Motor Racing / Shav Glick : Only Pitch Holley Likes Is That of His Engine

Bret Saberhagen put Cleveland High School in the sporting limelight with his pitching during the World Series and Jim Holley hopes to help keep it there.

Jim Holley?

Holley is America’s newest motocross sensation--around the world, at least--although he is little known locally where Broc Glover, Jeff Ward, Ricky Johnson, Johnny O’Mara and other national champions live and ride.

The Rodil International Trophy Series is being acclaimed as the first world stadium motocross championship, with the three-race series concluding Saturday night, Nov. 9, in the Coliseum. Riders will include U.S. supercross champion Ward from Mission Viejo, world 125cc champion Pekka Vehkonen from Finland, and former world champions Eric Geboers and Georges Jobe from Belgium.


So who is leading after the first two rounds in Sweden and Spain? You guessed it: Jim Holley of Woodland Hills.

Holley, 24, was a schoolmate of Saberhagen for one year--Holley was a senior and Saberhagen a sophomore--but they never played baseball together because Holley was involved with motocross.

“I played a lot of Little League and junior ball, and my dad wanted me to be a ballplayer, but I was racing every Friday night at Indian Dunes and making a couple of hundred bucks riding motocross,” Holley said. “I couldn’t see playing baseball for nothing at the time.”

In the Rodil series, he finished second to Ron Lechien of San Diego in a soccer field setting in Goteborg, then won in a bull ring at Barcelona. He comes home with a four-point lead over Jon van Denberk of Sweden, who finished third in Sweden and second in Spain.


Between now and the Rodil Cup finale, Holley will fly to Amsterdam for a stadium race there Saturday night.

“After I won the race in Spain, the promoters signed me up that night,” Holley said. “I didn’t realize at the time that the Coliseum race was only a week later, but now that I’ve done it, I can’t back out. Running back-to-back races on different continents is no big deal for me, anyway.”

Holley, who has never ranked higher than sixth in American Motorcyclist Assn. motocross standings, is a winner overseas and also is probably the most-traveled of all American riders.

A privateer who has been campaigning on his own Yamaha, Holley recently signed on as a member of Yamaha’s 1986 five-rider factory team. Al Holley, Jim’s father and a former dirt track rider, also signed on to be his mechanic.


Last year Holley rode in Canada, South Africa and Guatemala, and made eight round trips to Japan between races in the United States. This year he has raced four times in Canada, besides Sweden, Spain and Holland, and next month he will be in Costa Rica. Many of the foreign tracks offer surprising settings.

“In Calgary, we raced in the Saddledome over the Flames’ hockey rink,” Holley said. “But one of the most unusual was in Amsterdam, where they used a bicycle velodrome and we had to run straight up the steep banking and around the rim on slick concrete before dropping down and doing our jumps and slides in the dirt infield.

“Another unusual one was Sweden, where part of the track was on artificial turf laid over wood planking. It was kind of like the American tracks where they lay wood down to protect the football field, but instead of covering it with dirt, it was plain old AstroTurf. I was surprised how well we could ride on it and the tires didn’t tear it up, either.”

Holley prefers the intense action of stadium races to the more traditional outdoor courses such as Carlsbad or the European Grand Prix circuit.


“The crowds are more a part of it indoors. They’re right down where they see what’s happening and they don’t have to worry about the hot sun or swallowing dust all afternoon. Being at night, it’s more family oriented and the crowds are bigger. I especially like the Coliseum and the Rose Bowl because all my buddies are there.”

Holley also prefers foreign racing to U.S. racing because of the show money, which means all expenses paid to and from Los Angeles; start money, $1,000 to $2,000 for starting the race; and higher payoffs, $5,000 for winning in Spain, compared to the $1,000 payoff for the Rose Bowl. In the United States, neither show money nor start money is paid to riders.

He also finds it easier to win. Winless in AMA national championship events, Holley has won in such diverse places as Calgary and Edmonton, Canada; Barcelona, Spain; and Durban and Cape Town, South Africa.

Foreign engagements sometimes create tight scheduling and unusual situations. For instance, Holley rode in Montreal on a Saturday night in 50-degree weather, hopped a plane to New York, transferred to an Atlanta flight that landed at 8 a.m. He was on the starting line at 9 a.m. in 100-degree temperatures and finished seventh in a national 250cc moto. That night he flew the red-eye to Los Angeles for a Monday test ride in Palmdale for Dirt Bike Magazine.


Between the Spanish stadium race and last Sunday’s Superbikers competition at Carlsbad--where he finished 12th as road racer Eddie Lawson won--Holley dropped by Ascot Park to pick up a win in the CMC Liberty Bell series.

“I’m working a full 52 weeks this year but it’s worth it,” Holley said. He expects to earn about $100,000 for his riding.

“That could be higher if I win the Rodil Cup next week. That pays 45,000 Swedish francs. I don’t know how much that is, but it sure sounds good.”

At Wednesday’s exchange rates it would be $5,717.91.


SPRINT CARS--Dean Thompson has said he wants to retire after winning his record 100th California Racing Assn. main event, but the 35-year-old Carson veteran may decide to stick around for the money. Thompson collected $15,000 last weekend for winning his fourth Pacific Coast Nationals at Ascot Park. It was not a good night for the World of Outlaw invaders as Steve Kinser, Doug Wolfgang and Jac Haudenschild failed to finish, and Ron Shuman ended up ninth. Ricky Hood, the United States Auto Club champion, did not compete after a series of blown engines left him without a ride. . . . The battle for the Kraco-CRA season championship continues Saturday night at Ascot Park between Eddie Wirth, Mike Sweeney and Brad Noffsinger. Wirth, a former motorcycle racer, has 1,794 points to 1,747 for Sweeney and 1,677 for Noffsinger with four races remaining, all at Ascot Park.

MOTORCYCLES--Newly crowned national speedway champion Alan Christian will attempt to hold his Ascot Park lead in tonight’s AMA speedway program at South Bay Stadium. Christian won his fourth straight main event last week, moving past Lance King for the track lead. Three races remain before the season finale Nov. 7. . . . The CRC motocross season continues Friday night at Ascot Park.

ROAD RACING--Jeff MacPherson, a former champion off-road racer from Santa Ana who barely missed winning the Tasman Series Formula Atlantic championship last year in Australia and New Zealand, will make another bid this year. The opening of the five-race Tasman series is set for Saturday in Adelaide, Australia. MacPherson led going into last year’s final race but a spin-out dropped him from first to fourth. . . . Californians Walt Maas and Jon Milledge of Palo Alto, driving a Porsche 944, won the inaugural Firestone Firehawk Endurance championship.

OFF ROAD--The Mint 400, one of the sport’s most prestigious races for the last 18 years, has been canceled because of increased costs, according to Larry Close, Mint Hotel vice president. . . . A new 820-mile route, starting and finishing in Ensenda, has been laid out for the 11th annual SCORE Baja 1000, which will start Friday, Nov. 8. Next year, according to SCORE president Sal Fish, the Baja 1000 will extend from Ensenada to La Paz.


STOCK CARS--Bill Elliott has won 10 races and Darrell Waltrip three, but Waltrip holds a 35-point lead for the Winston Cup championship with two races remaining--the Atlanta Journal 500 Sunday at Atlanta Raceway and the Winston Western 500 Nov. 17 at Riverside International Raceway. Elliott won the spring race at Atlanta, but has not won since he collected the $1 million Winston bonus Sept. 1 at Darlington.

NECROLOGY--Dawson Neil Hadley, 50, a former Bonneville speed record holder who later built ignition systems for Indianapolis cars, died Sunday at his home in Claremont of an apparent heart attack.