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Motor Sports : Motocross Rider Holley Not Retiring Sort--Yet

Why is it that retirement has never occurred to Jim Holley?

Holley is 28, admittedly past his prime in the world of professional motocross, and the oldest member of the Mickey Thompson Off-Road Championship Grand Prix Ultracross Series.

But Holley, hang it up? The series’ defending champion and a former world titleholder, ready to shed his muddy boots and coveralls?

Holley, already over the whoop-de-do, ready for the gold watch and pension plan?

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“I don’t know,” he says about retirement. “I’m not really a suit-and-tie kinda guy.”

This native of Northridge who is now a resident of Woodland Hills has burned through the dirt on nearly every continent. He has traveled to Japan “about 12 times,” raced in Australia five times.

He has competed throughout the United States, as well as in Canada, South Africa, Italy, Sweden, the Netherlands, England, India and Spain.

“I’d love to keep racing as long as I could,” Holley said. “I’ve been pretty good as far as injuries--knock on wood. My main thing is not to go back too soon after I’ve had an injury. Some younger guys might sprain their knee and then grit their teeth and go back out because they want to race. But I knew I wanted to stay on as long as I could in this.”

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Call him the George Blanda of dirt bike racing. Holley admits that when “the phone quits ringing or I stop winning,” he will retire.

In many sports, 28 is an athlete’s prime. But in the pounding world of motorcycle racing, Holley is in his twilight. The average career of a motocross racer, according to Holley, is 10 years. A professional since age 16, Holley owes the odds two years.

But he paces himself and keeps on rolling.

This weekend, Holley will compete in the Federation of International Motorcycles Supercross series event in Goteborg, Sweden. It is the second of five events in the series. Holley missed the opener in India because of a scheduling conflict.

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Although he competes part time in the American Motorcycle Assn.'s Supercross and Outdoor Nationals series, as well as selected international events, Holley, a member of Team Yamaha, is committed to the Mickey Thompson Series.

“The tracks with Mickey Thompson are just a wee bit easier,” he said. “I’m just getting a little bit too old and too tired to race that stuff.”

Supercross events typically are run on longer, more grueling courses than similar events in the Mickey Thompson series. Although Holley chooses to navigate some Supercross courses as a method of sharpening his skills, he no longer competes full time.

“I’ve done all that,” he said.

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In 1985, Holley, who began riding at age 5, won the Rodil Cup and was crowned world champion of Supercross racing. The tour included events in Costa Rica, Spain and Canada before culminating in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

In 1987, at age 26, Holley retired after five years of competing regularly in both the Supercross and Outdoor Nationals series.

“I said, ‘I’m getting tired of this, there’s gotta be something else,’ ” Holley said. “I took a look at myself (and said) ‘Do I want to hang it up completely?’ Then Yamaha called me and said, ‘How’d you like to run the Mickey Thompson series for us?’ ”

Holley accepted and was crowned champion of the 10-race series in his first season. This year, Holley, with 225 points--30 more than the nearest competitor after seven events--is on his way to consecutive titles.

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After returning from Sweden, Holley will travel to Denver for the next Mickey Thompson event at Mile High Stadium on Sept. 16.

After this season, who knows what the future holds? Certainly not Holley.

“I think I’ve got another three years in me,” he said. “I’ve never really thought about getting older.”


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