Australia Supercross History – birth down under – Chapter 1

Australia Supercross History – birth down under – Chapter 1

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Birth of supercross down under

1979 Belmont Stadium Motocross on 7 April 1979, won by 2 Graeme Smythe
1979 Mike Bell USA in action at the Stefan Superbowl of Supercross event at Archerfield in Brisbane

Photos: The first Superbowl of Motocross event in Australia was first held in 1978 as part of the Perth Motorcycle Show at the Claremont Showgrounds (WA)  and then at the Belmont Race Course [left] in subsequent years; and [right] American Mike Bell USA at the 1979 Stefan’s Superbowl of Motocross in Brisbane.

From 'Superbowl of Motocross' to 'Supercross'

Like the birth of supercross in America, the story played out in Australia in a similar way. Speedway promoters could see the potential to introduce a brand new audience to the sport – bringing motocross from the country to city venues.   They ran the first stadium motocross events on the infield at various speedway tracks across the country in the late 1970s, before moving into packed stadiums.

According to an event program, the first organised stadium motocross in Australia took place at the Claremont Showgrounds in Western Australia, on 28 May 1978, organised by the A.J.S. Motorcycle Club as part of the three-day Perth Motorcycle Show.

Then Speedway promoter, Con Migro and Ian Legge, organised the show and had a man-made motocross track built across this clay speedway track and infield. 

Thirty of WA’s top motocross riders were invited to compete in four 20 minute races with Australian motocross legend Graeme Smythe winning the inaugural annual event, as well as the second which was moved to the Belmont Racecourse (horseracing track) over the 6-9 April 1979 weekend.

Earlier, in Victoria, an event billed as Australia’s first stadium motocross was planned to be held at the South Melbourne Football ground. But not enough riders were interested, so those who entered had their money refunded.

However, the first large-scale stadium motocross in Australia was held at Sydney’s Parramatta Raceway on 16 July 1978. Speedway promoter, Sid Hopping ran a similar event to the earlier one at Claremont Speedway featuring Australia’s top Mr. Motocross series riders.

Hopping ran many early supercross events, with the 10 November 1978 Stadium Supercross event billed as “Australia’s first night supercross”, held in the evening under lights.

Anthony Gunter and Stephen Gall were the star attractions, with each winning the Unlimited and 250cc classes, respectively and collecting a brand new YZ400 and YZ250 donated by the Brian Collins Motorcycles dealership – the major sponsor of the event. Due to the success of this event, other states quickly followed.

1978 The West Australian - promotion with Graeme Smythe for April Superbowl of Motocross at Claremont Speedway - By Ray Ryan
1978 Paramatta Supercross, Granville NSW
1979 Stadium Motocross, Belmont Racecourse (WA) - winner Graeme Smythe

Photos: [Top] WA motocross legend Graeme Smythe and a model promoting the May 1978 Superbowl of Motocross at Claremont Speedway (WA) from a story in the West Australian newspaper (By Ray Ryan);  [Centre]  An advertisement promoting the first “night” supercross at  Paramatta Sydney Raceway, which was won by Anthony Gunter / Stephen Gall ; and [Bottom]  photos and the program cover from the 1979 stadium motocross event at Belmont, WA.

Australia's first real Supercross events

1979 Stefan Superbowl of Motocross winners Mike Bell USA, Yamaha, Rex Staten and Stephen Gall
1979 Stefan Superbowl of Motocross - Program Cover - 24 November

Photos: [top] 1979 Stefan Superbowl of Motocross winners Mike Bell (USA), Rex Staten (USA) and Stephan Gall (NSW); and [bottom] event program

On 24 November 1979, Australian speedway speedcar champion and promoter Blair Shepherd staged the first Stefan Superbowl of Motocross at the Archerfield Speedway in Brisbane.  It was named the “Stefan’s Superbowl of Motocross” after the major sponsor Stefan Ackerie, who owned (and still does) a chain of hairdressing salons across Queensland and New South Wales.

US rider Mike Bell took out this inaugural event beating home compatriot Rex Staten, with Gall claiming the final step on the podium and being the first Aussie home.

Shepherd then took the Supercross show to Sydney, staging two magnificent events at the Sydney Speedway in 1980, which was held at the then Sydney Showgrounds at Moore Park, which were filled to capacity.

Promoted as an International event and exploiting the “Australia vs USA” theme, the entertainment included American stunt rider Doug Domokos who did wheelies around the track before the cameras on press day.

The first Sydney Supercross was also held that same year with Rex Staten winning in controversial style ahead of countryman Marty Smith and local hero Stephen Gall. Local hero Gall was leading for the majority of the 20-lap final until Staten deliberately crashed into him with a few laps remaining.

But a year later, Gall came up trumps in the 1981 Sydney event and took a rousing victory ahead of American national champ, Jammin’ Jimmy Weinert.

1981 also saw Supercross move west to Bunbury, two hours south of Perth, and south to the Victorian capital of Melbourne.  Bunbury City Speedway Director, and former Australian Speedcar Champion John Fenton staged the first Superbowl of Motocross at the Bunbury Speedway, a week after the Sydney event, which Fenton and other WA officials attended.

Stephen Gall won the 20-lap final, ahead of Jeff Leisk, Ron Sun (brother of 1980 AMA 500cc Champion Chuck Sun), Beatle Bailey, and Anthony Gunter. Leisk was only sixteen at the time and had just moved up from juniors into senior competition and led the race for 12 laps until he was passed by the more experienced Gall who had just returned from racing and training in the United States with Anthony Gunter.

Fenton would later move to Queensland and run hundreds of supercross events throughout 1980s to 1990s.

1980 Stefan Superbowl of Motocross winner Mike Bell USA, Yamaha
Placegetters in the 1980 Coca-Cola Superbowl of Motocross in Sydney [L-R] Rex Staten (first), Stephen Gall (third) and Marty Smith (second)
1981 Bunbury Supercross - Ron Sun (US, 3rd), Stephen Gall (1st) and Jeff Leisk (2nd) - Peter Kitchingman

Photos:  [left] American Mike Bell  in 1980, won the Stefan Superbowl of Motocross three years in a row (1979-1981);  [centre] Placegetters in the 1980 Coca-Cola Superbowl of Motocross in Sydney [L-R] Rex Staten (first), Stephen Gall (third) and Marty Smith (second); and [right] 1981 Bunbury Supercross presentations – Stephen Gall (NSW, 1st), Heff Leisk (WA, 2nd) and Ron Sun (US, 3rd) – By Peter Kitchingman

American Doug Domokos - the "wheelie king"

Doug Domokos motocross stunt rider and wheelie king

American stuntman Doug Domokos performing in Australia during the 1980s

American stunt rider – the late Doug Domokos – was a regular entertainer at Australian Supercross events during the 1980s and first performed down under at the 1980 Coca-cola Superbowl of Supercross.  

As a promotion leading up to the 19 April event, Domokos rode a Kawasaki motocross bike on one wheel right across the Sydney Harbour Bridge.   Domokos was so good he forged a professional career as a stunt motorcyclist, performing right across the world. He went on to hold held many world records, including the World’s Longest Wheelie and the World’s Tallest Wheelie.

In 1984 he made it into the Guinness Book of World Records with his 145 mile long wheelie at Talladega Speedway, a record that would stand for over 8 years.  Then later he mono wheeled 5 circles on the roof of the Empire State Building.

Sadly, on 26 November 2000, Domokos died at age 44 in an ultralight aircraft accident. The accident happened in Murrieta, California.  He was survived by his fiancee and son, Nikolas.

Early Australian Supercross promoters

Australian speedway promoters Con Migro (Claremont, WA), Sid Hopping (Parramatta, NSW) and Blair Shepherd (Brisbane, QLD) were the first to run the stadium motocross events in Australia. But when the real supercross events – as we know the sport today – got under way in the 1980s, it was Shepherd who led the way running big events in Brisbane and Sydney.

Soon after we saw John Fenton and Phil Christensen, who would both go onto become Australia’s most prolific supercross promoters.  Fenton, who hosted the Bunbury Supercross events in the early 1980s, moved from Perth to Brisbane and established Motocross Promotions – staging hundreds of supercross events on the east coast through to the 1990s, as well as hosting the 1990 Mr. Motocross series and inaugural Australian Supercross Championships under a new consortium – Empire Promotions Australia.

Christensen, from Spokes Promotions, established the Supercross Masters in 1981, which would become a series in 1989, then attain Australian Championship status between 1993 to 2007.

Another syndicate of promoters from Western Australia – who ran the annual Fremantle Supercross, then later the Burswood Stadium Supercross – included Kim Parsons and Bob Leisk – Jeff Leisk’s father, who have both sadly passed away. They also ran the famous 1984 Chelsea Supercross in England, which Australian Stephen Gall won.

Supercross promoter Blair Sheppard
John Fenton, from Motocross Promotions, interviews a supercross rider
Phil Christensen Australian Supercross Masters at a media shoot
Bob Leisk and Kim Parsons Supercross promoters

Photos:  [Left to right] Australian speedcar champions, turned supercross promoters – Blair Shepperd [Left] and John Fenton;  Supercross Masters promoter Phil Christensen; and  West Australian  supercross promoters Bob Leisk (Jeff’s father) and Kim Parsons at the Burswood Superdome in Perth.

Historic Australian Supercross Video Gallery

Video: Aussie Motocross Classic Events – Stefan Superbowl of MX

Video: 1980 Sydney Supercross, Sydney Showgrounds

Video: Doug Domokos crossing the Sydney Harbour Bridge on one wheel

Australian Supercross History ChapterS

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Australian Motocross History