Motocross Champion Behrens

Motocross Champion Behrens

NSW Motocross Champion John Behrens

John Behrens Golden Breed Pepsi sponsored Honda motocross racer in the 1970s
NSW motocross racer John Behrens Betric Racing
John Behrens in action at old Blue Mountains circuit in 1982 on Honda 490 - Photo by John McNamara

Photos: [Left] NSW motocross rider John Behrens took up the sport at 19 and was fully sponsored within a year; [Centre] Sponsored by Betric Racing in the late 1970s, Behrens was renown for his cross-up aerial jumping;  and [Right] In action at old Blue Mountains circuit in 1982 on Honda 490 (By John McNamara)

Behrens - One of Australia's wildest and most spectacular motocross racers in the 1970s

On 8 April 1975, New South Wales rider John Behrens won the Levi’s Marathon Motocross at Amaroo Park in his home state.

Twenty-three-year-old Behrens, from Blacktown, dominated the 20 lap – 32km marathon race on his Husqvarna 360, beating second placed Victorian Bernie Ryan by more than 36 seconds.

Behrens was one of Australia’s fastest riders in the 1970s and developed a reputation for being one of the wildest and most spectacular riders in the country. 

Photos of his giant crossed-up jumps and mono-wheelies were regularly featured in motorcycle magazines across the country.

John Behrens in action - Australasian Dirt Bike Magazine

Photo: During the 1970s, motocross magazines were filled with photos of John Behrens spectacular jumping and wheelies (By Australasian Dirt Bike)

Behren's background and interest in motocross

A carpenter from Campise, he only started racing at 19 and became professional within a year, switching from soccer (where he was a goalie with Cantebury/Merrickville First Grade Soccer team) and a drummer in a local band (Buckshot).  But accidents and injuries held him back and if he could have cured his penchant for crashing, he would have been one of Australia’s the most successful motocross racers.

Just three years into his racing career, in separate incidents, Behrens broke his foot, elbow, hand, recovered from a blood clot in his hand and twice suffered serious concussion.  But his broken leg, which he sustained in the opening round of the Mr. Motocross series on 11 April 1976 – a week after his Levi’s Marathon Motocross win at the same Amaroo Park circuit – really set him back.

Considered the “eight-ball” to take it up to the favorites in the 1976 Mr. MX series. He was in second place in one of the three races when he dropped his machine and kept blipping the throttle to keep the engine running. But the moving back wheel grabbed his foot and pulled it into the swinging arm, breaking his leg in four places.

As a result of this accident, his injured leg was now half an inch shorter than his other and he was unable to race for 8 months with his second ride back being the final Mr. MX round at the same circuit on 12 September 1976.

From here on Behrens was disadvantaged. Where other riders could exercise hard and long daily, his leg precluded him from running more than half a kilometer at a time. To maintain his strength and fitness, Behrens would work out for an hour each night and do 100 push-ups a day.

1974 Mr Motocross Amaroo Park - Trevor FLood (5) Jack Pengally (12) Gary Flood (2) John Behrens (191) Stephen Gall (55)
1976 Mr Motocross - Final - Amaroo Park - 23 S Gall, 2 Geoff Worrell, 35 Brian Martin, 191 John Behrens 37 Alan McCarthy (By Peter Kitchingman)
1977 Mr Motocross - L to R #191 John Behrens, #0 Ivan Millar (NZ), #1 Anthony Gunter with #285 Ron Graves and #80 Greg Cady in the background, Noel Head starter - By Peter Kitchingman

Mr. Motocross photos at Amaroo Park:
[Top Left] John Behrens (191) behind race leader Trevor Flood in  1
974 ;  (Top  right) Behrens (191) on the start line in 1976 shortly before breaking his leg.  Pictured here with Stephen Gall (23), Geoff Worrell (2), Brian Martin (35) and Alan McCarthy (37); and [Left] Back in action in 1977 – Behrens (191), Ivan Miller (NZ,0), Anthony Gunter (1) with Ron Graves (285), Greg Cady (80) and starter Noel Head  (By Peter Kitchingman)

Behrens podiums at 1976 Nationals in Tivoli (QLD)

John Behrens and Graeme Smythe at 1976 Australian Championships at Tivoli QLD - By Neil Laracy

According to Australian Motocross Champion and Swedish expatriate Hans Appelgren, “Behrens not winning a National Championship was the greatest tragedy of Australian motocross”.

But despite his injury set-backs, Behrens came close to winning a National title when he podiumed in the 250cc class at Tivoli in Queensland on 28 August 1976 after recovering from his broken leg in April.

That year Victorian Mike Landman won his first Australian Motocross Championship in the 250cc class riding a YZ250 Milledge Yamaha, finishing with two second placings. 

Unknown West Aussie Bevan Blakers from Manjimup shocked the stars by easily winning the first leg from Landman.  NSW–based rider Graeme Smythe on a Kawasaki, also from WA, was third and Behrens was fourth on a Honda.

In leg 2, Suzuki-mounted Peter Boyle steamed past Landman and Blakers to win, with Behrens beating Blakers, who dropped to fourth.  John Behrens finished third in the Australian 250cc motocross title on (8-10, 18 points) behind winner Landman (2-2, 24 points) and Blakers (1-4, 23 points).

Behrens continued competition racing for many years, but from here on it was more for fun and he no longer rode on the edge or took the risks he would have done in earlier times.

Photo: John Behrens and Graeme Smythe fighting for a podium spot in the 250cc class at the 1976 Australian Championships in Tivoli QLD (By Neil Laracy)

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