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Australian Motocross Championship List MXW and history of women’s racing

Australian Motocross Championship List MXW and history of women’s racing

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Australian MXW Champions & history of women's racing

1963 Jill Savage on a Greeves Hawkestone at Tweseldown - Female British motocross rider, who sold bike to John Burrows - Women
Women's motocross - Ele Knowles - AKA Maico Mama
Australian MXW Champion Meghan Rutledge (with insert) by Jack Foley

Photos: [Left]  British motocross pioneer Jill Savage on a Greeves competed  down under in the 1960s; [Centre]  American expatriate Ele Knowles – AKA Maico Mama – was competitive against the men on the east coast in the 1970s; and [Right] Australia’s most successful women’s motocross rider – Meghan Rutledge – two-times World Runner-up Champion (2013 and 2014) and four times National Champion (2011-12 and 2018-19) – by Jack Foley

Australian women racing motocross since the 1920's

Women’s motocross is now an established sport around the world with National Championships staged throughout Europe, the United States and Australia.

The Women’s FIM Motocross World Cup was established in 2005, becoming the WMX (Women Motocross) World Championship in 2008. In Australia, the National WMX Championship has been running since 2007 with New Zealander Katherine Prumm winning the inaugural National title on a 125cc Kawasaki.

But it may surprise you that women have been racing motorcycles for over 100 years, even in Australia!

Just four years after the sport of motocross (Scrambles as it was called in the early days) was created in England in 1924, women competed in Australia’s first annual established motocross – The Harley Scramble. 

From the inaugural event, the Venice Trophy was awarded to the first lady completing the grueling Ropeworks course with the earliest races lasting over 2 and a half hours.

It was really tough for women in the early years as the majority of machines were large, heavy four stroke machines with Ken Vincent winning the first Harley Scramble in 1928 on a 1200cc Harley Davidson. 

Unlike purpose built motocross bikes of today, the racing bikes in the 1920s to 1950s were street machines that were stripped down for competition mode.

As the sport evolved across the world, women were banned from racing with men and separate competitions were established in the 1970s just for women with different rules and smaller sized bikes. 

Women generally race bikes that are 125cc or 250cc because they are not big enough to ride the 450cc bikes.

These differences make it hard for men and women to compete together however today it is allowed again, but women rarely qualify or make it into the main events because their practice laps and heat times are not fast enough.

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How women's motocross evolved around the world

Photo: Nancy Payne – America’s first National Women’s Champion in 1974

Women’s motocross began in Europe in the early 1950s and 1960s and moved to the United States in the middle of the 1960s. This was during the time that women’s equality movements were strong, helping the WMX sport to grow.

In 1971, American Kerry Kleid was the first woman to receive a professional AMA motocross rider license, which was revoked after it was discovered that she was a woman. When processing her license paperwork, the registry did not know that she was a female because there was no box that indicated this information. When she showed up at the first race in Unadilla, she was told that she could not race because she was a woman. Kerry then went to court and eventually won her license back. This was the first time in history of the sport in the United States when women understood that they could become professional racers.

In 1974 the first “Powder Puff” National Championship took place which marked the first time that a specifically women’s National Championship was available for female motocross riders in the United States. The following year, the event’s name was changed from the Powder Puff National Championship to the Women’s Motocross Nationals. This championship took place ever year consecutively from 1975 through to today.

Prior to the Women’s FIM Motocross World Cup being established in 2005, a World Women’s Motocross Championship was held for various classes and age groups, with the 1994 event held in the USA.

The first women to race in Australia, against the men

In the 1960s, English motocross pioneer Jill Savage competed down under on a Greeves, one of the first purpose-built scramble bikes, with Australian motocross legend John Burrows buying this bike from Jill.

Then in the 1970s, American Ele Knowles from Greenwich, Connecticut competed on the east coast. 

Known as “Maico Mama”, after the brand of bike she raced, Ele’s first motocross event was at Bilpin, New South Wales on 3 April 1972 and, although she fell off several times, she persevered and became a regular club day and open rider. 

Beating many of the male riders on her Maico machine, she really drew the admiration of her male competitors and spectators.

In the late 1970s, clubs across Australia started introducing races just for women at both open and club events.

The development of minibikes and introduction of junior motocross competitions across Australia during this period really opened the floodgates for young girls developing their skills at a young age and gradually progressing through the classes and bigger bikes until reaching seniors.

In 1976, 15-year-old Cessnock (NSW) schoolgirl Louise Rooney became Australia’s first professional female racer, earning a sponsorship with the Kawasaki AMCO team alongside Graeme Smythe (WA) and Jeff Woodham (NSW). However, because of the strict age license restrictions in her home state, Louise was only allowed to compete interstate in open competition.

In the early 1980’s, Jenny Atkinson (nee Miller) was extremely fast and very competitive up against the men. Jenny earned sponsorship from Racing Mate, knowing that the beautiful young lady would be a great ambassador for the sport and their brand.

In 1994, Queensland sisters Jodie and Tania Millard won their respective classes at the 1994 World Women’s Motocross Championships in America, with Jodie winning the Junior Cup and Tania the Intermediate Class.

Elle Knowles - AKA Maico Mama - was a fan favorite in the 1970s
Elle Knowles - AKA Maico Mama 666 - with Pelle Granquist

Photos:  [Top] Elle Knowles – AKA Maico Mama – was a fan favorite in the 1970s; and [Bottom] Knowles in good company with Swedish expat. Pelle Granquist

WA Women's motocross at Northam late 1970s - Viv Wimmer (Nee Oliver), Carol Maxfield and Barb Woodward - By Peter Kitchingman
Jenny Miller MXW, raced with men in the 1980s and was a sponsored rider for Racing Mate

Photos:  [Left]  WA Women’s motocross at Northam late 1970s – Viv Wimmer (Nee Oliver), Carol Maxfield and Barb Woodward – By Peter Kitchingman; and [Right]  Jenny Atkinson (Nee Miller) had a successful racing career in motocross  up against men in the 1980s and was a sponsored rider for Racing Mate. 

1996 Jodie and Tania Millard Queensland Motocross Champions and 1994 World Cup winners in their classes - ADB Magazine
2008 and 2010 Women's Australian Motocross Champion - Kristy Gillespie - Motorcycling Victoria

Photos:  [Left]  1994  World Women’s Motocross Champions Jodie and Tania Millard from Queensland (ADB Magazine); and  2008 and 2010 Women’s Australian Motocross Champion Kristy Gillespie (Motorcycling Victoria)

Australia's most successful MXW Champions

From the 1990s, the number of motocross races for women across the country has continued to grow with most states hosting open and State Championship competitions.  The Australian MXW Motocross Championships were first introduced in 2007 and continue today with rounds being held as part of the Penrite ProMX Motocross Championship Series.

New South Wales rider Meghan Rutledge is this country’s most successful female racer winning four National MXW Championships in 2011 -12 and 2018 – 19, all aboard Kawasaki machines.

Victorian Yamaha rider Maddy Brown won three National titles in 2014, 2015 and 2017, with Reigning MXW Champion Charli Cannon from Queensland winning back-to-back titles in 2022-23 on a Yamaha.

All three women have competed in the World FIM MXW Championships with Meghan Rutledge finishing second to multiple World Champion Fontanesi Chiara from Italy in 2013 and 2014, missing out on becoming Australia’s first World Motocross Champion by just 5 points in 2014.

Australia is yet to have a World Motocross Champion in senior motocross with these three riders all coming Runner-up World Champions – Jeff Leisk (500cc 1989), Chad Reed (250cc 2001) and the late Andrew McFarlane (MX2, 2005).  Both Jeff Leisk (1979) and Jay Wilson Todd (2009) won World Championships in their respective age groups in the World Junior Motocross competitions.

 

Four-times Australian Women's Champion Meghan Rutledge - 2011, 12, 18, 19 - ADB
2017 Australian women's championships MXW class - 1 Maddy Brown, 2 Jessica Moore and 3 Tori Dare
2023 Charli Cannon - ProMX MXW leader after 1 round

Photos:  Some of Australia’s most successful female motocross racers – [Left] Two-times World MXW Runner-up Champion Megan Rutledge (2013-14) and four-times Australian Champion (2011, 12, 18, 19) – ADB; [Centre] 2017 Australian MX1  placegetters – Maddy Brown (1st), Jessica Moore (2nd) and Tori Dare (3rd); and [Right] 2022-23 Penrite AMX Pro MXW Champion Charli Cannon – By  ProMX Photographer.

Australian MXW Motocross Champions

2022 Penrite AMX Pro Championship Coolum - EZILIFT MXW Champion Charli Cannon

Reigning Australian MXW Champion Charli Cannon (Yamaha) from Queensland.

2007 Katherine Prumm (NZ, Kawasaki)
2008 Kristy Gillespie (NSW, KTM)
2009 Tori Dare (QLD, Yamaha)
2010 Kristy Gillespie (NSW, KTM)
2011 Meghan Rutledge (NSW, Kawasaki)
2012 Meghan Rutledge (NSW, Kawasaki)
2013 Not held
2014 
Maddy Brown (VIC, Yamaha)
2015 Maddy Brown (VIC, Yamaha)

2016 Jessica Moore (WA, KTM)
2017 Maddy Brown (VIC, Yamaha)
2018 Meghan Rutledge (NSW, Kawasaki)
2019 Meghan Rutledge (NSW, Kawasaki)
2020 Not held
2021 Not held
2022 Charli Cannon (QLD, Yamaha)
2023 Charli Cannon (QLD, Yamaha)

MXW Videos

A Day in the Life of Hannah Hodges motocross | RADMX

Meghan Rutledge – On Her Way | Kawasaki Australia and New Zealand

Meet the Women of MXW | ProMX Motocross Championship Australia

MXW Timeline

1928-64

From the inaugural Harley Scramble in 1928, the Venice Trophy was awarded to the first lady completing the grueling Ropeworks course at Mosman Park, WA.

1950’s

Women’s motocross began in Europe

1960’s

The sport of motocross moved to the United States. During this time women’s equality movements were strong, helping the WMX sport to grow.

1960’s

English motocross pioneer Jill Savage competed down under on a Greeves, one of the first purpose-built scramble bikes, with Australian motocross legend John Burrows buying this bike from Jill.

1971

American Kerry Kleid was the first woman to receive a professional AMA motocross rider license, which was revoked after it was discovered that she was a woman. After going to court, Kerry won her license back.

1974

The first “Powder Puff” National Championship took place which marked the first time that a specifically women’s National Championship was available for female motocross riders in the United States.

Mid ’70s

American Ele Knowles from Greenwich, Connecticut competed on the east coast of Australia, taking it up to the men at club and open events.

1976

15-year-old Cessnock (NSW) schoolgirl Louise Rooney became Australia’s first professional female racer, earning a sponsorship with the Kawasaki AMCO team

Late ’70s

Clubs across Australia started introducing races just for women at both open and club events.

1980’s

Jenny Atkinson (nee Miller) raced against the men, earning sponsorship from Racing Mate.

1980’s

The development of minibikes and introduction of junior motocross competitions across Australia during this period opened the floodgates for young girls.

1990’s

Clubs across the country started hosting open and State Championship competitions for women.

2007

The Australian MXW Motocross Championships were introduced with New Zealander Katherine Prumm winning the inaugural National title on a 125cc Kawasaki.

2013

Meghan Rutledge finished second in FIM World MXW Champion ship, behind Italy’s Fontanesi Chiara.

2014

Meghan Rutledge just missed out on becoming Australia’s first World Motocross Champion, finishing second by just 5 points – again to Fontanesi Chiara.

AMXH Australian Motocross Champions List - Poster - MXW Class Updated 2023

Other Australian Champions (by class)

Click on the photos below to view the Australian Champions list for all classes

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Australian Motocross History