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2010 AMA/Husqvarna Vintage Days Report

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Former champion dominant in first trip to Mid-Ohio race


LEXINGTON -- There was a champion in our midst and mist Friday afternoon.

Terry Cunningham, a four-time National Enduro titlest and six-time international gold medalist, thrashed away in the rain and mud during the hare scrambles at the AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

The former champ showed he still had it, easily winning the hour-long race through the woods just west of the permanent road course, a race that also included 7-foot-4 former Indiana Pacers center Rik Smits.

Cunningham's dominance was noticeable.

Plenty of avid fans knew who was riding the No. 4 Husqvarna well ahead of everyone else. As one said to another, "You can tell who the four-time national enduro champ is."

But for Cunningham, one of the country's best off-road racers in the 1980s and a two-time AMA Amateur Athlete of the Year, it was less about the racing.

"The biggest thing that brought me out was it's like a Husqvarna reunion in a sense and a lot of good people are going to be here from Husqvarna," he said. "There are a lot of old faces, a lot of friends and people I haven't seen in I don't know how many years."

Husqvarna, the Swedish maker of dirt bikes made famous by Malcolm Smith and others in the 1960s and '70s, is this year's featured marque. Part of the festivities was reuniting most of the 1982 Team USA that finished second in the world at the International Six Day Enduro in Czechoslovakia of which Cunningham was a member.

"That's what I won all my championships on. That's what brought me out here," he said he said of the marque.

It was also Cunningham's first-ever trip to Mid-Ohio let alone the AMA VMD.

"It's big with a lot going on," he said. "I hear it's a great event for the AMA and that's good. It's really good for getting people together such as this year."

Cunningham enjoyed Mid-Ohio's trail through the woods which was 2.7-miles long.

"For a lot of guys it was real challenging because of the rain. They had a couple of hills out there. One was kind of long and rooty and rocky and stuff and one was short but a little steeper. Those two hills gave quite a few problems for guys."

Cunningham proved to be a mudder. He stayed smooth on the slick ground.

"I prefer the mud because it makes it a challenge for everybody and I feel I can deal with the challenge a little easier," he said. "As far as the wet vs. dry, I hate dust. I'd rather deal with mud any day of the week than I would dust.

"With mud you can pull the goggles off and duck your head when a big, old, mud clog comes at you. When it's dusty and you pull your goggles, you're done, you're blind. You can't see through it or around it. Wet is better."

He said it got easier as the race went. As the trailblazer at the point of the field from the start, he had to navigate through the mud puddles which was troublesome, then he had to deal with traffic on the second trip around. After that, everything settled down.

"You'd come up on a gang of guys every once in a while and that would hold you up, but the course was good. It was typical Ohio," Cunningham said.

He's glad he came.

"When you bring in the old vintage stuff, it brings in guys who have been with the sport as it grew from basically nothing to what it is today," he said.

And, as he proved, vintage riders can still be pretty good.

rmccurdy@nncogannett.com 419-521-7241

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