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Motocross Legend Burrows

Motocross Legend Burrows

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Australian Motocross Legend Burrows

1953 Australian Motocross Championships - Victorian John Burrows - 350cc Champion at the first Australian Championship in Korweinguboora - Daylesford VIC
1963 Australian Runner-up 250cc Champion John Burrows on a Cotton
1966 John Burrows and the first DOT motocross bike in Australia - second in 250cc class at Christmas Hills in Victoria

Photos: [Left]  John Burrows won his first Australian Motocross Championship in the 350cc class at the inaugural  National Championship in Korweinguboora – Daylesford VIC in 1953; [top right] Burrows was the 1963 Australian Runner-up 250cc Champion on a Cotton at Archerfield (QLD); and  [bottom right]  Burrows aboard the first DOT motocross bike in Australia, which he rode to second in the 1966 250cc Australian Championship at Christmas Hills in Victoria.

John Burrows - An Australian motocross legend on and off the track

John Burrows, from Box Hill in Victoria, was an Australian motocross legend and advocate for the sport over more than three decades between the 1950’s to 1970’s – both on and off the track.

In the years following World War 2, motorcycle scrambles flourished across the country and Burrows was one of the small number of diehards who dominated – along with the likes of Keith Stacker, Ken Rumble, Ray East, Roy East, George Bailey and Charlie West.

“JB”, as he was known, won three Australian motocross titles – his first title at the very first National Championships at Korweinguboora – Daylesford, in Victoria on 14 November 1953 – in the 350cc class, the same year he won the Victorian Grand National.

Then twelve years later, in 1965  in Clarendon, South Australia, he won his third Australian title – in the All Powers (Unlimited) Class.

Across 12 seasons, he finished 13 times on the podium at the Australian Motocross Championships in all classes, except for the 125s.

Ironically, he won all three titles on the British B.S.A. 4-stroke machines, which he largely contributed to their demise down under when he first introduced the new two-stroke lightweight motocross bikes in the 1960s, including the Greeves, Cotton, Tribsa and DOT machines.

JB always looked for ways to get faster and subscribed to the English motorcycle magazines, then started importing the latest technology, initially for himself, then later as a motorcycle dealer.

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JB's influence off the track

While still racing, John set up a motorcycle shop in partnership with another Australian Motocross Legend Keith Stacker in Malvern, Melbourne, which became the Mecca for motocross (scrambles as it was known in those days) machines.

JB’s shop dispensed the latest British scramblers plus all manner of accessories and the workshop was usually brimming with bikes and engines awaiting anything from a tweak to a full rebuild and John provided much support for many emerging motocross champions.

The shop became a magnet for motocross riders as they knew that when they purchased a bike from “JB”, they had his years of experience and knowledge behind him.

John was not shy and never afraid to give or take advice, but he always commanded respect from all sides of the motorcycling community.

He was largely responsible for establishing the new Christmas Hills circuit in Victoria, beginning negotiations with a local landowner, Stan Ashmore, to construct a track on the land.

In May, 1964, the track opened by promoting Victoria’s most prestigious such event – the Ron Hunter Memorial Grand National, named after the club’s former president who was tragically killed at a grasstrack meeting.

Photo: In 1964, past Victorian Grand National winners assembled for a nostalgic photo  at the Grand opening of the Christmas Hills circuit – [L-R] Ken Rumble, Ray Fisher, John Burrows, George Bailey and Ian Gaff

The Jumper Wars

It was during this time that John became a spokesperson for the riders in the famous “jumpers war” with the Auto Cycle Union of Victoria.

Pre and post war Australian motocross guidelines required riders to wear leather jackets and leather pants, regardless of the weather. In a hot climate such as Australia, riders started defying this rule and started wearing lighter clothing – such as brighter coloured rugby jumpers – which became the trend in Europe at the Motocross des Nations since 1951.

All states, except for Victoria, relaxed the leather jackets rule, so John continued lobbying the ACU of Victoria until they finally gave in – in 1964. 

However, things became very heated for several years and the ACUV actually banned Burrows, Stacker, Mark Green and John Stanley for three months for “conduct prejudicial to the sport”.

1965 Christmas Hills Motocross - Geoff Taylor, Bob Mitchell, Ken Rumble, John Mapperson and John Burrows

Photo: [L-R] 1965 Christmas Hills Motocross – Geoff Taylor, Bob Mitchell, Ken Rumble, John Mapperson and John Burrows proudly display their colouful rugby jerseys after finally winning the war with the Auto Cycle Union of Victoria, who continually enforced the rule for riders to wear leather jackets up to 1964.

JB's life after racing

After breaking his wrist at Arthurs Creek in 1967 when his Greeves engine seized, Burrows retired from racing after the 1967 Grand National at Christmas Hills, after finding the going tough.

He then focused on his motorcycle shop. In addition to the latest English motocross bikes, including Greeves, Cotton, DOT, Metisse, Burrows and Stacker also became the dealer for CZ, Ossa, Can Am and Husqvarnas, as well as becoming the first dealer outside the City to sell Hondas.

In the early 1970s, JB had three shops in High Street. The main one was for Yamaha and Ossas, the Honda shop was a few doors down, then he had a showroom, which he used for private conversations.

JB rode the trail bike boom in the seventies alone, after Keith Stacker went independent – setting up Stacker Motorcycles in Kilby Road, Kew.

In his later years, John and his wife Heather Binger (who he married in 1955) moved to the Adelaide Hills in South Australia to be closer to their children. After Heather died, he lived alone in a stone house in beautiful Aldgate.

Sadly, he died on 30 September, aged 88, taking with him a lot of knowledge and stories from the sport’s history in Australia. RIP JB.

1963 Bob O'Leary's winning Cotton motocross machine

Photo: Bob O’Leary’s (WA)  winning lightweight 2-stroke Cotton motocross machine, the first to win an Australian Motocross Championship at Archerfield (QLD).  This spelt the end of an era for the British 4-stroke machine and a booming new business for Burrows and Stacker.

John Burrow's Australian Championship results

1963 John Burrows

Photo:  John Burrows

1953
350 Australian Motocross Champion (A.J.S.) Korweinguboora, VIC
3rd Unlimited Australian Motocross Championship (A.J.S)

1954
2nd 350 Australian Motocross Championship (A.J.S.) Sheidow Park, SA

1958
2nd Unlimited Australian Motocross Championship (A.J.S) Evansdale, TAS

1961
Equal 3rd 250cc Australian Motocross Championship (Greeves) – Moorebank NSW

1963

350 Australian Motocross Champion (B.S.A.) Archerfield, QLD
2nd 250 Australian Motocross Championship (Cotton)
2nd Unlimited Australian Motocross Championship (Tribsa)
3rd 500 Australian Motocross Championship (Tribsa)

1965
Unlimited Australian Motocross Champion (TM B.S.A.) Clarendon, SA

1966
2nd 250 Australian Motocross Championship (D.O.T) Christmas Hills, VIC

1966
2nd 500 Australian Motocross Championship (B/S Special)
3rd Unlimited Australian Motocross Championship (B/S Special)

Australian Championship results and photos

Click on the links below to view Australian Motocross Championship results back to 1953, event photos or rider profiles.
Australian Motocross Champions 350cc
Australian Motocross Champions List (All classes)
Australian Motocross Legends

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