The 2011 AMA Supercross season is shaping up to be one of the most highly anticipated in recent years. Suzuki’s Ryan Dungey, with the number one plate, is certainly in the catbird seat coming into Anaheim.
However, three riders who were a serious threat to the title last year and were taken out of contention due to injuries will be looking to upset the Dungey applecart; Yamaha’s James Stewart, Private Honda team rider Chad Reed, and Kawasaki’s number one man, Ryan Villopoto are ready to get back to the task at hand, each one feeling they have unfinished business in the form of a title.Add to this equation the class regulars, many of whom have shown the capability to run at the front, along with a host of talented young riders moving up from the Lites division and you’ve got the makings of one of the most dense fields of talent ever.However, going way back to 1982 (when I was wrenching for Scott Johnson on Team Maico) I’d have to say that SX season was perhaps one of the most competitive across the board. First, it was the last year of prototypes before the production rule went into effect. That meant the factory bikes were just that; factory bikes, as exotic as you can imagine. The Hondas were the most exotic; oval-shaped chrome bore cylinders were good enough for practice, heat races and the main. After that they had to be rebuilt.Main events in Supercross of the early 80s were literally a who’s who of American motocross. When I would go out to watch the main event I was always astonished at the level of talent lined up. Three-digit numbers were practically non-existent on the gate for the main, just single and double numbers, the cream of the crop.Think about this. In 1982 the Supercross regulars, that is, the factory riders, included Bob Hannah, Broc Glover, Jeff Ward, Johnny O’Mara, Mike Bell, Mark Barnett, Kent Howerton, David Bailey, Darrell Schultz, Danny Chandler, Rick Johnson, Chuck Sun, Alan King, Jim Gibson and Donnie Hansen. That’s fifteen riders right there vying for twenty spots open for the main.Add to that a number of extremely talented support riders and privateers that included Mark Murphy, Clint Hardick, Goat Brekker, and Warren Reid, and you had one hell of a strong field to get through to just qualify for the main event, let alone win it.Also, at virtually every race we went to in 1982, they had to run qualifiers to even get to the heat races, the number of riders signing up was so large. I’m not taking anything away from today’s stars, but it’s important to remember that Supercross has been around now long enough to have earned a rich history and it’s important to not forget, there have been some very tough seasons in the past. Every generation, every era seems to produce it’s own super talents. All said, I’m willing to wager that 2011 is going to go down in history as one of the toughest.