Mike Sweeney's back with a sweet shot from Southwick
Hi everyone, from the late 80s through the mid 90s I was a contributing photographer for Hi-Torque Publications (MXA and Dirt Bike magazine). The photos that you see here were never published and have been stored as 35mm slides for the last 15-20 years. A month or so ago, I finally got around to purchasing a quality scanner and the journey began, going through these images has been a revelation, as I haven't looked at any of them since I put them away and had only seen them as tiny little 35mm slides. Scanning them, then seeing the images on a computer screen has been like seeing them for the first time, they stir up lots of great memories, and bring back a great era for motocross, lots of bright color, big characters and of course, some true legends of the sport.I hope you enjoy viewing them as much as I have-Mike Sweeney
Sweeney- "Dogger and the "Frog Pond". Back in the day, Southwick used to have a right hand first corner then a really long second second straight that went up a hill eventually banging a right and dropping down steeply and going around a swampy little pond called the "frog pond", it was kind of like Screw U at Unadilla except the corner at the bottom wasn't as tight.
Anyways, Dogger, being his usual self figured out this cool freaking line where he could launch off a whoop before the drop off, tripling over the last three, cutting the corner and landing on the downhill smooth as can be, nobody else could do it as smooth, not even close.
So I was back in there trying to shoot it, I saw Ron hitting it in practice and knew it was too dark in there to get a good shot as I was shooting 50 ASA film, so I figured I'd use a flash to fill it, and actually visualized this picture in my mind, so I set the shutter real slow for the background blur, figured my distance, set the flash and aperture and shot away, confident that the flash would stop the action.
I took a beating from roost getting the shot, when the riders accelerated down the hill the bikes would throw a huge roost that went straight up in the air and came showering down on me, I got buried, down the back of my shirt, in my shoes, you name it. I hung in there for a bunch of laps shooting away and am glad I did, this is one of my personal favorite photos from that era. Interesting side note, after I sent this and other images from this same spot into Hi-Torque I started seeing lots of flash fill background blur action shots in the magazines, I think I started a trend with this shot!
Anyways, the picture worked as I imagined it and the rest, as they say is history.
Ron Lechien- "I remember this race, Southwick 1989 250 national, I won a moto there one year. This is that Frog Pond section that’s not there anymore. I don’t remember jumping whatever it was that Mike says I was but that sounds pretty cool. The whole section was fun and you would come down the hill and there was a killer berm at the bottom that you could rail.
I had a late night the night before. I had a girlfriend at the time that was graduating high school and I guess I thought I had to be there for it. I went to that, caught a red-eye out of San Diego and flew across the country. I slept a bit on the plane a little bit and I heard rumors people said I slept at the gate at the track but I don’t believe that’s true. But it was true that I did take the red eye and I got to the track in time for practice.
The funny thing was the Kawi guys all had a little pool as to when I would get there. They were all surprised that I got there that early! Chicken, Wardy and the mechanics had all this money into it and they had all really late times. The first time was 10 o’clock or something like that- pretty late really. But I made it for practice and I should’ve got that money! I beat all their guesses! (Laughs)
I got second the first moto and was leading the second moto but hit the wall. What a bummer, I could’ve had it. I never won an overall at Southwick but I liked it. It was fun and I rode it pretty well. I remember hitting the wall pretty hard in the second moto. Some of the magazine guys were cheering me on as I went by. I had nothing, I was so done.
I’m bummed at my visor man! It doesn’t match. I must have gone down somewhere and had to replace the visor I guess. Troy Lee painted that helmet but the visor is off a helmet that David Bailey painted for me that I wore when I rode 500’s later this summer. I must have had to swap them out but it doesn’t match. This is a cool photo except for my mismatching visor! That’s the first thing I noticed when you sent me this photo.
I loved the Dalmatian stuff, I was pumped on the stuff back then and I’m pumped JT brought it back today. People ask me about the Bad Bones stuff and it was cool but I liked this stuff more. I love seeing it in the magazines or whatever. Even guys here at Maxima have kids that ride and they have the stuff. It’s so cool, I don’t know if the JT guys are going to another tribute gear or not. We’ll have to see. This year’s stuff is killer, the Evolved Lite stuff is awesome and I wear it all the time. Fits great.
The upside-down forks here were fairly new at the time. At the beginning, well you know how I tested! I do remember that when we went to Seattle with the UDS’s the track was sticky and rutty and when I would land the front brake would lock on. Come to find out the forks were flexing so bad the brake was twisting and locking up. So we went back to the regular forks and I used them for most of the year. I guess we worked out the problem because they’re back on here! I guess we figured it out through testing or I should say Wardy figured it out with testing because they could never get me out to go test (laughs). On the 500 we had a little bumper thing on the bottom of the forks, like what they have in shock, and it worked bitchin.
I don’t remember this being Hannah’s last Southwick race but I do remember his last supercross in 1986 at LA where he wasn’t happy about some of the jumps. I’m pretty sure he never raced another supercross after that. I don’t remember anything about Hannah being there (Ed note: According to Cycle News this was Hannah’s last ever race at Southwick and he was on Ronnie in the first moto but couldn’t get by and settled for 3rd) but he rode that place pretty good."
According to Cycle News, Lechien followed Jeff Stanton around in the first moto for a second and in the second grabbed the lead from Jeff Ward and was looking good for the overall before fading back to tenth. Lechiens' 2-10 scores were good enough for fourth OA.