At the Spanish Grand Prix in 1973-the opening round of the 250cc Motocross World Championship-the racing community was introduced to Washington-born Jim Pomeroy. Virtually unknown in the Grand Prix ranks, Pomery, riding a Bultaco, won the opening moto.
He took the checkered flag with a flair that would come to define the American style; on the rear wheel, with one hand off the bar flashing the peace sign. The crowd went nuts.
Unfortunately the Bultaco mechanics-against Pomeroy’s pleads-felt inclined to go through the motocross bike to ensure reliability for the second moto and screwed up the feel of the dirt bike. Pomeroy still managed a fourth in the second moto to take the overall.
There was unprecedented significance to that win.
Pomeroy became not only the first American to win an FIM MX Grand Prix, he also was the first rider to win his debut GP. Being the first round meant he was the first American to lead the 250cc World Championship. Pomeroy also became the first rider to win a Grand Prix on a Spanish motorcycle, the Bultaco.
During his career Pomeroy would rack up a number of firsts. In 1974 he became the first winner of an indoor Supercross race, at the Houston Astrodome. In 1975 he was the first American to lead the Trans-AMA Championship-a series long dominated by the Europeans.
Pomeroy was the first American to win a moto at the prestigious U.S. 500cc GP. And in 1974 he was the first non-world champion to win the Trophies des Nations.
Although never winning a title, Pomeroy was a major player on both the national and international scenes, flying back and forth across the pond to compete in multiple championships simultaneously.
Loyal to Bultaco, Pomeroy gave the Spanish manufacturer-despite their machine’s notorious lack of reliability- several top ten finishes in the world championships; 7th in 1973, 7th in 1975, and 4th in 1976. Pomeroy switched to mega powerhouse Honda for 1977 and 1978, delivering a 3rd and a 5th in the championship.
A famous story told by racing legend Brad Lackey took place at Pomeroy’s first Trans-AMA race. There was a scary downhill that had top-caliber racers carefully cresting the summit and easing down the steep face so as not to build up too much momentum for the corner at the bottom.
Lackey was astonished to see Pomeroy-an unknown 20-year old-fly off the top and land halfway down the hill, grab some throttle and blast toward the corner, nailing the berm with incredible speed and force, then blasting off down the straight.
Lackey thought the kid had made a mistake and gotten very lucky to not crash. But Pomeroy did the same thing the next lap, and the lap after that. Lackey dragged his friend Jimmy Weinert over to see this. The two series’ favorites realized if they were going to win they would need to tackle the downhill with the same gusto. Needless to say, Pomeroy quickly earned kudos among the racing elite.
In 1979 Pomeroy returned to his real love; the World Championships. He was talked back to Bultaco, with whom he enjoyed his early success, but by now the Japanese manufacturers were decimating the European brands the limited racing budget of the Spanish marquee resulted in a dismal string of DNFs. The once great Spanish name ceased operations mid-season, leaving Pomeroy without a ride.
By 1980 Pomeroy was feeling the physical effects of a racing career and decided to retire. He toured the nation with his private motocross schools and competed in a number of vet races, often aboard a vintage Bultaco.
Sadly, in 2006, Pomeroy was killed in a car accident in his home State of Washington. He will always be remembered as the man who shook the world with that Spanish GP win, taking the checkered flag on the rear wheel, flashing the peace sign.