End Of Ascendency

Cam Roos was one of the hottest road racers in America in 1989. Fresh out of the club ranks, the young Georgian broke through with a string of three straight AMA 600 Supersport victories on his factory-backed Yamaha FZR600. He was right in the thick of a great battle for the 1989 AMA 600 Supersport Championship when in between Nationals he stopped at a club race in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, to earn some extra cash. Instead, Roos suffered a terrifying accident that shattered his neck and back, ending the career of one of the most promising young riders of the era.

Roos grew up in the Atlanta area and was around motorcycles all his life, the byproduct of his father racing motorcycles and owning a motorcycle dealership. Cam tagged along with dad to the motocross races and soon started racing himself. He became a decent motocrosser, but when he turned 16 he started doing more off-road events. "The highlight of my off-road career was winning the B class in an AMA National Enduro in Black Coal National in Indiana, which immediately bumped me up to the A Class," Roos said.

Eventually Roos said he became burned out on racing. "If I wasn't racing off-road on a weekend, I was off play riding somewhere. I think I just got too much of a good thing."

About that time some of Roos' friends were getting into road racing and they eventually convinced him to give it a try. Roos had a very trick little Honda NS250 that he hoped to get a title for so he could ride it on the street. When he found getting a title or the imported machine tough to come by he decided to go ahead and road race the bike. Roos and the NS were a winning combination from the start.

Cam Roos won three straight AMA 600 Supersport races in 1989 and led the championship before suffering career-ending injuries.

Cam Roos won three straight AMA 600 Supersport races in 1989 and led the championship before suffering career-ending injuries.

"In February of 1986 I took Ronnie Bowen's WERA rider's school class at Little Talladega [Talladega Grand Prix Raceway] and went out and won in my first weekend," Roos recalls. "The NS kind of gave me a boost up on the competition, plus my dirt bike experience gave me a little edge because a lot of the road race guys weren't real aggressive on the starts."

Roos (who was in the same WERA novice class as Scott Russell, Paul Bray and Scott Zampach) was the dominant novice of the small-bike classes. At the end of '86 he scored national novice titles in both WERA and AMA/CCS. From there Roos continued to rise rapidly through the ranks. In addition to winning a slew of expert club titles and becoming the top Yamaha contingency money winner in 1988, he and Mike Smith won the AMA/CCS Middleweight Endurance Championship as Roswell Honda Racing. Roos also scored a surprising podium finish in the AMA 600 Supersport National at Talladega Motor Speedway in 1988, leaving a lot of people asking just who was this Roos kid?

By 1989 Roos was an up and comer no more - he was suddenly one of the top AMA 600 Su-

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persport riders. After winning his first National, the AMA 600 Supersport race in round two at Road Atlanta, Roos found himself leading the series. Many pundits thought the only reason Roos won at Atlanta was because it was his home track, but then he took victory at high-speed Brainerd International Raceway and then beat David Sadowski at Ski's home track of Loudon. So it was three wins in a row on completely different tracks and Roos opened a solid lead in the 600 Supersport standings.

Then came the bad luck. Roos crashed at Road America and then his steering damper locked up at Mid-Ohio. Then he came back and took a hard-fought second at Sears Point behind Scott Zampach. Despite the problems, he and Zampach were battling within points of one another atop the standings. After the Topeka AMA National Roos headed out West to visit his mom and go rock climbing with friends. Along the way he decided to hit the MRA club event on the streets of Steamboat Springs, Colorado. It was at Steamboat where things went horribly wrong.

"I stayed at Topeka to help Keith Code with his Superbike school," Roos remembers. "It got rained out so I stayed at the track and was just doing some routine maintenance on my bikes. What probably happened was I got talking with someone and I didn't tighten the pin that holds the brake pad in on my GSX-R. At Steamboat I went through practice on Saturday no problem and then in the race on Sunday I started at the back, since I'd never been to an MRA race. I'd worked my way up to third and there was a wide road that came up to the top of a hill with a chicane. I remember coming into the chicane - the guy who was in second place [Guy Clausen] was right in front of me - I pulled in the front brake and it felt

like I was pulling the clutch in. Nothing was there.

"I thought, 'Okay, no big deal. I'll just jam on the rear brake, lowside it and hope for the best.' The problem was the guy in front of me was slowing down a lot more than I was and the rear of my bike was stepped out and hit the rear of his bike and it basically straightened me out and pitched me over the handlebars and I hit a bunch of hay-bales. It broke my back and my neck. It was my neck where I suffered my [worst] injuries."

Roos was paralyzed from his spinal cord being swollen. Fortunately, he gradually regained movement in his hands and arms. Then one day in the rehab center the doctor came in to examine Roos and made a startling claim.

"He asked me if I could move my toes," Roos said. "I just barely moved one little toe and the doctor said, 'You'll walk again.' I said, 'What?' I thought that was a pretty bold statement. And he told me that once I was getting signals down to my foot that eventually the swelling would go down enough that I'd be able to walk. In a way I felt bad because I was a lot better off than a lot of people in the rehab center, but I was grateful."

It took months, but Roos eventually began walking again. His promising racing career, however, was over. He eventually made a remarkable recovery and went back to work in motorcycle shops where he'd been his entire life. Today Roos has a burgeoning eBay motorcycle memorabilia sales business. He still follows racing on TV and even attended a race at Road Atlanta a few years ago.

"All the guys from my generation are out of the sport now, but I love watching these young guys coming up." cn

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