As versatile as he was consistent, Trampas Parker made history as the first American to win two World Motocross Championships. He was an unknown American rider living in Italy when he burst onto the world motocross scene by winning the 125cc championship in 1989 with KTM. Two years later, he repeated the feat for a 250cc championship, this time with Honda.
Parker was born in Shreveport, Louisiana, on July 27, 1967. He was raised in Bridge City, Texas, and began riding when he was given his first motorcycle at age 7. Young Trampas was a winner from the start. He won the first race he entered. He went on to win his first regional motocross title in the 50cc class when he was 11 years old. Trampas’ little brother raced as well, but it was Trampas who showed the most desire to compete. Parker eventually became a member of Kawasaki’s amateur racing program, Team Green, and won AMA national amateur titles at the Loretta Lynn Ranch in Tennessee in 1984.
In 1985, Parker raced for the first time as an AMA professional. He traveled to California with Dennis Hawthorne and Jason Langford and was riding for Kawasaki. Parker earned a third-place finish in the AMA 125cc West Supercross race in San Diego. Scoring a podium in his very first AMA pro event was a feat that few riders accomplished, but that major accomplishment was quickly overshadowed when his career nearly ended with a broken ankle. In only his second race as a pro, another rider ran over his foot and Parker's ankle was shattered so badly that doctors told him he would never be able to race again.
"That injury pretty much ended my racing career in the United States," Parker said. "With the screws in my ankle the doctors told me that if I hit it wrong it would just shatter."
Parker tried to come back in 1986, but the ankle was not 100 percent and his results suffered. At the end of that season, he was invited to Europe to participate in a benefit race for Danny "Magoo" Chandler. He stayed with friend and fellow American rider Billy Liles. What was originally scheduled for just a one-race stay in Europe turned into a couple of months and resulted in Parker getting an invitation to race full-time in Europe.
The ride he originally had lined up for the GPs in 1987 fell through and he worked as a mechanic for a time. He received a last-minute ride for the 500cc GPs, but the bike proved uncompetitive. Parker turned a bad situation into an opportunity when he fell back and raced the Italian Motocross Championships and became an immediate winner there.
KTM offered Parker a ride in 1988 to race GPs. KTM’s factory riders were injured and the team put Parker on one of its machines. At the Spanish Grand Prix, Parker got a big lead before a shock linkage failed. Nevertheless, Parker showed what he could do when given a good motocross bike. In the next three rounds, the bike broke every time. Parker, realizing the bikes given him at the time were uncompetitive, went back to racing the Italian national events. He won the 1988 Italian 125cc Motocross Championship, even though he hadn’t ridden a 125 bike for several years. He then backed it up by winning the 500cc Italian title as well.
In addition to honing his skills on the tracks of Italy, Parker dedicated himself to getting in the best shape of his life. His fitness level was so strong that Parker won numerous races in the waning minutes of a moto. When other riders began to slow, Parker was able to maintain his speed throughout the race.
His performances in Italy had some believing that Parker could contend for a world championship, but even some within KTM management weren’t sure the young American was up to the task when the 1989 GP season kicked off. That all changed at the season-opening 125c GP race in Italy, where Parker won both motos to score his first GP victory.
"When I won the opening round that year, I think that’s when the people at KTM thought that maybe this could be for real," Parker said.
When news reached America that Trampas Parker, riding on an Italian license, won the opening GP it left people scratching their heads. Who was this Trampas Parker? Adding to the confusion was that fact that when Trampas was younger he went by his middle name of Chad. It was Chad Parker who finished third in that 1985 West Supercross race in San Diego, so American fans didn’t initially make the connection.
"My mother always wanted me to use my given name of Trampas, but as a kid I didn’t like it," Parker explained. "In Italy they had a hard time saying Chad, but it was easy for them to say Trampas, so I figured since that’s what my mother always wanted me to go by I’d just use it."
Finally, American fans gradually began to put two and two together and Parker’s victory in Italy was considered one of the biggest surprise wins in Motocross GP to that point. Parker went on to win six GPs that season to become the first American to win the 125 World Championship.
Italy was so pleased to have this new young rider in their country that Parker was asked to race for Italy in the Motocross des Nations in 1989. He led the team to a close second-place finish to the American squad. Parker was the top-scoring 500cc rider in the international competition that year.
"Winning at the Motocross des Nations was the thing I wanted the most because everyone was there," Parker said of competing against the best riders from across the world. "I was able to win the 500 class and it was one of the most satisfying things I did in my career."
Parker moved up to the 250cc World Championships in 1990 season, but his campaign was cut short after a freak accident when a rider going the wrong way on the track collided with him. It left Parker with a badly shattered foot.
Some pundits thought that Parker’s ’89 championship was a fluke, but a Honda-backed team in Europe still had faith in the American and signed him to contest the 250 championships in 1991. Parker went on to silence his critics by winning the 1991 FIM 250 Motocross World Championship and in doing so becoming the first two-time world motocross champion from America. On his off weekends, he continued to race in the Italian Motocross Championships and won all three national titles, also becoming the first and only rider to ever accomplish that feat.
Parker was set to defend his 250 title in 1992, but a new shorter race format took away one of his biggest strengths – his endurance.
"I was never probably the fastest guy on the track, but I was one of the most well-trained, so when they went with those short motos, for me it was kind of a joke," Parker told Racer X Illustrated in 2006 interview. "I didn’t have fun riding that year and it didn’t work out for me."
Injuries plagued Parker over the next few seasons, but he came back and made a serious bid for the 500cc world championship in 1995 on an underdog KTM 360 against the big 500cc machines. Parker astonished the experts by winning the penultimate round in Dutch sand over sand expert Joel Smets, which was enough to challenge for world honors in the final round, but mechanical DNFs cost him and he finished second. In 1996, Parker broke his back in an Italian Motocross event ending his season. He continued to campaign in the world championships through 2004.
Parker raced in the burgeoning Supermotard (Supermoto) racing scene in Europe in the early 2000s and was a top racer in that form of racing as well.
Parker gradually set aside professional racing to put more focus into his wheel importing and motocross training businesses. When inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2007, he continued to race amateur events for fun. Both of his sons followed in their dad’s footsteps to take up motorcycle racing.