Behind Steve Lamson’s Retro CR125

May 23, 2007
By Steve Bruhn
Behind the bike with: Michael “Schnikey” Tomlin – mechanic, JC Waterhouse – newly appointed custom bike builder and Sobe NoFear/Samsung/Honda Team Manager and Steve Lamson – MDK Honda Team Manager.

As a journalist, you know you are talking to someone who is having fun when they do your work for you! Such is the case with this interview of Sobe NoFear/Samsung/Honda’s JC Waterhouse, who put together what may be the last 125cc 2-stroke in an AMA championship Lites moto. Steve Lamson raced it at Hangtown – just for fun!

Check out the new-school neck brace and the old-school chest protector!
Steve Lamson is a familiar face around the racing pits. The former two-time 125cc National champion made a return to Hangtown just for fun.

“Two-Time” Steve Lamson, 125 national champ in 1995 and ’96, was getting teased by the team he runs, MDK Honda, about doing an outdoor. They came up with the idea of him running a 10-year retro looking CR125 at Lamson’s hometown race, Hangtown. Even if he didn’t qualify, as past champion he has a provisional to get in, so at least he would get on the track. He leaked the idea to the press at the San Francisco Supercross so there was no turning back, and he trained hard from then on just for this single race.

A phone call to Waterhouse led to JC’s team pretty much lifting the headache of finding a really good 125 for him to ride. JC decided to build him the best 2-stroke 125 possible, and that meant re-constructing the best there ever was. He got approval to dig through parts and motors from 2004 and beyond to build Steve Lamson a one-off custom 2-stroke for the Hangtown National. From here, this amazing story just tells itself. We hand the recorder over to Mr. Waterhouse and say “go!”

JC Waterhouse:

I will give you a short version of the story. Steve Lamson decided he wanted to ride this race on a 2-stroke. He knew that the last guys to competitively run a CR125 were Factory Connection Racing, in 2004, with Ryan Mills in east coast supercross.

The entire team used them in 2003, and just Mills in 2004 supercross. So Lamson called and asked did we have anything left? I said “Yes, but, this was a three way project between Factory Connection, American Honda, and Pro Circuit. So I have to talk to everybody involved. So I did.

I talked to everyone and said “Hey, can we lend it to Steve for the one race?” and everyone said “Sure, no problem.” So we decided to back Steve and said “Hey, we will do it.”

We made a timeline and dug out all the bits and pieces, and the spec sheets from the last races. We put together what we thought would be a logical package for a National, because the last time we raced one was at a supercross.

Lamson and the CR125 are a formidable duo.
Lamson and the CR125 are a formidable duo.

The chassis of this bike is a 2007, but the engine cases and everything are the way we raced it in 2004. This is the best Honda 2-stroke that there ever was, or ever will be there, right there. That’s the one. It’s really a composite of ’02, ’03 and ’04 parts.

The motor was originally developed by American Honda and Honda of Japan. It has the long rod motor, which we ran, a works crankshaft to go along with it, works transmission, works cylinder, it has mechanical (HPP) exhaust valves, all works. It has the last version of the pipe that we used, which we got from Mitch Payton.

To get ready, Lamson has been riding a stock bike. Three weeks ago, we got this together for the first time, he rode it, and came back shaking his head and couldn’t believe how good it was.

First we were just going to lend the motor. Then we decided we needed someone to baby sit the motor. We volunteered Schnikey for that. Well Lamson didn’t have a mechanic to use and Schnikey is (Ryan) Sipes’ mechanic and he (Sipes) didn’t start the series so we just decided to build the whole bike.

That is how it all evolved so here we are today. We basically built the motor, supplied the mechanic and built the bike. Plus he has a box van because it’s neutral ground!

The graphics look a decade old  but one glance at the frame and front end assembly gives away this bike’s true nature.
The graphics look a decade old, but one glance at the frame and front end assembly gives away this bike’s true nature.

He actually flew down to us to ride the bike for 15 minutes, as the race bike version, Wednesday, and flew back home Wednesday night. It has maybe three hours on it right now.

He was pretty funny too because he rode a stock bike for weeks and weeks, and when we put this engine in it, he was like whoa, that’s unbelievable, I think I will get some points at the national! He came here thinking he could get some points.

I don’t think he can kill this thing. They are relatively fragile, but this was a 3-year development engine, it started at the end of 2001 and ran to 2004, with the same structure. So it ended its life as a well-developed piece.

He has all his old gear and everything. The gear is wearing is for real 10 years old. He had it put away.

Steve is enjoying it. It’s good attention for our team, his team, and Honda. That is all a plus. I think he is really having fun. He knows it is difficult. He is 10 years older. If he scored points with it, he would be just over the moon. He is a tough guy so I think it is possible.

Making Steve Lamson’s CR125:

Motor – Creation of 2002, ’03 and ’04 parts. There are no more like this on the planet. We had three complete engines left. They are worth maybe 40 grand each.
Ignition – Works Japan. “We relocated it up on the frame. The curve that is in it is the curve that we finished the 2003 motocross season with, which we also ran in ’04 supercross.”
Carb – Works
Chassis – 2007 CR125
Exhaust – Pro Circuit p

If you want this Pro Circuit pipe  Mitch has it  but you need the part number!
If you want this Pro Circuit pipe, Mitch has it, but you need the part number!

ipe, carbon fiber silencer. “We had a bunch of pipes in our shop. We went out and tested so we knew what we wanted. I called Mitch up. All the stuff we get from Mitch, we have to give it back. He never throws anything away! So I called him and said we need a 04SSMHRCMX3, and goes upstairs and finds the box. Mitch had all the stuff left.”
Radiator – Works, oversized. “We had a little bit of a problem with the ’07 frame with them. They had to be adapted.”
Tires – Dunlop.
Suspension – “A-Kit” Showa.
Triple Clamps – Factory Honda, same as on Sobe NoFear/Samsung/Honda 250F race bikes.
Footpegs – Titanium leftover from Mike LaRocco’s last 250cc 2-stroke.
Brakes – Stock, front and back.
Wheels – Stock.
Airbox – Standard. “We actually tested the works airbox from back in 04 and we went back to the standard. I think it works better because it evolved from the parts we had three years ago.”
Handlebars and Grips – Renthal.
Clutch Perch, miscellaneous hard parts – Works Connection.
Graphics – He did retro graphics to match his 1996 bike.

Lamson got smoked at Hangtown. He had a combination of first lap mishaps and crashes from hell, but overall the bike was visibly underpowered out there with the modern 250Fs. When asked afterwards was it worth it, he said, “Absolutely!”

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