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David Bailey Watches the 1986 Anaheim Supercross

By Brett Smith

I thought the audio file was lost forever, drowned in a digital landfill of electronic documents that ended in .pdf, .jpg, .mov, .wav, .aiff, .mp3, etc. Or doomed to an eternity on a misplaced SD card that’s probably shoved into the back of a desk drawer that doesn’t get opened.

But there it was, file name Z0000001.MP3. It was on my audio recorder the entire time. It never got transferred. Now carefully (and aptly) renamed “David Bailey watches the 1986 Anaheim SX”, I’ve finished what I intended to do back in 2016, for the 30th anniversary of the race.

Back in the summer of 2015, I visited David Bailey at his home for a completely unrelated video project. While we were packing up our gear, I asked him when the last time he sat down and watched the 1986 Anaheim SX, a race he won, often referred to as one of the greatest in the history of the sport. It’s a classic tug of war between teammates, Bailey and Ricky Johnson.

His delayed response led me to believe it had been a couple of minutes. Or decades. I got out my digital recorder, found an upload of the race on YouTube and asked David to take me through his memory bank, specifically the deposit made on January 18, 1986. The experience was like Science Fiction Theater meets AMA Supercross. David sat with me and Entity Media’s Chris Williams and narrated every single detail of the day, which was the opening round of the 1986 AMA Supercross Championships. Bailey talked about everything from the feelings he got walking into the tunnel, the weird course (“I had never seen a track built this awkward”), and the fact that it was Jeff Ward that he had his eyes on the most, not Johnson. He even discussed the moment at a restaurant he visited in the wee hours of Jan. 19 when Jo Jo Keller came up to him at the table and said “I knew you were going to win when you cased those triples”.

There are lots of versions of this race on YouTube but most are just truncated clips of the main event. I found a version that includes the heat races and most of the main event. To get to the meat of the discussion, I edited out our ramblings during the show open and started this video right at the first heat race. It runs 32 minutes total and it’s worth every second.

After the first heat, we skipped ahead to Bailey’s qualifier, which he was excited about because he said he can’t remember ever seeing it at all. After watching Jeff Ward’s throttle cable disconnect in the 4th heat (which disqualified Ward from lining up for even the semi qualifier) we skipped ahead to the main event and battle between RJ and Bailey.

NOTE: Due to copyright issues, 15-20 seconds of the main event battle had to be trimmed.

Also: the version we watched back in 2015 is no longer on YouTube. To finish this project, I had to find an alternate version. It was edited together a little bit differently. I was able to sync up most of the audio with the video but you’ll notice a few spots where it isn’t perfect.

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