American motocross pioneer, race team manager and motorcycle industry executive Mark Blackwell is getting another honor: being recognized as an AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame Legend. Blackwell, who was inducted to the Hall of Fame in 2000, will be feted alongside the 2013 induction class during AMA Legends Weekend, Oct. 18-19 at the Green Valley Ranch Resort, Spa and Casino in Las Vegas.
Blackwell will be honored alongside Torsten Hallman, another member of the of 2000 class, who will be recognized as a Legend for helping introduce motocross to America and for founding gear maker Thor. Like Hallman, Blackwell excelled at several different facets of the motorcycle industry.
As a racer, Blackwell was one of America’s first motocross racing stars, competing in the late ’60s and early ’70s. In 1970, Blackwell was hired to ride for Husqvarna and traveled to Sweden to train with the factory riders. He came back to the U.S. the following year and raced in the Trans-AMA series, winning the American class title by beating Brad Lackey by a single point. In 1972, Blackwell won the prestigious Daytona Motocross before returning to international racing in Europe.
“Not only did Mark Blackwell rise to the top to become the 1971 American 500cc motocross champion, but he also raced internationally at a time when the Europeans dominated the sport,” says Jeffrey V. Heininger, chairman of the American Motorcycle Heritage Foundation, which oversees the Hall of Fame. “His grit, a win in Switzerland, and a podium finish in Germany earned him fans worldwide.”
A serious eye injury prevented Blackwell from reaching his full racing potential, so he turned his focus to life after racing, teaching a Suzuki motocross school and helping in product development for Goodyear, Scott Goggles and Fox Racing while working towards a college degree.
Blackwell’s work with Suzuki‘s school led to him being named team manager for the company’s struggling U.S. Motocross team. Blackwell helped turn the team around, becoming a dominant Motocross and Supercross team, winning six AMA championships.
In 1981, Blackwell entered yet another aspect of the motorcycle industry as product manager for Husqvarna. Later working his way up to vice president of marketing, Blackwell played an instrumental role in Husqvarna’s U.S. business returning to profitability.
Blackwell later took on a management positions with American Suzuki and Arctic Cat before joining Polaris as general manager of Victory Motorcycles in 2000. Blackwell remains with Polaris today while also taking a position on the board of directors of Zero Motorcycles.
“In addition, Blackwell is probably best known for his major contributions to American motorcycling through his work at Husqvarna, Suzuki and Victory,” says Heininger. “He helped return Husqvarna to profitability in the United States, helped turn the motorcycle and ATV division around at Suzuki, and served as general manager of Polaris Industries’ fledgling Victory Motorcycle business during a critical growth period.”
[Source: AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame]