Motocross Champion McCarthy

Motocross Champion McCarthy

WA Motocross Champion Allan McCarthy

1976 Allan McCarthy in action on the Suzuki at Round 2 Mr Motocross at Wallan in Victoria

Photos: [Left] Australia’s youngest professional motocross racer Allan McCarthy  (WA, Suzuki) in action on the Works RM370 Suzuki in Round 2 of the 1976 Mr. Motocross series at Wallan in Victoria; and [Right] WA Mortlock’s Suzuki team members McCarthy and Greg Thomas get ready for the 1975 National Motocross Championships in Tasmania, with John Thompson Suzuki WA.

Allan McCarthy - Australia's youngest professional motocross rider who challenged the internationals

WA motocross ace Allan McCarthy was Australia’s youngest professional racer and one of the fastest juniors in the history of the sport.

In 1971 McCarthy started racing at 12, five years earlier than allowed for motor sport competitions in New South Wales. Such was his ability, just two years later he turned professional, riding for the Mortlocks Suzuki Team in WA and was supplied with a full-time mechanic accompanying him at every race meeting.

He was so fast as a junior, that (being pushed by local Manjimup hero Neville Cutts) he broke the 2km Cosy Creek circuit record with a blistering time of 2.25 seconds in the 14-16 years class at a meeting just prior to the National Championships at this circuit.

At 16 he moved up into seniors, immediately being awarded A grade status – winning his first race against the experts at Manjimup. Later that year he had his first Eastern States meeting at the national titles at Sanford in Tasmania on 16 November 1975 against newly crowned reigning world champion Gaston Rahier and a troupe of six visiting world class international motocross riders.

With Rahier winning three Australian Championships and the international troupe dominating the meeting, McCarthy was the second Australian home in both the Australian 125cc and 250cc Championships, finishing fourth overall in the 125 class and fifth in the 250s.

After the Australian Championships, the three international works Suzuki riders – Rahier, Gerard Camal (Belgium) and Japanese development rider Masanori Ozeki toured Australia to promote the new Japanese lightweight motocross machines. They were joined by Bultaco riders Vic Allen (Scotland), Gualtiero Brissoni (Italy) and Kiwi legend Ivan Miller (Yamaha).

Turning 17 on 11 February 1976, McCarthy qualified to race in New South Wales. After initially riding for the AMCO Kawasaki Team, he later switched to the Cornell Suzuki motocross team, where he was given the opportunity by Mr. Motocross promoter Vincent Tesoriero to ride the two works RM Suzuki’s left here by world champion Rahier in the up-coming Mr. MX series.

After a promising debut at Oran Park (NSW) on 11 April 1976, McCarthy – the youngest rider at the time to contest the Mr. MX series – finished eighth against the Nation’s leading riders. McCarthy, however, would only contest one further round before giving up his contract and returning to Perth.  

In Round 2 at Wallan (VIC) his machine stopped with plug trouble, with no spare bike available. McCarthy discovered that under his contract he was supplied bikes, but no parts or mechanics. Disappointed and homesick, the teenager headed back home where he had the full support of Suzuki WA and his family.

For the remainder of the year, McCarthy continued to dominate WA motocross at a time when competition numbers were in the thousands with two major open events run simultaneously on some weekends to fit in all of the top motocross riders.

McCarthy was the only Australian to beat Belgium rider Gaston Rahier who returned to Australia for a second promotional Suzuki International Motocross Tour, after winning back-to-back World 125cc Championships.  The 1976 tour included Allan’s home track at the Noble Falls circuit in Gidgegannup.

But sadly, while still a teenager, at 17 he was forced to retire from motocross after a serious accident at Coastal Park in WA, robbing him of reaching his full potential. His last major wins came in 1976 – in the Harley Scramble at Mount Brown in York and the King of the Cross at Southern Cross.

Motocross rider Allan McCarthy at age 14

Allan McCarthy in 1973, racing motocross at age 14 in Western Australia.

1975 Team Suzuki Mr. Motocross ad - Trevor FLood, Wayne Lothian and Alan McCarthy

Two years later in 1975, McCarthy was contesting the National Mr. Motocross series, riding for Cornell Suzuki.

McCarthy debuts in the opening Mr. MX round at Amaroo Park NSW in 1975.

Where it all began for McCarthy

1974 WA Junior motocross champion Allan McCarthy with up and coming champions - Brothers Alan & Neville Cutts & Clayton Mills

Photo: 1974 WA Junior motocross champion Allan McCarthy (second from right) with brothers Alan and Neville Cutts and Clayton Mills (far right) at Manjimup.

Allan McCarthy was born on 11 February 1959 and grew up in Dianella, a suburb in Perth WA. 

His father Austin raced motocross, as well as motor cars at Caversham, with his mum Diane also contesting the 6-hour Le Mans at this circuit.

Austin and Ted Woodward were partners in a panel beating business in Claremont, with Ted Woodward’s sons Robert and Anson also keen motocross riders. Both families purchased large acreage in Gidgegannup, near the BSA Club’s Noble Falls circuit, later subdividing and building on the land.

From age 5, Allan lived with his father Austin and was a student at John Forrest Senior High School, moving to Gidegannup after their new house was built. The McCarthy and Woodward properties were side by side and contained several motocross tracks for the boys to practice on.

Allan rode his first bike – a 125cc BSA Bantam – when he was 10. As WA’s laws regarding motor sport competition were more relaxed than the other states, he was allowed to start racing at 12 in the Restricted License Holder’s class.

Over the next two years he totally dominated both the 12-14 years class held by Auto Cycle Union of Western Australia (now MWA) and junior minibikes competitions.

At 14 he was WA’s top junior motocross rider. He left school that year and was fully sponsored on a TM125 Suzuki, supported by a full-time mechanic. In two years, he failed to win only three races he contested.

The big move up into senior motocross

At 16 he moved up into seniors, immediately being awarded A grade status – winning his first race against the experts at Manjimup.

In his first season contesting the Open WA State Motocross Championships held over multiple rounds, McCarthy finished second in the 250cc class behind experienced campaigners Shane Kirpatrick (Bunbury, Husqvarna) and Greg Thomas (Suzuki).

Riding a RM370 Suzuki, McCarthy took out the WA State Unlimited Championship for machines over 350cc, beating home local legends of the sport, including Kirkpatrick, Rick Gill, Kevin Russell and Greg Thomas.

Photo: Allan McCarthy  was competitive in A Grade competition in Western Australia right from the start.

Allan McCarthy up into senior motocross

1975 Australian Championships in Tasmania

1975 Australian Championships Tasmania Gaston Rahier

McCarthy’s first Eastern States meeting was on 16 November 1975 at the national titles at Sanford in Tasmania – against reigning world champion Gaston Rahier and a troupe of visiting international riders.

Belgium Suzuki works riders – reigning World Motocross Champion Gaston Rahier and Gerard Camal – and Japanese development rider Masanori Ozeki were down under to promote the new lightweight Suzuki two-stroke motocross bikes. McCarthy and his Mortlocks Suzuki team mate Greg Thomas were also riding works Suzuki’s, but not as elaborate as the touring international’s bikes.

In his first race, McCarthy was fourth overall in the Australian 125cc Motocross Championship (won by Rahier) and the second Australian home behind Morlocks Suzuki team mate Greg Thomas (WA) and Belgium Camal.
In the more powerful 250cc class, McCarthy was fifth overall and again the second Australian home behind Rahier, NZ Legend Ivan Miller and Camal.

It was an impressive debut at National level for McCarthy, who just weeks earlier had broken his collarbone while racing a 250cc Suzuki at Wandering, south east of Perth. Rahier too was recovering from injury, having broken his wrist towards the end of the European motocross season.

Photo: Reigning world motocross champion Gaston Rahier (Belgium Suzuki) won all classes at the 1975 Australian Championships in Tasmania, down under on the promotional international Suzuki tour, with Allan McCarthy the second Australian home in both the 125cc and 250cc classes.

Racing on the East Coast for the first time

Five years after he first starting racing motocross, McCarthy finally qualified to race in New South Wales on 11 February 1976, when he turned 17.

Initially, McCarthy rode for the AMCO Kawasaki Team, along with WA legend Graeme Smythe, with the pair driving from Kalgoorlie to Perth together across the Nullabor Plain in Smythe’s ute.  Neither rider liked the Kawasaki’s and quickly switched teams with McCarthy moving to the Cornell Suzuki Team (who also employed him) and gave him the two works RM Suzuki’s left her by world champion Rahier.

Mr. MX promoter Vince Tesoriero orchestrated the contract, along with sponsorship from clothing manufacturers Levi’s and Golden Breed.

Cornell Suzuki was based in Melbourne but that year also established a dealership in Sydney. McCarthy rode the RM 370 Suzuki in the Mr. Motocross national series and was the youngest competitor to contest it at the time. He trained with Honda rider Mark Pace, doing weights and practicing regularly at a nearby unused SAS army training base.

In his Mr. MX debut, Allan finished eight against the Nation’s leading riders in the opening round at Oran Park (NSW) on 11 April 1976.  But he scored no points in Round 2 at Wallan, near Melbourne (VIC) on 22 May when his machine stopped with plug trouble and no spare bike was available.

With no parts or mechanics provided under his contract, McCartney gave it up and returned home to Perth where he had the full support from Suzuki WA and his family.

While living alone interstate, McCarthy had become very homesick and was missing his girlfriend Trish, a local he met when he was 14. Her father owned the Retrovision business, plus a horse stud near his home.
The couple later married and are still together with two children – Chantelle and Sean, with five grandchildren between them. Mr. MX promoter Vince Tesoriero, however, was not happy and getting out of the contract was not easy.

McCarthy can recall heated discussions in Vince’s office between him and his father, but they eventually came to an agreement. Tesoriero threatened to block Allan from racing again interstate, but at the time Allan was not fazed as he never planned to return anyway.

1976 Allan McCarthy, the youngest rider in the 1976 Mr Motocross series at Amaroo Park - By Peter Kitchingman
1976 Alan McCarthy in action at Mr Motocross Amaroo Park - By Peter Kitchingman

Photos: Allan McCarthy was the youngest rider in the 1976 Mr. Motocross series at Amaroo Park opening round in New South Wales – By Peter Kitchingman

Racing back home and again against Rahier

1976 King of the Cross winner - Alan McCarthy
1976 Gaston Rahier Tour - On startline, with Alan McCarthy (37) at Noble Falls

McCarthy continued racing back in Perth and again was loving and dominating the sport at a time when motocross was booming due to the development of the Japanese lightweight machines with WA having thousands of competitors and multiple events – even on the same days.

That year, in 1976, he joined the WA State motocross series, albeit down on points from the rounds he missed when contesting interstate. But he won several individual events, including the prestigious Harley Scramble at Mount Brown in York (ahead of Jeff Mouritz and close family friend the late Robert Woodward) and King of the Cross.

He also got to compete again against World Champion Gaston Rahier who returned to Australia for a second Suzuki International Promotional Tour, which this year included Western Australia.  

McCarthy was the only Australian to beat Rahier and the internationals on the tour, winning on his home track at the Noble Falls circuit in Gidgegannup, with British rider Neil Hudson also winning one of the races on this track.

Sadly, after a sickening crash at the Coastal Park circuit later that year, McCarthy was forced to retire after injuring his back and suffering a head injury, which kept him in hospital for three weeks.

Still a teenager, and with a chance of suffering permanent brain damage if injured again, McCarthy quit the sport robbing him of reaching his full potential.

Photo:  [Left] Allan McCarthy’s last major win came at Southern Cross in 1976 when he won the prestigious King of the Cross title aboard his RM370 Suzuki; [Right] that year he also beat  two-times reigning World Motocross Champion Gaston Rahier on McCarthy’s home Noble Falls circuit at Gidgegannup n WA.

Life after motocross and switch to racing cars

After earlier taking up an apprenticeship at the Woodward McCarthy Panel Beating business, Allan would work there and eventually take ownership of the company – initially buying out Ted Woodwood’s share, then his father’s. Now he’s the sole owner of the very successful McCarthy Prestige – Factory Approved Bodyshop.

Recovering from his injuries, the following year in 1977 McCarthy and his girlfriend Trish went on an extended holiday through Europe.

Following a lengthy break from all forms of racing, in the 1990s he moved on from racing motorbikes to racing sprint cars at Claremont Speedway and touring cars at State and National level.

In 1998 he contested the famous Bathurst 1000, partnering with co-driver Malcolm Rose. They finished in the Top 10 and won $30,000 prizemoney as the Top Privateer.

1993 Jeff Kendrick Sprintcar Team Claremont Speedway - Allan McCarthy 3, Jeff Leisk 2 and Ron Krikke 1

Jeff Kendrick Sprintcar Team at Claremont Speedway in 1993 – Allan McCarthy 3rd, Jeff Leisk 2nd and Ron Krikke 1st.

McCarthy's key motocross career highlights

WA mini bike and Junior Motrocross Champion Allan McCarthy

12-14 Years WA State Motocross Champion

Mortlocks Suzuki Team
14-16 Years WA State Motocross Champion

Junior State Motocross Champion
1st Herne Hill 14-16 years

4th Australian 125cc Championship
5th Australian 250cc Championship
WA State Unlimited Motocross Champion (350cc and over)

1975 (cont…)
BSA Cup winner
Coastal Park Feature Race winner

AMCO Kawasaki Team / Cornell Suzuki (Levi’s Motocross Team)

Youngest competitor in National Mr. Motocross series on Suzuki (aged 17)
Harley Scramble winner
King of the Cross winner

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