Apr 15, 2009

Bruce Ogilvie 1952-2009

I first met Bruce Ogilvie around 1997, but believe me, I knew all about him long before we ever shook hands. As a kid growing up aboard Honda XR motorcycles in the desert, Bruce was a god to me. I wanted to be just like Bruce Ogilvie.

In 1998 when I was going to make a serious attempt at qualifying for the International Six Day Enduro (ISDE) in Australia, Bruce gave me a new XR250 to take to the Idaho and Washington Qualifiers. The only catch was I had to ride the bike virtually bone stock, but to help, Bruce sent out Johnny Campbell to test with me on multiple occassions so we could get the little Honda up-to-speed. As it turned out, it wasn't the XR that needed a power boost, it was me. But Bruce was just doing his job and I was honored that he was allowing me to help with the realiability and endurance testing of the bike. After my Pacific West Qualifier campaign, I let Bruce know the bike needed a much beefier clutch. He probably could have told me that I needed a much beefier riding style, but instead he took note of it and agreed.

In the years that followed I spent a lot of time sitting on the back of an un-marked white Honda box van with Bruce talking about racing and our favorite Mexican food joint in Riverside, Gay and Larry's. Bruce was a quiet guy, but something about him demanded respect, and it may sound vain, but I think I earned his respect somehow.

Days after the press launch of the new water-cooled XR650, Bruce gave me permission to ride the yet-to-be released motorcycle as the hare at the Dirt Diggers Winter Hare Scrambles. It was a big deal because the bike was a Honda and Honda didn't want any hiccups with a long anticipated model in front of hundreds and hundres of potential customers. Not long after that, Bruce got word that I was going to let Jim Rios at BRP fit the new XR650 with billet aluminum triple-clamps. I got a call from Bruce on that one. When you get a call from Bruce Ogilvie, you best take it and you best do what he says. In the end Jim and Bruce talked and the triple-clamps got Bruce's approval. Bruce had his eye on everything and somehow seemed to get everything handled.

My relationship with Bruce didn't change any when I went to work for Honda's PR and Ad agency. He didn't treat me like a vendor. He treated me as he always had. And when I left that positition, for a new world of life outside of the motorcycle industry, Bruce told me that I was always welcome at Honda. And those were the last words that I had with Bruce O. That put a lump in my throat then and puts an even bigger lump in my throat now.

Bruce was a quiet badass.

Here's a slightly edited version of Honda's press release:

Bruce Ogilvie passed away on April 13, 2009 after a two-year battle with cancer. Ogilvie fought cancer the same way he raced motorcycles all his life: with everything he had.

Most enthusiasts know Bruce Ogilvie as a master Baja racer - a champion whose personal victories in the San Felipe 250, Baja 500 and Baja 1000 spread out over four decades. The first was a Baja 500 win in 1975, with another victory in the 1000 later that year. Bruce was the only man in history to win the Baja 1000 overall in four different decades. Bruce also earned three ISDE medals.

Bruce O's talents and accomplishments behind a handlebar are indisputable and well known. But there was another side to Ogilvie that was equally impressive. For more than 20 years, Bruce was in charge of coordinating Honda's racing efforts in Baja. He led an army of racers and support team members for years while he applied his own personal philosophy to the challenge.
In 1984, Bruce was hired full-time at American Honda. He served in many capacities over the years. In addition to being in charge of everything off-road at Honda - including motorcycle and ATV racing - Bruce was most recently the Senior Test Evaluator for Honda's Product Evaluation department. In this role, Bruce's contributions to the direction and development of all Honda's off-road and motocross products was unparalleled. If you can't imagine racing or riding anything but your Honda off-road motorcycle or ATV, it is because Bruce Ogilvie helped make it that way.
Godspeed Bruce. You will always be remembered as our leader with that calm, assuring voice in our head guiding us through obstacles you conquered long ago.

Bruce Ogilvie was born on April 4, 1952. He died on April 13, 2009. He is survived by his wife Marcia, his 14-year-old son Nick and nine-year-old daughter Isabella. Bruce's family will have a private service, and because blood transfusions were so important to Bruce's battle with cancer for the past two years the family has asked for people to donate blood in Bruce's honor.

Bruce O. was my hero.


Scott M said...

I met Bruce when I signed a contract with Yamaha Motorsports USA in 1979. I was 15 and he and Larry Rosseler were smoking everybody in the Desert at that time. Bruce had some connection with Dale's Modern Cycles in San Bernardino. Dale was big in to the Desert scene back then and I think Yamaha was supporting the desert efforts through the local Yamaha Dealership.

I did not have an opportunity to get to know Bruce well, but this news bumms me out just the same.

There was several years in Desert Racing where if Bruce was there, everyone else was racing for 2nd place. You don't see a lot of that in sport.

Godspeed Bruce.

Anonymous said...

I knew Bruce because I am friends with his beautiful wife Marcia. The love that they shared and the life they created was so amazing. They both cherished Nick and Izzy, and the family they created, so much. I remember him driving home after hours of testing instead of staying in a motel just to be able to spend the evening with them, at the dinner table, in the hot tub or just watching a favorite reality show. They were quite a family. Their love will sustain them.