Don Matthews never met a CZ he didn't like. When he passed in 2014, we revived the CZ World Championships in his name. DMCZWC legitimized the CZ World Championships for the first time by making the other countries from around the world, by creating the CZech-Motorpool. They are an American group of CZ enthusiasts that sponsor "fly-in" competitors on the U.S. based CZs.
While we have all these CZ people together, we decided to team up with DIRT ILLUSTRATED Magazine and honor people who, through their personal sacrifice, opened CZ shops so we could have a place to buy CZs. This is something we will continue to do each year and expand on it to include people who made history on CZs.
Written by Robin Hannah
In 2018, the Don Matthews CZ World Championships returned to its ‘home’ in Marysville. Unfortunately, though, during that winter, founder, overall enthusiastic spark plug and event director, Robin Hannah, passed away, handing over the reigns of the event to Leslie Roberts and a select committee who could be trusted to continue Robin’s vision and legacy, as best they could of course. Making a deal before he died with Jerard Fisher’s MMX Racing on river bottom property adjacent to previous races, the committee set out to make the 2018 event one for ages.
And it sure was!
Saturday morning saw an auction for Robin’s “Maiczo” creation bring in over $5000 along with other festivities, including the introduction of the European contingent and the world famous Bike Show. That afternoon, a registration and sign-up session took place in the pits while guys dialed in their bikes during the extensive afternoon practice session. Everyone raved about the new track and how ‘old world’ it was, and after a morning Rider’s Meeting and National Anthem Sunday morning, a full slate of vintage to pre-modern racing unfolded. Well over 250 riders entered the day’s racing, 2 motos for each class, and trophies were given out following the last race of the day. All in all, it was an excellent weekend and a real ‘family reunion’ of friends from around the world.
In 2019, the Don Matthews CZ World Championships would enjoy its greatest turnout in the 40 year history of the event, stretching back to 1980 when Rick Nabers and friends first founded the race. With over 360 rider entries, and more that 30 riders coming from around the world, the 2019 CZ WC’s had everything anyone could ask for. The track, though at times rough and dry after so many hard motos, proved to be both challenging and fun, and the Sunday races were some of the most competitive at any vintage race across the world.
Once again, Saturday was a day filled with fun and excitement, beginning with the morning introduction of the International riders and their support crew, which was followed by Robin Hannah’s beloved “Maiczo” once again being auctioned off, as it was donated back to the club once the 2018 race was over. 4 hours of practice followed the world famous Bike Show and lunch-time registration period, and a wonderful parade lap in honor of Robin warmed the hearts of everyone who participated; a great moment indeed!
But Sunday was epic, and the race action was intense. Yes, there were a few hard biffs and one of the family, Mike Ripper from Great Britain, got sent to the hospital for ribs, but as has been said before, that’s racing. At the end of the day, an extensive trophy presentation, orchestrated by the hard-working and tireless Darrell Johnson, sent everyone home happy and already making plans for 2020!
There would be no CZ World Championships in 2020, due to the COVID-19 world wide pandemic. The year began under controversy, as the committee found itself forced into making a change in the name of the event, returning to its origins as ‘The Original CZ World Championships’. Not everyone was pleased or understood why it was done, but events soon would make this simple name change insignificant, when COVID-19 and its near-Draconian restrictions were put in place, effectively eliminating any International riders from coming over and forcing an outright cancellation of the event.
Vowing to return in full force in 2021, and still under International travel restrictions, nonetheless, the Original CZ World Championships Committee would press on and in April of 2021...
The CZ Nationals at MMX Racing in Marysville the weekend of April 23-25, 2021 were a real success, though there were questions about it going into the weekend:
Would the COVID-19 pandemic keep people away? Would there be enough interest in the out-of-state riders to venture out to California, without the challenge of International riders to compete with? Would there be a last-minute cancellation?
Weather reports on Thursday strongly indicated that Sunday, the vintage portion of the two-day event, would be soured by a downpour almost guaranteed by the forecasters. The promoter and event organizers decided to err on the side of caution and combine Sunday’s race program with Saturday’s post-vintage Robin Hannah Cup. In truth, as the two-day format had never been tried at the CZ World Championships, returning it to its normal format was not much of struggle, and the projections of a crowded race day with many frustrated participants proved to be untrue: though there are always issues when racing, the event by and large came off smoothly, with many riders commenting that, in their view, this may have been the best CZ World Championships/Nationals in the 41 year run of the event!
228 entries were signed up by Saturday morning, with riders coming from across Northern and Southern California, of course, but what makes this race special are the many riders who come from far distances for the chance to compete on our old school track against some of the world’s best. Riders from Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Colorado, Michigan, Ohio, Florida and even Alaska made the trek to Marysville and many of them found their way to the podium.
National Champions were crowned in the following categories:
Dorene Payne: Women
Brian Curtis: Over 50 500cc
Derek Stephens: Under 50 500cc
Mark Stepovich: Over 50 250cc
The fastest lap times were recorded by David Jorgenson (1:19:96), Derek Stephens (1:20:36) and Carter Anderson (1:20:67). The winner of the CZ World/National Championships Perpetual Trophy for the weekend’s best rider was Derek Stephens.
It wasn’t all about just winning, however, as many first-time and Novice-level competitors came out to try their best and enjoy the unique track, facilities and setting. Yes, Saturday saw some rain but it wasn’t enough to dampen enthusiasm, and though many were disappointed in the sudden change in the race format, by the end of the weekend, the vast majority of attendees left with a smile on their faces and a promise to return next year, “When the Euros are back!”
Many thanks to the hard-working crew at MMX Racing and the Original Standard Motocross club, who run the event and tirelessly do whatever it takes behind the scenes and throughout race weekend to put on an event of this quality!
By all measures, the 2022 Original CZ World Championships, held again at MMX Racing in Marysville CA, was a complete success. Though there may have been competing events on the same weekend, which affected all the races’ entries, still, we had a great turnout and will be coming back for more next year! Our three day event saw riders from across the country and from Europe and the UK make the trek out to Northern California. Though there was an initial threat of bad weather, all of that dissolved Thursday night, and by Friday morning, 70 degree temps greeted everyone and set the tone for a weather-free event; a little windy but that soon faded, too.
Before we get into the race results, though, let’s look at what makes this event different from nearly every other vintage motocross event in the world. The Original CZ World Championships has been in continual operation, save for a break or two, since 1980. What started as a fun event for guys with still-viable CZs, soon mushroomed into one of THE vintage races anywhere. Since Robin Hannah revived the event in 2014 after a couple year’s break, it has taken on international prominence, with guys coming from all over the world to test themselves. The really interesting aspect of this event is the sponsor/rider connection: guys will spend hours preparing their bikes while spending a fortune doing so, only to hand off their works of art to men who may thoroughly thrash the machines out on the track. There are no other events that go to the lengths the CZ World Championships does to put willing riders on expertly-prepared bikes.
And Marysville itself is a very special place. Home to 3 racing groups and their tracks, which are spread out on the banks of the Feather River and mere feet from the town itself, this is an historically rich racing location, where riders such as Danny ‘Magoo’ Chandler, Danny Turner, Danny Cantaloupi and even World Champion Brad Lackey first tested their skills. Today, these groups offer some of the finest racing conditions anywhere in California, and MMX Racing’s vintage track is essentially the only vintage-devoted track in Northern California. The town is very supportive of the tracks, especially the CZ World Championships. There is nothing like the ambiance and energy one feels both in town and out at MMX Racing; here, people really get it! Yes, THIS is what makes the CZ World Championships special: a general feeling of gratitude, enthusiasm and true camaraderie, old feuds dying easy deaths; the ‘family reunion’ vibe that everyone speaks; the ‘Gentleman's Motocross’ focus on enjoying the sport and not worrying about race points or elaborate trophies; the idea that people have to make an effort to get to Marysville and, once there, are almost universally ‘blown away’ by how well-run the weekend is, from the track itself to the facilities to the motos themselves.
This event draws men and women together for 3 days of intense on- and off-track participation in something everyone in attendance loves: racing, restoring and appreciating vintage and post-vintage motocross weapons. The real fun begins once darkness sets in and it’s ‘cocktails and bench-racing time’ around the many campfires. Fun is the order of the weekend!
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Let’s get to the racing! Friday was the first full day of race-prep, and a lot of guys took the opportunity that afternoon to get out on the track and get used to the conditions they’d soon be facing. Our event usually runs the same way: guys show up Thursday and Friday for set up, then practice Friday afternoon, followed by our traditional program of Saturday morning introductions, our annual Bike Show featuring Rick Nabers and Dave Boydstun as judges, a short practice session at Noon and then, the Robin Hannah Cup Post-Vintage Challenge. The Bike Show once again featured some of the most finely-crafted CZs, along with all sorts of other makes, that you will ever see. Ed Sims with his Twinport, and Doug Brown and his Twinports and Sidepipers, showed us how restoration should be done, and the amount of drooling over these superbly-restored machines was a sight to see! Sims, by the way, had one of Sunday’s more epic holeshots, exploding off the gate and taking the Twinport title.
The Robin Hannah Cup saw some very tight racing. The track was about 1 mile in length, which allowed for 7 lap motos on a clean and fast circuit. Thankfully, the only real biff that occurred was when old foes, Jimmy Wright and Bob Tocco, who have been banging bars for almost 50 years, pushed each other to the limit on the last lap of the second Adult Mini Mod moto, sending both over the bars and ending Tocco’s day; Wright went on to finish the moto and claim the title but it sure took a little life out of him. Other than that one crash, the racing was flawless, with Trey Jorski out of Oklahoma, Jamie Adams from Texas and local riders, Cloyse Holland and Ethan Mendes smoking their respective fields. The fastest time recorded on Saturday, however, would belong to Cody Johnston from Visalia in the Modern Class Expert; Johnston logged a crazy-fast lap time of just over 1 minute 11 seconds, and several other fast guys broke the 1 minute 15 second barrier as well.
Sunday morning dawned clear and bright, with very little wind. After the Rider’s Meeting, with a short but thoughtful invocation from Geoff Bunton, the Vintage portion of the event got underway and man, did some of these guys fly! Familiar names like Jorski, Adams and Mendes along with Stockton’s AJ and David Jorgensen rode amazing races and won their classes impressively, and the blazing Brad Wilson took the World Championship in the 500 Over 50 class, but the most impressive rider over the 2 day event had to be Derek Stephens on his immaculately-prepared CZ 125, sponsored by Rick Nabers. Derek set Sunday’s fastest time, at 1 minute 11 seconds and change, and simply smoked his motos, often playing with his competitors on the first lap and then just checking out, with literally no one to challenge him. As such, Derek Stephens is both the 125 and 500 Class World Champion, and our Overall Winner for the weekend, winning the 500 Class on his 125!
Other World Champions include Jeff Mendes in the 250 Class and again in the 250 Over 50 class; Brad Wilson in the 500 Over 50 Class; Dorene Payne in the Women’s Class, and Mike Korgan taking the Championship in the Builder’s Class.
Many thanks to everyone who made the trek out to our little corner of Heaven. We’ll be running the 2023 event on the last weekend of April, the 28th to the 30th. Tell your friends, spread the word and get your bikes and bodies ready for yet another Vintage Motocross Family Reunion, the CZ World Championships at MMX Racing in Marysville, California!
Further observations from the 2022 CZ World Championships
Friends, I thought I would take the opportunity and pass along a few thoughts and hindsight observations regarding this year’s CZ World Championships. Now, in no particular order…
I thoroughly enjoyed the French Team and their uplifting enthusiasm, which really carried the event from the time they arrived until the final trophy presentation. Passing out their beautiful white Team France hats and smiling constantly to everyone, these guys understand Gentleman’s Motocross and the essence of what it means: joy, friendliness and generosity mixed with a sense of fiery competitiveness, qualities that Robin Hannah wanted to inspire in others and for which this group of seasoned riders live for; there is hardly a better example of the right attitude for vintage motocross than Team France. Harold Koehler put first-rate machines on the track for these guys, and they did the rest. Patrick Paintendre, European Champion, sick as a dog days before but out there battling; damn impressive and never a complaint, a true stud, no I greatly appreciate their coming over…
Paul Andrews, from London England and sponsored by Rick Nabers, was an absolute gentleman! Racing in the US was on his bucket list and I am happy that we helped accomplish this for him. A nicer man you’ll never meet. And it was a real pleasure to see Massimo Signorin from Italy there in our midst as well, with a huge smile across his face and a hug for everyone. Massimo is one fast Italian but for our event, was not in very good health, yet he gave it his best and made the podium. Having the Euros come over, and though their numbers were down compared to 2019, was a special delight and showed the international reach of our little event. Next year, maybe more friends from around the world will venture to come out and see what it’s all about. It is, after all, a costly trip when you add it up; ah but what price memories?
I really enjoyed the racing this year, and with my current health situation, it wasn’t a certain that I’d be able to make it all three days but I did and I was rewarded with outstanding racing across the board! For me, watching famous ‘old studs’ like JP Morgen, Brad Wilson and Trey Jorski was a real treat, and it showed that age doesn’t have to mean slowing down. Yeah, you lose a little stamina but you’d never know it with JP or Trey out leading their motos and fending off the young-uns!
Speaking of fending off, I hope everyone got to see the epic battle on Saturday between Jimmy Wright and Bob Tocco. These two legends have been going at each other for almost 50 years and they’re still not backing off! But on that last lap of the 2nd Adult Mini Mod moto, with both guys trading the lead, it was Wright who was able to fend off Tocco and take the win after a seriously hard ‘over the bars we go’ biff! No real injuries, and a lot of fuel for Tocco in the next round! Bring it on!
Yes, I’m a fan of excellent racing, and excellence in general. Watching Derek Stephens absolutely dominate the CZ World Championship classes was both unexpected, and incredibly pleasurable. This young man simply smoked everyone, and showed a level of skill that makes me feel a little better about the fate of vintage motocross, for I have been watching dwindling numbers of entries at all the major vintage events going on several years, and have been rather disheartened for our future. Yet with men like Stephens, Carter Anderson and Jeff Mendes for example, we may be able to hold off Father Time, and characters like our anti-fossil fuel Gov. Newsom, for another generation. Time will tell… But trust me, it wasn’t just in the Expert classes we saw exceptional racing; oh no, the Novice and Intermediate classes was where some intensely heated battling took place, that Black Frame 250 Novice class, for example, was a bar bangin’ 7 lap literal war, and I loved every second. Too, how about the Class of 74 Over 60 class? Continual tight racing and Jeff Smith rode like a champion. I could go on and on, damn near every moto saw hotly-contested racing, Saturday’s motos no exception. I hope you got as much enjoyment out of watching everybody do battle as I did!
The MMX facilities, from what I could see and from what everyone told me, were first-rate. Yes, the road base can be a little rough, especially for an old man in a wheelchair, but it’s better than a muddy pit area. The track itself was excellent, the start fast and furious (no first-turn biffs!) and there was plenty of room to make crazy passes if you cared to do so. I’m told we can look forward to flush toilets soon and a concrete pad for the disabled, for which I strongly approve!
Now, there is one bit of serious business I need to pass on: all Novice class winners must move into the Intermediate classes next year. Unless you are addicted to cherry-picking, test yourself against better competition and let true Novices have their fair share, because I see several men (no names) who have been racing since they were kids but who signed up as Novices and slaughtered their competition. Hmmmm, really? Time to graduate up, guys!
And I don’t blame anyone who skipped our event to ride the Boise Inter Am. It is a great event on a superb track run by pros, and for many, is a Bucket List event. I understand there were scheduling snafus this year which forced guys to decide between our event and heading north to Idaho, but next year, this won’t be an issue, as we’ve worked out an agreement, essentially, not to ‘step on anybody’s toes’ by making sure we run on separate weekends. Both events should be experienced, and we’ll do our best to help Boise promote theirs and vice versa.
Now, we had a few pre-race critics who were uncertain about how well the event would go this year, and I did notice that some of them actually set aside their ‘reservations’ and made it up to Marysville, where I didn’t hear any complaints, frankly. Good for them; there are damn few Vintage events anywhere, and an even smaller amount of races where the entire Vintage Motocross Family has its irregular reunions. Personally, I live for this weekend, primarily to see all my old friends and make a few new ones. Look, we need each other, and that’s the truth; that’s why we saw a few critics decide to put away any differences and come and enjoy the party. Glad you made it, and we’ll do even better next year!
Oh one final thought: Marysville, despite what you may be hearing from others, is the CZ World Championships permanent home. We will NOT be moving to SoCal, Arizona or even Hangtown, and we will NOT be splitting the event into a CZ Nationals for the North and a CZ World Championships for the South or any such silliness. I realize it takes a real effort to get to our event, and yeah, a lot of SoCal guys would prefer it if they could just head over to their local outdoor track, take a few laps and get ready for their next weekend event among many weekend events, but Marysville is special and here it stays. We’re making improvements in every way we can and will continue to do so, and should you have any constructive criticisms, please PM me or any one of the committee guys, but enough with this ‘move the event’ chatter, ok? In the meantime, look for a short video promo soon, and the entire film coming out this summer! Leslie Hale Roberts President, CZ World Championships