American Motorcyclist June 2018
Racing Through Generations
Six Days Brings Out The Best In Family Bonds
By Michael Marino
For many families, motorsports is a generational affair. It is not unusual to see kids competing at ages as young as 4 or 5 years old, nor is it unusual to see families unloading a kid’s 50cc bike alongside a parent’s full-sized machine.
Often, as those kids grow up, they start competing against their parents in adult classes. One high-profile event that sees a lot of family participation is the International Six Days Enduro, including its associated AMA-sanctioned qualifying events in the United States.
The ISDE, the team world championship sanctioned by the Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme, has a long history of American dads and sons (or a daughter, in the case of Mandi Mastin) competing.
In 2018, two American father and son pairs are trying to qualify for a U.S. club team that will compete at the upcoming ISDE, which will be in Vina de Mar, Chile, Nov. 12-17. (Club teams supplement the World Trophy and Junior World Trophy team efforts at the event.) While they come from different parts of the country, there are similarities between Destry and Cooper Abbott’s and Brian and Chris Storrie’s inter-generational passion for off-road racing.
Both father and son pairings had similar introductions to motorcycling.
“I’ve been riding for 38 years, and have been racing professionally for the last 27 years,” Destry Abbott said. “My first bike was a PW50. I got it when I was about 7 years old.”
Destry Abbott is one of U.S. desert racing’s most-enduring champions, with five overall national titles. He is a past member of U.S. World Trophy and Junior World Trophy ISDE teams, and is among the sport’s most-respected veterans, having been honored with the 2008 AMA Sportsman of the Year Award.
Cooper Abbott got a later start in riding than his dad.
“I have been riding for about 10 years,” said Cooper, whose first bike was a Kawasaki KX65.
Brian and Chris Storrie have related stories about how they got into riding.
“I started riding when I was six years old in 1979 on a 1974 Yamaha GT80 Enduro,” Brian said. “I took the rear fender and tail light off with my dad’s tools so while he was at work one day.”
Chris Storrie had an eventful introduction to motorcycle riding.
“I’ve been riding for 22 years,” he said. “At 3 years old, I rode straight into a fence and didn’t ride again until I was 5. My first bike was a Yamaha PW50.”
Both fathers and sons got into off-road racing in their youth.
“I started racing when I was 11,” Destry said. “I finished last, but I was hooked.”
Cooper got his first taste of racing in his teens.
“I was 14 when I kicked off my racing career at a local off-road race,” he said.
Brian Storrie had to wait a few years from when he started riding to when he was allowed to start competing.
“My first race was a father-son enduro six years later [in 1985],” he said. “My dad and I went with a club we had joined, called the Red River Dirt Riders.”
A Common Passion
Each pairing has somewhat different tastes in motorcycles, but both mainly focus their riding on off-road competition.
“Together, we own three 2018 KTMs. We have two 450-XC-Fs and a 250SX-F,” Destry said. “I [used] to race a lot of motocross and actually qualified for some [AMA Pro Motocross Nationals] but wasn’t good enough to make a living at that. I enjoy riding Endurocross-type stuff these days. It’s super-challenging and I don’t have to pin it in fifth gear anymore.”
Cooper’s riding and competition preferences are much the same as his dad’s.
“I grew up mostly riding motocross and Endurocross,” he said. “I am still riding Endurocross but also enjoy other forms of off-road competition.”
Brian Storrie enjoys mixing some on-road riding with his off-road racing.
“I currently race a Husqvarna FC350 in local A Class motocross races,” he said. “I also still have the KTM 250XCF I won a gold medal on at the 2017 ISDE competition in France. I also have a KTM 1090 Adventure that my wife and I have been riding two-up, and a collection of old bikes to remind me of the past.”
Chris Storrie’s riding is more off-road and competition-focused than his dad’s.
“I currently have a 2018 GasGas XC 260 as my primary race bike,” he said. “My ultimate training tool is my fire-breathing KTM 125. There’s nothing better for teaching fundamentals and training than a 125. I also have a 2007 KLX 110 I mostly use as a pit bike at races. It’s small, but still big enough for me and a girlfriend.”
Chris’s tastes in riding have also changed with age.
“As I have gotten older, I have started enjoying recreational off-road riding just as much as I do competition riding,” he said. “No trophy can top the pure joy of going out and riding with your friends until the gas runs out.”
Family Bragging Rights
For both father-son tandems, competing head-to-head against one another is relatively new.
“We started competing against one another in 2015 when I moved up to the pro class in Endurocross,” Cooper said. “I got my butt whooped by my dad in most of the races that year.”
The Storries have a longer history of father and son head-to-head competition.
“We started racing against each other in 2011, and have done so many times since then,” Brian said.
Chris would argue that the competition goes back to before he and his dad faced off on-track for the first time.
“Competition started right out of the womb,” he said. “There’s no one person that I absolutely despise getting beat by more than my dad. Not just at racing, but everything. When I was about 16 years old, I really started to take note of my dad going overseas and racing for Team USA almost every year. From there on, I not only had a goal to beat my dad at basically everything, but I wanted to be on the United States team too.”
Both families expressed similar feelings about having one of their family members competing alongside them in ISDE qualifying competition.
“The ISDEs have always been one of my favorite events to do,” Destry said. “To represent your country is truly an honor. It would be even more amazing if I could do it alongside Cooper.”
Cooper expressed a matching sentiment.
“My goal has always been to qualify for an ISDE, and hopefully at some point for the Junior team and Trophy team,” he said. “My dad definitely isn’t making it easy on me, though. He’s still really fast for his age.”
For the Storries, the ISDE has a special meaning and helped grow the father-son bond.
“There were a few ISDE riders from Texas when I was a kid,” Brian said. “I qualified six times for the ISDE before Chris came to live with me full-time. When that happened, I stopped racing outside of Texas, got my businesses going, and took time to be a dad.
“I went back to competing to be on the U.S. ISDE team in 2007. By then Chris was 14 years old, and I told him he could come compete alongside me in ISDE qualifiers after he graduated high school,” Brian explained. “Chris graduated in 2012 and we both made the team that year. It was a great honor to compete alongside him in East Germany as part of Team USA.”
Chris has fond memories of his and his dad’s shared ISDE experiences.
“It was a dream,” he said. “To think about it was one thing, but it was a blessing to actually live it. Yes, we were racing, but sometimes you need to stop and take in that moment. I just graduated college and we are competing for a spot on the team for the first time in a few years. It’s so cool to be able to do stuff like this with him.”
How Family Matters (On Track And Off)
Both families also expressed different feelings about how having a family member competing alongside them changed the way they approach the sport.
“I never realized how much stress I put on my parents while I was racing full-time,” Destry said. “I can tell you now that when I am racing with Cooper or just watching him race, I’m more nervous than ever. Even when I am racing, I am thinking about Cooper and making sure everything is okay with him. I’ll have a close call on something, then instantly think about Cooper going through that same section and doing the same thing.”
Cooper expressed that having his dad racing against him has changed his perception of the sport in a different way.
“Having my dad race alongside me makes it exciting,” he said. “I also think it makes me push a little harder to make sure I can stay in front of him and have the bragging rights in the household.”
Brian Storrie expressed a viewpoint not unlike Destry’s.
“For [Chris’] first six months competing in pro racing, I sat out and just helped him,” he said. “But I’m a racer too, so I jumped back in. It’s a different dynamic just sitting on the sidelines, and neither Chris nor I liked it. I do admit that I might give him a little more room to pass me sometimes, and it doesn’t hurt my pride to see him go by. Chris and I do trash talk each other just like normal competitors would.”
Neither pairing sees their father-son competition stopping anytime soon.
“I’m 45 and still having a blast even with the health issues I’ve been working through,” said Destry, who was diagnosed with leukemia in 2016. “Motorcycles are in my blood, and as long as I’m having fun doing it I want to be out there riding and racing against Cooper.”
The Families Of U.S. ISDE Competition
Dave and Bud Ekins (brothers): 1966
Herb Uhl (father) and son Billy: 1969
John Penton (father) and sons Jeff, Tom and Jack: 1970
Terry Davis (father), 1979, and son Ty, 1993
John Blythe (father), 1983, and son Ian, 2010
Jeff Russell (father), 1983, and son Kailub, 2014-2017
John Ross (father), 1999, and son Luke, 2016
Randy Marsh (father), son Cody and daughter Mandi: 2001
Grant and Steward Baylor (brothers): 2014
Cooper expressed a similar sentiment.
“I definitely think my dad will still be out there at selective races for a couple more years,” he said. “Although it seems as if he’s getting faster again. You never know when he might jump back into racing full-time.”
Brian and Chris are hoping to be racing each other even longer.
“For the rest of my life,” Chris said. “If there’s one box of Oreos left on the grocery store shelf, you better believe I’m stuffing my dad into the wall and flooring my motorized buggy. Those cookies are mine!”
Chris has also encouraged his dad to stay in racing.
“Several times in the last couple years when I’m beat up and feeling my age, Christopher has asked me not to give it up,” Brian said. “[Chris] and I enjoy the strong bond and time we have together with motorcycles. Even when we are just play riding.”
Both families’ other members seem to have taken their rivalries in stride.
“They love it,” Destry said. “They usually try to make it to as many of the races as possible. We have a great family and support system around us.”
Cooper offered a different perspective on the topic.
“It makes my mom nervous,” he said. “Now she has to worry about both of us out there on track. However, they’re happy to see us enjoying what we love to do.”
Chris Storrie’s outlook was analogous.
“They see the bond its created and leave it at that with no questions,” he said. “They may not ‘get’ the racing aspect and never will, but they understand how strong of a bond it created and that no one can take that away from us.”
Fear Not (Too Much)
Both families expressed encouragement for other families considering getting their children into racing.
“Trust me, it can be scary,” Destry said. “But if they have the proper gear and ride smart it’s a great sport. I wouldn’t change anything and love all the families we meet and get to spend time with at the races.”
Cooper said: “You don’t have to be a pro to have a blast riding. It is an awesome family sport that has allowed me to be super close to my family.”
Chris Storrie offered additional encouragement to parents.
“Let them be kids,” he said. “Get the right safety gear and let go. I owe my entire life to racing. I was the only kid out of all my ‘normal’ friends through the years who stayed out of trouble. I put that completely on racing.”