Holland, so he bought it. This historic machine is now part of the new “Motocross America” exhibit in the Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum at AMA headquarters in Pickerington, Ohio.
CLASSIC Quick List
Engine Air-cooled two-stroke single cylinder
Displacement Close to 500cc
Forks Simons upside-down
Rear shock Ohlins
Brakes Double-leading shoe front single-leading shoe rear