Brought to you by
Here we go, the 4th week in a row writing about some bad ass Canadian racers from their home base. This week we dive into the province of Alberta.
I pushed this one back one week because of certain names on this list not actually being born in Alberta, or even Canada for that matter. After a few arguments and some sleepless nights (that’s a lie, I just let Steve Matthes tell me what to do) I nailed this list and I think I nailed it the best possible. The wild thing about Alberta compared to the others I’ve written thus far is all of these guys accomplishments all came prior to the year 2000. There have been some great riders after that year but in this case, with only doing the all-time top 5, they get cut and totally suck compared to the 5 names below… I’m kidding of course.
#5 Robin Dohlman
I actually got a hold of Dohlman and forgot we had met back in 2003 at a race at Rocky Mountain house. He was a good dude and was a master on the 500cc bike in his prime. I then saw this photo he sent to me and it triggered, I knew who exactly he was and remembered him being solid. But, instead of me telling the story I’ll let Robin tell it:
Things are somewhat foggy due to my advancing age however here goes!!
Started racing in 1982 on a CR480 in the Open Junior class and traveled to Hully Gully for the Nationals and got 3rd overall.
1984 moved up to the expert class and promptly got ass kicked by the likes of Rudi Jr. and Zoli Jr. I did one expert national in 1986 and was awarded number 28 ding dong!!
In 1991 I did all but one national out on the east coast and accumulated enough points for a national #7. My best overall day finish was 3rd overall on the 500cc somewhere in Ontario.
1992 I decided that the money was so much better staying at home that I did not do the Nationals but did win 125/250/500 championship here in Alberta. I tried to think of a funny little quip to pass on to you but failed miserably but somewhere around 2006-2007 I was racing at Washougal in an International Vet race and nearing the end of the moto I noticed Zoli Berenyi Sr. standing on the side of the track cheering me on. I thought to myself that I had truly arrived when a legend of his stature was out there giving me the thumbs up!.
#4 Zoli Berenyi Jr
Well, because I’m super lame and didn’t find the time to get ahold of Zoli Jr I don’t have a ton of information about this top-shelf racer. I do, however, have a great story about me racing him in 1997 at Antler Lake.
At the time I was the hot shot for Yamaha coming up and started off the series pretty decent at the first three rounds. I saw the Antler Lake track and I was feeling good about it. Supernatural terrain with big hills and fast straights which was always good for me with Bondi Engines doing my motors back then. One of the first people I see is Carl Vaillancourt who was doing the TV commentating back then. The first thing he says to me is, “there’s a 41-year-old racer going to kick your ass today Pencil D#$% (his nickname for me).” Of course, my first response was “F that” but then I also asked who the hell was this guy. Then he hit me with the name: Zoli Berenyl Jr.
In every moto, that afternoon at the 16-18 minute mark here came this awful styled rider #41. But style or gear choice didn’t matter to this beats. Zoli Jr was a damn machine and this was at the end of his career as a pro. I couldn’t imagine what he was like in his prime. I was embarrassed and felt like what a waste I was to the sport. Then, I thought to myself, I hope to be as bad ass as that guy that just kicked my ass at 41 years old. That was Zoli Berenyi Jr.
#3 Stan Currington
I’ve never met Stan but did get a chance to chat him a little about this story. I don’t think I could have done a better job then what Lawrence Hacking did for a site Vintageroost.com Here’s the link:
1979 Canadain National Champion
#2 Zoli Berenyi Sr
I know nothing about this guy other then he could be the toughest and gnarliest guy ever to race a dirt bike. Read the story by Wil Declerq:
By Wil DeClerq
Zoli Berenyi Sr. brought his family to Canada from Hungary in 1957 along with a love for motorcycles, which was his primary means of transportation in the old country. At the ripe old age of 25, Berenyi entered and won, his first sanctioned Alberta provincial race in 1959 aboard a 250 Royal Enfield. He had never raced before but motocross might as well have been invented for him.
“It was in the Junior class but I didn’t want to race that,” Berenyi recalls. “All the attention was on the Experts and that’s what I wanted to be in. They [CMA] let me move up to the Experts after I won my first race and I raced that class for twenty-five years.”
Twenty-five years?! That would make him 50 years old when he retired from pro motocross, an age that is hardly conducive to being competitive in a grueling youth-oriented sport. Must be some kind of mistake. Right?
“No. I actually raced the Experts class till I was 50, at least in Alberta. But I was still competitive in the Nationals till I was 45 and on a good day could run with my son [Zoli Jr.] and Ross Pederson, who was starting to make a name for himself back then,” Berenyi said without sounding full of himself.
Okay, that’s pretty impressive, but once you realize that Berenyi still raced dirt bikes until he was in his late seventies, it all falls into perspective. Berenyi Sr. was not your average, everyday motocrosser and his love for the sport and stamina knew no bounds. He won his first 250 National Championship in 1965 aboard a Greaves. Two years later he clinched the 500cc title riding for CZ, a brand he stayed with for 11 seasons.
This was in an era when the sport was still called scrambling and featured some of the most colorful and legendary characters in dirt bike racing including Bill Sharpless, Yvon Duhamel, Seppo Makinen, Vern Amor, and Matti Pellinen to name a few.
“My only regret is that back in those days the Nationals were split up in east and west regions. Whoever won the most races won the title, so we had few opportunities to all race together,” Berenyi noted. “I never had a chance to race against Duhamel or Sharpless for example, and so we will never know which of us was really the best guy then.”
On a provincial level Berenyi Sr., like Junior, won so many titles in so many different classes he can’t remember how many, for the simple reason that winning them became commonplace. In his post-Expert years, Berenyi racked up six National Championships in the Masters Class, eight in the Veteran Class and three Veteran World Championship titles in the +50 Class. In 1995 and 1998 he won titles in the Old Timers Olympics, competing in the +60 class.
Ironically, unlike many older dirt bikers, Berenyi shunned Vintage Motorcycle racing in favor of riding modern equipment.
“In the old days those bikes were nothing but trouble, the suspension was murder and DNFs because of mechanical problems happened all the time,” Berenyi explained. “Give me a new bike anytime and leave the vintage bikes for the old guys. I’m a modern guy, even though I’m a lot of people think I should be put out to pasture.”
#1 Ross Pederson
Well, I’m not sure what I could say that hasn’t been said about Ross Pederson. His career was something that could be made into made for TV movie on CBC Sunday night where your family watches in amazement and awe. Ross Pederson is a legend above and beyond any other Canadian ever.
During the years of 1980 till 1993, he amassed 43 titles. “During my racing career motocross was the most important thing in my life. I loved it. I lived the motocross life 24/7 and wanted to win everything there was to win. I felt I needed to,” Pederson noted. “Every time I raced I was under the gun to produce. My rivals had nothing to lose, but I had everything to lose. If I won, so what, it was expected to. But if they won, they were heroes.”
Pederson’s best year was 1987. The first half of that year he competed in a staggering 46 different events throughout the world and finished every one. He recorded 21 first-place finishes; his worst finish was a 17th at the New York City Supercross when he limped home with a blown engine. During one, weeklong period, he rode races in North Carolina, Quebec, Toronto, and Winnipeg. At the halfway mark of the ’87 U.S. National Motocross Championship, he was in fifth overall.
“Out of all the Americans there were about four or five that I considered a tough act to beat and they were on works bikes. If I would have had a works bike, then the odds would have been even,” Pederson said.
Perhaps Pederson’s best ride in 1987 was at Giuseppe Luongo’s “Masters of Motocross” event in Maggiora, Italy on September 27th. On a borrowed Yamaha that he installed his own carb, forks tubes and bars on he carried with him from Canada. Pederson finished fourth overall behind Ricky Johnson, Davey Strijbos, and Mickey Dymond. He beat such heavyweights as Michele Rinaldi, Georges Jobe, Ronnie Tichenor, Keith Bowen, Eric Geboers and Jeff Stanton among others.
Ross Pederson still is the talk of racing in Canada if you have any sort of history in this sport. For you young kids that wonder who he is, well, to simply put it: He was a real Superhero.