Jeff Emig’s All-Time Favourite Photo
Recently in Australia on promotional duties for Shift, Jeff Emig seems to be developing quite a taste for Australia, its people, and its product. How so? Well, we caught up with the multiple AMA champ cum AMA SX commentator last Thursday night at an industry function for Fox and Shift, where Fro had had a few and was in fine form.
“I’ve been to Australia a bunch of times now … to represent Shift or to be involved with the RCU and Moto Development rider tuition schools, but this time has been really special,” explained an upbeat Emig. “No, not because the trip coincided with the AUS-X Open and this Monza Imports’ function to celebrate 25 years of bringing Fox gear into Australia. It was because I finally became acquainted with the Melbourne Cup. Let’s just say I sat down for my Melbourne Cup luncheon at 10am, and I was still at that luncheon at 10pm! It was also special because I got to catch up with my old mate again, Monza’s Scott Runciman; a guy who, as you well know, was partly responsible for shooting my all-time favourite photo – of myself, that is – when I was out here in Australia 25 years ago to race the Motocross of Nations at Manjimup,” Emig went on to explain.
Yes, Jeff, we know all about that iconic image of you from the 1992 MXdN in WA because it was the subject of one of our all-time favourite Ripping Yarns, which was first published in the November-December 2015 (Issue #53) of Transmoto Magazine. So let’s relive that hilarious story, penned by Scott Runciman, shall we…
The 1992 MX des Nations in WA, where two enterprising Aussie ‘journos’ jagged a show-stopping photo of Jeff Emig – an image that remains the multiple AMA champ’s all-time favourite.
My mate Terry Baker is a colourful character. And I’m not just referring to TB’s wall-to-wall tatts, no-f@#ks-given attitude, or ability to make each and every day an adventure. As Hunter S. Thompson once said, “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro”, and that right there pretty much sums up TB.
Anyway, TB arrived at the 1992 MXdN in Manjimup, WA, fresh from the ISDE in Cessnock. Armed with his trusty happy-snap camera, TB had attended Cessnock as an aspiring sports photographer. He didn’t shoot for any commercial benefit, but simply as a true moto fan. He’d cart his rolls of film to the local chemist to have them developed, and then chase down the pictured riders to sign the prints; keepsakes for his personal collection.
After his Cessnock experience, TB hatched a cunning plan for the upcoming Motocross des Nations – as it was called back then – at Manjimup. “We hit the biggest race ever on Aussie soil,” he says to me, eyes ablaze. “We get the ultimate up-close access, take photos, get ’em signed, generally kill it on all fronts and come out smiling!” I liked the sounds of that.
TB had business cards made up, boldly emblazoned with “Sports Photographer”, while my angle was to masquerade as a sports journalist from the Geelong Advertiser. And, boom, we were on our way. With cards, a camera and a ‘can do’ attitude, we literally slid into the event on the Friday morning, tyres smoking in our hire car. We headed straight to the Media tent, where we were asked for our passes. Of course, we hadn’t sorted our media accreditation, and they hadn’t heard of either of us. But, having anticipated this hurdle, TB quietly passed over his business card and suggested that organisers “call the office” to substantiate our stories. The ‘office’ was Terry’s home, where he’d got his girlfriend at the time to play receptionist for the weekend, dutifully answering every incoming call with, “Good morning. You have called the Geelong Advertiser. How may I help you?” She went on to explain to organisers how Terry and Scott were commissioned to write a huge article on the event for the paper and to please extend them every courtesy. And just like that, we were granted credentials – full pit and track access, and free food to boot. Hello, MX Heaven!
With Manjimup being a remote country town with limited weekend trading hours, we knew it’d be a real challenge to get our photos printed and then signed by all the riders, so our next stop was the local chemist. TB walked straight in, asked for the owner and launched into a convoluted story designed to convince the chemist to remain open all day Saturday and again on Sunday morning so he could print off our ‘proofs’. Again, we had a little bit less than no idea what we were talking about, but it seemed to be enough that weekend. Somehow, the guy agreed.
“Terry just spun around and started snapping as Emig laid it in flat and hit that corner harder than any man, woman or beast has the right to do!”
Without a telephoto lens, TB’s camera wasn’t up to the task of getting the long-range action shots. So to capture the up-close images we were after, we developed an ingenious technique. TB would lie on the track in front of the oncoming racers. I’d grab him by his collar and belt and when the bikes were almost on us, I’d reef him off the track as soon as I saw his trigger finger move. Incredibly, the technique worked without incident – until Kurt Nicoll came barrelling through on his Kato 500, blew straight through the berm and right over the top of TB without buttoning off one bit. TB wasn’t injured,
so who were we to complain?
On Saturday arvo, during the business-end of timed qualifying, we were just running amok on the infield. Then, all of a sudden, America’s Jeff Emig came flying into the corner where we were standing, and with no time to check his camera’s exposure or focus, TB just spun around and started snapping. Pinned the entire way, Emig laid it in flat and hit that corner harder than any man, woman or beast has the right to do. We were both mesmerised, and TB turned to me, deadpan, and said, “I got it!”
After that session, we made a quick trip into town where the local chemist printed off our ‘proofs’. Sure enough, TB’s shot of Emig – admittedly slightly out of focus and a tad overexposed – was THE shot. We returned to the track Sunday morning, and when we got to the Team USA set-up, TB pulled out the images to get them signed (THE Emig shot, along with others of Mike LaRocco and Billy Liles). Emig was so stoked with the photo, he signed it on the spot and handed over his details, asking if we could send a copy to the States. Of course we could.
Who would have thought that, more than 20 years later, I’d be involved with Jeff Emig on multiple Shift and Fox projects as both work colleagues and mates. And we ‘closed the loop’ about TB’s now legendary Manjimup photo after our second or third meeting some years back now. It turns out that, to this day, Jeff says it remains his all-time favourite shot of himself.
“This photo was shot during a Saturday practice session, and this one turn – out of the hundreds of thousands that I have taken in my life – is now part of motocross history. I first saw the photo on the Sunday at Manjimup, when two crazy Australians came up to me, presented me with the photo – one of the most insane photos I had even seen – and asked if I would sign a copy for them. It sounded like a good deal, so I obliged. Team USA then went on to win the Motocross des Nations for the 12th year in a row. When I got home, I gave a copy to my father, Gary, who quickly had it blown up as big as possible to go in the race shop. Then a month or so later, it re-surfaced in Dirt Rider Magazine for all the world to see.
“It’s hard to believe that, more than two decades later, we’re still talking about an amateur photo that was taken on a practice day by Terry Baker and his sidekick, Scott Runciman. But to me, it was so cool that Terry – with Scott’s help – had the balls to lay on the track and put himself in danger to nail it. It’s a sure sign that these guys are hardcore moto fans.
“And I know exactly what you’re thinking – ‘Did Emig pull it off, or did he go down?’ Well, I’ll never tell, so I guess only Terry and Scott know the truth. Those two guys had the time of their lives that weekend at the MXdN, and they partied so hard after the race, it’s doubtful they’d remember.”