Interview: Steve Lamson, Multi-time Champ and Local Hero

December 7, 2010

Reprinted from the old website. Some images are missing.

Steve Lamson; one of the greatest NorCal rippers to ever swing a leg over a motocross bike, if not the greatest. Originally from Orangevale, Lamson rode for several teams, including Factory Honda and Factory Suzuki, and at one time was without a doubt the fastest 125 rider in the world. He used his talents to represent NorCal well, earning 125 National titles in 1995 and 1996, as well as being part of the overwhelmingly dominant USA MXDN team in 1996. Lamson’s racing days may be over, but he continues to work in the industry as product promotion manager for MotoConcepts. We got in touch with Lamson and asked him about his racing career, his job at MotoConcepts, the upcoming SX season, and more. Read on for the interview.

Special thanks to Tom Lamson (tom136s) for making the interview happen, and props to Bill “KS” Ursic at Racer X for the pictures.

Why don’t you get us up to date on what you’ve been doing for the past several years.

I got done racing in 2005. Once I got done there I retired, and pretty much took a year off. I did motocross schools in NorCal, a lot of them at Hangtown. I got hired on at MDK Motorsports for two years, and the first year I worked with them was with David Vuillemin and Nick Wey. I ran that whole team as manager in 2007, and in 2008 we got involved a lot with KTM. After that, I kind of got let go from MDK, and got in with MotoConcepts, and started fully running the team in 2009. It was a fulltime deal, with a semi, shop, everything. It was a lot of work, let me tell you. A lot of work, and a lot of babysitting.

They had a pretty big team in 2010.

Yeah, I stepped out, I didn’t manage that year. At the end of 2009, the owner Mike Genova, he pretty much put me on the product side of things, which has been a blessing. I’ve traveled pretty much all my life, going to every race. Now I’m home more. My job title is pretty much product promotional manager. I don’t know if you know much about our products, our MotoPads, our MotoStands, our trailer accessories…

To tell you the truth, I hadn’t heard of MotoConcepts until the race team came along.

Once you saw the race team, you probably didn’t even know we had product! A little background on MotoConcepts is, Mike Genova, the owner, is number one in the world in spa accessories. He’s got like, 2000 dealers throughout the country. A lot of his technology, like our MotoPads, are for a hot tub. You can build them any size you want; they are durable and injection molded. They are out of Spokane, Washington. So basically, he took what he had on the spa side, and put it into the motorcycle side. A lot of people have no idea what MotoConcepts is. My goal right now is to get 15 to 20 people at the amateur side. We do have a new goggle out too. It’s legit. We bought Blitz out, and all the guys have been riding with them, no problems at all. That’s going to be our next deal.

Where in NorCal are you from originally?

I grew up in Orangevale, then I spent quite a few years in Pollock Pines, and then just went from there to racing.

How often do you get a chance to ride in NorCal?

Not much. I’m based in Murrieta where the race team is. I pretty much started the race team here, but the owner wanted me on the product side.

What’s your favorite track in the Northern California area?

Growing up, I rode at Hangtown all the time, and that’s my favorite track, really. Even in the Nationals, I was stoked. Partially, maybe the track wasn’t always the best, and people complained, but I thought it was great! I also rode E Street, Dixon, Riverfront, I’m probably leaving some out. I rode all those tracks.

As a longtime resident of the area, how would you say the motocross scene in Northern California has evolved? Has it gotten better?

Yeah, for sure. You know, the Azevedos (AMP) have Turlock going, and that’s definitely a quality program.

It used to be that if you were from NorCal and you wanted to make it as a pro, you had to move to Southern California. In your eyes, is that still the situation, or does NorCal currently have the infrastructure to produce national level riders and champions?

You know, honestly, I think it has the potential to do it. It depends on what level. There’s plenty of tracks up there, but in my situation, I left Northern California to come down here because of the supercross tracks. It was pretty mandatory, that’s how it had to be. But there’s no reason that those guys can’t build everything up, up there. A lot of the times I would leave in the wintertime and come down here so I could ride. Let me tell you, I was on my dad and my mom, there wasn’t much money. I basically just had to shack up with somebody and come down, and it worked. I got my foot in the door and my first real ride was on a Honda, Peak Antifreeze (the predecessor to today’s Pro Circuit Kawasaki). From there it led into Factory Suzuki and Factory Honda for Gosh, what was it, six years…

A lot of people made a big deal about Ryan Villopoto beating the 450s on his 250F at the 2007 Motocross of Nations, and rightly so. But didn’t you pretty much do the same thing in Spain on a 125 at the 1996 MXDN?

Oh yeah. Basically, and I don’t know if you saw the Racer X article in the November (2010) issue, but they had a big deal on that. I’m the only one back in the day to beat all of the 500s. There were a lot of hills, a few big jumps, and it favored us probably more than them, but we just kicked ass at that race. I finally got recognition for it, that I was that rider, the only rider, back in the 125/250/500 days, that came across the line in first. People talk about Johnny O’Mara and David Bailey (1986 MXDN), and O’Mara had a great battle with the other 500s, but Bailey came across the line on a 500 first. I was the only one that crossed the line on a 125 first. They did a great article on that in Racer X.

Was there enormous pressure to win when you rode the Des Nations, or were you just happy to be representing your country?

I did the Des Nations in 1995, and we got beat. I was the third 125 behind Sebastien Tortelli and Stefan Everts. So there was a big rivalry the next year between us. Tortelli won the 125 world title, Stefan won the world championship, I won a championship over here, it was built up pretty good. If you get a chance, you have to check that whole deal out. There was a lot of pressure, but I came through!

Being a teammate of Jeremy McGrath for a few years in the 90s, how would you compare the rivalry he had with Jeff Emig to the one between James Stewart and Chad Reed?

To be honest with you, probably about the same. Emig and McGrath hated each other, you know? They did! I still remember it in my head. They were battling each other on the 250s, and man, they didn’t like each other. Off they track they would talk, but really, deep down, they did not like each other, to put it in simple words.

What do you think of the new Lites format, as far as the titles being decided in Vegas?

I looked into that whole deal, and I think it’s a good idea. Some people are squawking about this and that, saying it should be the way it was before, but I’ll tell you what it comes down to. Those guys are going to be in Vegas, racing. Before, it was guys going, “Ok, I can drop out, I don’t really want to do the East/West shootout.” But now these guys have got to race to the end, which I think is cool. The only negative side, is some of those guys from the East Coast don’t really have the funds to get their rig and bike and everything out to Vegas. That makes it a little bit harder, but if they’re racing, and they want recognition, that’s going to be their last race, they have to come. I think it’s going to be good, something that’s going to bring way more attention to the Lites class, rather than just the shootout. Some guys, they don’t give a shit; no points, nothing. If you win it great, if you don’t, they’re not worried about it. You’re getting guys out there that maybe aren’t pushing as hard as they should.

I know we don’t know what coast everyone is racing yet, but name some Lites riders who you think will be battling for a title this year.

It’s kind of going to be an open championship on each coast. On that end, it’s hard to say really. There’s a lot of guys that didn’t have an opportunity, but now that the class is more open, it’s hard to say. Dean Wilson is going to clean up whatever coast he’s going to, but on the other end, it’s open game.

Same question, only with the 450s.

That’s going to be interesting. I have nothing against Stewart, but it seems like he went a little bit off the beaten path with his whole race program, doing his TV show, but he’s a talented rider, and he’ll be in there. But Dungey, he’s going to be good. I’m thinking Dungey is probably going to win the championship again. But then you’ve got a guy like Reed, he comes back and he doesn’t even have a factory ride! He’s searching around, putting his own team together, but sometimes, with a guy like that, it brings you back to reality. It’s like, “Wow, I’m back doing this deal.” Running, a team, doing this, doing that, sometimes that pumps people up, and they want to ride and win. I did it a couple times in my career. I went from almost quitting in 1999, to my own deal in 2000, and was close to winning the championship until I got hurt. And Villopoto, he’s hungry. I really think it’s going to be very interesting.

I think so too. That does it for my questions, Steve, did we miss anything?

My job title now is promotional manager of products for MotoConcepts, and we’ve got a lot of great products. I’m going to be hitting up a lot of upcoming amateur races and helping the riders out. We’ve got some races in February at Oatfield. We’ve got a lot of good things going right now.

Thanks for your time, Steve.

No problem.

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