In the early 1980’s, sales of three and four-wheeled machines shot through the roof as families discovered the joys of working, playing and riding the latest three and four-wheeled equipment. Soon the racing scene took off, and the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) started a separate sanctioning division devoted to these machines - the American All-Terrain Vehicle Association (AATVA).
In 1985, the AATVA launched its new national championship series featuring this new equipment. The series consisted of two distinct championship tours - one for TT-style flat track racing and another for rough and tumble motocross, for both professional and amateur riders. At the end of the season, the points from both series were combined to create the Grand National Champion (GNC). Factory rides and fresh talent poured into this new series, and the sky was the limit.
Unfortunately, safety concerns left over from the three-wheeled machines led to a mass exodus of OEM support from ATV racing in the late 80s. Factory rides dried up, and the manufacturers stopped producing performance-focused race machines. But while those dark days could have sent many scrambling to other sports, the die-hard, committed loyalists of the ATV racing family carried the flame through the 1990s. Stars like Gary Denton, Tim Farr and Doug Gust fought for the GNC titles on machines built almost entirely of aftermarket components - with pride, instead of factory money, as their motivation.
At the dawn of the new millennium, however, a shift in factory attention occurred. ATV racing and riding was growing once again, and in 2002 the GNC Series went through an evolution that split the MX and TT series into two separate championships. This made the titles more accessible to riders who could only afford to specialize in one series or the other. Manufacturers started producing race-ready ATVs again, and production classes opened up the sport to a new generation of talent.
Realizing the growth of the ATV racing market, manufacturers pushed the technological envelope with their equipment, and soon the production ATVs were once again the prime choice for competition. And with that, the factory rides came back, and ATV MX racing once again experienced the same popularity it had enjoyed 20 years before. But it did not last long.
Today, only one OEM (Yamaha) remains as the sole manufacturer of current production-based sport models, as most factories have once again turned their attention away from ATV sport models and towards ATV utility and side-by-side machines. As disappointing as this may be, the ATV sport enthusiast will not be deterred. Once again the series will look to the after-market industry to provide technical support, as we await the return of the other OEMs.
In the meantime, the series will continue to celebrate and crown new champions, like 2017 first time champion Joel Hetrick, and consecutive five-time champion Chad Wienen (2012-2016). Racers and their families will continue the quest for a coveted AMA national title, and fans will continue to be inspired by the dedication and true grit their favorite racers display on and of the racetrack.
Just like a rugged ATV MX track after a long weekend, the path to this series' greatness has been bumpy. But any racer will tell you that finishing a long, hard moto is the best feeling in the world. For those dedicated to this sport and this series for over 30 years, we look forward to every day we get together to enjoy ATV racing.
HOW NATIONAL RACING WORKS
The AMA ATV Motocross Championship is unquestionably the premier professional and amateur ATV motocross series in the world, offering classes for riders as young as 4 years and as old as they want to be, and for machines from 50cc to 450cc. There's a class for everyone in this series, and riders can choose to chase a championship or just see what they have to bring when the "Big Show" comes to their backyard.
Since 2008, the series has been administered by the ATVPG (ATV Promoters Group), providing uniformity and consistency to event production and sponsorship implementation. National events are hosted at premiere motocross racetracks across the country. The promoters of these host facilities have experience in the design, preparation and maintenance of ATV-friendly racetracks.
A typical race weekend includes a Friday amateur practice day, with racing on Saturday and Sunday. Generally, after a short practice, the first moto or qualifiers for all amateur classes are held on Saturday. The second motos are held on Sunday. Each class is scored separately using electronic transponder scoring. Everyone is welcome to compete and there is no pre-qualification process. We have a class for nearly every age, every machine and every skill level.
A typical National event will attract 500-600 racers, hailing from almost every state, as well as Canada and the occasional European, Australian, South American and more.