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Motocross Champion Kings

Motocross Champion Kings

WA Motocross Champion Ritchie Kings

Ritchie Kings - WA Motocross Champion
1968 Richie Kings BSA at Rockingham Scramble - Tony Forsythe

Photos:  Eight-times WA Motocross Champion Ritchie Kings  in action during 1968 in action aboard his Matchless Matisse (which he rode to second in the Australian Unlimited Motocross Championship that year at Collie and [right]; on a BSA in the 1968 Rockingham Scramble (By Tony Forsyth)

The ‘King’ of WA motocross in the 1960s-70s era

Ritchard “Ritchie” Kings, originally from the Northam wheatbelt town, is one of WA’s all-time great motocross riders, winning eight State Motocross Championships between 1964 to 1973.

During the 1968 and 1969 seasons, when he was at his peak, Ritchie won every Open or Unlimited event held in WA aboard his 500cc Matisse-Matchless machine.

He won the famous Harley Scramble five times during this era, after the race moved from the Rope Works circuit in Mosman Park to Mount Brown in York. He also won his home Northam Scramble four times (1966, 1968, 1970, 1972), holding the official lap record at the Rushton Park circuit at 1 minute and 52 seconds.

In 1968, Ritchie was the Australian Runner-up Unlimited Motocross Champion at Collie in his home State, losing narrowly to Australian legend and seven-times National Champion Ray Fisher who’s Matchless-Metisse bike outgrunted King’s similar machine in the final run to the finish line.

The highlight of Kings’ racing career came in 1971, when he was selected in the Australian team to contest the 8-round international series, which was won that year by New Zealander Ivan Miller on a countback, after he tied with Scottish rider Jim Aird.  Kings regularly finished in the points to be one of Australia’s top performing riders up against the internationals that year.

When his family settled in Bullfinch in the early seventies, there were no local motorcycle tracks or clubs nearby. So Ritchie co-founded the Southern Cross Motocross Club with Bob Couzens and others, with the Carnicelli Circuit becoming home to the famous King of the Cross International event in the late 1970s to 1980s.

The first King of the Cross was held in August 1975 with the first four years being dominated by local heroes – Kings and three-times winner Graeme Smythe. Kings never won the event, but in 1976 was leading for the majority of the 10-lap final until he got a flat tyre, handing over the race to Alan McCarthy.

When Ritchie competed in the big international and nation events, he proved that he was as fast as Australia’s top motocross riders and in WA he is recognised as one of the legends of the sport.  In 2015, he was inducted into the Motorcycling WA Hall of Fame, the same year as another country legend Graeme Smythe from Kalgoorlie.

1971 Ritchie Kings International Motocross Series

Ritchie Kings in action during the 1971 International Motocross Tour, one of the official Australian Team riders

Where it all began for Ritchie

Bob O'Leary and Richie Kings

Ritchie Kings (right) with mate and  rival on the circuit – Australian Champion Bob O’Leary

Richard “Ritchie” Kings was born, bred, grew up and married in Northam.  

His father had a farm in Bullfinch (north-west of Southern Cross) and when he was not there working, he and his mates would go to the natural terrain Rushton Park scramble circuit on Great Eastern Highway in Northam to practice their skills. They had to get a permit from the local Police to ride their motorcycles on public roads, but once at the track Ritchie demonstrated his prowess as a great rider.

He was described as a raw talent, who was courageous and had a distinctive crouched riding style. He was also a talented sportsman and dancer and he won the heart of Cathy at a local dance. They married in 1965 and lived with his parents for 5 years.

Racing for the Northam Motor Cycle Club

Ritchie started competition as a Member of the Northam Motorcycle Club in the early 1960s on a converted 500cc Matchless road machine. This was upgraded to a BSA Gold Star in 1964 and he went on to win his first 500cc State Championship that year.

Before moving to the Bullfinch farm in 1970, he had won four other scramble State Championships and a 250cc short circuit State Championship. 

A national title fell just out of reach in 1968 when he finished second in the 500cc Australian Championship at Collie on a Matchless, behind legend Ray Fisher from Victoria Ray Fisher (Matchless Metisse).

By the time of his seventh State Championship win on a Husqvarna in 1971 the family had grown and life was settled in Bullfinch – other than there was no local motorcycle track or Club nearby. 

1973 Northam - 92 Ritchie Kings at the start

Ritchie Kings (92) at the start of the 1973 Northam Scramble

Establishing the Southern Cross Motor Cycle Club

1963 Harley Scramble - Richie Kings and Bill Watson at the top of the first slide at the Rope Works circuit in Mosman Park

Ritchie, Bob Couzens and other locals founded the Southern Cross Motocross Club in the early 1970s and it has gone on to great success as the home of the King of the Cross.  In the latter part of his racing career, Ritchie rode a Clem Nunn sponsored CCM.

The Harley Scramble is remembered as one of the hardest tests of man and machine in WA. Ritchie won it 5 times and during the 1968 and 1969 seasons, won every Open or Unlimited event held in WA. 

He remains the official lap record holder at Northam’s Rushton Park at 1 minute and 52 seconds.

 

Ritchie gets help up the steep slopes in the 1963 Harley Scramble at the Rope Works circuit in Mosman Park, while Bill Watson passes him

Retiring from racing

Ritchie retired from competition in 1979 following a nasty accident at Bindoon, but never gave up riding bikes on the track at his Bullfinch farm. 

Ritchie suffered a heart attack at his farm and he died in Kalgoorlie in 1990, aged 47 years. 

He was so well regarded by the motorcycle community that Clem Nunn Honda chartered a bus and thirty riders travelled from Perth to Southern Cross for the funeral.    As his hearse made its way to the Cemetery, it was preceded by CCM and Husqvarna motorcycles bearing Ritchie’s famous #92 plate.

For his ability and performance at the highest levels, in 2015 Richard “Ritchie” Kings was inducted into the Motorcycling WA Hall of Fame.

Richie Kings in 1967

International motocross videos and program

12M documentary – 1971 Australian International Motocross Tour, Round 1 Herne Hill, WA

2M trailer – The international race at
Herne Hill, WA in 1971 

Kings' key career highlights

Ritchie Kings West Australian Champion 1960-70s

Ritchie Kings – eight-times West Australian Motocross Champion between 1964 and 1973

WA State Championships

1964
500cc State Motocross Champion

1965
500cc State Motocross Champion

1968
500cc State Motocross Champion
Unlimited State Motocross Champion

1971
Unlimited State Motocross Champion

1972
Unlimited State Motocross Champion

1973
250cc State Motocross Champion

Other achievements

  • Five-times Harley Scramble winner in 1960s to 1970s

  • Four-times Northam Scramble winner (1966, 1968, 1970, 1972)

  • WA State 250cc short circuit champion

  • Represented Australia in the 1971 International Motocross Series
 

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