Unadilla welcomed the world in 1984 at the 250cc United States Grand Prix with its natural terrain track that wasn’t groomed, only left moto-fallow between major races. Ron Lechien took the challenge, and the win, on his factory Honda.
THE EVENT: “That was the year I was battling pretty goodwith RJ in the outdoor nationals. I don’t think Rick rode that day, so I kind of knew at that point I had a pretty good shot at the win. I want to say either Hannah or Barnett ran out of gas in one of the motos, I think I was runningsecond and one of those two guys ran out of gas and kinda handed me the thing, to be honest with you… [re: the decision to race the event] I think Honda just said that it was something that we wanted to do, or asked me if it was something that I wanted to do, and I was always up for racing against the European guys and trying to beat them to carry the flag for the US, whether it be at the des Nations or the USGPs or anything like that; it always meant alittle more to me when you were Team America going up against these European guys. If it was an opportunity I could go and race against those guys and beat ‘em I was all for it… [re: the Unadilla track] I really liked it, I did. I remember riding it in the morning and thinking, ‘Man, this thing is really cool.’ I liked the dirt, I used to do really well in soft dirt. I remember looking at the track, with the grass, and I mean it was really rough back then. I don’t think they brought a lot of dirt in then like they do now, and they pretty much left the track alone. It was a beautiful track and a fun track to ride… They let the grass grow and then the first couple laps you start trying to pick lines. I remember it being rough under the grass, for sure…”
THE BIKE: “That was a really nice bike. That was my first year with Honda so I can remember the first few times that I raced those works bikes that it took a lot of getting used to the power; and the suspension was just incredible on those bikes. I mean, Iwould be happy to ride some of those bikes today. They were full works bikes, so they were pretty trick, and I think way before their time and way advanced on a lot of the other stuff that guys were running, so they were a lot of fun to ride… [re: bike set up] I could pretty much jump on and go, and adapt. I was never one of those real picky set up guys. You know I’d take advice, back when I was racing a lot of the team managers would kind of watch and they would say, ‘Oh, it looks like it needs to do this,’ or, ‘It looks like it needs to do that,’ and do changes that way. I mean obviously the main things I could pick up, but they were always trying to help with set up from their side of whatthey saw, too, so I think that helped us out… It was a great opportunity to work with Roger [DeCoster], I always respected him and I think they did everything they could with me to get me to excel. I never was a big trainer, so I had some problems with my strength at some of the races, but it was always a cool thing to ride for those guys [DeCoster and Dave Arnold]. And they had, I think, the best bikes and team that there was there in the mid 80s, with Roger and them, so it was an honor… I think they tried everything they could, to be honest with you. Looking back I don’t think I would have had to train that hard if I would have just had some kind of a schedule like I do now and, you know, get up and sleep and eat and do all that at the same times, I would have been deadly. But you know what, just immature is all I can think of now, lookingback, and not really realizing the opportunity that I had at hand. I’m glad I did what I did and I had a lot of fun doing it, but definitely would do it a little bit different if I had it to do over.”
TODAY: “I’m still a part owner in Maxima (www.maximausa.com), I’ve been a shareholder/part-owner since 1984 and so day-to-day I run the rider support and sports marketing promotions here. I work with a lot of riders, which is cool, I’m still happy to be a part of that, and I still get out in the warehouse, I like to work out there, and just kind of do a lot of differentstuff. I still do all the shows, all the distributor shows, work with all the reps and track support, I guess I wear a lot of hats over here…. My dad started the company in ’79 with his partner Roland. And in about 1984 when I was riding for Honda my dad came to me and thought it was a good time to bring some money into the company to do some more stuff with marketing and advertisement. I bought in in ‘84 and have been a part owner since then.”
PHOTOGRAPHER PAUL BUCKLEY ON THE SHOT: “This is Unadilla 1984, the USGP, the crowd looks kinda small so this must be a shot from practice on Saturday. That’s when the track would still be covered with grass since they hadn’t raced on it for almost a year. It was so cool to see the clumps of grass and dirt being roosted up as the riders worked the course. This spot is a little table top jump that was right before a left turn so even back then the guys would be setting up for that turn in the air. In this photo Ronnie’s not wearing a chest protector but the next day he donned a JT chest protector and a set of big hand guards, they must have dug down to some rocks once the grass was worn away. This is another Canon F1 shot probably with a 50mm lens, I hadn’t switched over to Velvia yet so this was shot on good ol’ Kodachrome 64.”