Marty Smith Passes Away

Three-time AMA Motocross Champion fatally wounded in dune buggy accident.

Marty Smith passed away in a dune buggy accident at the age of 63 on Monday, April 27, 2020.
Marty Smith passed away in a dune buggy accident at the age of 63 on Monday, April 27, 2020.Courtesy of Honda

American Honda announced the passing of Marty Smith and his wife Nancy on Monday, April 27, 2020, due to injuries they sustained in a dune buggy accident in Southern California. The three-time AMA Motocross champion was a member of the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame and earned National race victories in all three AMA Motocross classes (125cc, 250cc, and 500cc), as well as wins in the 250cc Supercross, Trans AMA, and the FIM Motocross World Championship series.

Smith was born in San Diego on November 26, 1956, and began racing at Carlsbad Raceway at age 14. He signed with factory Honda for the 1974 season and, at the age of 17, campaigned the RC125 (the factory version of the then-new CR125M Elsinore) in the AMA 125cc Motocross National Championship's inaugural season. In the four-round series, he won the first two races and finished runner-up in the final two. Smith won the crown and, despite his travel schedule, managed to graduate from high school that same year.

Smith successfully defended his crown in 1975. He was also one of the first Americans to beat the Europeans, winning that year's FIM 125cc USGP, held at Mid-Ohio in Lexington, Ohio, as well as the 500cc Trans AMA race in Nebraska. The following season, Smith continued racing in the AMA series, while also traveling overseas for selected Grand Prix rounds in the FIM Motocross 125cc World Championship. Although he lost the AMA 125cc crown to Bob Hannah (finishing second), he again won the USGP in Ohio and finished fourth overall in that series. And in 1977, Smith further demonstrated his versatility by winning the AMA 500cc National Championship.

A serious injury early the next year derailed Smith’s ’78 season, and he switched to Suzuki for a three-year run before additional injuries prompted his premature retirement at age 24. In the years since, much of Smith’s time was devoted to teaching students through his Marty Smith Motocross Clinic. Smith was 63 at the time of his passing. He is survived by his siblings, Todd and Jeanette; his children, Tyler, Jillyin, and Brooke; and seven grandchildren.