David Bailey, two-time national 500cc motocross champion from Axton, Va., has been paralyzed from the chest down since an accident during practice for last Sunday's Continental Motosports Club's Golden State Nationals tour at Huron Cycle Park, near Fresno.
Bailey, 25, who had entered the event as a warm-up for the opening race of the stadium supercross season Jan. 31 at Anaheim Stadium, apparently failed to negotiate a double jump, and when his bike hit the hazard, Bailey was flipped over the handlebars. Onlookers said it appeared that the bike, after cartwheeling through the air, landed on Bailey.
The Honda factory team rider is hospitalized at the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, where his condition was described as excellent. Dr. Conal Wilmot, the attending physician, said that Bailey would undergo surgery within a week to stabilize his injured spine. The fourth and fifth vertebrae were damaged.
"It's just too early to tell just how serious the injury is," Wilmot said.
Bailey, a professional motocross rider since he was 16, is the defending champion in the Anaheim supercross, an event he also won in 1983.
"It is hard to believe it happened to David," said Dave Arnold, Honda's team manager. "His has been pretty much an injury-free career. He has always been a conservative rider who always seemed to be in control.
"David wasn't riding in the Golden State series but he wanted to compete at Huron to get back in racing trim before he had to ride at Anaheim in the supercross series. He seemed to be riding well until he missed that double jump on his third lap."
Bailey's father, Gary, competed in motocross in the 1960s, when it was introduced in the United States. About the time his son began to ride, he opened a nationwide network of motocross schools.
The younger Bailey began racing when he was 10 and won the national amateur championship in 1978, the year before he turned professional. Gary was known as the Professor, so David became the Little Professor.
The 6-foot 2-inch, 160-pound youngster got his big break in 1982 when he was approached by five-time world champion Roger DeCoster to be a factory rider for Honda. DeCoster, who was the team manager, had raced against David's father and knew the kind of training young Bailey had been getting.
In 1983, Bailey became the first triple champion in motocross history, winning the 250cc, supercross and Wrangler super series that combined outdoor and stadium results. At 21, he earned close to $400,000.
Last year, besides winning his second 500cc championship, Bailey finished second to Honda teammate Ricky Johnson of El Cajon in both the 250 and supercross series. He won seven major races. Four were national 500cc events at Hollister, Calif.; Washougal, Wash.; Binghamton, N.Y., and on his home track, Lake Sugar Tree, in Axton, and three were in supercross events at Dallas, Pontiac, Mich., and Anaheim.
Bailey also won the 1985 United States Grand Prix at Carlsbad, winning both 45-minute motos against world champion Andre Malherbe of Belgium and other European riders.
Coincidentally, Bailey is in the same hospital ward where Danny (Magoo) Chandler, of Foresthill, Calif., was eventually taken after suffering similar paralyzing injuries in a motocross spill in a stadium race in Paris. Chandler, also a former U.S. Grand Prix winner at Carlsbad, is now at home, confined to a wheelchair.
OFF ROAD--Mickey Thompson's Off-Road Gran Prix moves to Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego for the second of a series of stadium events Saturday night. Ivan Stewart, veteran Toyota truck race driver who missed last week's opening night with a back injury, is expected to race in his hometown against teammate Steve Millen, the Anaheim winner and defending series champion, and Indy car drivers Al Unser Jr., in a Jeep, and Roger Mears, in a Nissan.
AWARDS--Indianapolis 500 winner Bobby Rahal was named winner of the Jerry Titus Award as the outstanding driver of 1986 at the American Auto Racing Writers & Broadcasters Assn. All-American team dinner. Titus was a professional driver and journalist who was killed in a racing accident. . . . The third annual United States Auto Club Western States midget racing awards banquet will be held Saturday night at the Long Beach Airport Holiday Inn.