In the Beginning…
Once upon a time, 1971 to be exact, my father and I headed out to the grocery store to grab some last minute items for my mom’s family gathering. Somehow, we ended up bringing home my first mini-bike instead of the salad dressing we were tasked to get. In retrospect, that random act of convincing my dad to buy a 3 horse power Cat mini-bike from a grocery store laid the foundation for my career in the motocross industry as a racer, test rider and entrepreneur.
That mini-bike became a permanent attachment to me as I rode it virtually every day. Eventually the poor Cat succumbed to the pounding of jumping wood ramps in the hills near our home. Working odd jobs and with some help from pops, I saved enough money to purchase my first real motorcycle, a 1978 YZ80 for $400.
My riding skills improved with the aid of a real motor and suspension and, coupled with my father’s affinity and knowledge of all things mechanical, my YZ80 became the fastest mini in the neighborhood. A month shy of my 15th birthday, I entered my first race, and somehow, had success from the drop of the gate. I entered the 80 Novice class and went 1-1, taking home the most beautiful ($2) trophy in the world!
Like most kids who begin racing, I became addicted to the scene. Working on bikes late at night, waking before the sunrise, loading up the truck, (which was worth half of what my cycle cost!) and heading out to race the local southern California tracks consumed my weekends. Moving quickly through the novice and intermediate classes, I felt it was time to face stiffer competition when I entered the Expert ranks in April of 1979, only 11 months after my first race. With a limited budget and an equal dose of brains, my bike either suffered mechanical problems or the track workers were lifting me off the ground.
I outgrew my YZ80 (don’t laugh, I may only be 5”5 as an adult, but I was 5’5 as a teen) and, again with the help of my folks, I purchased a YZ125. I was “outhouse nervous” that first 125 race, with the increased size, displacement and the aggressive 125 racers. I was nowhere near the leaders at the end of the race, but I knew with a little more confidence I could hang up front. After a few weekends I nabbed my first 125 Intermediate win and began a string of victories that lasted for the next three months, winning all but two races.
Dateline: October 1979 – Saddleback Park. I entered my first Pro race and like any wise rookie, I left all my gear at home. After riding practice in Levi’s and a sweatshirt, my dad drove to the track to deliver my gear. The gate for my first moto dropped as I was buckling my boots; starting a half lap down, I raced to third. I won the second moto, secured the overall win, and knew the passion for racing would not fade.
I raced locally every weekend, was having a great time and making friendships in the pits – many of whom are still my riding buddies today. Working odd jobs to pay for my local races I could never afford to race the highly competitive, yet visible, National amateur events. I waited, impatiently, for the AMA National to make its way to the concrete-like terrain of Carlsbad, California to hopefully impress a couple of potential sponsors.
I raced my first National in 1982 and was in 10th place when Jeff Ward came up behind me. Rather than battle, I was so caught up in the moment that he passed me with ease. I stayed on his tail, just looking at the name WARD on his jersey thinking, “That’s Jeff Ward!” I continued racing each weekend while working full-time until I was laid off in the Spring of 1984.
Miserable since I’d given 100% effort to my job and the fact that the boss favored me over most of his employees, I was laid off because I was one of the recently hired employees. However, like Henry Truman famously mentioned, “If your going through hell, keep going.” So, that’s exactly what I did…
A good friend, Mike Beier, was headed to Gainesville, Florida for the first round of the 1984 125 Nationals and, since I was now without a job, I decided to tag along. Despite my very well-worn 125 and no mechanic to help prep the bike, I still entered the National and raced to a 5–12 for 10th overall. I made a little money and decided to stay on the road with Beier and race the entire National series. The rest of the year was more of the same, I’d do really well in one moto and crash or break-down in the other. At the end of the season, Beier finished 3rd overall to earn the Top Privateer and I ended up 10th.
A year later, a few milestones accomplished and more than a handful of trips to the hospital, my sponsors at O’Neal coined the infamous nickname that I would never shake, “The Doctor.” The injuries made me work harder and my results began to improve to the point of factory attention. Keith McCarty, the Yamaha Factory Race Manager, approached me at Hi-Point with a contract to race the 1987 season as a Yamaha-backed rider. Though I was not a true Factory rider, I was now going to receive a small per-diem, a bonus program and a few race bikes. In addition, Yamaha wanted me to help test some racing parts. We all have highlights throughout our lives and this became a defining moment in my career.
From Dreams to Paper: Attaining the elusive Factory Contract
Steps to the Factory Squad
As a “C” level 250cc factory-support rider, airplane tickets were not in the budget. My mechanic, Steve Butler, and I drove from one side of the county to the other. Butler, an Aussie transplant, and I became great friends as we circumnavigated the United States traveling to each AMA Supercross and National. The hours cramped in our box van were long, but crisscrossing the entire United States, managing a shoestring budget, and meeting people from all walks of life was a college-on-wheels tour for me and Butler. The racing was incredible and the newfound admiration I had for my country gave me goose-bumps each time the National Anthem played prior to the race.
Racing the 250 class was new experience and though I was able to crack the top 10 on several occasions, I knew my results could improve. The 1988 season went much better with a few top 5 finishes and, the highlight of the year, a 3rd place at the now defunct Los Angles Coliseum Supercross. Keith McCarty was impressed with my results and the factory-bike testing I was doing during the week and he rewarded me with a “B” level Factory ride. “B” level meant big time to me as I would now receive Factory equipment, a box van and additional cash!
Back in 1989, we raced three different series and I had personal best in each. I finished the 250cc Supercross series in 6th, the 250cc Nationals in 6th, and riding a YZ360 Ohlins YZ Kit, finished 4th in the 500cc National series. I earned National #7 and another meeting with Team Yamaha at the end of the season. I was called to the Yamaha US headquarters in Cypress, California, walked to an upstairs boardroom and met with Keith McCarty, a lawyer, a three-page contract, and a pen. I excitedly signed before they could change their minds – I had just become a full-blown Yamaha Factory Racer!
San Jose (Grand) Slam
Dinner at Denny’s never tasted so good. I garnered a factory ride later than most former and current racers. I was teammates with Damon Bradshaw and Jeff Emig who, by comparison, were huge stars and also quite a bit younger than me. In 1991, Damon Bradshaw was running wild through the 250 class winning 10 Supercross races and Jeff Emig was doing the same to his 125 competition. I was somewhat in their shadows, but still learned new skills from both of them.
The light shined my way one magical night in San Jose, California. That evening at the San Jose Supercross I rode my heart out against Damon Bradshaw who had come from deep in the pack to rub my rear tire. I held off Damon and crossed the finish line for my first 250cc Supercross win. Jeff Emig had won the 125 race earlier on his Yamaha and with Damon and I going 1-2 the Yamaha team was ecstatic. The true highlight from that evening, and to this day my most treasured racing memory, was eating at Denny’s later that night with Emig and Bradshaw. Bradshaw was on the phone with his parents yelling, “Doug Dubach won tonight, can you believe it? Doug won!” We had a great team and that was one of those nights that everything just clicked. 28 years old and a first time Supercross winner compared to my buddy Bradshaw who was 16 years of age for his first 250 SX win. The road from privateer to the top of the 250 Supercross box had been arduous but I wouldn’t have traded it for anything.
Yamaha extended my factory contract through the 1993 season. A solid partnership with Yamaha developed through the years and though I was not dominating the AMA series top finishes and regular holeshots earned photos in motocross magazines with regularity and even on ESPN. My involvement was increasing with the team, the mechanics and Japanese engineers, especially with respect to Factory YZ testing and setup.
From the Public Eye to Exclusive Guy…
I was becoming a more valuable test rider than racer. The opportunities to test and develop not only mine, but Damon’s and Emig’s bike gave me an increased understanding of proper testing procedures. I gleamed as much information as possible from the best in the business and learned from their experience and knowledge. The testing hours were long at the Yamaha Supercross track located within the confines of the infamous DeAnza Motocross Park, but I was fascinated learning the myriad of intricate testing standards from Japanese engineers and our Factory team mechanics.
I continued racing part time and testing through 1994 – 1995. I became more involved with the testing of production YZ’s and working in secret, private locations with Yamaha Testing guru, Ed Scheidler. There is not a YZ on earth that does not have the handprint of Ed “Speedbag” Scheidler. Ed was the engineer in the famous Yamaha advertisement where he and Damon Bradshaw were featured as bald-headed co-workers. Other than that ad campaign, Ed’s Scheidler’s role was to hide from the public, the media, and industry insiders while developing the latest and greatest YZs. Ed was bringing me out to several tests and apparently was impressed by my ability to communicate how a bike was performing based on minor adjustments. “Dubach, you could feel a pea under a mattress,” Ed would often say.
In 1996, the Yamaha Testing Department and Yamaha Japan were working on a secret project. Scheidler recommended to Yamaha that I would be great addition to this newly formed development team.
I would sign sheets of documents about testing a secret YZ before I ever knew what the secret YZ would be. I was first introduced to the four-stroke YZ idea shortly after and, to be honest, was very doubtful when the engineers discussed plans to develop a “purpose-built four-stroke motocross YZ”. Imagine the first pilot to fly a jet, a plane with no propeller. Did he think it would actually work? I was entrenched in a motocross version of the CIA; I could not tell people what I was doing or where I was going riding.
This project, unlike any other, was an undertaking of epic proportions. The amount of testing, riding, destroying, rebuilding, reshaping, retooling I experienced was a college degree, Masters, and PhD rolled into one. I was working side by side with Ed Scheidler and the Yamaha US testing team, the Yamaha Europe team and the Yamaha engineers from Japan. My two-stroke knowledge was accumulated from my factory racing days but the four-stroke information and development standards provided a newly discovered wealth of knowledge. We would begin testing a YZ400F.
The unveiling of the Four-stroke:
Nerves like never before, the first race for the YZ400F
Everyone worked so hard and learned so much information that the four-stroke could be ready to grace dealer showrooms by 1998. Doug Henry then won the Las Vegas Supercross on his ultra-trick YZM400, the first ever four-stroke win in Supercross, which in a single evening, changed the way the mx world viewed four-stroke possibilities. Yamaha was riding high knowing they would introduce to the world the YZ400F.
The White Brothers Vet race was to be the public’s first viewing of the production YZ400F in action. Yamaha Factory Racing Manager, Keith McCarty knew the Factory team would be racing the YZ400F for the upcoming season and he suggested I race the bike at the White Brothers Vet World Championship. Approved by the factory and Yamaha US executives, I would be the first rider to ever race the production four-stroke. More nervous than ever in my racing career, with the weight of the Yamaha eyes on my shoulders, I used that four-stroke power to my advantage and left Glen Helen with trophy on my dashboard and the weight of the world off my shoulders.
The success of the four-stroke YZ400F was unparalleled but Yamaha wanted to add further to its YZ line. The four-strokes thumping sound dominated the landscape at local motocross tracks but Yamaha wanted to push the envelope further and work began all over on a four-stroke 125 class bike, the YZ250F.
Racing the four-stroke extended my career longer than I ever anticipated. Since leaving the Factory Race team I have won 24 Vet World Championships, 4 Four-Stroke National Championships and the Canadian National Championship. I still race almost every weekend because I love to race and I know this is the best way to learn and improve a bikes overall performance.
The Dubach Team
Toward the end of the 1993 racing season, I was to attend a photo shoot for one of my sponsors. The best part of a shoot is when it’s over! It’s nice when the photo or ad makes it into a magazine but hitting the same jump a hundred times or railing the same berm for hours can be a little annoying when the entire track is calling your name. This photo shoot was altogether different; it was the best I ever attended. A beautiful blond was the photographer and her attitude, looks, and demeanor had me revved up from the second she stepped out of her car. She was working for a newspaper, not familiar with motocross, so I told her we needed more shots just so I could hang out with her for an extended time period. She was stunning.
When the shoot, unfortunately, ended I, like all moto guys, took off my gear in the back of the truck. She was not at all impressed that I was “taking off my clothes” in front of her and she basically drove away thinking I was weird.
I called her later to explain, apologize and, yes of course, ask her out. She agreed and the rest is history. We have three children- two girls and boy, Rylee, Averee, and Carter and without them I could not function. Gina was the driving force behind the idea to launch Dubach Racing Development and continues to play a major role in the day to day business activities while raising our growing family. We came up with the name Dubach Racing Development as a play on my abbreviated nickname Dr.D (Doctor Dubach).