Past champs to celebrate 40 years of WMX
Before the Women's Motocross Championship, the Women's Motocross Association or the Women's Motocross League, even before the women's class at the Amateur National Motocross Championships at Loretta Lynn's (once considered the top title for females) there was the IWMA Women's National Motocross Championship. Beginning in 1974, it was a one day, all-female event to determine who wore the crown and title of Grand National Champion.
Forty years ago this summer, Kasey Rogers, an actress and columnist, known for her role on "Bewitched," promoted the event through her International Women's Motocross Association and held the event at a motocross track called Indian Dunes, near Valencia, California in 1974. The race received solid media coverage, even if it was filled with innuendos, tongue-in-cheek comments and sexist quips.
The race became an annual summer tradition. There were age, displacement and skill level classes. All riders were welcome, the only requirement was that one had to be female. To be crowned the national champion, a rider had to compete in two classes; 125cc and 250cc expert. Each heat race was 30 minutes long and there were two per class. Best average finish of the four heats determined the champion.
On Saturday at Glen Helen Raceway in San Bernardino, California, 40 years of women's motocross history will be celebrated at a race hosted by CalVMX, promoters of vintage motocross racing in Southern California. Past champions from as far away as Michigan, Texas and Colorado will be in attendance.
"The celebration is a way to honor past champions and other women who have had standout careers," said Miki Keller, the event's marketing manager and the previous leader of the WMA, now the WMX.
While the event will be attended by over a dozen former national champions going back to the mid-70s, many of today's current female racers will be competing in various classes, including a professional division with a $1000 minimum purse. In addition to racing, there will be a parade of champions and outstanding achievers and a post-event meet-and-greet where two-time national champion Sue Fish will speak as the guest of honor. Fish, who earned her professional motocross license to compete against men in 1978, is the only female motocross racer in the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame. Keller hopes the younger women will gain knowledge from this experience.
"A lot of them don't know how deep the history is," Keller said. "They don't know that there have always been ups and downs. Hopefully they will be encouraged by the achievements of these other women and it gives them inspiration."
The highs and lows Keller speaks of include the WMX events once being on the same weekend and in the same venue as the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship, an opportunity that gave the series good exposure and created more opportunities for top racers. Today the WMX is an eight-race series embedded into major amateur events around the country spread out between March and November.
This weekend's event is a homecoming of sorts for Fish, who will lead the parade of champions on a 1977 Yamaha YZ125. When she was only 18 she appeared on the Nov. 2, 1977 cover of Cycle News in an interview titled, "Sue Fish - leaving the women's class behind."
"I decided the only thing left for me at that point was to shoot for a higher goal," Fish said in the interview. "You have to set a goal that's not impossible; it has to be hard, but you have to be able to see progress as you work for it. So last year I felt I had to start riding with the guys to discover what would happen and maybe someday ride a 125 National."
Fish said she will reunite with women she has not seen in over 30 years. Her message won't be to encourage all women to follow her exact path but to make sure that they are indeed following a goal.
"No matter what it is you want to do in life, if you can dream it you can have it," she said. "I'm going to talk about my career and the path it took me, the highs, lows, recoveries, comebacks, following your dreams, and being true to yourself."
Other past champions includes, Carey Steiner, Dede Cates, Lisa Akin-Wagner, Mercedes Gonzalez, Vicky Jackson, Dee Wood, Tania Satchwell and Steffi Laier. Recent champions Ashley Fiolek and Jessica Patterson will not be in attendance. Fiolek is currently on the Marvel Universe tour and Patterson will be competing in the GNCC off-road series.
More information, including schedule and race info can be found on CalVMX.net