Heroes: KENNY ZAHRT
If you grew up racing motocross in Lo Cal or No Cal in the 70’s, or were partial to the Spanish MX brands with their right side-shifting and left-side kick starters, you were probably a fan of the skinny kid with style for miles. I took this photo at Argyll MX Park in Dixon, CA. It was my local track/home-away-from-home during my teenage daze. Although it was 40 years ago I can still remember almost every section of the track, from the rubber band start to The Matterhorn.
One of the more prominent features was a tabletop that came up after the long back straightaway. It was about 15-18 feet high, with about a 12 foot landing area, and steep on both sides. Everyone would try to get up to the top then scoot across and drop down as quick as they could. When it was muddy many Beginners and even some Amateurs couldn’t make it up. If you were unlucky, like me, you had a decent chance of center-punching one of these losers as they slid out sideways going up the slope. Forcing you to go back and try again.
One day, I remember it like it was yesterday, Kenny Zahrt came to Argyll. He didn’t race there very often at all, but I knew about him from religiously devouring MXA on a monthly basis and seeing him at other CMC events. Kenny could fly! The fact that he looked like he weighed 100 pounds soaking wet must have helped him reach heights others couldn’t. He was so graceful, like a bird in flight. When he cleared that tabletop it was the first time I had seen anyone do it. He was the FIRST. Electricity filled the air that day, as all the spectators crowded around the tabletop to see it again and again.
Zahrt was one of those guys who didn’t care so much about having the latest, greatest technology. He rode Bultaco well past their peak of effectiveness. And in this photo he is on an Ossa, another Spanish brand that was a rare sight on local tracks. Most of his competitors were on superior bikes, yet he always got the most out of what he had and rode with great pride and grace. He just loved to ride.
“Magoo” may have done it later on his KTM, clearing that tabletop. But Danny Chandler was no bird in flight. He was more like a terrifying Pterodactyl, darting here and there, always on the verge of catastrophe. One of those riders that actually scared the hell out of you just by standing by the fence watching him. Kenny on the other hand was poetry in motion. He passed away in 2014. I am sure I am not the only fence-hanger who remembers these courageous deeds of a brave man. And that’s why I consider him a hero. Because on this one day he showed me something that I did not know was possible. And that’s something you don’t forget.