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Jim Pomeroy - First American
"Interview & photos provided by Bench Racer Magazine"



 


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Background

Born: Sunnyside, Washington
Date: November 16, 1952
Height: 6í1Ē
Racing weight: 165 Lbs
Sister/Brother: Debbie/Ron
Married: Linda
Children: Jamie Lee
Business: Property Management Owner

 


Championships: 
1967 Northwest/Canadian MX Championship, 1968 NW MX Championship, 1968/1969 NW Scrambles Championship, 1970 Sturgis Midwest Championship, 1970 Manitoba MX Championship, 1970/1971 US 250cc Cup Championship, 2nd place in first supercross at LA Coliseum 1972, 4th place 1974 250cc world championship, 1st American to win moto at 500cc USGP 1977, Top American Inter-Am 1973, Top American in Trans-Am 1974, 2nd place 1977 250cc national championship, 2nd place supercross 1977.

Major sponsors in his career: Terry Saxlund, University Honda-Bultaco-CZ, Bultaco, Honda, Moto-Beta
 



Jim Pomeroy was the 1st American in many ways.  He was the 1st American to win a world MX Grand Prix, 1st to lead the world championship points, 1st to win in his debut GP event and the youngest to win a GP.  Jim went to Spain on a one ride only trip to Spain.  He was supposed to come back after the GP and race the U.S. nationals starting in Daytona after that.  You canít argue with success though and he stayed in Europe for the next four years.  Pomeroy first went to Europe as part of the Motocross Des Nations team from the United States in 1972.   Jim finished his 1st year in Europe in 7th place after moto wins in Italy and Poland.  He came home to be the 1st American in the Inter-Am series (3rd overall).  1974 didnít treat Jim well with mechanical difficulties in Europe limiting him to 13th overall in the GP standings.  The only saving grace was to finish top American in the Motocross Des Nations.  Back at home he was the 1st American in the Trans-Am races and won the Houston supercross.  Pomeroy improved in 1975 with greater consistency in equipment and finishes.  He finished 2nd in the Trophee Des Nations (250cc race).  After finishing with his high mark of 4th in the championship, Jim moved back to U.S. for 1977 and 78 for Team Honda.  He followed only Bob ďHurricaneĒ Hannah in 1977 with a second in both the 250cc nationals and supercross.  An injury prone year in 1979 with Honda had Jim wanting to return to Europe and the world championships.  Honda wanted him to stay, but the heart was elsewhere.  Pomeroy finished his career with two unproductive and frustrating years with Bultaco and Beta.  

Jim was the 1st Washingtonian motorcyclist to gain international fame and also the 1st American to reach such motorcycling heights.  If a young man from the extremely small town of Sunnyside could place his stamp on Europe and the world, what were our excuses?  The colors of red, white and blue became fashionable to wear at the racetrack.  We were proud to be Yankees.  We could fight toe to toe with those foreigners and win.  197 years after we as a people declared our independence from Britain, Jim declared independence from the superiority of European racers.  It was a great day to be alive.  In the days when we watched the movie ďOn Any SundayĒ and went to the chilly Puyallup Trans-Am races in November to see the MX gods of DeCoster, Mikkola, Weil, Robert, Aberg, Ake Jonsonn, we could also see Jim sitting with them in Olympus.  If Jim could do it then so could we.  We have done it.  Thanks Jim.

Jim was elected into the A.M.A. Hall of Fame.


Bench Racer: What got you started in motorcycles in the first place?

Jim Pomeroy: My father.  He started riding in the 1950ís.  He started a shop out of his garage and then in 1964 he opened a shop in a store.  In 1964 and 1965 Bob Kneivel, Evel Kneviel, actually worked for my father. My father, Jack Cameron, actually taught Evel how to wheel walk and fire crash through walls and stuff like that.  My dad got me really enthused about riding.  He was my hero.

BR: What role did your family have in supporting your early riding?

JP: My mom and dad never came to very many races.  I got to buy the bike from my dadís shop and then resell it after the racing season.  I remember when I was 15 and was getting ready to buy a car; I had to sell my bike to afford it.  For three months I wasnít racing anywhere.  I had a car and couldnít afford a bike.  My dad wouldnít give me a bike unless I paid for it. Tony Schatz was the first guy that called me up, and said come over here and ride my bikes.  I rode a 360 Yamaha and a 250 Greeves for Tony.

BR: How long after you started riding did you start to race?

JP: One year.  I started riding when I was ten.  I was eleven years old and starting to race.  I first started in scrambles, flattrack, hillclimbs.  We actually tried a little bit of everything: cross country, trials, TTís, shorttrack.

BR: Were you successful when you first started?

JP: No.  I wasnít at all.  I was always really scared and afraid.  What really got me motivated in racing, I found out years after that the first trophy that I won, I didnít really win.  My dad bought it.  I finished out of the trophies every time for about a half a year.  I was always one or two places away from a trophy.  They didnít have a 14 and under class back then so we raced against the men.  After he presented that first trophy to me it just sparked everything and lit a fuse.  I started winning right after that.

BR: What was your first race that made you stand out from the rest of the crowd?

JP: When I was 14, 15 and 16 years old, Ricky Poulin and I dominated the whole eastern Washington area.  Norm Kopp from Spokane told them about me to his sponsor Maico of Canada and I went racing with him in Calgary.  That Calgary Canadian Championship race sparked most of it by winning it at age 15.  That is where I got recognition from the west coast, Canada and America. 

BR: When you were in Europe did you have any problems communicating in so many foreign languages? 

JP: The first year was the most difficult.  Two weeks before the Spanish GP I almost quit and came home.  I had run out of money and at that time the Americans were considered basically barbarians.  The Spanish and Frenchmen said that we rode like potatoes.  We tumbled; we didnít role smooth like a ball.  In Spain you couldnít get dinner until after 9 at night.  I wasnít use to eating dinner that late at night.  Sometimes we would get done at the factory in Barcelona and we were only 2 hours away from the border in France.  So we would hurry up and gas it to the border.  We would just get to the border at 8:30 to 8:45 P.M. and then find out that all the restaurants closed at 8:30.  So there were times when I didnít eat because they didnít have Dennyís or 7-Elevens to stop off at and grab something to eat. Then every country whether it was Switzerland, Austria or Belgium had different holidays.  A lot of times we couldnít get money because the banks would be closed on the holidays.  It was really hard to get used to the different way of life. 

BR: When did the Europeans stop thinking that you were a potato?

JP: It took until the 3rd GP before all the riders started to accept me because they thought I was a fluke when I first won my first GP race.  I went to the 2nd GP in Italy and finished on the podium in third and was still leading the world championship.  Then we went to Belgium and that is where Hakan Anderson came out with the first monoshock Yamaha.  That is when he first started to dominate because his suspension was so much better than the all the other bikes.  People started to recognize me and started to help out.  Hakan Anderson, Torlief Hansen and other riders started looking at me as a real threat and a real person, not just a flash in the pan. 

BR: What was your biggest disappointment?

JP: Not being able to be picked up by Class C flattrack racing.  That was my dream to be a Class C racer.  It was, and I never was.  The biggest disappointment though was when I came back to race in America in 1980.  The AMA wouldnít let me ride because they said I wasnít a qualified rider.  The year before I was representing America in the world championships!  I went to Daytona, where they didnít have enough riders to fill the program, and I had every rider sign a protest that if I qualified I would be allowed to race the main event.  Back then they had three 20 minute events for the Supercross.  The AMA would not let me ride.  That was the most disappointing thing that ever happened to me.   

BR: What was your biggest regret?

JP: When I went back to Europe and raced for the Bultaco factory in 1979.  I was the only person at the time to quit American Honda back in 1978.  They wanted me to race in America, but I wanted to go back to Europe and race in the world championships.  I went back to sign a contract with KTM, and when I was leaving Europe the Bultaco engineer and mechanic talked me into going back with Bultaco.  They closed the Bultaco factory doors in six months time so I didnít even have a full season when I first went back in 1979. 

BR: If you were in your racing prime and riding the same equipment as todayís racers, how do you think you would do?

JP: I would be just as competitive.  I would be as good as McGrath or anybody.  No doubt.

BR: What is the most interesting question youíve never been asked?

JP: Help!  I think Iíve been asked almost everything that could be asked.

BR: Has anybody asked you about when you lost your virginity? 

JP: (Laughter)  I never really bragged about it, or told anybody about that.  Never been asked about that! I donít think I want that put into the article.

BR: Throughout your racing career who was your greatest rival?

JP: Joel Robert (six time 250cc world MX champion).  I respected him the most. Other than my dad, I would say he would be my hero.

BR: Who was your greatest NW racing rival?

JP: I would have to say Gordy Ochs.  He really helped me out a lot when I first started racing.  I was always a little faster, but he was so much smarter in so many ways like preparing the bikes or setting the strategy.  

BR: Who was the best racer you saw or raced against?

JP: Joel Robert.  He was the best.  When I really started racing against him in 1973 it was at the end of his career.  No one else dominated the sport like he did for so many years.

BR: Joel has the reputation in his racing career for drinking and partying.  Did you ever party with him?

JP: Oh yeah!  Always after the racing was over though.  I never partied before.  I heard a lot of stories about him and DeCoster and Sylvain Geobers always partying before races, but I never did that.  One story that I remember after the races were over was when we were in Finland in 1973.  We were coming out of the trophy awards and my Spanish mechanic Rubio and American mechanic Arty Beamon were talking, and Marcel Wurtz said ďSee that Volkswagen over there, Joel Robert can lift that up.Ē  I said ďNo way!Ē  My mechanics and I made a bet with Joel to see who could lift the car.  I tried lifting it and could barely get the springs to lift.  Then Arty and me tried it.  Then Arty, Rubio and me tried it, and we couldnít get the back wheels off the ground of the Volkswagen Bug.  I watched Joel Robert come over and just grab it and lift the whole wheels off the ground and set it down all by himself.  Thatís how strong he was.  He never trained, never worked out.  How he did it was beyond me.  It was just amazing. 

BR: What do you think made you different from all the other racers and made you a champion?

JP: I feel like my confidence was a lot stronger.  I didnít party at all.  I didnít drink at all.  I didnít like alcohol.  In the back of my head I always knew that even if I didnít get the holeshot and had to work my way up through the pack, by the last 20 minutes of the race I had more left in me and I would beat them in the end of the race.  So my conditioning and confidence made the difference.

BR: If you were to start motorcycle racing today, what type of racing would you do?

JP: I would do Class C flattrack racing.  I wouldnít change anything of my past though.

BR: What was your favorite track?

JP: Carlsbad, Saddleback, Unadilla, Straddleline, Startup.  I liked them all.  I didnít really have a favorite track.  The Namur track in Belgium was grassy and loamy where other parts there were lots of trees.  It was scary because there were parts where you couldnít put your handlebars through the trees because it was so tight.  You would jump onto cobblestone streets and then back onto the dirt.  It was a scary track. 

BR: What do you see as different in todayís racers good and bad as to when you were racing?

JP: Why McGrath is so dominating today is that you see him using his legs as suspension as we used to do.  We only had three inches of rear suspension that finally evolved up to twelve inches over the years.  We would use our legs for extra travel, pre jumping and bunny hopping.  McGrath was the only racer using that technique in the early 90ís.  I was really bummed out about the racers in the 80ís and 90ís on how they block passed.  When I first started, if you were caught block passing you were put a lap down.  They would never allow that, and now they do.  Itís a little chicken shit on how they allow that.  They donít try to beat them, they just try to brake stop them.  I think thatís really piss poor.  The way supercross tracks are set up today though you have to have contact and brake stops though.  You donít see to many people passing over the big sky jumps.  Itís usually in the corners either coming in or coming out. 

BR: Did you have any superstitions when racing?

JP: I always changed and wore clean shirts for races. 

BR: Best party? 

JP: After the Trans-Am in 1974 at Brad Lackeyís ranch in the San Francisco area, everybody who was anybody was there.  There were minibike national races at night. 

BR: Most memorable moment as a racer?

JP: The Spanish Grand Prix in 1973.  I really didnít know what I had done at the time. 

BR: When you won that GP it swept across the U.S. as this huge wave of shock, pride and patriotism.  What did that feel like?

JP: At the start of the race I was in 10th or 12th place.  Within 300 yards of the completion of the first lap I had taken over the lead.  I can remember it like it was yesterday.  I was concentrating so hard to look forward and not look back.  I was so nervous.  It was a hard panned very wide track, and smooth.  I used a lot of Class C style of riding; I didnít use a lot of front brakes.  I knew I had to learn to use front brakes after that race.  I really started learning and practicing it after that race.  My racing lines were totally different from anyone elseís.  All the Europeans were cutting straight to the inside and squaring off and you could never really pass them because they had a shorter distance.  The track was 60 to 100 feet wide and I would ride two gears higher flattracking the bike around the outside of the corner, which is why I passed everybody on the first lap. 

BR: What rider from another era do you wish you had a chance to race against in your top form?

JP: I would like to race against McGrath.  Guaranteed I would have done better than McGrath. 

BR: Who is the most impressive upcoming racer today?

JP: I think Kevin Windham is one of the most impressive.  He has a lot of potential coming up.  He is very young still and is looking very good.

BR: What has kept you involved with motorcycles for over 30 years?

JP: The people and the atmosphere.  There have always been good and honest people that I have always been able to depend upon. 

BR: Where do you see motorcycle racing heading in the future?

JP: Racing has become so specialized today.  In the old days you could do several types of racing.  Now you have to pinpoint your type of racing early in your career.  I feel thereís a good future in racing because of the popularity of supercross, motocross, roadracing and even flattracking.  They are all selling out their events.  Itís only going to get better in the future. 

BR: You have seen friends who are racers die or become seriously injured in your career.  Did this ever want to make you stop?

JP: No.  Not really.  The friends that I have who have been hurt seriously like Danny ďMagooĒ Chandler, David Bailey, Andre Malerbhe, Tony DiStefano, Willi Bauer donít regret anything that has happened to them.  In fact they have become even more involved in racing, but in a different perspective. 

BR: Why did you stop racing?

JP: I talked to enough Doctorís and therapists throughout my career, and I had torn every ligament, tendon in every joint in my body that they convinced me that my body would not heal itself if I didnít quit. 

BR: What was your worst crash?

JP: I had several worst crashes.  1973 at the Carlsbad Trans-Am was a real, real bad one.  I was in 5th gear doing 80 M.P.H. going downhill and Arne Kring clipped me.  I donít remember much of it, which is why it didnít stop me the following week from returning to race again.  The Doctors told me my career was over after a crash at the 1976 Trans-Am race at Puyallup.  I came off a jump and landed in a corner where I was faster than anyone else and smashed, twisted and pulled my knee apart.  They couldnít operate on it for 2Ĺ weeks until the blood vessels healed up.  They said I wouldnít be able to walk up stairs, ride again or do anything.  It was nice to prove them wrong.

BR: Which racers did you hang with in your career in the U.S.?

JP: We all hung out with each other.  There was a lot of camaraderie back then.  Whether it was Gaylon Mosier with the Maico team, Gary Semics with Husqvarna, Lackey with Kawasaki, Weinert with Yamaha we would have 8-10 vans and trailers where we would caravan together across the U.S.  We didnít have anyone else so when of us would break down we would all wait for each other and help out.  They donít have that today.  When it came to race day it was competition, we were out to beat each other.  No friendship was going to stop that.  After the races were over we were friends again.  I still see Lackey, Weinert, DiStefano, Gary Semics,  Billy Payne, Tim Hart, Tom Rapp and a lot of the guys at vintage races. 

BR: In one word what would you say about your racing career?

JP: Unbelievable! 


Jim Pomeroy Update - 9/2003

The question is what hasnít Jim Pomeroy been up to lately? Anyone who has ever come into the slightest contact with Jim will know that he can turn a mere 15-word answer into a gloriously detailed 1,500 words. So when youíre talking with him, an occasional ďSTOP! Time Out! Whoa Doggy!Ē will slow him down, though it wonít stop him from telling a great story. If all else fails you just have to live with it. Ask his wife. Just recently Jim was the Grand Marshall at the fourth Annual Hodaka Days in Oregon, where he was also the referee and starter for the Grass Track TT and Scrambles. What else? He just got back from England, where he raced in the World Twin Shocks Championships. He roomed with two-time 500cc World Motocross Champion, Bengt Aberg from Sweden, while there, and got to hang around a pub with British World Champions Graham Noyce and Neil Hudson.

Last year he was invited to the Spanish Motocross GP at which he led a parade lap, and received more cheers and applause than all the modern day GP heroes. They treated him as a national hero. Could it be that the Spanish motorcycle racing fanatics were applying for sainthood for Jim because he won GPs on a Spanish-built motorcycle? He was also the Grand Marshall for Bike Weeks at Daytona, Sears Point and Mid Ohio as they celebrated a tribute to Spanish-built motorcycles. Next year he has been invited to race in Spain, Sweden, France and England.

He is currently leading the AHMRA National Vintage MX Championships 50+ class after the first eight rounds on various Bultacos. Would he ride something other than a Bultaco? What he actually does is show up at each race with his own set of tuned Works Performance shocks in hand, and looks for a ride. Someone always seems to have a running Bultaco (not an easy thing to do in the first place) on hand for Jim to race. Jim in his adult life has actually never owned his own race bike.

Working with the AHMRA, Jim puts on a MX School the day before the race, which pays for his family to travel with him. That is a very important thing, for Jim as a family man. As with many ex-racers, he is having a better time racing now, because he gets to race when he wants to race. The pressure is off, and the fun is on. Now he can bring his family along with him, and gets to play a quasi-US ambassador to the MX world. For the last few years the world has rediscovered a hidden gem in the first American, and he is having the greatest time getting people involved in the sport again. Every week is a new adventure for Jim. Arenít you exhausted just reading this?

Shawn McDonald

 

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