Australian Motocross Championships Mosman Park 1955

Australian Motocross Championships Mosman Park 1955

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Australian Motocross Championships Mosman Park

From Scrambling to Motocross - 1955 Peter Nicol wins Australian Championship
1955 Harley Scramble - Peter Nicol 1 and Les Sheehan 2

Photo: [Left] Local rider Peter Nicol (B.S.A.) takes the chequered flag to win the All Powers, 350cc and Harley Scramble at the 1955 Australian Motocross Championships at the Rope Works circuit in WA; [centre] Nicol and Victorian Champion Les Sheehan (B.S.A.) dicing for the outright lead in the Championships; and [right] local Champion Les Clinton, a former Harley Scramble winner.

Nicol wins outright 1955 Australian Championship and Harley Scramble

Local rider Peter Nicol was the overall winner at the 1955 Australian Motocross (Scrambles) Championships held in Mosman Park on Sunday, 26 June 1955 – Western Australia’s first ever National Championships.

Nicol won the prestigious All Powers (Unlimited) class, 350cc class and Harley Scramble in front of more than 15,000 people and collected the huge £130 pound prize money plus trophies – which was almost half a year’s salary for the average worker at the time (equivalent to $50,000 in 2023).

The Australian Championships at the Rope Works circuit covered identical ground to that first circuit constructed by Aub Melrose in 1927, when he established the famous Harley Scramble – which was combined with the National Championships in 1955.

Due to the tremendous appeal of the Harley Scramble format for 27 years, the Auto Council of Australia granted permission for the Australian Championships to follow this format.  

Therefore, instead of classes being run separately over short distances, all groups were run concurrently and covered the same number of laps with the class winners determined by their finishing positions and the size of their machines.

The 2.5 mile cross-country course consisted of limestone quarries and sand tracks, with a number of steep ascents and descents. 

Showing Aub Melrose’s TT background, riders were started in pairs at 10-second intervals, with each competitor allotted his own clock. 

The total distance was approximately 60 miles with all competitors covering ten laps in the morning section and fourteen laps in the afternoon section.

Nicol’s sponsor Mortlocks ordered a new 500cc Gold Star B.S.A. for Nicol to ride in the ’55 Championships.  But as it didn’t arrive in time, Nicol was given a new 350cc Gold Star B.S.A. off the showroom floor, which he rode to triple victory.

Image – 1955 Australian Scramble Championship Program Cover.

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1955 Australian Scrambles Championships Ropeworks Mosman Park Western Australia

Sheehan heads interstate challenge

1955 Australian Championships- Les Sheehan leads Peter Nicol at the Rope Works circuit in WA

Victorian Les Sheehan leads Peter Nicol at the Rope Works circuit in WA during the morning’s race at the 1955 Australian Championships

Only four interstate competitors made the long journey to the west. 

They were the NSW champion and representative Charles Scaysbrook, the newly-returned overseas scramble campaigner from Victoria, Les Sheehan, and top South Aussies Les Jesser and Jim Silvy.

These championships were the first to establish the early supremacy of West Australian motocross riders – mainly due to the demanding nature of the WA courses and the gruelling distances over which they were held.

In the Unlimited class, Nicol faced stiff opposition from Les Sheehan (Victoria) who had ridden for the A.J.S. Works Team in Europe and returned with an ex-works 500cc A.J.S. machine for the event.

Sheehan was the best-performed of the visitors and won the first one-hour leg from 112 starters, with Nicol in second – 22 seconds behind.

But Sheehan’s luck ran out just after the restart when his frame broke, leaving Nicol and Ron Edwards to battle it out. Nicol won the race and was the outright winner ahead of WA riders Ron Edwards and Bill Watson, making it a clean sweep for B.S.A. machines.

Watson was also third in the 500cc with South Australian Les Jesser (B.S.A.) second behind Nicol in the 350s.

While Les Jesser was the only visitor to finish on the podium, the abilities of Charlie Scaysbrook were not overlooked by the crowd. Riding a particularly unsuitable rigid-framed 350 Matchless, Scaysbrook held second place in the 350 class until the closing laps when he noticed a broken oil line. 

One of the most impressive performances of the day was by the 250 class winner, Johnny Rock, who rode his 200cc Francis Barnett into eighth place outright some 14 minutes in arrears of Nicol.

Huge start and prizemoney for the top riders

1954 Bill Watson at the Harley Scramble, The Rope Works in Mosman Park

Bill Watson, from Kalgoorlie,  placed second in the 500cc class and third in the All Powers at the 1955 Australian Championships

If the nature of the course was a surprise for the visitors, so too was the incredible prize money. 

On top of the race winnings, each visitor was presented with a cheque for £10 pounds to cover their travelling expenses from the eastern states, more than the basic wage.

Only 38 solo riders finished the event and the 125cc and sidecar classes were not held that year due to insufficient entries.

As the racing machines were street bikes, many entrants rode their machines to and from the course.  

Bill Watson, who placed in two classes on the day, regularly rode his B.S.A. Gold star from Kalgoorlie to Perth –370 miles (593 kms) one way. 

Earlier in 1952, Bill rode this same bike across the Nullabor from Perth to Sydney to compete in scrambles on the east coast.

Amazingly Bill, who is now in his early nineties, still has a racing licence today and last competed at the National level in 2019 – at the VMX championships at Harrisville in Queensland.

1955 Australian Motocross Championship Results

1955 Australian and Western Australian Scrambles Champion John Rock

Photo:  Johnny Rock, rode his 200cc Francis Barnett into eighth place outright


1 John Rock (WA, Francis Barnett)
John Shaw (WA, James)
3 No other finishers


1 Peter Nicol (WA, B.S.A.)
Les Jesser (SA, B.S.A.)
3 No other finishers


1 Ron Edwards (WA, B.S.A.)
Bill Watson (WA, B.S.A.)
Eric Kosonen (WA, B.S.A.)

All Powers (Unlimited)

1 Peter Nicol (WA, B.S.A.)
2 Ron Edwards (WA, B.S.A.)
3 Bill Watson (WA, B.S.A.)

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