Harry Klemm’s “The DG Years, 1975-1976” – Episode 18: The DG/Saddleback Launching Pad

To many folks in the 1976 national motocross community, it seemed as though Bob Hannah (above center) had “appeared out of nowhere” to become the most talked about, and dominant, 125 motocross racer in America. For those who regularly attended Saddleback in the autumn/winter of 1975, it was no surprise at all. Bob’s speed increased by big margins every week he raced the DG YZ125s in spring/summer 1975. Bob’s big break was in the late summer of ’75 when Suzuki agreed to provide him an RM250, RM370, and a conventional van to transport them. He immediately became so dominant in the pro classes that seeing his van at Saddleback meant that everyone else would be racing for second place in 250 and 500 pro classes.

Bob certainly liked the field of competition at Saddleback, but he was literally racing to make money so he wouldn’t need to work. There were a few AMA Nationals Bob could have attended, but it cost a lot of money to go. Saddleback always had a huge field of 250 and 500 pros, so winning there was always a good payday. As a result, the only people that understood how deadly fast he was, were the Saddleback regulars. To all the motocross racers outside of Southern California, Bob Hannah was nobody.

Broc Glover gets the holeshot on a DG Honda. Danny LaPorte (352) and Bob Hannah (39) chase. Photo: MX Works Bike.

Broc Glover’s story was a bit different. Broc turned 16 years old late in the ’76 season, so he only raced a few AMA Nationals before Yamaha signed him for the 1977 season. Like Bob, Broc was deadly fast at Saddleback, and all the 1976 Saddleback regulars knew that beating this 15-year-old kid was no small task. Since Saddleback was a relatively short drive from home in El Cajon, California, it was an ideal place for Broc to race against the best 125 field in the West every weekend. In that era, if you wanted to be taken seriously by the factories, you had to show talent in two pro classes each Sunday. But Broc seldom rode a 250 the same day as his 125. Broc’s dad, Dick Glover, wisely realized that trying to run two classes (four 45-minute motos) was a bit much for Broc’s 15-year-old physic. With that, they concentrated on just having strong finishes in the 125 class. It paid off.

Broc’s dad gave him strong support at the races and on the road, but Broc still had to go to school every day. He couldn’t race for a living the way Bob could. But he didn’t need to. Like Bob, before Broc was signed by Yamaha, very few in the nationwide motocross community had ever heard of him. The Saddleback regulars certainly knew who he was, and they were plenty happy to see Broc go away on the AMA National circuit in 1978.

Mike “Too Tall” Bell at Mammoth.

In late 1976, Mike Bell came to DG to help with development and testing the new RM125A. To say the least, the little RM was too small for Mike, but the ride was a good way to get his foot in the door. For 1977, DG swung a back door deal with Yamaha to get a 250/400 ride for Mike. He adapted quickly to the Yamahas, and before long he became the dominant danger man at the Saddleback 250 and open races. During the ’77 season, Mike attended only a couple of AMA Nationals. Mike’s AMA results were “okay” but not great, so he didn’t become particularly well know nationwide. However, back in Southern California, he was darn near unbeatable. With his younger brother Brett as mechanic, Mike missed very few Southern California CMC races in ’77. Like Bob Hannah before him, those SoCal days were darn competitive, and always a good payday. Mike easily won the CMC #1 plate, and with that, the attentions of the Yamaha race team that signed him for the 1978 250 Nationals.

There were clearly plenty of fast and talented pros across the country that went unnoticed. For many of these racers, it became clear that if you really wanted to get noticed, you had to race Southern California motocross, and take a stab at becoming King of Saddleback. I saw countless guys from all over the country come to SoCal to make their attempt at being the next Bob Hannah, Broc Glover or Mike Bell. For many of these racers, getting a DG sponsorship seemed like a mandatory part of that plan. Never a week passed that I didn’t get two or three sponsorship proposals. It was never ending. While I respected their work ethic and determination, I didn’t need team riders, I needed test riders. Most of these “out of town” pros couldn’t understand why a test rider was more important than a pro team rider. Many of them believed their resume would easily get them a salaried ride with DG, FMF or the others, but no such rides existed. I told them if they could dominate Saddleback for a few weeks, they would be considered as a test rider, but none of them ever succeeded in doing that. Showing up and racing shoulder to shoulder with the Saddleback regulars was a tall order for many of the factory riders that showed up occasionally. It was a nearly impossible task for the wide-eyed kids that traveled to Southern California from back East.

THE END (FOR NOW)

We hope you enjoyed this 18-part series, but friends, this is not the whole story. We hope that Harry finds the time to break away from his many duties at Klemm Vintage 2-Cycle Racing Engines and write the next volumes of his life inside racing. You can drop Harry an e-mail at Groupklemm@aol.com.

Story Index (Click on any title to read the episode)
Episode 1: Understanding The 70s SoCal Motocross Atmosphere
Episode 2: My Road Into Motocross
Episode 3: Getting a Foot in the Door
Episode 4: Reality in the Race Shop
Episode 5: Building a Race Team
Episode 6: Building the Team Bikes
Episode 7: Understanding the Goals of a Racing Business
Episode 8: The DG Front Office
Episode 9: The Competition
Episode 10: Painting the SoCal Racer’s Atmosphere
Episode 11: From Mechanic to I.T. Before There Was I.T.
Episode 12: A Few Words About Engine “Formulas”
Episode 13: Mechanic Buddies
Episode 14: 1976 Turning Points at DG
Episode 15: Facing the “Race-Gas” Era
Episode 16: The Retail Chamber Birthplace
Episode 17: The Mammoth Motocross Classic
Episode 18: The DG/Saddleback Launching Pad

 

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