A hard-riding Californian big-bike specialist who challenged some of the very best in early-80s AMA Motocross, the man with the most sticky of nicknames, Todd “Goat” Breker, just makes it into our Top 50 Riders of the 1980s (By The Numbers) list.
Words: Ben Rumbold | Images: Jack Burnicle
For entry #48 in our Top 50 Riders of the 80s (By The Numbers) list, we head stateside for the first time to point the spotlight through the mists of time, way back to the heady days of the early-80s AMA National 500cc Championship. The Americans were starting to beat their European counterparts and the factories were paying attention. These riders manhandled factory special two-stroke open-class machines on usually baked-hard blue-groove dustbowls, some still with the chinstrap-mounted mouth guards in place if not the classic Scott full face mask.
Born: January 1959
Years Professionally Raced: 1978-1985, 1988 (500cc AMA 1978-84, 250cc AMA 1985, 500cc GPs 1988)
Machines Raced: Husqvarna, Kawasaki, Honda
AMA Wins: 3 Overall Podiums: 18 AMA Nationals Moto Wins: 6 Top 3 Moto Finishes: 39
Nations Selections: 0
Championship Medals: 1 Silver – 1980 500cc AMA, 1 Bronze – 1984 500cc AMA
In 1978 a rangy 19-year-old Californian by the name of Todd Breker campaigned his privately-bought Husqvarna in a few 500cc Nationals and scored top tens, then went further in 1979 by getting top 6 finishes. None of this working up through 125s and 250s, Breker was a long lad and back when the smaller bikes had a lot less power, it was big-bore all the way! In one moto he actually kept that year’s champion Danny LaPorte behind him, and his efforts came to the attention of Kawasaki.
First of all, let’s get this straight… why was he even called “Goat”, decades before the term would be coined to describe modern-day all-time greats? Quite a simple answer as it turns out, he was the youngest of three brothers and the other two were tearaways. They enjoyed their excesses with alcohol, and worse, and the damage done to them led the baby brother to avoid that route. He put his efforts into his sport and stayed clean, but the nickname Goat came from his family, initially as a joke that he would “literally eat anything”… and obviously it stuck. So much so that even in official points tables and all-time winner’s lists wherever you look, he is always named as Goat… never as Todd!
So at the age of 21, barely even a Billy-Goat, he was drafted in as a test rider for Kawasaki, who were keen to get to the front in the big boy class and build their stateside profile. Although the 1980 KX440-480cc machines were provided by Kawasaki, he was technically an unsalaried privateer, having to earn a crust through results and bonus money, and through the NorStar clothing company. He made his way!
Immediately not only competitive but consistent, Goat shocked the major stars like Suzuki veterans Marty Smith & LaPorte, Yamaha’s Rick Burgett, and Honda’s Chuck Sun and Jim Gibson. 2nd overall at the opening day of the 8-round series to the seriously factory Honda of Sun, straight away the lanky kid with the farmyard name caught people’s attention. At the halfway point in the series the physical test of high altitude at Colorado’s Thunder Valley facility meant that all of his clean living had paid off – Goat was untouchable and won both motos for his first ever National win! He hacked Sun’s series lead to just 18 points and the impossible looked on for the man in green. A week after that he made his Grand Prix debut at Carlsbad and a first moto 5th saw him finish between Andre Vromans & Brad Lackey in a GP dominated by fellow Californian Marty Moates.
From then on in the Nationals, however, Chuck Sun pulled the pin and won the next six motos. Although Breker did his best, twice following the Honda man home at Washougal, it wasn’t enough to prevent the title being lost with a round still to run. Even so, in his first year on competitive bikes, yet still far from being a factory rider in the days when that really meant something, he had beaten the legendary Marty Smith in the points to finish 2nd in the series. The future looked bright!
1981 did not live up to the promise, however, and in fact Kawasaki as a factory won nothing on either side of the pond that year, in any class! Goat’s was the only green bike to finish top ten in the 500s all season, as the series was carved up between Sun and new champ Broc Glover. Breker stayed consistent but only got on the overall podium at High Point’s second round, and lost 4th in the standings to LaPorte at the final round.
The following year had a similar end result, with one key difference – Breker won again! Just into the second half of the series, round 5 of 8 at the Broome-Tioga facility near New York, Goat took both motos, beating the likes of Danny Chandler and Mike Bell. The early part of the year was too poor for any title hopes, but there wasn’t even another points scorer for Kawasaki in the 500s that year! Breker was to win a moto at Carlsbad in the final round but a second moto DNF would again see him pipped for 4th in the points at the last moto.
With the lack of results from Kawasaki, Goat moved to Honda for the 1983 season. His forceful style, always hunched with his chin over the bars and elbows waaay out, worked well on the Honda, especially in Supercross where he was never a major force, being only for those buzzy little 250cc things! He claimed his first top 5 result indoors after 3 years of trying, but again it was in the 500cc Outdoor Nationals that Breker really delivered. 2nd only to mercurial teammate Danny “Magoo” Chandler in the opening moto at Hangtown, and 3rd on the day behind his Kawasaki replacement Kent Howerton, showed that the change to big red would be a healthy one. Although Chandler got the new water-cooled CR500 at Binghamton’s sixth round, he struggled on it whilst Goat took 2nd overall on his original air-hammer! He took the final moto win of his career at Saddleback in April, and the final overall win – at Thunder Valley again – towards the end of the season. However, a mid-season injury denied him the chance of a title run and he’d finish 7th in the series.
His second and final appearance in a US Grand Prix, at Carlsbad again, saw him battling with Brits Graham Noyce and Neil Hudson, finishing just behind Noyce in race one (9th) and Hudson in race two (8th), which was good enough for 8th overall.
Kawasaki had done well in 1983 with Howerton finishing 2nd in the 500cc series to Glover, but Howerton was happier on a 250 so moved down to go for his 4th AMA title. This left Kawasaki hunting for a replacement in the big class and took Goat back to Team Green for 1984. This was the first year of the production rule in the States, so Goat was the first to race a machine with the moniker “KX500” in the Nationals. There was a rush to be fit for the outdoors after hurting himself in a Supercross and missing three races in that series.
As before, Goat’s was the only green machine anywhere near the front all year in the 500s, and he certainly was near! The championship was dominated by Honda’s David Bailey and Yamaha’s Glover, with the ten rounds split 8 to 2 in favour of The Little Professor. Honda even swept the board across all three classes at the second round at Saddleback, with Breker the closest to breaking that domination until he crashed out of the lead in the first moto.
From the 10 rounds, Goat frustratingly finished either 2nd or 3rd overall at 9 of them, and of the 20 motos he actually finished 3rd 15 times behind the golden pair up front! He twice got ahead of Glover for 2nd-placed motos but he could never crack Bailey. He literally doubled his career podium tally that year!
In 1985, Breker was starting to feel the strain physically and dropped to the 250 class full-time. In a field containing the likes of Jeff Ward, Ricky Johnson, and Johnny O’Mara, the 26-year-old Breker was suddenly not on the pace. Racked with pain from the after-effects of neck and hip surgery, he decided to call it a day at the end of the year. Before he finally hung up his boots, however, he grabbed a season-best 6th overall at Spring Creek, and at long last climbed his one and only Supercross podium at the Pasadena Rose Bowl in California in mid-August – the final round of the series.
Starting behind the Hondas of Bailey and Ron Lechien, Breker ducked inside a crashing Lechien and held 2nd for most of the race. It took a spirited charge from reigning champ O’Mara to put Goat back to 3rd. It was somewhat overshadowed by a stunning last-lap battle for the championship, won by Breker’s teammate Ward over Glover, but a fantastic way to finish a solid career.
Although he stopped competing at the very highest level, he stayed active and won what the AMA called the “World” Four-Stroke Championship, and even made a move to Europe in 1988 with the intention of racing the whole GP season, but his deal fell through after three rounds and he swiftly returned home.
Goat stayed involved in the sport as a businessman and race promoter, and even ran his own brand of sunglasses for many years, before most recently running a hotel near the Mojave desert – handy for some beautiful trail bike riding! Never one to seek the spotlight, Todd “Goat” Breker was a solid campaigner amongst some of the sport’s first Stateside superstars and more than worthy of his spot in our Top 50.
As with many American racers coming up in this list, Goat Breker’s winning average is slightly helped by the low number of races in the AMA Nationals at the start of the decade. Initially run over just 8 rounds, they would run two classes in a day, with different combinations over the 12 meetings. From 1983-85 all three classes ran on the same day in a packed schedule of 11 or 10 rounds. So the 6 years of activity for Goat amounted to 55 Nationals, whereas World Championship riders would have raced 72 GPs in the same period! Of course it also gave the Americans less of a chance to increase their win total, so it evens out! Never selected for a Nations and only twice competing in a USGP, Breker’s 3 wins from 60 events just puts him into our top 50 and the lowest-ranked American in it. He still had a solid career against the riders he faced, not always on the best machinery.
Next time we dive back across the Atlantic to feature a GP star with a long career and an action hero nickname!
GPs counted: 5 – 0 Wins
AMA Nationals: 55 – 3 Wins
Total: 60 Events, 3 Wins, Winning Percentage 5.0
Season By Season:
Year Class Record Champ Pos US Grand Prix Result
1980: 500cc AMA 8 rounds, 1 win 2nd 500cc – 8th Overall
1981: 500cc AMA 8 rounds, 0 wins 5th —
1982: 500cc AMA 8 rounds, 1 win 5th 500cc – 8th Overall
1983: 500cc AMA 11 rounds, 1 win 7th —
1984: 500cc AMA 10 rounds, 0 wins 3rd —
1985: 250cc AMA 10 rounds, 0 wins 13th —
1988: 500cc GPs 3 rounds, 0 wins N/A —