Bob Hannah will go down in history as one of the greatest American motocross racers of all time. He won a total of seven AMA national championships and when inducted in 1999, Hannah was one of only two riders in the history of AMA motocross racing to win championships in 125cc motocross, 250cc motocross and Supercross.
Hannah easily ranks as the most versatile motocross racer of his era and perhaps of all time. During his 15-year racing career, Hannah won nationals in the 125cc, 250cc and 500cc categories as well as Supercross and Trans-AMA. When he retired from racing, Hannah held the record for the most career wins in both the AMA Supercross and AMA 250cc national motocross.
Hannah was born on September 26, 1956 in the rugged Mojave Desert town of Lancaster, California. His father was a motorcyclist and Hannah grew up riding on the handlebars of his dad’s bikes. When he was 7, Hannah got his own bike and rode countless hours in the high desert surrounding his hometown. The one thing Hannah did not do in those early years was race. He explains:
"My father was against racing. He did not mind me riding, but at the same time he didn’t want me getting hurt. So I never raced until I was 18 years old and living on my own."
By the time Hannah hit the motocross tracks of Southern California, he was more than ready. Even though he didn’t have racing experience, he had practically lived on a motorcycle since grade school and likely had more hours on a bike than any of his fellow competitors. Hannah won his first and only race in the amateur ranks. After his dominating debut, local racing officials told the young Hannah he would have to move up to the expert ranks.
In 1975, his first full year as an expert, Hannah rode in just two AMA nationals. His best finish was sixth overall in the AMA 125cc National in San Antonio, Texas. Not bad for a rider with less than a year’s racing experience under his belt.
In 1976, Yamaha took a chance on the 19-year-old Hannah, who was largely unknown outside of the local Southern California motocross circles. Yamaha signed Hannah to race the 125cc outdoor nationals. He started out the year with some success on a 250cc machine in the AMA Supercross Series, but his real strength was on the 125cc bikes at the outdoor motocross circuits.
The AMA 125cc National Motocross Championships were only two years old when Hannah launched into his first full season in the series. Honda and its rider, Marty Smith, dominated the 125cc nationals for the first two years. Smith was gunning for his third-straight title and he was the heavy favorite coming into the ’76 season. At the first round of the 125 MX series, the famous Hangtown Nationals in Plymouth, California, Smith made the early laps of the first moto look like a replay of 1974 and ‘75. Eight laps into the relatively dull race the crowd came to its feet when Hannah, on his No. 39 Yamaha, came bouncing through the field to grab second. Hannah had picked off 21 other riders in his charge. On the next lap, Hannah took over the lead from Smith, leaving the tens of thousands of Northern California fans stunned. Smith tried to get back past Hannah, but fell in the process and finished a distant second. Hannah came back to win the second moto in even more decisive fashion. It was one of the most stunning debuts for a factory rider in the history of AMA racing. The journalists of the day noted that young upstart Hannah came in like a hurricane and the moniker stuck. He was forever to be known as Bob "Hurricane" Hannah.
Hannah proved that his 1976 opening round victory was no fluke. He went on to win five of the eight 125cc nationals that year en route to the championship. In 1977, Hannah hopped aboard a Yamaha 250 and won the AMA Supercross Championship in impressive fashion, taking six of the 10 rounds. Hannah poured his all into every race and became the first genuine superstar of Supercross racing. He would go on to win the AMA Supercross title for three straight years.
In 1978, Hannah moved up to the 250cc ranks in the outdoor nationals with devastating results for his competition. Hannah's riding was nearly flawless. He won a record eight consecutive 250 outdoor nationals, a record that still stood at the time of Hannah’s 1999 Motorcycle Hall of Fame induction. He continued his impressive streak in the fall Trans-AMA Series, winning four nationals in that series and winning the championship. In 1979, he came back and dominated the 250 outdoor nationals again, handily winning the 250 MX title by earning victories in six of the 10 events. By the late 1970s, Hannah was in a class of his own.
Even though Hannah had numerous attractive offers to race in world championship motocross, he never seriously considered it. Displaying classic Hannah dry humor, he quipped that the main reason he didn’t want to race overseas was that the Europeans served their drinks without ice. Even though he preferred racing close to home, Hannah did represent his country three times in the prestigious Motocross des Nations team competition and was part of the victorious 1987 team, when the international event was held in New York State.
Hannah’s training methods were unique. Instead of riding countless practice laps on motocross tracks, he went back to his roots and trained by riding in the desert. In a 1981 interview with British journalist Chris Carter, Hannah explained his unusual training regimen.
"There’s no better place to practice than out in the desert. I ride there anytime I can. Out there the unexpected happens quickly and you have to sharpen your reactions to stay on the bike."
Water sports were the recreation that Hannah participated in to relax. A water skiing accident in the Colorado River at the end of 1979 nearly cost Hannah his career. His right leg was broken in 12 places when he hit a submerged rock and was catapulted onto the riverbank. Doctors initially told Hannah he would never be able to race again. He was forced to sit out the entire 1980 season while recuperating. During his recovery Hannah earned his pilot license and for the first time in his adult life found interests outside of motorcycle racing.
Whether it was his injured leg or other seemingly endless injuries that Hannah suffered during the early 1980s, or perhaps the loss of his one-time single-minded approach to racing, Hannah never was quite able to capture the magic he had during the 1970s. While he won 20 nationals during the 1980s, he never was able to capture another championship. His best results in the ‘80s were a second-place finish in the 250 MX series in 1981 and third in the same series in 1983, after switching from Yamaha to Honda. Hannah’s final national win came in the 250 outdoor national held in Millville, Minnesota, on August 11, 1985. He continued to race full-time until 1987 and then raced occasionally in nationals until retiring in 1989.
In his 15-year career, Hannah had become the all-time win leader in AMA motocross/Supercross history, having won 70 AMA nationals during his career. That record would stand until Jeremy McGrath broke Hannah’s overall win record in 1999. Hannah’s record of 27 250cc national wins still stood as of his 1999 induction.
Multi-time world champion, and Hannah’s team manager for the winning 1987 U.S. Motocross des Nations team, Roger DeCoster, said of Hannah: "He was a rider of tremendous determination. Sort of a tough guy, like John Wayne. He didn’t make excuses and he had a good rapport with the public."
After retiring from racing, Hannah continued to be a test rider and consultant for Suzuki and later, for Yamaha, through the early 1990s. Hannah was the bridge between racing generations, competing with the earliest AMA motocross stars and then the even bigger stars of the 1980s. Hannah’s popularity helped the sport grow by leaps and bounds.
Hannah continued to seek the adrenalin rush even after his motorcycle-racing career ended. After leaving motocross, Hannah took up the sport of airplane racing in the unlimited class. When inducted into the Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 1999, Hannah was living near Boise, Idaho, running a sport aviation sales company.
1977 Bengt Aberg / Torsten Hallman HL 500 1983 Four-stroke WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP WINNER. This bike won with multi National & Supercross Champion RICKY JOHNSON aboard. Go to www.thumperpilot.com to see some action shots of RJ winning on this bike. Well, here's yet another one I thought that I would never sell. Lundin ProFab framed HL 500 with a 'works' SR 500 motor. This bike has been extensively modified over the years. Huge dollars in engine work invested. Megacycle Engineering works motor. Runs on race gas only. Have you ever seen a semi-floating, YZ double-leading shoe front brake? Check it out. Have you ever seen an authentic DON JONES (Gary & Dwayne Jones' dad) ORIGINAL aluminum HL swingarm? Don, Dwayne, & Gary were instrumental in developing th e YZ250A back in '72 & '73 for Yamaha. Gary Jones won numerous National Titles aboard YZ 250A's, and then later on Can-Ams. How about those mint condition 44mm FOX FACTORY FORX & triple clamps? Beautiful "North American 'works' " style paint on tank by Joe Abate in NJ. (Check out his website @ www.Joerestoresmx.com) HL ONLY sidepanels. WHITE POWER reservoir shocks. Custom hand formed exhaust. Titanium and billet abound. There are HUGE $$$$'s in this bike!! If you have been looking for one of these for your collection, or to race, look no further. You won't find a nicer one at any price. Built to race, but still show quality. If you are looking at this listing, you already know how valuable these bikes are. Becoming more and more expensive every day, these bikes are not only incredible to ride, b ut they're a great investment as well. No other 4-stroke vintage MX'ers are a better (or a more enjoyable) way to invest your money (ok, maybe CCM's & Knobby Shop International's also). Produced in extremely limited numbers (200) in the late-mid 70's and very expensive at the time, HL 500 Yamaha's were truly factory racers that you or I could actually buy. Bengt Aberg won the 500cc FIM Gran Prix in Luxembourg in 1977 aboard an HL, making these the last of the 4-stroke motocrossers to actually win an FIM world gran-prix. Much like the extremely rare british CCM's, it's no wonder why these bikes are so highly prized and coveted by racers and collectors alike.