The seven members of the Class of 2014 were recognized for their achievements and contributions to motorcycling during the 2014 American Honda AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, presented by Harley-Davidson Motor Company, at the Chapin Theater in the Orange County Convention Center on Friday.
During a ceremony hosted by actor, motorcyclist and American Motorcyclist Association board member Perry King, the new inductees are: race tuner and innovator Byron Hines; motocross pioneer Pierre Karsmakers; Tom White, acclaimed motorcycle collector, former nationally ranked racer and founder of White Brothers Cycle Specialties; George Barber, founder of the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum and the Barber Motorsports Park; national off-road racing champion Scott Summers; AMA motocross champion and current Supercross/motocross team manager Mike LaRocco; and legendary tuner, engine builder and team owner Rob Muzzy.
Also honored was AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame Legend William “Willie G.” Davidson. Willie G. is the grandson of Harley-Davidson founder William A. Davidson and is responsible for many of the innovative motorcycle designs that ushered in a new era for the iconic company.
AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame Legends are existing members of the Hall of Fame whose lifetime accomplishments are showcased as part of the annual induction ceremony of new Hall of Famers.
“In surveying the Hall of Fame Class of 2014, I am struck by the wealth of talent, intelligence, competitive spirit, vision and imagination that these men represent,” said Ken Ford, a member of the Hall of Fame executive committee and treasurer of the AMA board of directors. “And it is inspiring that these new inductees, along with all the other members of the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame, devoted so much of their time, energy and resources to building, sustaining and expanding motorcycling.”
The audience was treated to a short video chronicle of each inductee’s motorcycling history. Then each new Hall of Fame member was presented with a Hall of Fame ring, sponsored by Zero Motorcycles.
“There’s really something extraordinary about motorcycling, something that absolutely transcends its description as a ‘sport’ or a ‘lifestyle.'” King said. “It’s as if motorcycling captures the essence of who we are: The exhilaration we feel when we ride, the competitive spirit we tap into when we race, and the unbreakable bonds of lifetime friendship forged with other motorcyclists. And that is exactly what makes the mission of the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame so noble: This unwavering desire to honor, preserve and protect the legacy of this passion that we share. It is, quite simply, beyond words.”
Pierre Karsmakers was one of the first European motocross champions to bring his expertise to America. A three-time motocross champion in his native Holland, Karsmakers came to the United States to gain wider exposure and attract the attention of the Japanese motorcycle makers.
Racing for Yamaha in 1973, Karsmakers won the 500cc motocross national championship series, scoring 2,659 total points. The second-place racer scored 1,427. Karsmakers also was winner of the inaugural AMA Supercross Championship in 1974. He retired from racing in 1979.
“I came to America in the early ’70s, after I had gotten an offer from Yamaha to race for them in the national motocross championships,” Karsmakers said. “Together we were pretty successful. I had a great time racing and working in America, although in motocross there are many ups and downs, like everybody knows. I hope that I was a good example for the young American motocross riders, and that we all made motocross stronger and more popular over here.”
Byron Hines is one of the most successful engine builders in motorcycle racing. As a tuner, Hines has won in the 1970s, ’80s, ’90s and 2000s. He has won in drag racing and road racing on brands as varied as Yamaha, Ducati and Harley-Davidson.
He found early success as a young tuner in the 1970s when he joined forces with motorcycle drag racer and AMA Motorcycle Hall of Famer Terry Vance. The pair earned national drag-racing championships into the 1980s, along the way leveraging their on-track achievements into the successful aftermarket company Vance & Hines.
The company branched into road racing in the 1980s, becoming one of the top AMA Pro Superbike teams, winning individual races as well as class titles, including the 1990 AMA SuperSport Championship with rider David Sadowski. His totals include 23 NHRA national drag racing championships, 130 national drag racing wins and scores of ET and top-speed records.
In the late 1990s, they switched to Ducati and experienced further success with Anthony Gobert and Ben Bostrom at the controls. Today they compete in, and sponsor, the AMA Pro Racing Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson Racing Series, part of the AMA Pro Road Racing program.
“Throughout my career, motorcycle drag racing has been my primary focus, but I’ve always had interest in all forms of motorcycle competition,” Hines said. “Along the way, I’ve had the opportunity to meet and work with some outstanding individuals and some great race teams. I would like to thank everyone for the support on this very special occasion. It’s once in a lifetime achievement, and I deeply appreciate the honor.”
George Barber is arguably the world’s most prolific collector of motorcycles. He is the founder of the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum and creator of the Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala.
Barber’s early interest in motor vehicles manifested itself in Porsche racers during the 1960s, when he wrenched his own cars and notched 63 first-place finishes. But he became intrigued with motorcycles, especially the variety of ways different designers and engineers chose to solve similar problems.
He began collecting motorcycles and decided to open a museum when the collection reached about 60.
Today, the world-renowned Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum holds a collection of more 1,400 motorcycles, with more than 700 on display at any given time. Each year, hundreds of thousands of people visit the 830-acre Barber Motorsports Park that includes a 2.38-mile roadracing track.
Barber was unable to attend the ceremony. Brian Slark, an AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame member and Barber museum’s technical director, accepted the award on Barber’s behalf.
In an acceptance speech video, Barber thanked those who contributed to his museum and invite the motorcycling community to visit and enjoy both his collection and track.
Scott Summers raced Honda XR600Rs to nine AMA national off-road racing championships by racing his way — on a motorcycle that most others appreciated for its proficiency in wide-open desert racing.
Although Summers acknowledged that the XR600R had a weight disadvantage compared to the much smaller two-strokes ridden by his rivals, he noted that the Honda’s smoother power delivery and torque gave him a performance edge with his riding style.
Summers won the 1990, 1991 and 1992 Grand National Cross Country championships against riders on much lighter and more agile motorcycles. After a three-year GNCC dry spell, Summers reclaimed the AMA national No. 1 plate in 1996 and successfully defended his title the following year.
Summers also won AMA Harescrambles National Championships in 1990, 1991, 1993 and 1995. In addition, he collected three gold medals competing for the U.S. team at the International Six Days Enduro.
“I have to admit though, 95 percent of what got me here tonight is luck. My story is all about luck,” Summers said.
Among the “lucky” aspects of his life, Summers listed: being born in America, having parents and a grandfather who were motorcyclists, being part of a family with the financial means to support his endeavors, and earning the trust of his parents.
“Now all of these things don’t just happen to everybody in the world,” he said. “I didn’t know it at the time, but at 7 years old, I was already on my second dirt bike and I had won the dirt bike family lottery.
“I’m so grateful though to have lived this life that I have. What I realize now, more than ever before, is that I have been blessed with an amazing amount of luck. We lived the dream.”
Tom White is an acclaimed racer, founder of White Brothers Cycle Specialties and a lifetime advocate of motorcycling and the sport of motocross.
White first tasted motorcycling at the age of 15. By the time he was in his early 20s, White was ranked among the top 100 motorcycle racers in America, earning AMA National No. 80. Soon after, he founded White Brothers Cycle Specialties in 1975, which became one of the top off-road motorcycle accessory companies in America. When White sold the company in 2000, the firm listed more than 30,000 products.
Today, White feeds his passion by racing motocross, working as a race announcer, and serving as owner and curator of the Early Years of Motocross Museum in Villa Park, Calif., which features 160 motorcycles and related displays.
White’s lasting contributions also include the Edison Dye Motocross Lifetime Achievement Award, which recognizes the person or persons who have made the largest impact on the growth of motocross in America, and creating the World Veteran MX Championship and the World Four-Stroke Championship, which has become the World Two-Stroke Championship.
“How does a kid that couldn’t even make it around the block on a Honda 50 without hitting a parked Cadillac end up in the Motorcycle Hall of Fame?” White said. “I’m not sure, but I know how it makes me feel! I want to dance, jump for joy, hug every friend that helped me along the path, and I want to ride my motorcycle — well, motorcycles, as I have a few.
“I want to cry and pray — with lots of thanks to give to my parents for paying to fix the friend’s Honda 50 and still allowing me to buy a motorcycle.”
He continued: “This is special for me because it comes from my peers in the industry and existing Hall of Famers. I am humbled to think that my heroes, these great people of the sport, believe that I’m worthy of this acknowledgement of my life and career.”
Mike “The Rock” LaRocco competed for 19 years on the professional circuit, collected 228 Supercross starts, and then added national championships in AMA 500cc Motocross, AMA 250cc Motocross and a Supercross world title.
LaRocco began his professional racing career in 1988 at age 17 and retired in 2006 as the elder statesman on the circuit. He won Supercross races in three decades in two classes, 125cc and 250cc, but said the 1994 AMA 250 Motocross National Championship meant the most to him.
His retirement in 2006 came after a broken wrist made him question his future in the sport. Since 2010, LaRocco has managed the GEICO Honda Supercross/Motocross Team, which has won a title each year he has been involved.
“It’s an honor to be up here,” LaRocco said. “I’ve had a great time in my career.”
LaRocco thanked his parents for guiding him “in the right way.”
“This is an honor and I appreciate it,” he said.
Rob Muzzy is a top tuner, engine builder and race team owner whose successes stretch across seven decades.
Muzzy got started in drag racing during the 1950s and raced dirt track as a novice in Southern California. He always built and tuned his own race engines, which often were the quickest on the track, and other riders began asking him to build engines for them.
During the 1980s, Muzzy built and tuned engines for the Kawasaki and Honda racing teams. The Kawasaki team scored AMA Superbike championships in 1981, 1982 and 1983.
In 1984, Muzzy moved to Honda as crew chief for the team that won the AMA Grand National Motocross Championship. From 1985 through 1987, Muzzy-tuned machines won the 125cc AMA National Motocross Championship, the Daytona 200 and the AMA Superbike Championship.
Winning with Muzzy as crew chief or tuner were Hall of Famers Eddie Lawson, Ricky Graham, Scott Russell and Doug Chandler as well as Ron Lechien, Miguel Duhamel, Rickey Gadson and numerous others.
In January 1988, Muzzy re-opened his own business, producing engines and exhaust systems for racers.
Later in 1988, Muzzy teamed with Kawasaki to build a race bike and hire a rider. He recruited Russell and Chandler, who subsequently finished first and second in the 1990 AMA 750cc Supersport Championship. Chandler also won the AMA Superbike Championship that year.
Kawasaki then asked Muzzy to run its FIM World Superbike team. He accepted, and the team won two world championships.
Muzzy Performance Products is still operating in Bend, Ore., and Team Muzzy is still racing.
“My love for two-wheeled vehicles started 60 some years ago, when my cousin Doug let me ride his Whizzer,” Muzzy said. “Doug also taught me later how to paint my own Whizzer using a garden sprayer.
“I raced for many years myself before realizing what I liked most was wrenching and tuning. I have been blessed with a long and rewarding career.”
Hall of Fame Legend William “Willie G.” Davidson
The grandson of Harley-Davidson founder William A. Davidson, Hall of Famer William “Willie G.” Davidson helped craft what is perhaps America’s most enduring motorcycle motif, the V-twin-powered cruiser. He also played a critical role in the rebirth of America’s largest motorcycle company, contributing a long list of innovative designs that ushered in a new era for the iconic company.
Davidson was elected to the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 1999.
Davidson, who graduated from the University of Wisconsin with a degree in graphic arts and then attended the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Calif., joined the design department at Harley-Davidson in 1963.
From the outset, Davidson’s designs broke convention. Among his earliest projects was the FX Super Glide. The Super Glide was one of Harley-Davidson’s factory customs, a production motorcycle with styling cues that reflected the custom motorcycles being built in shops across the country at the time. Today, the Super Glide is considered to be a milestone in the history of Harley-Davidson. The original FX led to many variations that would produce some of the company’s best-selling machines.
In addition to his work at the design table, Davidson was a savvy businessman. He was one of the 13 company executives who raised the funds to buy Harley-Davidson back from conglomerate AMF in the 1980s. He played a crucial role in laying the foundation for Harley-Davidson to become one of the most successful, profitable and fastest-growing corporations in the United States over the next three decades.
Davidson reminisced about his lifetime in motorcycling, sharing anecdotes and coaxing smiles and laughter from the audience. He told of putting a leather jacket on the pope. And he said his involvement in buying back the company in the 1980s was “one of the happiest times in my life.”
Davidson said he enjoys being “one-on-one with the riders,” many of whom have become close friends. But, in closing, he turned to motorcyclists’ rights.
“Freedom is everything,” he said. “When I write ‘Ride Free, Willie G.,’ that’s everything.
“Motorcycling has been a very exciting life for me,” he said. “Ride free, all of you!”
The evening concluded with a roll call for the dozens of attending Hall of Fame members to join the class of 2014 on the stage. The tribute drew a standing ovation from the packed room.
The induction ceremony took place during the 2014 AMA National Convention, Oct. 16-19, in conjunction with the AIMExpo (American International Motorcycle Expo).
The AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame would like to thank its sponsors for the evening: title sponsor American Honda Motor Company; presenting sponsor Harley-Davidson Motor Company; Hall of Fame ring sponsor Zero Motorcycles; Kawasaki Motors Corporation, USA, presenting sponsor for the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame VIP Reception; Hall of Fame Legend sponsor Vance & Hines; platinum sponsors BMW of North America, GE Capital, and GEICO Powersports; manufacturer elite sponsors Hagerty Insurance, Husqvarna Motorcycles North America Inc., and KTM North America; aftermarket gold sponsor Motion Pro; aftermarket silver sponsors Motul S.A. and The Owen Collection; rental car supplier Avis/Budget; and logistical sponsor Federal Motorcycle Transport.
Phone: (614) 856-1900, ext. 1280
Image courtesy American Motorcycle Heritage Foundation