Interview: Bader Manneh – Top GP rider in the 90’s still involved in the sport

Back in the 90’s, Bader Manneh from America had the opportunity to come and race the World Championship and snatched it with both hands. The American was based in Italy and still lives there today, it turned into home.

Not only was the American competitive in the GP series, but he also won the Fast Cross event which saw the best of America coming over and going up against the GP riders, Manneh surprised everyone that day!

We caught up with Manneh to discuss his time racing GP’s and more.

Gatedrop: Let’s start with your AMA Supercross experience. You won the 125cc class in Seattle back in 1985. What do you remember from that race – it must have felt amazing to win?

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Manneh: It was a big surprise, I was running in the middle of the pack, picking off riders with ruts all over the place and riders were going down like flies. All a sudden I hear the crowd cheering and there was only One rider left in front of me on the last lap. I managed to get around him and took the win. Was really a Crazy race.

Gatedrop: What other Supercross races do you have good memories from?

Manneh: Well, good and bad, in 87 Texas Supercross I thought I was the winner passing Kyle Lewis on the last lap, so we go to the podium and the AMA said we went an extra lap and took the win away from me. Kyle looked at me and said, “what?”. But he was happy of course.

Gatedrop:  In the early 90’s you then decided to race the World Championship – what was the reason for that and how did the opportunity come about?

Manneh: Well, I was just getting over an injury and was at home with no ride practically. I had a call from Italian team Carpimotor, just to come for 1 race. I won 1 of the moto’s and they asked if I wanted to race another race the week after. So, I did and it just kept going from there. Eventually I signed a deal to ride the GP’s.

Gatedrop: Do you remember what it was like being a young American making this move? I believe you were based in Italy – how did you adapt to the country and what do you remember from that time?

Manneh: For a few races it was cool, but after that it was really tough. There was no place like home, California and the language barrier was really tough. It took me some time to learn as everything was different. But finally after around a few months I started getting accustomed to the way of living.

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Gatedrop: In 1992 in Austria you won you first race and you ended up eighth in the 250cc World Championship – were you happy with that season and how did it feel to win that race in Austria – you beat some big names!

Manneh: That was a really strong season for me. I just wasn’t consistent. The win felt really good and was really happy with my riding. Felt really strong and was picking up some good lines.

Gatedrop: You won the Fast Cross event which was massive in the day. Talk me through that – you beat big names I believe!

Manneh: Yeah, that was a big Surprise race for me. The organiser was paying thousands to bring over some of the best riders at that time from US and Europe like Everts, Parker, McGrath, Lorocco, Voland, Puzar,Ward, and here, I go there with my local Italian team, bike strapped on the back of the bumper, barely excepted to race. I got the holeshot in the main, felt good and in control of the race, Lorocco was in second, I remember keeping an eye on him. I finally came away with the win and I remember the face of the organiser – he wasn’t very happy.

Gatedrop: What other memories and races stand out when you look back at your GP career?

Manneh: The 1994 Argentina GP winning the second moto, it was really nice. Also the Carpi night show, another International event, I won that 9 times. It was one of those tracks where the best of me always came out.

Gatedrop: Looking back at your career, are you happy with what you achieved? If you were to go back is there anything you’d do differently?

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Manneh: I’m Happy with the things I achieved, but there were a lot of things I didn’t. If I went back, yeah, I would have changed a lot, but I didn’t know then what I know now. I thought I was doing the right things to achieve my goals, but looking back from what I have learned now, I believe I could have been an all round stronger rider.

Gatedrop: I believe you still live in Italy – what is it you love so much about the country, do you miss America?

Manneh: Well, Italy is very beautiful and the food is delicious. I married an Italian woman so that is probably what has kept me there and work. I do miss America. But it’s not that bad, I go back a couple times a year.

Gatedrop: I believe you’re involved with a race team in Italy, can you tell me about the team, your role and plans for the future?

Manneh: We have a National team supported by KTM, we have won the 2018 and 2019 Supercross Championship and also 2019 we had a top minicycle rider that finished 3rd in the Junior world championship and won a couple European championship races and also won the European Nations. I’m co partner in the team so I do a little bit of everything.

Gatedrop: The last years, MXGP riders have proven to be stronger than the American’s at Motocross – what would you put that down too?

Manneh: The European riders have studied American riders for years and bettered themselves and really work hard, American riders seem to have slacked off taking a lot for granted and Europe for granted to, they would always laugh at their style. Back then you had super elite riders like Johnson, Bailey, Ward, O’mara, Carmichael, Stewart. Those guys paved the way for Europe. The new US generation seems more for the show at least for the whole. There are still very strong riders but it just doesn’t seem like before.

Interview: Andy Mckinstry

Pics courtesy of Bader Manneh