The Stars of Motocross

Published: 14th July 2011
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Considered one of the most exciting and thrilling motorcycling sports of all times, motocross has many ardent enthusiasts as participants as well as fans all around the world. The sport has grown in popularity in an enormous manner over the decades. What started as a simple off-road biking game in Great Britain has now become one of most-watched and loved sports not only in Europe, but in other countries as well.

This change has been evident as the premier championship event in motocross, the F.I.M. Motocross World Championship, which started a worldwide motocross series in 1952 as the European Championship, has extended across continents.

The early days of the Motocross World Championship witnessed, largely, Belgian dominance at the winning positions. Victor Leloup was the rider to have won the championship in its inaugural year. Second position was taken by his fellow countryman Auguste Mingels. This marked the first of Belgian victories in what followed as a series of motocross wins for the riders. The rider to accompany the Belgians that year in third position was Great Britain’s John Avery. The Belgian dominance continued over the next few years, with René Baeten and Nic Jansen, apart from Leloup and Mingels as the reigning stars in motocross championships.

Some of the British stars that dominated the motocross scene in those days were Avery, along with Jeff Smith and John Draper. The championship also had some Swedish riders such as Bill Nilsson and Sten Lundin. While Nilsson won his first ever F.I.M. in 1957, and then in 1960, Lundin ruled the roost in 1959 and 1961. Both riders continued to ride high in the 500cc category during this period.

These were the days of 500cc motorcycles, and the championship continued with these until the 250cc engines were introduced in Motocross World Championship. In 1957, when the 250cc engines entered the F.I.M. it was the German riders that took the cake. Fritz Betzelbacher won first place, while his fellow countryman Willi Oesterle stood second that year. Czechoslovakia’s Jaromir Cizek followed the Germans in third place. Czechoslovakian dominance grew strongly over the next few years as Cizek and his fellow countrymen Miroslav Souchek, Vlastimil ValekPetr Dobry Jaroslav Falta were seen as some of the winning stars in motocross.

Another strong presence in the Motocross World Championship series was that of Sweden. While Nilsson and Lundin were stars of the early days, in the era of the 250cc engines, some prominent names were those of Torsten Hallman, Hakan Anderson, Olle Petterson and Torlief Hansen.

1975 witnessed the introduction of the 125cc engines to the F.I.M. The first championship event was again dominated by Belgium, with Gaston Rahier in first position and fellow countryman Gilbert de Roover in second. Czechoslovakian Antoin Baborawsky took the third place in the championship that year. Rahier continued to win the championship for next two consecutive years and then take second place in 1978. Belgian dominance continued with motocross riders such as Harry Everts, Eric Geboersm and Stefan Everts.

Motocross has been a sport that has attracted riders from all countries in all its years of formalized existence. Motocross enthusiasm developed multi-fold with the sport becoming popular in the United States and the first motocross series being held there in 1972. Some of the motocross stars from the country included Brad Lackey, Jimmy Weinert, Kent Howerton, Marty Smith, Rick Burgett, Chuck Sun, Danny LaPorte and Broc Glover.

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