He had to outwit the European riders and fans to earn the world 500cc title
Talk about tough. Being an American motocrosser in Europe in the 1970s and early 1980s, like AMA Motorcycle Hall of Famer “Bad Brad” Lackey, wasn’t for the faint-of-heart.
Not only did Americans have to face the dominant European racers, who had been showing Americans how race MX for a couple decades, but the Yanks had to face the rapid, pro-European fans as well.
Lackey did that and his toughness, mentally and physically, earned him the 500cc world title in 1982.
Riding a factory Suzuki RN500 in 1982, Lackey worked his way into a 4-point lead over his teammate, Andre Vromans, with one round remaining. That showdown would take place in Luxembourg, next door to Vromans native country, Belgium.
At that final race, Lackey knew Vromans would be tough. But the European fans, who had a reputation for causing trouble and badly wanted to see their man take the title, could be tougher.
European fans were known to crowd the track and throw sand into the faces of riders they didn’t like. Up to 70,000 rapid fans showed up for the final round. Lackey knew he needed a plan to deal with the fans.
So, in the first moto, the American decided to let Vromans build a big lead to avoid any trouble with the fans. That proved to be a wise decision.
Graham Noyce of Great Britain got the holeshot and took the lead, but on the second lap a spectator swung a pole at him, breaking his hand. Lackey, meanwhile, let Vromans, who was running in second behind Sweden’s Hakan Carlqvist, build a 25-second lead with five laps to go before reeling him in.
Dodging objects thrown by fans, Lackey caught and passed Vromans with half-a-lap left to take over second place and gain another 2 points on his rival.
In the second moto, Vromans went off course and finished sixth, while Lackey rode his Suzuki to third to earn the 1982 world championship, the first by an American rider.
A few weeks later, AMA Motorcycle Hall of Famer Danny LaPorte clinched the 250cc class to become the second American to win a world MX title.