“I started racing in the 1960s, and even back then there was an argument about where the sport of motocross originated. The British claim they started it. The French say the British are crazy and that they started it. It should be noted that motorcycles were raced on dirt since the day they were invented [largely because there weren’t that many paved roads], but the invention of motocross came much later than the 1920s and 1930s as the British and French claim. I’m Belgian, and I was always told that motocross began in the town of Leuven, Belgium, after the Second World War. The original motocross track was in an area known as Sweet Waters.
“The first true international motocross was the 1947 Motocross des Nations at the circuit La Fraineuse near Spa, Belgium [where Formula 1 Grand Prix races are still held today]. The reason that motocross dates from the late 1940s [as opposed to before it] was that, after WWII, there were many surplus military motorcycles available. With lots of inexpensive motorcycles around, it was only natural for sportsmen to start racing them [many of these men had ridden motorcycles in the war, and riding off-road was what interested them]. In fact, many of the first competition motorcycle companies were originally armaments manufacturers. BSA (Birmingham Small Arms), FN (Fabrique National d’armes de guerra), CZ (Ceska Zbrojowka) and Husqvarna all made guns. Need proof? Husqvarna’s logo is a gun sight.
IN AMERICA THERE IS NO ARGUMENT
“In America, there is no argument about the start of the sport of motocross. In 1967 a group of European riders came to America to race a series of events, which started on October 29, 1967, in Pepperell, Massachusetts. The European riders were Dave Bickers, Joel Robert, Torsten Hallman, Stefan Eneqvist, Ake Jonsson, Lars Larsson, the Rickman brothers and myself. By no means were these American races anything like European motocross, but the success of the European riders in this series captured the imagination of American teenagers—and it grew from there.”
1967 PEPPERELL INTERNATIONAL RESULTS
1. Dave Bickers (CZ)…England
2. Joel Robert (CZ)…Belgium
3. Roger DeCoster (CZ)…Belgium
4. Torsten Hallman (Hus)..Sweden
5. Ake Jonsson (Hus)…Sweden
6. Don Rickman (Tri)…England
7. Glenn Vincent (Bul)…USA
8. Dick Mann (BSA)…USA
9. Steffan Eneqvist (Hus)…Sweden
10. Lars Larsson (Hus)…Sweden
Photos: Justyn Norek, James Brammer, MXA archives