Photo from the DR Archives
This photo shows Chuck Sun on his privateer Husqvarna 250 in 1977 during the Trans USA series. He ran the number 21 and coincidentally was 21 years old, and having a great year -
“From the best I can tell, this looks like the opening round, which was at Mid-Ohio. You can see the mowed grass and old house in the background… I’ve got those overalls that Husqvarna used to make [for mechanics] so for sure this is practice and I didn’t want to get my gear all muddy. They always use to put a lot of water on the track and that time of year was October, most of the races were muddy. And those events had all the factory guys – [Warren] Reid rode for Honda, [Mark] Barnett for Suzuki, Mike Bell and [Broc] Glover were the Yamaha guys… But it was a breakout series for me. It was the first championship I won, and it was as a privateer… I won the opening round in Mid-Ohio, and it was actually down to the last turn. I had started way back and I – there’s a photo someplace where I passed Reid in the last turn, the poor guy. Warren was always a real fast starter, Barnett was just coming, and all these other guys were talented, but I had a little more experience out on the road. They had just come out of their local scenes and were just getting their first samples on the circuit… I kind of followed the footsteps of Rick Burgett from the Northwest, [where] you start by doing Trans Ams and Nationals and just go out on the circuit and cut your teeth that way. So I believe earlier that year I was top ten in all three classes, 125, 250 and 500, because you could ride all three. I mean just cracked the top ten, going to every race, starting to do better, so I had a real strong foundation underneath me doing 40 minutes plus two laps, and I felt really confident actually that I could take the [Trans USA] series. And I knew the new guys were really talented but I felt I had more experience and could ride the longer motos. And I had a couple close calls. I remember holeshotting one moto at Red Bud and got taken out in the first turn. So I started out dead last and had to come all the way through the pack, so there were a couple frustrating rides that I had, but if I stayed on two wheels I’d usually win the moto. To wrap that up, I felt really confident, because I had prepared. And that’s one of the things I say nowadays, I think the guys need to race more. I think some of the issues that they may run into from time to time is [from] not enough race time. Practice doesn’t do it.”
I wasn’t really factory, although I did get some ‘bike and parts’ from Husky, so I had some support help, [but] I was certainly a privateer. I worked on my own bike, which to me was good, because I wanted to know exactly what was happening, because you had to work on these bikes a lot. That was a ‘77 CR 250 Husky, and I used to get all the tips for tuning from Eric Crippa. He was Kent Howerton’s mechanic and I was a privateer and obviously I looked up to the factory team. I think Eric gave me a good cylinder to get good holeshots… But during the week I’d never get nervous because I’d be working on the bike all the time, and between motos. I’d come in from the moto, and knew exactly what I had to do to get ready for the next moto. It really gave me a really good focus, it was a lot of fun. Later, when I got a factory ride, I didn’t have anything to do between motos, so I started getting… [Later as a factory rider] I had more time on my hands between the motos before the race, so you’d start thinking about the decisions you made, and you just had more time for your mind to think and run away. Where when I was working [while a privateer], I had to get the filter in, check the chain, make sure my tire was good, fuel it, I had a checklist of things to do. The first thing I had to do was eat something, drink some water, get goggles – there were all these things to do so there was no time to ever worry. And I always kind of banked on that, like, ‘Oh, the moto’s here already, I’m hardly rested, but okay, I’m still kinda pumped,’ and you go up to the line really relaxed, and just respond and pop off the gate. [Years later, after being a factory rider for a while] I got accustomed to learning how to manage what comes into your mind, and deal with it. I got into meditation and breathing and all the other things that allow you to cope with new thoughts that come in before a race. But it took a moment. When it first happened it was like a brand new area that I had to learn how to deal with.
Whenever I ride vintage bikes today I look forward to running a Husky from that era, either a black tank 390 or a 250. They were good stock, but we worked really closely with the Ohlins suspension guys and really worked hard on getting the suspension dialed in. And you’d really, literally, go through the whole bike and build it up from scratch. And the cylinder I had was from Eric Crippa, and the powerband was so good. It was a secret weapon, nobody really knew. Everybody wanted the cool Japanese bikes, but in those early days they had kind of abrupt power. They were good for a holeshot, but for riding on the track, having the [Husky’s] bottom end and a broad powerband, especially in the muddy terrain, it was a secret weapon. And in my estimation, I had the superior bike, even though a lot of people thought that they had a better bike. Then of course later on Husky didn’t develop as much and then the Japanese manufacturers caught up and were able to emulate the good, smooth, broad, tractable powerbands that allowed you to ride fast for 45 minutes. Because that was a key, I mean, you had 40 minutes plus two laps. So if you crossed the line right at 39, and it was a two and a half plus-minute lap time, you were looking at up to a 48 minute moto. That’s a long time. [Laughs] We used to ride a lot. You better like to ride to ride those days.
It’s been a great summer. The main thing I like to do is ride technical trails in Idaho. That’s what I did all summer until the forest fires got so smokey it was hard to breathe. Then I got invited to ride the vintage Vets Motocross of Nations in Farleigh Castle. Doug Dubach and Ryan Hughes [were there], and we had a great time. It’s very popular, I rode a 1980 Honda 250 with a 480 motor in it that was built by Phil Denton Engineering in the U.K. It was just great seeing everybody – Grahan Noyce, the champions of the past, many of them come out to that race. Two weeks later I was at Motocross des National in Lommel, and that was even a bigger treat. It was the first time the Motocross of Nations returned to Lommel, Belgium, since the first US-winning team that I was on 31 years ago [the Trophee des Nations (250cc) which they won then followed up the next weekend winning the Motocross des Nations (500cc)]. So it was quite a reunion and representing Johnny ‘O and Danny LaPorte and Donnie Hansen over there, and the Americans struggled this year. And a number of people even mentioned, they asked, ‘How the heck did that first team do so well way back when?’ It was a fun time, and it was great being part of that… [prompted to answer the question ‘how they did it’] I think it was a combination of, we were a rookie team, maybe I was one of the most experience, myself and Danny, and it was all Honda. Nobody expected anything from us, so anything we did was going to be perceived as good in my opinion. We didn’t have the extra pressure to have to perform. We wanted to perform, and we all felt really confident, and we also – coming off two years of learning to be very aggressive with American supercross, I think that made a difference. We also had brand new, lightweight, powerful, new Pro Link Hondas that we brought to the event. And in speaking with Eric Geboers, they were just a little bit overconfident coming in, like ‘nobody’s going to come and beat us in our backyard.’ And like they did [like] this year, Andre Vromans, the sand specialist, did win the  event, but all four riders didn’t do well. So it was a combination of all those things put together and we won. But it was fun taking that walk back in Memory Lane and the people in Belgium, it was like it was yesterday, they still talk about it… [in 2012] The sand was really deep this year. A couple of our guys had really no experience in that kind of deep, black, bottomless sand. They actually did extremely well fighting back from a lot of crashes and falls and adversity and frustration to get on the podium. So actually they did quite well…. Belgium is the hub of motocross. Sure it started in the U.K., but everybody comes to Belgium to train, from all of the countries, and that’s where, you go into a bar and it’s all posters and you’ll see riders and mechanics there. It’s part of the culture there. It’s beyond football and baseball here, it’s like a primary sport. And so people on the street recognize you, it’s really funny because I have a bit of a distinct look, so they still recognize me. And it’s not ‘Chuck,’ it’s, because of the language, ‘Chucksun! Chucksun!’ They just run it together, you don’t even correct them. It’s a lot of fun to go to Europe, they’re just very, very enthusiastic and real fans of motocross, as are the people here [in the US]… There were a lot of individuals who helped get me over to the castle and des Nations this year. Even Luongo of Youthstream kicked in, and Hoy Fox Toyota; surprisingly enough it’s a lot of individuals. Tubliss and Nuetech, and the guys at Heroes and Legends helped out at an event. Bultaco Jim, and especially Needham Realty of Las Vegas and Wert-Berater Feasibility Studies, a lot of good folks like that really made this come together.”