Guy Cooper loved to jump off ramps with his BMX bike. One day when he was 13, he pushed his limits and climbed more than 20 feet in the air. That exhilarating feeling of flying came to a crashing halt when Cooper landed and the forks snapped off. Sore with a bloody face - "Airtime" was born.
Motorcycle suspensions allowed Cooper to really launch and when he received his nickname he refused to disappoint. His popularity grew when he landed triple jumps - every time. But, in between those high-flying jumps emerged one of the greatest Motocross racers of his generation. He almost won the 1987 Supercross race at the LA Coliseum, the birthplace of Supercross, and in 1990, a year after Honda thought he was too old, Cooper took the 1990 125 Motocross Championship on a Suzuki.
Cooper left Motocross in 1993 but never officially retired. He tackled long distance off-road racing and won gold medals in 1,100 mile enduro races in Europe. He still rides pro and today now in his 50s, he takes up vintage racing. You can watch him battle with Brett Cue in Vintage Iron.
And yes, he still can whip with the best of them.
Age you started riding: 6
What dirt bike did you start on: A Rupp pull-start at age 6. I first started racing at age 10 on a Honda Mini Trail.
What are you riding now: 2014 450 Honda, Vintage Team Bultaco sponsored by EZ Jim 1974 360 Pursang Bultaco, 1979 370 Pursang Bultaco
Where do you live: Stillwater, OK - born and raised
- 1983 OK State Champion
- 1984 AMA Rookie of the Year
- 1992 & 1993 Mickey Thompson Award of Excellence
- 1990 125 AMA Outdoor National Motocross Champion
- 1993 World Supercross Champion
- 1997 Germany Supercross Champion
- 1994 & 1996 ISDE Gold Medalist
- 2002 at the age of 40 earned National Number 49 in the Outdoor National Motocross
Years Pro: 34 - I turned pro in 1980
Year Retired: I don't believe in retirement. I just get slower. I have tried retiring - it doesn't work. I still keep going.
1. Jumping defined much of your career - what was it about being in the air that captivated you?
I come from a long BMX background - the motorcycles had suspension under them so I really never was afraid of jumping the long distances. I was comfortable in the air which allowed me to relax and grab a few breaths of air. The crowd always got behind me on the big air and usually it didn't slow my race down. If anything, it got my mind off being tired and motivated me.
In Europe they would have the jump contest for the biggest whip or the newest trick (this was before Freestyle really evolved). This was tough for me though because it was one jump in front of the crowd without really warming up for it. I did win a lot because it was the biggest crash, not the biggest jump.
2. Do you think your legacy as "Airtime" and your antics off jumps helped pave the way for today's Freestyle Motocross?
Yes, but I wasn't the first. I remember pictures of Jimmy Weinart, Roger DeCoster and others in the magazines doing cross ups long before I was whipping it.
3. If your career had started even just 10 years later do you think you might have gravitated more towards FMX?
For sure and if it had been another 10 years I think I would have been all about the EnduroCross because of my trials background.
4. You did Trials?
Trials is a great crosstrainer using balance, understanding traction and body position. Jean-Michel Bayle rode here at the house and I learned a few tricks from him. Then Jeff Stanton rode here and I showed him a section where I had to take a dab (put a foot down to stay up on the bike). Bayle taught me to do this. I was showing the new balance and technique to Jeff - anyway the next week Jeff bought a trials bike.
5. In 1989, Honda dropped you and a year later you won the 125 Motocross Championship on a Suzuki. Better bike or an ax to grind?
I was hoping that (Jean-Michel) Bayle would not sign. Honda said if Bayle signed, I wasn't going to have a ride. At least I was somewhat prepared of what was going on. The funny thing is when I rode the Suzuki, I liked the 250 and I didn't like the 125. As it turned out, I won the 125 championship.
6. Does that win represent the greatest racing moment of your career?
Yes, financially. It was the most I was paid for a championship. Racing against Trey Jorski, Dennis Daft, Clay Hoenshell brings back some of the greatest moments for me.
The last race in 1990 for the championship probably was my most fought for race because I didn't do well under pressure. There was so much riding on that one Moto, I just had to finish behind "the Kid" (Mike Kiedrowski). Off the start I'm in about eighth place and as I look to the front I see Mike Kiedrowski in the lead. I'm okay - I can get to second in thirty minutes. Just then the front washes out and down I go, now getting back up in 28th place with no goggles and no time to pace or ride conservatively. Well you know the outcome - I made it to second and won the championship.
I did get help from one rider, a rider that gave me fits in Supercross and a teammate of Kiedrowski's. In the back section of Unadilla, Jeff Matasavich pulled over and let me by.
7. Is there anything missing in the sport now that was present in your day and is there anything about today's racing you wish were around when you rode?
Privateer doesn't mean the same thing as it used to. My van was stolen in 1984 so I scraped together what I could and bought a Cutlass Supreme and pulled an open rail 3 bike trailer, slept in the car going to the races. Not saying we had to walk to school uphill both ways, but there's a lot more sponsorship money in the sport now. I'm happy for that. We had always dreamed of it being like it is now - more main-streamed.
8. Did you leave the pros kicking and screaming or were you ready to move on?
At the end of 1993 I had rods in both legs and I needed to get some time off to have them removed. I told Suzuki I wanted a few months off to heal and they said they didn't want a half time rider and dropped me. A lot of other riders wouldn't have said they were going in for surgery and just signed the contract. Looking back, I should have done that too.
9. You may have retired but you've never really left the sport. What are you doing now?
I am getting ready for a few vintage races. I am going next month to Diamond Don's Vintage Race in Jefferson, TX and in May to MX Rewind at Unadilla, NY. These are both awesome vintage events if anyone's interested in checking out a vintage event.
10. If the 1990 Guy Cooper could race anyone today who would you want to go up against and why?
Oh, there would be a lot of them. When I went and watched an Arenacross event a few weeks back, I would love to put Tyler Bowers in his place! He just seems to have everyone scared of him. The bikes are so good today it makes me feel like I'm invincible, but when you go down it's faster than it used to be and it still hurts when you hit the ground. It's hard to compare the two eras. I used to always say if there were 10 of me, eight of them wouldn't have made it as far, but then that other one would have won that damned U.S. Supercross.
11. Do you still get "Airtime"?
Ask Trey Canard. I still over jump the jumps. I can't get that out of my system.