Motocross giveth, and motocross taketh away. Just ask Grant Langston.
On a cool, fall-like day at Steel City,
Pennsylvania, on September 2, 2001,
Langston’s hopes of capturing the
125 National crown were dashed.
The year before, the South African
won the 125 Grand Prix title with
KTM, and in 2001 he ventured
across the pond in an effort to give
the Austrians their first AMA 125
National title. Only it wasn’t to be.
What happened leading up to that
fateful day is what makes the story a
truly epic tale.
The 2001 AMA 125 National
Championship was a barn-burner.
Travis Pastrana was prepared to
defend the number-one plate, but
Grant Langston and Mike Brown
were hot on the Suzuki rider’s heels.
As was the case more often than
not, Pastrana’s toughest competition
was himself. Travis knocked himself out while leading the Unadilla
National and never regained his
form, leaving Langston and Brown,
two exceedingly aggressive riders
who didn’t care for one another, to
duke it out for the title.
It set up a U.S.-versus-the-world
scenario, with Brown as the
underdog and Langston the
unknown outsider. Both boisterous
in their claims, Grant guaranteed a
win at Southwick. Only instead of
beating America’s best in the sand,
Langston’s sore shoulder kept
him from racing at Budds Creek,
while Mike Brown won both motos.
The points gap tightened up, but it
appeared that Langston would still
walk away with the title. Then Grant
bobbled at the Troy National and
lost to Brown at Washougal. Still, it
would take a stroke of luck for Mike
Brown to top the point standings.
What happened in Pennsylvania was
the motocross version of football’s
Ricky Carmichael demolished
the field in the premier class that
summer and wrapped up the outdoor
title early. That year Carmichael and
Brown were training partners. They
were also both riding for Kawasaki.
A close bond had formed. While
Carmichael’s decision to drop down
and race the 125 class at Steel City
was predicated on his desire to
break Mark Barnett’s longstanding
record for most 125 National wins, it
was obvious that RC would happily
help his buddy. Of course, that didn’t
sit well with Grant Langston, who
believed there would be foul play.
Those grumblings led Carmichael
to famously state to Grant, “Don’t
MIKE BROWN VS. GRANT LANGSTON
worry. I won’t even touch you when
I go past you.” The stage was set.
Grant Langston needed to stay ahead
of Mike Brown, while Brown hoped
for disaster to befall his nemesis.
Carmichael was the wild card.
Ricky Carmichael got a bad jump
off the gate in the first moto and
started near last place, while Mike
Brown charged away with the moto
win. Langston finished second
and had a six-point gap going into
the final moto. Then, things went
sideways for Langston. Carmichael
rode away with the second moto
win, light years ahead of everyone
else. Brown fell, surely handing the
title to the KTM rider. However, destiny intervened. The rear spokes in
Langston’s KTM 125SX started
breaking. The South African slowed
down in order to preserve the
wheel, but it was not to be; Mike
Brown smelled blood and charged
to the front. Before the conclusion
of the moto, Grant pulled into the
mechanic’s area, his rear wheel
destroyed. He collapsed to the
ground in heartbreak. Brown,
realizing that he would capture
the 125 crown, allowed Branden
Jesseman by so that his friend,
Ricky Carmichael, could clinch a
record-setting 26th 125 National
victory. Mike crossed the finish
line in celebration. It was one of
those rare times when triumph
and tragedy were played out on
the same stage. ;
Grant Langston. Mike Brown.