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Motocross Champion Colin Cook

Motocross Champion Colin Cook

WA Motocross Champion Colin Cook

1985 Western Classic Sidecars - Colin Cook and Mark Ewens
Colin Cook - 3 times WA State Sidecarcross Champion

Photos:  Colin Cook and Mark Ewens  (WA, Yamaha EML) in action during the 1985 Western Sidecarcross Classic  at Rockingham; and [right] Colin in 1985 at Rockingham (insert) and a painting of Colin and  Stephen Foster racing at Beverley in 1983.

'Cookie' - a pioneer of sidecarcross in WA

Western Australian Colin Cook was a pioneer of sidecarcross in WA and won three State Championships over a career that spanned three decades, including Vintage motocross (VMX), between the 1970s to 1990s.

Before moving to three-wheel racing, Colin raced speedway solos at Bibra Lake as well as motocross, where he became an A grade rider.

After Colin twice finished second in the WA State Sidecarcross Championships to Peter Mabbs / Phil Ford (Triumph, 1976) and Jack McDonnell / Campbell Leitch (Norton Wasp, 1977), he and passenger Bob Sharpe broke through to win back-to-back titles in 1978 and 1979 aboard a Norton Wasp.

Colin and Bob contested the Australian Motocross Championships at Broadford (VIC) in 1978 and Wanneroo in 1979 (WA), injuring his ankle at that meeting which saw his younger brother Cliff finish second in the Junior Sidecar title. 

Cliff would also follow in Colin’s footsteps and go on to win multiple WA sidecarcross titles, winning four between 1987 and 1990.

Throughout the 1980s, Colin rode Yamaha four-strokes, both in WASP and EML frames, with a variety of long-term passengers including Sharpe, Stephen Foster, Greg Tate, Steven Donnelly and Mark Ewens.  

The Cook-Ewens Team won the 1986 WA State Championship aboard a Yamaha EML, making it Colin’s third title, which came seven years apart from his last in 1979.

Colin was married to wife Rose and had two children – Richard and Melissa.  For more than 25 years, he drove one of the John Day Racing utes as an official at Claremont Speedway, marshalling the speedcars during their races. The midgets were one of his favourite classes, as well as the sidecars and solos.

Sadly, on 9 August 2022, Colin passed away suddenly after suffering a fatal heart attack, two days after attending a VMX event at Wandering.

1966 Colin Cook chasing Les Sharpe at Bibra Lake Speedway

Colin Cook chasing Les Sharpe at Bibra Lake Speedway in 1966

1977 Southern Cross - Colin Cook and Bob Sharpe

Colin Cook and Bob Sharpe at Southern Cross in 1977 aboard their Norton WASP sidecar outfit

The famous WA No.5 Motocross Racing Plate

For almost three decades, Colin Cook raced sidecarcross in Western Australia with the Number 5 plate.  This was also his solo motocross number in the 1970s.  Looking back in time, the No. 5 plate has been the most successful in WA Motocross History. 

When Colin switched from solos to sidecars in 1975, he retained his No.5 motocross number, which he passed onto up-and-coming teenage motocross sensation Jeff Leisk in 1979 when Leisk moved up into seniors. 

Leisk went onto win three WA State Motocross Championships with the No.5 plate (1979 and 1980 Restricted License Holder and 1981 250 titles) before moving over east, then pursuing an international racing career.  Throughout his career, Leisk won 8 Australian and two Mister Motocross titles, raced in the USA, then was the runner-up World 500cc Motocross Champion in 1989.

Prior to Colin getting the No.5 racing plate in the seventies, another WA rider who excelled on the National and International stage and rode with this number was the famous Charlie West.   West won more than 17 State titles across the country (9 in WA) and seven Australian Motocross Championships between 1956 and 1961 before moving to England in 1962 where he raced International motocross for three years.

Between West’s first WA State Motocross title in 1956 and Colin’s third State WA Sidecarcross title thirty years later in 1986 , these three riders won a combined 15 state motocross titles riding with the No.5 plate.

Charlie West motocross - No 5 plate at Harley Scramble in late 1950s
1971 Shrubland Park, Bunbury - John Boyce about to fall on Colin Cook (5) & Laurie Johnson
Jeff Leisk with his father Bob, back riding with Honda

Photos:  WA No.5 riders in action  [Left] the great Charlie West, who was Australia’s top rider in the late 1950s, early 1960s; [centre] Colin Cook racing solos in 1971 at the Shrubland Park Circuit in  Bunbury.  Here John Boyce is about to fall on him with Laurie Johnson behind them; and [right] 1989 Runner-up World 500cc Champion Jeff Leisk with his father Bob at Noble Falls in the early 1980s.

Where it all began for Colin

Colin was born in Nottingham, England on 12 January 1947, two years after the end of World War II. The family didn’t have a car and his father Les would transport the family around on a Triumph-powered sidecar. His sister Jan would sit on the seat behind their dad, with Colin and his mum Gladys in the chair.  According to his younger brother Cliff, this was probably the last time he ever rode as a passenger.  It was through this introduction to motorbikes that Colin developed an affiliation with both sidecars and Triumphs.

The Cook family migrated to Australia in March 1955 after originally planning to migrate to South Africa. But this did not work out and they were lured to Perth by a family friend and set up home in Saint James.  Colin and his own family purchased the house next door, where he lived until his final days. 

As a teenager, Colin was a ‘Skid Kid’ (see photo below), part of the pushbike brigade at Claremont Speedway who raced on the track before the main events got under way.  After finishing  high school, Colin became a sheet metal worker and self-taught mechanic and worked on his own bikes with help from close friend and businessman Kevin Kerr, from Kerr Engineering. 

According to Colin’s mate Paul ‘Johnno’ Johnston, ‘Cookie’ was always on a shoestring budget and would ride anything he could get hold off.  In his late teens, Colin became a member of the BSA Motor Cycle Club, which was originally established in 1924, but after World War II branched out into other forms of motorcycling, including road-racing and motocross (scrambles as it was called in those days).

The BSA MCC did not have a permanent home and would host meetings at various racing venues, including Herne Hill and Guildford, where they hosted the annual “Mud Scramble” and grass track race in the 1950s.  Colin’s first scrambles bike was a 500cc BSA and he was an active club member and, along with many others, helped build the famous Noble Falls motocross circuit when the club received the land at Gidgegannup in 1970.  One of his best memories there came in 1978, when he and Bob Sharpe won the BSA Sidecar Cup.

While racing solos, Colin switched to Husqvarna’s and joined the Lightweight MCC, spending many days riding at their home Byford circuit, as well as helping his new club, and other clubs, to build and maintain their tracks.

Colin Cook - Claremont Speedway Skid Kid
Charlie West #5 standing, Max Annear #93, Mick Hutton #92 - BSA MCC Guildford Grasstrack

Photos:  [Left] As a teenager, Colin was a ‘Skid Kid’  at Claremont Speedway; and [right] Colin was an active member of the BSA Motorcycle Club.  Prior to acquiring the Noble Falls motocross circuit at Gidgegannup, the club hosted an annual  grass track race at Guildford (See left – Charlie West  with No.5 on his back standing, No. 92 Mick Hutton and No. 93 Max Annear prior to a sidecar race) .

Switching from motocross to sidecarcross

It was in 1974 when the Australian Motocross Championships came to Manjimup, WA that Colin took an interest in sidecars and decided to switch from solos.  

Taking photos from the top Eastern State team’s bikes, Colin built his first homebrew sidecar, which was powered by a Triumph engine of course, with help from Eric Iskra, Bob Sharpe and Kevin Kerr. 

He teamed up with Sharpe for the 1975 season, but Eric stepped in when Bob’s license didn’t arrive on time. They also built a sidecar ‘squatter’ which they raced at the Osborne Park Grasstracks, Forrestfield Speedway and Mandurah Salt Lakes where Eric broke his leg while swinging for Colin.

It was around this time that Colin Introduced his younger brother Cliff to sidecars when they teamed up at the old Albany Motocross track on Don Johnston’s 360 Bultaco outfit. Colin’s simple words of advice to Cliff were “don’t let go” and he obviously took this advice literally (as you can see in the photo below) as when they crashed, he was still hanging on.

In 1976, Cookie and Sharpie finished second in the WA State Sidecarcross Championship to Peter Mabbs / Phil Ford, who were on a similar Triumph homebrew. The following year they finished second again, but this time to Jack McDonnell / Campbell Leitch, with both teams racing the latest WASP chassis’ with Norton-powered engines.  

The Cook/Sharpe combination were at their peak in 1978 and 1979 when they won back-to-back State motocross and grasstrack titles, plus a host of individual events.

When Sharpie retired in 1980, Colin sold his Norton WASP, but would fill-in on borrowed outfits with different passengers at major events. These race meetings rekindled his enthusiasm for the sport, so it wasn’t long until he got back into racing full-time. 

In 1984 he was back on the winner’s podium finishing third in the State titles on a Yamaha WASP with Mark Ewens. This combination had a successful period finishing third again in 1985 – on a European raced Yamaha EML, which Colin purchased from South Australian sidecarcross champion David Wells – then winning the State Sidecarcross Championship in 1986.

His final major achievement came in 1987 when he finished third in the State titles with young Steve Donnelly in the chair.

Cook brothers, Colin and Cliff, crash Don Johnston’s 360 Bultaco outfit in Albany
1983 Colin Cook with Steven Foster at Southern Cross
1987 Collie - Colin Cook and Steve Donnelly

Photos:  [Left to right] Colin Cook, teaming up with his younger brother Cliff at Albany where they crashed riding Don Johnston’s 360 Bultaco outfit; Colin and Stephen Foster at Southern Cross in 1983; and Colin at Collie in 1987 with Steven Donnelly in the chair, finishing third in the WA State title that year.

The move to VMX sidecars

With the introduction of the lightweight 2-stroke sidecar machines in the mid-eighties, Colin was more at home on the older stronger WASP and EML frames with larger four-stroke engines. So after sidecarcross racing ended in WA, with the last State Championship held in 1990, Colin moved on into VMX sidecars.

He teamed up with long-time passenger Mark Ewens on a Yamaha WASP, where they were again successful and had some classic duals with WA Trials legend Peter Lawson who also switched to VMX sidecars, and his passenger Stephen Covich.

Colin never ever lost his passion for motor racing and was a regular at all speedway, motocross and VMX meetings, even travelling over east to watch National speedway championships. 

The last motocross event he attended was the Wandering VMX meeting on Sunday 7 August 2022,  two days before he suffered a fatal heart attack. He will be sadly missed by his family and friends.

Colin Cook also competed in the VMX sidecar class

Colin with his VMX Yamaha WASP outfit

Video gallery

Colin Cook racing memories 1986

1987 Western Sidecar Classic – Race 2

1984 Western Sidecar Classic – with Emil Bollhalder

Colin Cook's key career highlights

Cartoon by Greg Smith - Colin Cook and Mark Ewens

Cartoon of Colin Cook and Mark Ewens (By Greg Smith)

WA State Championships
 (with passenger Bob Sharpe)

1976
2nd State Championship (Triumph)

1977
2nd State Championship (Norton Wasp)
Osborne Park Grasstrack Champion

1978
State Champion (Norton Wasp)
BSA Cup winners
Osborne Park Grasstrack Champion

1979
State Champion (Norton Wasp)
Osborne Park Grasstrack Champion

WA State Championships
(with Mark Ewens)

1984
3rd State Championship (Yamaha Wasp)

1985
3rd State Championship (Yamaha EML)

1986
State Champion (Yamaha EML)

WA State Championships
(with Steven Donnelly)

1987
3rd State Championship (Yamaha EML)

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