1984 marked the last year of operation for Saddleback Park. During that year, no one knew that would be the last time they would race at the historical track, or ride it’s fast trails. Being a intracal part of motocross industry, Saddleback hosted the AMA 125/250/500 Nationals one last time. Overshadowed by the infamous 1981 Nationals were Hannah and Howerton epic battle. The 1984 AMA Nationals at Saddleback had it’s own epic battles in all three classes.
The 125 class showcased Jeff Ward and Johnny O’ Mara as the young guns looking to prove themselves. The 250 class had Ron Lechien and Ricky Johnson pushing to be the dominant rider. And the 500 class was a seemingly unfair fight of David Bailey on a full works HRC Honda against Broc Glover on Yamaha’s production based YZ490. All three classes were great races to end an era of Motocross history.
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Ake Jonsson (27) Banzai Hill Holeshot 1972 Trans Am – Photo by Super Hunky
This one photo embodies the history of Saddleback Park. Since the beginning of the motor playground in 197_, Banzai Hill has been a mysterious attraction and the Maico brand has been a major player throughout the history of Saddleback Park.
To race Saddleback Park’s main motocross track you needed a combination of power and fineness. Nestled within a natural valley, the hillside terrain and hard clay soil that turned to concrete in the hot sun created conditions that were very demanding for the rider as well as the machine.
Maico motorcross bikes, built in Germany, were a great machine for the riggers of motocross racing throughout the world, especially Saddleback Park. Early in their development, the long travel suspension and leading front axle design gave them a distinct handling advantage over the Czech, Spanish and Japanese competition. Matched with their low to mid range powerband, the amount of traction produced were a perfect match for a hilly and slippery terrain.
The photo depicts Saddleback Park’s famous Banzai Hill. This challenging downhill section was used for all major racing events like the Trans Am and AMA Nationals. It was seldom used for amateur races because of the mid hill drop that would cause riders to nose dive which was not a good thing on a standard production bike with tiny front forks. Not until the 1980’s, when production bikes started to come standard with larger diameter front forks leading to better control over rough terrain, did Banzai Hill section started to be used during amateur races.
At the bottom of the downhill, the riders are faced with a steep angle adjoining the rest of the track. The faster you go, the more suspension you’ll need to soak up the abrupt dip heading into the wide sweeper turn before Webco Hill.
This combination of rough terrain and superior handling made the Maico / Saddleback Park a match-up tough to beat.