Friday, November 26, 2010

Our Saddleback

Manning Cycle Park was one of the "big" tracks we raced on in the 1970s, and was actually the site of an Inter-Am race, I believe in or around 1972. I was there that day, a 12 year old kid, watching the international motocross stars like "Jammin" Jimmy Weinert and Dutch transplant Pierre Karsmakers, as well as Utah rider Bob Plumb, and it left an impression on me.

Manning hosted some other big races over the years and was the site of many battles on the local scene as well. We loved coming to this place and did so every chance we got, to sample the roller-coaster layout, varied terrain, time-worn blue groove, rocky straights, and the signature obstacle: the big dropoff. It went like this: you rounded the first turn, a sharp right, and then immediately a left hand sweeper that shot you out onto a straight with 2 small jumps (The picture shows me on the 2nd of them) that immediately preceeded a 20 ft. drop. The dropoff was basically a catapult for the next immediate obstacle, a plateau jump (tabletop) that was approximately 1/2 the height of the drop. A real slingshot if taken at speed.

Legend was that at one time a rider from Utah had jumped off the dropoff and landed right on the plateau, a feat we all considered crazy. Something like that would have scared the heck out of us, but what is motocross, after all, if not a series of scary incidents all strung together?

Manning was as close as it got to a real, pro motocross course, at least on our small racing circuit. It was, in other words, as close as it got to Saddleback—mecca to all that was motocross racing in the 1970s. My best memories were watching Plumb skip over the back straight, his bike just touching down maybe twice, then disappearing over the hill only to reappear in the next sweeper, his speed was amazing. The fast guys at Manning just kept the speed high, taking the outside lines and blue-groove with their tires skimming over the hardpack. Momentum was the key.

I guess in that way, it was a little like the real Saddleback. The proving grounds for the fast and tough, nobody ever won here that didn't deserve at lease one of those titles. Some guys I saw win or impress here: Stan Wynhof, Doug Dubach, Larry Jensen, Bob Plumb, Gary Neff, Randy Sargent, Dale Bohm, Steve Liedberg, Jim West, Johnny Greenway, to name a few. The first turn is where I witnessed a dude riding a brand new Husky 125 (Yellow tank) pull the holeshot, slide out in the first turn, and proceed to beat his pretty painted gas tank to a mangled pulp right there in front of spectators, his parents, and the almighty. Wow.

Another time I watched as the winner of the 125 amateur class stopped a lap early to grab a cigarette, light it up, and ride his last lap with the smoke dangling from his lip. Classy. I saw a crazy pit-racing incident that probably surpasses any I have seen since when a supercharged 125 Novice, name withheld, who was riding a tricked out Honda with every mod just ripping wheelies and throwing rocks right through the center of the pits. Then the same guy went all ballistic and ran my buddy Randy right off the track in their race, forever going down in our history as one to be targeted for revenge. Memories.

It is crazy how, I could never remember something like my (ex) wife's birthday, but I remember every rut, rock and bump on some old race track from 30 years ago. I could ride this track in my sleep then, and I bet if I could ride it now I still would remember the hot lines.


casey pons said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
casey pons said...

Ha, Ha, Ha!

I cannot believe I found this article Googling for;"Manning Cycle Park." I remember this was the first (real) Motocross track I had ever seen back in 74ish.
That drop-off was (the) intimidator, and definitely got your attention upon your first encounter with it. That entire track was nothing but, "One Big Blue-Groove" as it was just mound, after mound of black cinders dumped there from the mine smelter.
It's funny to hear you say you could ride Manning in your sleep.
I remember one time we camped there on a non-race weekend. Kevin Tolley, Dennis Jones, Hal Putttck (all from Salt Lake)and myself, decided around the campfire after a few Brewskis and a bet, that it would be a smart idea to ride the Manning Motocross track at Midnight, minus the Moonlight, or even Headlights, for that matter. As Blue as that track was during daylight, at midnight, you just as well of had your eyes closed, because nobody did anything but braille their way around for one long and lonely lap, and that was one too many.
Ah, memories of your twenties, and to be able to actually talk about them today...

Bob Plumb, Pierre Karsmakers, Marty Tripes and Manning Motocross are all legends in my memory of those wonderful days.

Unknown said...

My dad owned one of Gary Neffs old kx 250's..1971, as I recall. It was a 71 as it had the solid green tank, no stripe. I was young, but remember riding it. He'd catch me since I coudl nto reach the ground. That bike was FAST! I rode a 1972 Yamaha 80, with full lights and turn signals. That 250 felt like the Space Shuttle.

outlawadventures said...

Gary neff is racing at Rmr vintage races this friday. 9/30/16.

Unknown said...

This is greater to find this article! My dad Leonard Ault ran Manning. I remember as a kid running burgers around to the flaggers with my sister. I have a lot of memories of that place. I'm glad others do too!

yellowcab643 said...

I used to ride out there - I had a Honda with a Super Rat Engine. Kelly Hammond used to put us (a friend or two) in his truck and take us to Manning. He delivered for a Lumber Yard and was heavy like Super Hunky and always had the new Yamaha 250, 360 or 370 Moto-X bike. It is a really nice track and we used to spend all day there on Saturday or Sunday or go to Widowmaker. No one ever bothered us about trespassing or who we were.