I met Robin Hannah at the 2nd Annual Don Matthews CZ World Championships at E Street in Marysville. It was a day that changed my life, unexpectedly. I was there on whim, having read a little about the event on Facebook and deciding to see what was happening under the bridge at E Street, an area I grew up in during the 70’s. Many Friday nights were spent under the lights doing my best to piece together my worn-out Penton 125 to I could make the next moto.
I was sitting alongside the track, taking in the several race-prepped CZs, when a smiling man walked over and stuck out his hand, “Hi, I’m Robin,” he said. Noticing I was in a wheelchair, he quickly added, “Well, are you gonna get back on a bike again? I’ll build one for you if you like.”
His generous and authentic offer to a person he had just met was one in a very long line of exceptionally generous acts I came to appreciate from this great man. Now, I do not use the term lightly when I say he was ‘great’, but Robin Hannah embodied that term, and as we became friends, I would soon see many examples of this selfless, enthusiastic and generous man who held in his heart a vision of uniting the vintage motocross world into one incredible and unforgettable weekend every year.
I got on board as an adviser for the 3rd Don Matthews. Robin would call me 4, 5 times a week, as he did so many people, and we would plot and scheme and I would wade through his many ideas and make sure I did what I could to ground him. Robin, however, as so many came to know, would reject any cautious, practical and often boring suggestions in favor of...well, whatever hit him, whatever moved him.
You see, Robin was a deeply intuitive and emotional man, but his impulses and visions never deceived him and he was able to pull off things no 20 men could do. I have never met, in my 40 years of professional media, anyone with the promotional skills -or vision- of Robin Hannah. He stood alone. And since his passing, there have been so many who have come forward to say, “I was Robin’s best friend.” Indeed, Robin had an uncanny ability to make you feel like his closest friend, and he would take time from his day to listen and share thoughts and ideas in a way that always made you feel important and vital.
Robin never simply dismissed an idea or got upset over trivia; Robin Hannah had a long-term, highly ethical vision and there was no one on earth who could take him from what he believed in, and Robin Hannah believed in the Don Matthews CZ World Championships.
I was not ready to take over directorship of the Don Matthews when he called me that day in September 2017 to say, “Leslie, I have Stage 4 cancer and I’ll be gone by Thanksgiving.” No, like many, I was devastated and dumbstruck; this giant of a man, cancer, dying? Impossible!
But the impossible soon became reality, and I could hear it in his voice over the next few months when he would call, a tired man struggling to go on but knowing his end was in sight. He died right at Thanksgiving, and mine and so many other’s lives have never been the same. I miss you deeply, my brother, and we will do our best to keep alive your great vision.
Robin Hannah stood for decency, generosity and a sense of brotherhood that far overshadowed any personal failings he may have had. Robin Hannah overcame a serious lack of funding, no promotional training and a hodge-podge network of competing vintage motocross events to forge what is today one of the most important and anticipated vintage motocross events in the world.
It is truly a world-wide motocross family reunion, and the feeling when attending the Don Matthews in unlike any other race, just as Robin wanted it. He would often say, “I just want the Don Matthews to be fun and interesting.”
Brother, you have achieved that, and a helluva lot more!
Long live Robin Hannah and the Don Matthews CZ World Championships!
Leslie Hale Roberts