The USA, in Motocross as in all other sports, loves its megastars – the Michael Jordan, Tom Brady, Ricky Carmichael type of character – and in the 1980s it had a good number of those on dirt bikes. They helped lift American Motocross to a level that means it makes a study of the sport, like this list, pretty meaningless if you don’t consider the AMA Champions as at least the equals of those who raced the Grands Prix.
As with the elitism of bodies like the NFL, NBA, etc, those sportsmen who are damned good, talented individuals who just don’t quite get to the top very much, kind of get condemned to the trash heap a little bit. Such is the case with our #42 – Eddie Warren.
Words: Ben Rumbold | Featured Image: Richard DeLibertis
Now, let’s be plain here. He’s higher in this list than British heroes Rob Herring and Jeremy Whatley, and in comparison to many riders, Eddie’s career was like a blink of an eye. Based on opinion, especially outside of the USA, he probably would never have got in. When he did – “By the Numbers”, let’s not forget – I was a little nervous about this particular article. Until I found out more about his story. Ladies and Gentlemen, here’s what happens to a Ricky Carmichael-level schoolboy – or “Amateur” to use the relevant American parlance – when things don’t quite go right for a season or so.
Years Professionally Raced: 3 – 1985-1987 (All 125cc AMA)
Machines Raced: Kawasaki
AMA National Wins: 2 Podiums: 5 AMA National Moto Wins: 3 Top 3 Moto Finishes: 11
Grand Prix Moto Top 3 Finishes: 1
Nations Selections: 0
Championship Medals: None in Motocross. Best of 6th, 1985 125cc AMA National Championship. 1985 125cc East Supercross Champion
So who was Eddie Warren? Well according to those who watched keenly for the next big thing to come through the big American youth meetings such as Loretta Lynn’s and Ponca City, he was quite simply one of the fastest teenagers to thrash a “Wun-twenny-fahve” around a race track. Watching footage of him is a treat, like a slightly shorter David Bailey, smooth and up on the pegs whenever possible, and with a natural, effortless style. One of those riders to whom going fast isn’t hard work, so it’s actually difficult to make them work hard to go faster still, or faster for longer. Is natural talent a two-edged blade? Most certainly!
At 19 years old Eddie, son of a renowned Harley-Davidson mechanic who always made sure the bikes were perfectly prepared, tried his hand at the newly-conceived Regional 125cc Supercross “Pro-Am” series. Naturally, the boy from Michigan rode the Eastern races, although it didn’t look strictly controlled as to who rode what. A 16-year-old tearaway by the name of Mike Healey finished 3rd in the West series, and 5th in the East! Eddie had never turned a wheel on a true Supercross track before the Atlanta opener, although the randomly-constructed circuits of the time were light-years away from the computer-designed layouts of today. Nevertheless, his natural abilities shone through and he won the first three rounds, including the first-ever Championship 125cc Main at the iconic Daytona Speedway, then the mixed East-West event at Houston.
With the outdoor and indoor seasons overlapping back in those days, before that third Supercross win Eddie tasted National AMA Motocross competition for the first time. Despite a shaky debut in the 125 class, he powered to a fine 5th overall at Hangtown’s second round, with his first top-3 moto in the opening race. He only had future champs Ron Lechien and George Holland in front of him!
The results were encouraging enough for the father & son team to tackle the whole 10-round Outdoor National Championship, and after sewing up the Eastern 125 Supercross title (future World Champ Bob Moore won the West), he scored an opening-moto 3rd again in the heat of Las Vegas. The results fluctuated for the #801 Kawasaki man, between 14th and 4th overall, but he kept scoring points and finished well with his first overall podium, a 3rd overall at Washougal. Ending the season 6th overall in the championship, a factory Team Green ride was secured for 1986!
For the first time, Eddie rode without his father on the spanners and it took time to get used to a factory setup. He was also thrown straight into the deep end in the 250cc Supercross season, lining up alongside the likes of Ricky Johnson, David Bailey, and teammates Jeff Ward and Ron Lechien! He recorded a best of 9th indoors but 22nd in the series, probably disappointing to his Kawasaki bosses.
His main aim was the 125cc Outdoor Championship, and although there was a promising start with a 5th in the second moto of the opening round at Hangtown, it would take until early August for his promise to show through. Having grown up in Michigan with the accompanying weather and conditions, circumstances played into Eddie’s hands. The opening moto at the Broome-Tioga facility near New York was good with a 3rd place, due to a near holeshot and battles with Yamaha’s Keith Bowen and factory Suzuki man George Holland. As dark clouds and lightning storms closed in on the circuit, the second moto got underway and Holland looked to have it stitched up. On the fourth lap it absolutely hammered down, and Holland slowed immediately to protect a slightly injured knee. Warren was on him and gone, pulling well clear even after dropping his goggles. It was a great turnaround for the 20-year-old.
The similarly-soft terrain of Millville saw Eddie on the podium again with 3rd overall from 5-2 motos. Then came the best day of his whole career at a new venue, the Roger DeCoster-designed Hollister Hills track in northern California. On hard-packed slick West Coast dirt, Warren never expected to win there, but with a dominant first moto victory and a tape-to-tape, but closer, second moto, Eddie claimed his only ever AMA National maximum score and was on cloud nine! A 5-3 at the final round at Washougal meant that Eddie outscored everyone in the four events in August. 7th in points doesn’t do justice to how fast he was at that point. Five of the people he beat in that time are going to be featured in this list, with World or National Championships to nearly all of their names!
He continued his good run on the last day of August 1986, travelling south to Belo Horizonte in Brazil for the final round of the 125cc World Championship! Duking it out with the Vehkonen cousins, Pekka & Ismo, and the Benelli of Alberto Barozzi (I’m sure he never saw a Benelli again, before or since!), Eddie finished a credible 6th overall with 7-6 motos in a GP dominated by Micky Dymond.
He was expected to grow in 250cc Supercross in 1987, and certainly challenge for the 125cc national title. Just to give it a context, the 125s raced at every AMA National event from 1985 onwards, a full 10- to 12-round championship, whilst the big boys split those rounds between 250cc & 500cc. Most riders did both to contend for two national titles of 5 or 6 rounds each. If you were a Suzuki rider, you might have done half of the 125cc series after the 250s were done, as you had no 500cc option by 1985! Most Suzuki factory guys, like Holland, Erik Kehoe and rising star Donny Schmit, just did all of outdoors on a 125. As proven though by first Lechien and then Dymond, the Honda was really the machine to be on!
So this is where Eddie Warren’s story shifts a bit. As you can see from the numbers, he would never win another AMA Event. For an unknown reason that would only come to light years later, the results just didn’t come. Lower end of the top ten in both series, all through the year, there just wasn’t the same spark there. Team Green had plenty of kids knocking on the door, one by the name of Jeff Matiasevich, and it started to be obvious that Warren would not be re-hired alongside Wardy & Lechien.
The reason for this slump was only made public in a recent podcast, where Eddie explained that he was involved in a car crash with someone else driving, and as the vehicle was rolled it messed up his shoulder “big-time”. He didn’t have it x-rayed, and bizarrely he never told anybody in his team or the media about it, but he was struggling for mobility in his shoulder for much of the early part of the year. This, added to chronic arm-pump which plagued him his whole pro career, just left Eddie with an empty ammunition holster.
The arm pump he puts down to lack of confidence, nerves, and going from being a win-everything Amateur to suddenly swimming with the sharks in the pro ranks. It’s an age-old problem that doesn’t seem to have an easy answer. Ultimately, you just have to become a shark yourself!
Eddie once again came good towards the end of the year. In June’s penultimate Supercross, at East Rutherford, New Jersey, he scored a stunning 3rd place behind RJ & Lechien, and ended the season tied with Guy Cooper for 6th in the series! Back to the Nationals and it was more of the same, 12th & 11th, but then it was back to Broome-Tioga – so named because the track is in Broome County and the pits are in Tioga County! Here it was that Warren claimed his final overall AMA podium result, with 5-3 motos putting him 3rd behind Holland and double-champion Dymond.
A week before the last round of the Nationals, Eddie lined up for the 125cc USGP, the first one since 1981, at Steel City in Pennsylvania, and acquitted himself well. A crash ruled him out of the points in 17th for race one, but he held a strong 2nd for most of race two behind GP winner Kehoe, only to be passed by a late charge from rising superstar Jean-Michel Bayle. Even then, a top 3 in his last ever GP moto? Surely a move to Europe could have been an option?
4th overall at the final AMA round at Millville got him to 9th in the championship, but it was not enough to save Warren’s Kawasaki ride. Before he even turned 22, with zero offers on the table he considered calling it quits. After the Nationals however, he had done a few Australian races at the recommendation of his 125cc AMA rival Jeff Leisk. He got a call inviting him down under to race there, and he never lived in the USA ever again!
Warren’s story from here is an extraordinary one. He carved out a decent living on the Australian National scene, winning domestic championships and falling in love with the country. He met his wife out there, moved to Sydney, had two kids, and made the place his home. Hearing him speak today, there’s a definite Aussie twang mixed-in with the Michigan! At the start of the 1990s, he raced the Osaka Supercross in Japan, against a bunch of top Americans, and finished an amazing 5th. This led to Kawasaki requesting his presence in Japan to compete in their domestic series. The first year he commuted by plane between Australia and Japan, before Kawasaki helped him get an apartment and a van to stay there during the season.
In comparison to his paltry $15,000 salary from Kawasaki in 1986, he could make 25 grand on a good weekend in Japan, and although Eddie didn’t make enough money to retire on for the rest of his life, it certainly set him up with a house and some savings when he finally called it a day.
He raced hard against his old buddy Ronnie Tichenor in the All-Japan series, and raced some seriously trick factory kit, his 1992 hand-made steel framed KX250 his personal favourite. From then on many Japanese manufacturers began experimenting with ally frames, and the thing he got to ride was “a piece of junk” in comparison. This was many years before the first of those frames made it into production!
Tragedy did befall Eddie when, after being chased out of his Japanese ride by, guess who, Matiasevich again (!), he rode out his career in Australia and settled down. His wife passed away from an aneurism and he had to raise his two daughters alone for a while. He did re-marry and acquired four step-daughters, worked on railways and then the recycling industry. He also helped Aussie Jay Wilson in recent years. He did it the long way round, but Eddie Warren carved out a professional career in Motocross that set him up well for life afterwards. Many riders both in or out of this list were not so fortunate.
There is no doubt that Eddie’s place in this list is mainly due to the fact that he only rode for three seasons and won the minimum requirement of two events that this list was built on. His 35 counting events – 33 Nationals and two GPs – is the 4th lowest number on this list. Even so, given more of a chance he surely could have done more had he stayed in the AMA for ’88 & ’89, or even gone to Europe as some of his contemporaries did. His place in history as the first ever Eastern Region 125cc Supercross Champion is also not to be sniffed at.
I grimaced slightly when his statistics put him into this list, and in terms of best championship finish he is the weakest one of all 50, but his story is an amazing one, reflecting what happened to a rider given very little chance to find his place amongst the elite but still finding a way to survive. I’m glad he’s in here.
The rider we flip to next time had a different story to tell after he was left outside of the factory AMA line-ups, and he left his own mark on Motocross history…
GPs counted: 2 – 0 Wins
AMA Nationals: 33 – 2 Wins
Total: 35 Events, 2 Wins, Winning Percentage 5.7
Season By Season:
Year Class Record Champ Position Grand Prix Results
1985: 125cc AMA 10 rounds, 0 wins 6th —
1986: 125cc AMA 11 rounds, 2 wins 7th 125cc – 6th Overall (Brazil)
1987: 125cc AMA 12 rounds, 0 wins 9th 125cc – 9th Overall (USA)