Until that fateful day in June 1980, the FIM 500cc United States Grand Prix at Carlsbad had been dominated by European motocross racers.
“The princes of the sport,” as ABC Wide World of Sports announcer Jim Lampley called them at the time had reigned supreme in the nine years that the race had been promoted by Gavin Trippe and his partner Bruce Cox.
In fact, Dutchman Gerrit Wolsink won the USGP at Carlsbad an astounding five times himself. The dried clay of Carlsbad’s “blue groove” track became known as “The Rock” as it continued to crush America’s best riders.
In 1977, American Jim Pomeroy made history in Carlsbad by becoming the first American to win a moto at Carlsbad. However a crash in the first turn of the second moto prevented an American from winning the overall and again handing a victory to “The Dentist”. It would be another three years before an American would be in contention for the Carlsbad crown.
In the summer of 1980, two men were battling it out for the 500cc World Championship: American “Bad Brad” Lackey and Belgium’s Andre Malherbe. As the series headed from Europe to California, most fans were betting on Northern Californian Lackey who had been flying the U.S. flag solo on the GP circuit for eight long years.
However on that hot Sunday in June, it was not Lackey or even one of the regulars on the GP circuit that leaped to the front of the first moto. It was not even one of the established Factory American riders ready to make a name for themselves by leading the world’s best for a couple laps at least.
Instead of one of the heroes or legends, it was local privateer Marty Moates who grabbed the holeshot. Marty not only led the first moto, he overcame crashes and passed the Euros to win the second moto as well!
A virtual unknown he had finally accomplished what no other American rider before him could over the previous decade… win the Carlsbad USGP! And ABC’s Wide World of Sports’ cameras were rolling all the while.