Brought to you by
This has been super fun thus far with only a few provinces left to determine the best all-time across Canada. This week is Manitoba and PulpMX media mogul Steve Matthes with help from local Manitoban Lawrence Hamm, steps in to share their thoughts on who’s’ best.
Take it away boys
by Steve Matthes and Lawrence Hamm
Well, I guess it’s Manitoba’s time for this list that allows me to toot my own horn, I came up with while road tripping with Gauldy. As many of you know, I’m born and raised in Manitoba and cut my teeth racing there from age six to twenty-three or so. Every summer I followed the rough and tumble Manitoba circuit gathering four titles (missed the fifth one by two points) along the way.
I’m proud of Manitoba for sure but when it comes to motocross, I always wonder what in the hell happened? Seriously, Manitoba has produced one high, high-level national rider in forty years! That’s it! You’ll see who it is shortly but this has always made me shake my head. Crappy Saskatchewan has three of them! Even Atlantic Canada had Glen Hoar and some guy named Newf. I don’t know if it’s Manitobans and their very true reputation of being frugal that scares them away from chasing the gold but at different times we’ve had Al Dyck, Shane Drew and Darrell Martens racing week in and week out in the province but nope, they didn’t seem to be able to raise the level of the province. I don’t know man, it mystifies me. I heard there’s some fast 60cc kid coming up but I won’t hold my breath.
Anyways, here’s my list of the greatest Manitobans to ever race motocross and I also recruited my buddy Lawrence Hamm to help me with it and give everyone his thoughts.
1-Kim Houde: Houde’s got a zillion provincial titles and might have a bunch more if he didn’t have to race Dyck all the time in the mid-80’s when he was in his prime. Houde won the ’79 125 Canadian championship but it wasn’t counted as a national class back then. Houde’s speed reign lasted twenty years or so where he was a legit factor to win 250 pro class.
Hamm: When talking about the greatest Manitoban’s ever to race motocross there is no question or debate about who #1 should be. Kim Houde is the best ever to come out of Manitoba period! I have had the pleasure of racing against Kim for the past 35 years or so and he is undoubtedly the most naturally talented rider/racer that I have ever seen. Kim can ride anything and make it go fast. He can also switch disciplines and win at that too. His talent is only surpassed by his willingness to help others who are struggling or starting out. Even though the rest of the guys on this list are impressive, in my eyes they are not at his level. Heck at 61 he could still smoke most of them!
2- Don Gill: I wanted the guy in third to be here but Hamm talked me out of it. Gill was very, very good for five years provincially and hung it up very early. He used to race all three classes and win a lot of them as well against Houde, Danny Winistok, etc. An avid trainer, he would run the Manitoba Marathon early Sunday morning and then show up at the race later that day!
Hamm: I lived a few blocks away from Don growing up and he was my hero when I was young. I placed him at #2 even though many of you may not know who he is. I placed him here because of his Schwarzenegger like-dominance of the sport in Manitoba from about 1981/82 until 1985. Don was not a naturally talented rider like Kim, but he was an animal in terms of his fitness and just plain killed people with his will and conditioning. His nickname was Clark (Kent) because of his mild manners off of the bike and the fact he wasn’t ever looking for accolades. Don disappeared from the sport and walked away without looking back in 1986.
3- Don Formo: Formo was very quick and stylish at that. His family ran a car dealership which allowed him to have good support when he raced. In 1989 he did the whole Canadian series and ended up with #5 which, as I stated below, makes him the only Manitoban with any kind of real national success. Formo switched to Suzuki’s in 1991 (as did just about every other pro due to the contingency Suzuki offered) and stayed close to home. I think he broke his leg in ’91 and didn’t ever hit the national series full-time again. Don raced for a long time here and there and is a great guy.
Hamm: I had the pleasure of traveling with Don to the nationals in 89 – 91 and spent quite a bit of time with him on the road over a few years on the national trail. There are some great stories that I could share like the time he almost killed Shane Drew as they were traveling to Florida (he fell asleep at the wheel of his box van while Shane was sleeping in the back), but we’ll leave that for another day 🙂 As Steve mentioned Don had natural talent. He was so smooth and pretty to watch ride. I would compare him to a Stefan Everts type of rider. He was also extremely competitive and was one of those guys who would rise to the occasion when faced with competition that was faster than he was. In my opinion, this is why he earned a national #5 ranking in 1989 and ran the #5 plate in 1990. Don runs his families Ford dealership in Swan River Manitoba now and I actually just bought a new Super Duty from him this year. He showed up at the MX Legends and Golf race this year at the famed Austin Raceways and ripped around on his KTM 250 two-stroke. The years have not taken any of his effortless style away from him. He is still fun to watch.
4- Ryan Millar: Oh the words that have been typed about Millar and his “natural talent” followed by “if he only worked hard at it”. Millar had some good national results here and there and whenever he showed up locally would whup just about everyone but injuries and desire held him back from being really, really good.
Hamm: Out of all of the guys on this list Ryan is the guy I know the least about and that is because he is the youngest. He also still competes and actually rode the nationals this past year. I think he finished in the top 15 overall for the year in the 450 class. Ryan has suffered numerous injuries over the years that have really held him back. He also burst into the pro scene at a very young age getting a ride with the Royal Distributing KTM team a number of years back. For one reason or another (injuries etc.) Ryan just has not put together a season that has had him walk away with a top 10 overall finish. I think he could of, but just has not. I was quite pumped to see Ryan ride the entire series again this year and happy for him that he finished the entire series without major injury. I hope that he takes another shot at it this year and throws everything that he has at it one more time. If he does and gives it his all, I think that he still could surprise a few people with where he ends up.
5- Josh Penner: Penner probably would’ve won more provincial titles had he not decided it wasn’t worth it financially to keep heading out on each weekend. Penner raced a few Canadian nationals here and there with some decent results. He also scored very well in that second moto at Morden when all of Gauldy’s Ontario buddies were worried about the mud. Penner went on to become an FMX rider both in the dirt and in the snow although still ripping on the moto track.