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STORIES FROM THE 'SEVENTIES

At the Daytona 200 in 1969, Bruce Cox and Gavin Trippe (RIP) launched a motorcycle newspaper into the American market that was very different in concept to similar existing publications in that it looked at the whole world of motorcycling rather than just a regional aspect. The pair ran Motor Cycle Weekly for ten years alongside their major race promotions company and this page is simply Bruce Cox, the Publisher of MCW, indulging himself by taking a ride down Memory Lane. Join him and enjoy his stories of the men, the machines and the memories of a golden age of motorcycle sport.

RESPECT FROM A RIVAL

 

Whether in racing or in business (writes Bruce Cox) respect from your peers and rivals is always much appreciated and was reciprocated by us at Motor Cycle Weekly for our competitors at Cycle News in California back in the 1970s. Which is why I was so pleased, some forty years on, to read a feature by CN contributor, Larry Lawrence, assessing the effect of MCW on American motorcycle sport long after it had ceased publication. There could be no better way, I felt, to kickstart my ride down Memory Lane.

LARRY  LAWRENCE WROTE:

 

Motor Cycle Weekly was the brainchild of Bruce Cox, who also later founded the groundbreaking promotional group Trippe/Cox Inc. along with fellow Brit Gavin Trippe (who sadly died in a road acident in 2018).

 

Already a publishing veteran at 26 years old, having worked as a newspaper and magazine writer and publisher since he was 16, Cox came to America during a radical time“In 1967 I had a bit of money to spare, thanks to the success of my freelance publishing services business in the UK, and decided to spend the winter in California,” Cox remembered. “I’d been reading Cycle World from the USA, listening to the Beach Boys and Jimi Hendrix, heard about free love and mind-expanding substances in Haight Ashbury so it seemed like the place to be. Not surprisingly, I wanted to get out there in the sunshine, riding across the desert, surfing in the ocean and doing whatever else was on offer.

 

“In November 1967, I made that California trip with an up-and-coming racer by the name of Rod Gould, who coincidentally was and still is, my oldest friend. He had met Joe Parkhurst of Cycle World at the Isle of Man TT and told him of our plans to head west. Typically, Joe (who was one of the most generous and nicest people I have ever met) invited him to stop by the office to see if they could help us in any way. We duly turned up for lunch and by the end of the afternoon I had a job as a Cycle World journalist for the winter and Rod had been fixed up as a mechanic with a local Honda dealer as well as securing a ride at a Willow Springs race for a Kawasaki dealer. Rod won that race and several others that winter and ended up with places on the Kawasaki and Triumph teams for Daytona 1968. So began a trip that changed both our lives.”

 

While on his four-month trip Cox hatched the idea of trying to start a new weekly motorcycle newspaper in the USA .Back in England he persuaded Gavin Trippe (who was at the time the motocross beat writer for the British weekly Motorcycle News) and another young journalist Bob Berry (who later ended up as Editor of MCN back in the UK and then the owner of Classic Racer and Classic Motorcycle Mechanics magazines) to come back with him and give it a go.

 

Late in 1968, Cox went back out to California to lay the groundwork for his dream and early in 1969 the other two of the talented trio traveled back to America and together launched Motor Cycle Weekly, The paper, with its trademark orange and black masthead, made an immediate impact.

 

“The US industry advertising and PR guys were very supportive right from the start,” Cox recalls. “It was as if they had been waiting for us to come along. And I had met lots of them during the previous winter with Cycle World, so it all came together amazingly quickly, in fact.

 

“One reason we got noticed quickly, I think, was that we kicked off by giving away thousands of pre-launch sample newspapers at Daytona 1969 - and there on track was Rod Gould - running right up front in both the 200 Mile National and the 250cc Lightweight race on a pair of Yamahas with Team Motorcycle Weekly identification prominent on the fairings. The whole industry was there and those who didn’t know about us by the start of Daytona Bike Week certainly did by the end of it”.

 

Rod led the Daytona 200  main event for many laps and finally finished fifth after pitting to secure an expansion chamber that had come adrift. In addition, he finished second to Yvon DuHamel in the 250cc Lightweight race. A year later, he was World 250cc Champion for Yamaha and carried the distinctive orange and black MCW decals on his fairing throughout his Grand Prix campaign, as did many of the leading AMA Grand National Championship riders back in the day. Either wittingly or unwittingly the new paper made the domestic American championships seem all that more important by association with international coverage.

 

“I think with Motor Cycle Weekly, Gavin and Bruce knew a lot of the international racers and sort of brought that closer to home,” said Don Emde, who had sponsorship from the paper on his Daytona 200 winning Yamaha in 1972. “Instead of focusing just on domestic racing they really mixed in coverage of the international events and made American riders feel like they were a part of a larger global racing scene if you will. And, of course, there were the other things they did to truly make American riders part of the whole international racing community such as their involvement with the Anglo-American Match Races, the US Motocross Grand Prix and the  ABC-TV Wide World of Sports Superbikers. They were really influential in getting Americans to realize that there was a bigger world out there and more opportunities for them outside of our domestic racing series”.

 

Cox and Trippe ran MCW for almost ten years from 1969 onwards but cash flow was always a problem as printing, distribution and staff costs had to be met on a weekly basis and that never fully coincided with advertising income. Fluctuations had always been ironed out by income from their allied promotions company but after suffering big losses in staging two national championship races at Riverside in California, there came a point when a decision had to be made, That decision saw MCW disposed of to another publishing company, leaving Trippe and Cox to the more easily manageable task of running their international events, including continuing to handle the American team aspect of the Transatlantic Trophy series.

 

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A CALIFORNIA TRIP AND A CHAIN REACTION

The familiar term “chain reaction” refers to the often-unexpected effect that one action can have on another and how continuing progressive links in the chain can lead to originally unimaginable happenings ranging from world wars to important scientific discoveries.

In the world of motorcycle sport, the chain reaction resulting from connections that followed a trip to California made by World Champion-in-waiting Rod Gould and would-be newspaper publisher, Bruce Cox in the winter of 1967 was an almost incredible one for all concerned.  In fact, as well as being a pivotal point in the careers of both Rod and Bruce, that trip started a chain reaction which literally helped to change the face of worldwide motorcycle sport.

For Bruce Cox that trip in 1967/68 led to a return to California the following winter to launch the newspaper, Motor Cycle Weekly, a business for which he had laid the groundwork before leaving the States in the spring of 1968. While they were working together in England on Motor Cycle News during the 1968 summer, Bruce had persuaded fellow journalist Gavin Trippe to partner him in the new publishing venture. Gavin headed out to the States early in 1969 and the pair launched MCW at the Daytona Bike Week that March.

 

For Bruce and Gavin, some opportunities to promote events under the MCW banner in 1969 led to the formation of a parallel company, Trippe Cox Associates, to organize motorcycle races on a professional basis. The partnership introduced World Championship motocross to America with the US MXGP that they staged at the now-legendary Carlsbad Raceway in California for 10 years from 1973 onwards as well as the first visit to the USA of the World F750 Championship series in 1977. That one was the culmination of six years of American National Championship road racing organized by TCA at the famous Laguna Seca, California track.

 

Those seasons at Laguna Seca saw Trippe and Cox introduce a new class of racing in 1973 that featured highly modified versions of production bikes. Essentially, it was a two-wheeled version of America’s hugely popular NASCAR stock car series and TCA created the concept so that the ABC-TV network could air two different types of racing from a National Championship weekend. It was a big success with both the race fans and the TV audience and formed the basis of a new US Superbike Championship for the following season. One of the stars of the new class was an ambitious and talented young hustler by the name of Steve McLaughlin, He saw the potential of the concept and lobbied tirelessly for the next few years to create what has become WSB - the World Superbike Championship. Another truly significant link in the chain!

 

Another result of the relationship between Trippe, Cox and the giant ABC-TV network in the States was the creation by TCA of another new event. Designed specifically for television audiences, it was aimed at showcasing the talents of riders from the different disciplines of motorcycle racing and seeing how they matched up against one another on a ‘level playing field’. That was created by a clever mix of the road race and motocross courses at Carlsbad Raceway as well as a diversion into one of the dirt parking lots where a special sweeping flat-track turn was incorporated into the lap. 

 

Courtesy of a big budget from ABC-TV, Trippe and Cox attracted the World Champions from every discipline of the sport to the inaugural 1979 event as well as US National Champions and other superstar challengers, Given the title of the ‘ABC Superbikers’ it played well with the TV ‘armchair fans’ and was aired for a further seven years. It also caught the imagination of event organisers in Europe and thus was born Supermoto – a new racing discipline that went on to be given World Championship status.

 

Another successful concept devised by Trippe and Cox was that of the well-known TransAtlantic Trophy road race series of Anglo American Match races. They brought it to the British fans in 1971 by linking with Motor Circuits Developments, owners of Brands Hatch, Mallory Park and Oulton Park. The series ran until 1986 and, of course, introduced all of America’s World Champions to Europe during the decade from 1977 onwards. Kenny Roberts, Steve Baker, Freddie Spencer, Eddie Lawson, Wayne Rainey, Kevin Schwanz and Fred Merkel all made their first trips to Europe as members of the US TransAtlantic Trophy team. The history of the road racing World Championships would have been very different indeed without those original California connections as the catalyst!

 

Another significant link in the chain reaction that followed the visit of Rod Gould and Bruce Cox to California in 1967 was the success of Rod’s home-built hybrid with a Yamaha engine that he had acquired during his California trip and had installed in a Bultaco rolling chassis. He raced it to fourth place in the 1968 World 250cc Championship and that success started Rod on the road to the 250cc GP world title two years later

 

The final almost unbelievable link in the chain came when Rod retired from racing at the end of the 1972 season and took up an influential position as PR manager of Yamaha Europe. Using his connections in the world of motorcycle racing, he was the ‘behind the scenes’ Yamaha man who poached Giacomo Agostini away from MV Agusta, motocross star Heikki Mikkola from Husqvarna and trials ace. Mick Andrews away from OSSA!

 

So going link by link through the subsequent chain of events connected to that 1967 trip by Rod and Bruce, you realize that it was even to have a bearing on the careers of those three superstars and the subsequent effects that their career changes had on their various areas of motorcycle sport!

Significant chain reactions indeed…and ones that would never have been made had not Rod Gould and Bruce Cox boarded that American-bound jet in November 1967.

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Rod Gould (left) and Bruce Cox enjoying the California lifestyle in the winter of 1967,

 

When Bruce launched Motor Cycle Weekly at Daytona in 1969, Rod raced with the name on the fairings of his 250 and 350 Yamahas to help get MCW noticed by the fans. And it worked! Rod led the big Daytona 200 race for many laps on the 350 but dropped to fifth after pitting to fix a loose exhaust pipe. He put the 250 into Victory Lane by finishing second to Yvon Duhamel in the Lightweight class. Rod is pictured below racing wheel to wheel with American Champiom. Gary Nixon, in that race, 

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