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Motocross Champion Pace

New South Wales Motocross Champion Mark Pace

1978 Mr. Motocross - Mark Pace Honda NSW - Sponsored by KFC
KFC Superchook promotion with Mark Pace for Mr. Motocross
1978 Mr Motocross Round 1 Tivoli QLD - Anthony Gunter 1st, Stephen Gall 2nd and Mark Pace third

Photos: [Clockwise] In 1978, professional motocross rider Mark Pace from New South Wales was sponsored by Kentucky Fried  Chicken for the Mr. Motocross series; a KFC promotion with Mark and the KFC Superchook, and Mark was third in Round 1 at Tivoli (QLD) behind Anthony Gunter and Stephen Gall (with Hey Hey it’s Saturday television celebrity Jackie McDonald.

Mark Pace - one of our first professional MX riders

New South Wales rider Mark Pace was one of the Nation’s first professional motocross riders in the late 1970s, along with Anthony Gunter, Stephen Gall, Pelle Granqvist and Mike Landman.

On his day, he was capable of beating them all! But since retiring from racing in 1982, Mark has become a folk-lore hero for his famous “Superchook” story, not his racing achievements.

While contesting the Mister Motocross (Mr MX) series 1978, he was sponsored by Kentucky Fried Chicken and crashed at Wallan in Victoria, suffering concussion. Waking up on the side of the circuit with the six-foot tall KFC Superchook mascot staring him in the face, for a moment Mark thought he had died and gone to heaven.

But looking back on his eight-year racing career, Mark should be remembered for his finest performances on his Honda 250cc up against the unlimited bikes.

His highlights include back-to-back Australian Junior Motocross Championships for his age group (in 1974 and 1975), his achievements at the 1977 Australian Championships at Acusa Park in South Australia in both the 125 and 250cc classes, winning the 1978 Queensland State 250cc title and many individual race wins.

Mark Pace NSW Honda 250cc, one of our first professional motocross riders in the 1970s

Photo: Mark Pace (NSW) was one of our first professional motocross riders in the 1970s competing on a Honda 250cc bike against the 400s.

The big glitch moving from juniors to seniors in NSW

Mark Pace two-times Australian Junior Motocross Champion
1977 Australian Motocross Championships Acusa Park SA - Darryl Willoughby, Neville Cutts, Mark Pace and Danny Reilly

Mark Pace bought his first minibike at age 14 and dominated junior motocross in his age group when he started racing a couple of years later.  But after winning two National titles, amazingly he was forced to sit out of racing for a year in 1976 because of his age.

At the time, New South Wales had strict and different rules for junior motocross competitions and the transition to seniors. Mark faced a ridiculous situation where he was over the age limit to race against the juniors interstate and under the senior level, so he had nowhere to race.

In 1977, after competing in Mr. MX for the first time, Mark went from strength to strength and at the end of the season rode brilliantly at the Australian Motocross Championships at Acusa Park in South Australia.

Riding a Honda, he finished second in the 250cc title behind Anthony Gunter (Suzuki) and was ahead of Stephen Gall (Yamaha) in third.  Earlier in the Championships he finished third in the 125cc title behind local hero Darryl Willoughby (Honda), who had just returned from racing and training in the United States, and another National Champion Neville Cutts (Suzuki) from Manjimup in Western Australia.

Photos: [Top] Mark Pace two-times Australian Junior Motocross Champion receiving an awrad; and [Right] On the podium at the 1977 Australian Motocross Championships at Acusa Park SA (125cc class) – Darryl Willoughby (1st), Neville Cutts (2nd), Mark Pace  (3rd) and the late Danny Reilly (4th).

KFC sponsorship for 1978 Mister Motocross series

For the 1978 season, Mr. MX promoter Vince Tesoreiro signed up Pace for the series and arranged sponsorship through Kentucky Fried Chicken, one of the biggest fast food outlets at the time.

As part of the contract, Mark was required to accompany the KFC Superchicken mascot at in-store promotions, along with TV and radio interviews leading up to each round of the series. He was a pretty quiet, shy kid at the time so, so he had to learn to talk to people.

Mark started off the 1978 Mr. MX season brilliantly finishing third in the opening round at Tivoli in Queensland on his Honda 250cc, behind 400cc riders Anthony Gunter (Suzuki) with Stephen Gall (Yamaha) just one point off the lead.

While Mark Pace often set faster lap times than the other top riders, he was unable to do this consistently. He was very hard on his bikes and, along with several crashes, was unable to finish in the Top 5 that year. However, outside of Mr. MX he won the 250cc Queensland Motocross Championship and the 250cc class at the King of the Cross in Southern Cross, WA.

Race commentators described his racing style as “kamikaze” and throughout his career he earned a dubious reputation as “a crasher”. But according to Mark, he didn’t crash that often, but when he did it was in a very big and spectacular way, often when being pursued by Stephen Gall!”

Mark Pace Honda NSW - Mr Motocross KFC ad

Photo:  A Kentucky Fried Chicken advertisement promoting the Mr. MX series in 1978 featuring NSW Honda rider Mark Pace from New South Wales.

Big race wins across Australia, then off to Europe

1978 King of the Cross - Mark Pace (250cc Award)

Photo: Mark Pace receiving his trophy at Southern Cross (WA) after winning the 250cc class at the 1978 King of the Cross.  He returned in 1979 to win back-to-back 250cc titles.

Towards the end of 1978 at the New South Wales qualifying event for the upcoming Australian Championships, at Broadford in Victoria, Pace beat Gunter, Gall and Granquist, with the Swedish expatriate going onto win both the 250cc and 500cc National titles.

Pace also represented Australia that year in the Trans-Tasman Challenge in Hamilton, New Zealand with the Aussies winning the test on 2-3 December 1978.

In 1979, Pace won-back-to-back 250cc titles at Southern Cross, but was unable to defend his Queensland 250cc title, finishing second to Stephen Gall. Pace returned to WA for the Australian Championships at Wanneroo, but the deep sandy terrain did not suit his style.

Right from the start of his career, Pace dreamt of racing in Europe, which he achieved in 1980 when he rode a Husqvarna at international events in England and France. He returned to racing in Australia in mid-1981, aboard a Suzuki, retiring in August 1982.

Mark Pace's key career highlights

Mark Pace Honda 250cc rider - portrait

1974
Australian Junior Title ACT

Honda
1975
Australian Junior Title ACT

1977
3rd 125cc Australian Motocross Championships
2nd 250cc Australian Motocross Championships

1978
250cc King of the Cross Western Australia
250cc Queensland Motocross Champion
3rd in Queensland Rd Mr. Motocross
Member of Australia V New Zealand Team

1979
250cc King of Cross Western Australia 
Runner-up Queensland 250cc Champion

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