A Tribute to FOX Innovator John Marking

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What makes a legend? To FOX, it’s someone who forges an unforgettable legacy and leaves a far-reaching, indelible mark on the world, positively impacting people from all walks of life.

John Marking—our longtime racing innovation leader, mentor, and friend—lost his battle against cancer surrounded by family and loved ones three weeks after the 2021 Baja 1000. He was a true giant as a racer and an engineer and was instrumental in making and keeping FOX a premium performance brand through the decades by contributing to 43 patents.

“This past October, I had the pleasure of watching John accept his induction into the prestigious Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame,” FOX CEO Mike Dennison said. “Being able to see him personally receive the much-deserved accolades from industry and racing peers before his final days was emotional, to say the least. It was the perfect way for him to say farewell and for those he’s inspired to honor his more than 32 years of engineering maximum performance. He truly embodied the Bob Fox ‘never done’ mindset.”

Besides his success as a fierce competitor at various levels of off-road racing, Marking shall be remembered for his nearly 30 years of work at FOX, where he led the design and development of suspension components and technologies to define the modern era of off-road racing and transcend the niche off-road racing community into the mainstream. FOX’s continuing total domination of world-class races like the Baja 1000, Mint 400, San Felipe 250 and others is testament to that.

Building a foundation for racing

He moved out on his own to finish high school, soon followed by a job in construction. To make ends meet during college, Marking worked on heavy equipment in the evenings and was introduced to off-road racing by his brother-in-law, Gary Cogbill. Instantly hooked, he fully immersed himself in racing. Marking and Cogbill found early success, winning several limited class races. This taste of glory turned into a career when a job opportunity presented itself at Jimco Racing Products in 1988.

Marking beat out 88 competitors in the ½-1600 class at the 1989 Mint 400, finishing 11th overall. At the finish line he decided he needed to learn how to work on shocks after absolutely punishing himself and the vehicle for hours through the harsh Nevada desert. He created a side hustle called Marking Performance Shocks to tune and modify shocks for off-road racing. This caught the attention of FOX, who were not pleased with the modifications he was doing to their products. It was when Marking met Bob Fox and showed him a prototype bicycle shock he had made that he was hired on the spot in 1992.

But first, mountain bikes

From 1992 to 2001, Marking helped build the FOX Bicycle Division in northern California into an $11M business, all while inventing and patenting several new technologies including the first FLOAT style rear air shock and his first iteration of position-sensitive Internal Bypass damping for the infamous Mammoth Mountain Kamikaze downhill mountain bike race.

The off-road racing bug prompted Marking to take over the FOX Off-Road Division and moved it to Santee, CA in 2001, where he further developed and perfected one of his most prolific designs for larger off-road race vehicles: FOX’s patented position-sensitive Internal Bypass architecture.

Blowing up the desert-racing scene

Now back in his beloved southern California desert, Marking continued his racing success to include dirt bikes, single seat buggies, a Class 1 championship, short course racing, and a few stints in the Trophy Trucks premiere class. A fierce competitor doesn’t like to lose, but all that time behind the wheel and handlebars assisted in developing new ideas and products for FOX.

Key Marking developments include the production of the first FOX shocks for UTVs on the Yamaha Rhino in 2005 and designing most of FOX’s current Off-Road race product line still being produced and winning races on today. Marking developed concepts on his own race car, like the prototype External Bypass on his Class 1 car that he could remotely lock-out to handle like a sports car back when there weren’t speed limits on the Baja highway sections, a precursor for FOX’s current electronic Live Valve semi-active suspension damping technology.

He also worked directly with top FOX racers on special Racing Applications Development (RAD) projects like FOX’s original ECS shock cooler (code named “Cactus Cooler”) with Jesse Jones to conquer the infamous San Felipe whoops. Prior to the External Cooling System, shocks were a limiting factor in Trophy Truck racing. By using the cooler in conjunction with a bypass shock’s rebound circuit to cycle the oil through the cooler, fluid temps were drastically reduced and allowed drivers to push harder, faster, and longer. That component certainly helped set the stage for the performance of modern-day Trophy Trucks.

Here comes Ford

In 2008, after taking notice of FOX’s success with desert racing, the Ford SVT team walked through the doors at FOX’s then Santee shop looking for a suspension solution for their new concept vehicle – the SVT Raptor. Marking convinced them the shock they needed was a 2.5-inch diameter Internal Bypass shock and went to work on design, fitment, testing, and tuning.

When the Raptor was launched in 2010, the OEM truck landscape was forever changed and an all-new benchmark had been set for a factory-built vehicle with off-road capabilities, featuring FOX Internal Bypass shocks. Ford returned in 2012 looking to reduce costs and produce 2.5 Internal Bypass shocks overseas, and Marking brazenly convinced the Detroit powerhouse that what they really needed was to step up to 3.0s instead and that they’d be built by FOX in the USA.

Read “How Live Valve 3.1 Shocks Work On The 2021 Ford Raptor

Eleven years after the initial launch of the Raptor, FOX has partnered with Ford on all three generations of F-150 Raptors. While the latest Raptor features FOX’s Live Valve technology, it still relies on the same race-proven Internal Bypass design he patented decades prior, something consumers now ask for by name.

Going big, going public

Following the launch of an aftermarket product line for trucks and SUVs, FOX went public in 2013 and its growth continued to explode with Marking at the helm of the Truck & Off-Road Division. Once again, FOX’s Internal Bypass design helped revolutionize the UTV industry, first through total domination of UTV desert racing on Polaris RZRs, then by aftermarket demand thanks to that success in racing, and finally capturing the attention of Polaris and being awarded as an OEM spec on a premier level offering.

During his tenure of running the Off-Road Division, Marking grew the business from $600K to $44M from 2001 to 2015.

Today, virtually every UTV OEM manufacturer has spec’d some model of FOX shocks on their off-road vehicles, including top level offerings from Polaris, Can-Am, Honda, Kawasaki, Yamaha and Textron/Arctic Cat, many of which use Marking’s Internal Bypass architecture.

Read “The Intelligence Behind FOX 3.0 Live Valve X2 For RZR

Ford’s flagship Raptor has continued to influence other OEMs looking for on-road comfort and off-road control. The entire line-up of Toyota TRD Pros now come with FOX 2.5 Internal Bypass shocks as does Jeep’s Gladiator Mojave, which also features industry-first hydraulic bump stops designed and built by FOX. As FOX’s latest technology and products trickle through aftermarket products and onto the dealer lot as standard equipment, it’s easy to trace that back to their development and success in racing with Marking at the center of it all.

The Marking legacy continues

“In our quest to push potential further, we truly stand on the shoulders of giants, with John being one of them,” Dennison added. “To keep his memory and winning mindset ‘spark’ alive, we are committing to honor him in name at our newest facility, an innovation experience center currently under development in Arizona. We are also exploring ways to honor him more broadly via efforts that grow and sustain talent, both in racing and performance engineering innovation. These small tokens of our appreciation ensure his remarkable legacy as a determined athlete, revolutionary innovator, and dedicated father will inspire others for years to come.”

Spectacular race, John. See you on the podium. 


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