Great things have small beginnings. Nowhere is this truer than with Pro Circuit, the southern California race entity that grew from one man’s passion into the most dominant race team in motocross.
It was 1978 when enduro rider and desert racer Mitch Payton founded Pro Circuit. A humble operation of just a few dedicated motorcycle people; Payton was honing his skills and earning a reputation as a specialist in the mysterious world of 2-stroke porting.
I was a part-time mechanic at the time in the hotbed Saddleback and Carlsbad-based CMC motocross series and can recall Mitch, driving a tired Dodge van with his new company’s logo painted on the side, being on the scene every weekend helping out local motocross riders.
In the beginning Pro Circuit was primarily linked with Husqvarna Motorcycles, due the Payton family business, but as Mitch’s engine mastery began to garner a loyal following he expanded into the Japanese brands (Honda, Suzuki, Yamaha and Kawasaki).
Mitch understood that the real secret to a 2-stroke motorbike engine’s tuning-due the essential physics of backpressure-was the exhaust pipe.
Pro Circuit entered the challenging realm of exhaust pipe manufacturing at a time when that facet of after-market seemed tightly sewn up by established companies. Mitch persevered and the Pro Circuit brand began to take hold.
In the early 90s Payton decided to officially go racing on the nationals and secured an unknown rider by the name of Jeremy McGrath. This marked the beginning of Mitch’s and Pro Circuit’s now legendary penchant for finding and nurturing future great talents in motocross and Supercross.
The added exposure of motorcycle racing and winning at a national level helped grow out the business and soon Pro Circuit was the preeminent name in aftermarket pipes.
The superior performance of the Pro Circuit pipes and engine work led to demands for other specialized parts and the company branched out into suspension components and a range of aftermarket parts.
The next phase of Pro Circuit’s impressive presence began in 1997 with the hiring of a young rider named Ricky Carmichael. This also marked the beginning of a long association Pro Circuit has enjoyed with Kawasaki.
The list of riders that have prospered under Mitch Payton’s guidance is lengthy. The current make-up of the teams in both the 250 and 450 Motocross and Supercross classes represents the cream of the crop in terms of both riders and mechanics.
In fact, Pro Circuit has become the team most riders aspire to, now perceived as the premiere racing enterprise with the best machines and support. Now working as the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki Team, Mitch Payton continues to ply his trade and follow his passion.
To date Pro Circuit lays claim to 26 championships, 193 national wins, and 5 Des Nations victories. The humble little shop has grown into a mammoth engineering complex in Corona, California and Mitch’s ratted out Dodge van has been replaced with semi-tractor trailers bearing the motocross powerhouse name; Pro Circuit.