Australian Motocross Championships Symmons Plains 1981

Australian Motocross Championships Symmons Plains 1981

Australian Motocross Championships Symmons Plains

22-23 August 1981 - symmons plains (tasmania)
1981 Australian Motocross Championships Tasmania - 250cc Stephen Gall
NSW Yamaha Dealer Team rider Stephen Gall retained his 250cc title at the 1981 Australian Motocross Championships at Symmons Plains in Tasmania

Young Leisk wins first Senior Australian Title

The 1981 Australian Motocross Championships at Symmons Plains in Tasmania on 22-23 August will be remembered for Western Australian rider Jeff Leisk’s breakthrough win to secure his first senior national title.

It was also one of the coldest championships on record with overnight temperatures around freezing point with the conditions completely opposite to the previous year at Dargle in New South Wales. 

Dargle was hot and the circuit was spectacular for motocross – fast, hilly, wide and open.  In stark contrast and as the name suggests, Symmons Plains is on a plain and the circuit was flat as a pancake without any man-made obstacles – except for one tiny incline on the main straight. 

The Dargle circuit surface was hard with a layer of black sand on top with the riders looking like they had eye-makeup on, where they were wearing mud packs over their faces (and entire bodies) at Symmons Plains.  Many riders were still wearing open-faced helmets during that era.

The main feature of the Symmons Plains circuit was a creek crossing, which was frozen on the Saturday until the first riders cracked the surface layer during practice.

The cold and wet weather made the conditions difficult for most competitors and the only riders and passengers who had a smiles on their faces were those who won titles or placed.

Photo: The Fanderlinden brothers, Wayne and Dean (26 WA, Norton Wasp), cross the creek at Symmons Plains in practice ahead of  Stephen Anthony-David Kent (3 VIC, Norton Wasp), Barry Buckley-Russell Elmi (11 SA, Norton Wasp) and Cliff Cook-Stephen Foster (6 WA, Norton Wasp).  The creek was frozen over prior to practice with the first rider cracking the top ice layer

The Fanderlinden brothers, Wayne and Dean, cross the creek at Symmons Plains
Darryl Willoughby at the 1981 Australian Championships

South Australian rider Darryl Willoughby on his Yamaha at the 1981 Australian Championships at Symmons Plains gets the 5 minute board from his mechanic, with the rider’s pits in the background

Jeff Leisk won the 125s at the 1981 Australian Motocross Championships – his first in senior ranks

3M Video Trailer of the 1981 Championships

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Gunter wins premier 500cc class to clinch third Aussie Championship

New South Wales rider Anthony Gunter bounced back from injury in 1980 to take victory in the premiere 500cc class – securing his third Australian Championship.

The flat Symmons Plains circuit would have made conditions easier on his body and he comfortably won on his 500cc Kawasaki machine, although he was pressured early by Stephen Gall (NSW, Yamaha).  Gall was forced to withdraw in the first leg due to mechanical problems and Trevor Williams (VIC, Kawasaki) finished second overall with Robert Bailey (NSW, Suzuki) in third.

Earlier on the day Gall retained his crown in the 250cc class having won his first  title in this class at Dargle in New South Wales the year before.  Ray Vandenburg (VIC, Suzuki) was second ahead of Neville Cutts (WA, Honda) in third.  South Australian rider Darryl Willoughby (Yamaha) was well out in front in the first leg, but was fell when lapping a slower rider and dislocated his shoulder.

On the Saturday, Jeff Leisk broke through to win his first senior Australian Championship in the 125cc class.  Riding a Honda, the young Western Australian was in his first year of senior competition and beat Trevor Williams (VIC, Kawasaki) and Trevor Brooks (VIC, Honda). 

This was Leisk’s third Motorcycling Australia National Championship in successive years – having won the Restricted License Holder class at Wanneroo (WA, 1979) and Dargle (NSW, 1980).

Anthony Gunter -1981 Australian 500cc Motocross Champion

Anthony Gunter (NSW, Kawasaki) won the 1981 Australian 500cc Championship – his third title 

1981 Australian Championships -Stephen Gall passes Robert-Bailey in the 500cc class

Stephen Gall (NSW, Yamaha) passes Robert Bailey (NSW, Suzuki) in the 500cc class on the Sunday


The start of the Australian 250cc Championship race on the flat Symmons Plains circuit

Stephen Gall won successive 250cc titles at Symmons Plains

Stephen Gall (NSW) won successive 250cc Australian Motocross Championships at Symmons Plains

Jeff Leisk in the 250cc class at the 1981 Australian Motocross Championships

Jeff Leisk (WA, Honda) found the going tough in the 250s after winning the 125cc Championship

Robert Bailey (NSW Suzuki) in fill wet weather gear in the 500cc race

Robert “Beatle” Bailey (NSW Suzuki) in full wet weather gear in the 500cc race in Tasmania

Bergmeier-Trewin put on a show in the sidecars

The conditions were also difficult for the Sidecar teams.  But spectators got to witness one of the best performances in the history of the Australian Championships in the Junior Sidecars for 500cc machines.

Victorians Russell Bergmeier and Lester Trewin (CZ Wasp) had an amazing win in the fist sidecar leg on the Saturday.

Stalling on the start-line, Bergmeier-Trewin stormed through the field from last position, catching up to race leader Barry Buckley-Russell Elmi (Yamaha Wasp) with just one lap remaining in the 20 minute, plus one lap race.

Catching Buckley-Elmi by surprise, Bergmeier-Trewin passed them right on the finish line to win by just centimeters.  This race was captured on  film – See video below.

Unfortunately, Bergmeier-Trewin didn’t place in this class as they experienced mechanical failure in the second leg with Buckley winning his seventh Australian Sidecar Championship.  South Australian teams made it a clean sweep with Paul Mann-Rodney Harvey (Suzuki Wasp) finishing in second and Mark Roberts-Grant Roberts (Yamaha SPP) in third.

But Bergmeier-Trewin made amends in the Unlimited Sidecar class on the Sunday, winning their first ever Australian Championship on a Weslake Wasp.

Buckley-Elmi capped off a great weekend finishing second on their Norton Wasp ahead of Victorians Brian Stewart- Kim Demarte, who were also on a Norton Wasp.

Race day videos

125cc class

250cc class

500cc class

Junior Sidecar class

Unlimited Sidecar class

All classes

Solo Photo gallery

Photos by Ivan Fisher

The start of the 250cc race [Left to right] Mike Landman (4, VIC Honda), Robert Twyerould (22, SA Suzuki), Darryl Willoughby (31, SA Yamaha), Grant Cramer (14, VIC Yamaha) and Ray Vandenberg (19, VIC Suzuki)

Motocross Championship Results

500cc Sidecars

1 Barry Buckley – Russell Elmi (SA, Yamaha Wasp)
2 Paul Mann – Rodney Harvey (SA, Suzuki Wasp)
3 Mark Roberts – Grant Roberts (SA, Yamaha SPP)

1000cc Sidecars

1 Russell Bergmeier – Lester Trewin (VIC, Weslake Wasp)
2 Barry Buckley – Russell Elmi (SA, Norton Wasp)
3 Brian Stewart – Kim Demarte (VIC, Norton Wasp)


1 Jeff Leisk (WA, Honda)
2 Trevor Williams (VIC, Kawasaki)
3 Trevor Brooks (VIC, Honda)


1 Stephen Gall (NSW, Yamaha)
2 Ray Vandenburg (VIC, Suzuki)
3 Neville Cutts (WA, Honda)


1 Anthony Gunter (NSW, Kawasaki)
2 Trevor Williams (VIC, Kawasaki)
3 Robert Bailey (NSW, Suzuki)


Click here to view the event program

1981 Australian Motocross Championships Simmons Plains Tasmania - Program Cover

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