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Motocross Legend Leisk

Motocross Legend Leisk

Australian Motocross Legend Jeff Leisk

1992 - Jeff Leisk in Europe after finish Runner-up World Champion the year before
Jeff Leisk Runner Up World 500cc Motocross Champion
Jeff Leisk wins a Supercross

Western Australian Jeff Leisk – 1989 R-up World 500cc Motocross Champion, his breakthrough US Grand Prix performance (top right) and Supercross winner

Leisky - Australian pioneer of International motocross in the eighties

Western Australian Jeff Leisk is one of Australia’s pioneers of international motocross and most decorated riders.

Throughout his racing career he achieved many firsts for Australia.

He was the first Australian to win a World Junior Motocross Championship (1979), first to win a moto in the professional United States AMA Motocross series (1987) and first to place in the World Motocross Championships, finishing second in in 1989.

That year was Leisky’s best!  

In addition to collecting two overall Grand Prix wins (Finland and Italy), he received the prestigious Federation International Motorcycling (FIM) medal in his first full debut year in the World Motocross Championships.

He also won the 500cc class in the Motocross of Nations international team event, and beat a star-studded international line-up in the the prestigious Paris Supercross – the first non American to achieve this.

On home soil, Leisk won eight Australian Motocross Championships (which includes two Motorcycling Australia Restricted License Holder titles, but excludes his Thumper and Veteran titles), plus a heap of Australian Junior Motocross Championships.

Winning eight Aussie titles is the most of any Australian solo competitor, which Leisk equalled with Gary Flood and Glen Bell who dominated the seventies and late eighties, respectively.

And back home, he was inducted into The Australian Motor Sport Hall of Fame in 2016, the same year as another motocross legend Stephen Gall, having been inducted into the Motorcycling Western Australia Hall of Fame in 2013.

Jeff Leisk’s achievements focused international attention on Australian motocross talent and also helped Australia lure the 1992 World Motocross of Nations to Manjimup in Western Australia – the first time this international teams event was held outside of Europe.

Although many Australian riders competed successfully in Europe and the US in the 1960s, Leisk – together with the late Andrew McFarlane and Chad Reed – helped pave the way for more Australian motocross riders to compete internationally in more recent times.

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KTM – JEFF LEISK TRIBUTE VIDEO

Growing up in Western Australia

Jeff Leisk was born in Perth, Western Australia on 19 November 1964.

As his father, the late  Bob Leisk , was a former speedway and motocross rider, it didn’t take long for his sons Mark and Jeff to start motorcycling. And Jeff had his first ride in 1971 at age seven.

Soon after he started racing minibikes and success came almost immediately.  Bob was involved in the embryonic stages of mini cycle racing in WA and Jeff and Mark competed in the very first competitive events to be held in the state. 

In 1974, Jeff and Mark also competed in the first ever Australian Mini Cycle Championship in Pakenham, Victoria with Jeff winning his class in his first attempt.

Right from the beginning of his career he was out in a class of his own and in 1975 won his first Junior State Championship in the 125cc class. Incredibly, Jeff Leisk won this Championship three times between 1975 to 1978.

Then in 1978 he travelled to the United States for the World Mini Grand Prix and became world champion for his age group.

It was now time to move up into seniors and Jeff joined the BSA Motorcycle Club at the Noble Falls circuit in Gidgegannup, on the outskirts of Perth.

Leisk Family on minibikes - Jeff with Father Bob, mother Helen, brother Mark and sisters Sharon and Naomi.

Jeff Leisk with his parents Bob and Helen, brother Mark and sisters Sharon and Naomi

Jeff Leisk won his first Australian Junior Motocross Championship in 1974

Leisk won his first Australian Junior Motocross Championship in 1974

A young Jeff Leisk at a motocross meeting in the seventies

A young Jeff Leisk at a Perth motocross meeting in the seventies

In 1979 Leisk took out the World Minibike GP in the United States

In 1978 Leisk took out the World Minibike GP in the United States

The big move into senior motocross

Immediately in the senior Motorcycling Australia competition, Jeff Leisk dominated the Restricted Licence Holder class, winning both the WA State and National 125cc Championships in 1979 and 1980. at Wanneroo (WA) and Dargle (NSW), respectively.

1981 was to be his first year up against the big boys. During this year, he turned professional and he took out the State 250cc and Australian 125cc Championships, the latter contested at Symons Plains in Tasmania.

From here on, Jeff concentrated his racing on the East coast, travelling many miles in his quest for fame.

But he still returned to his home state for the big events at the time, such as the Manjimup 15000, King of the Cross and Western Classic. The motocross fans made every effort to see their local hero in action, travelling from all around the state.

In hindsight, everyone had high expectations of him and to his credit, he had the motivation and dedication to realise his potential.

He won King of the Cross in 1982 against a star-studded field. Then he took out the premier Australian 500cc Championship in Toowoomba in Queensland. At only 17 years of age, he became the youngest competitor ever to win that class.

For his standards, 1993 was relatively quiet. But over the next two years, he was to completely dominate Australian motocross. During this time, he clinched almost every major title, including back-to-back victories in the coveted Mr Motocross series.

In 1986, Jeff was ready to tackle the International circuit. But at a time when the top Australian riders focussed their attention on the English and European scenes, he decided to start in America.

Jeff Leisk up against the big boys in senior motocross

A young Jeff Leisk with Ron Sun (US) and Stephen Gall at the 1981 Bunbury Supercross.

1981 Jeff Leisk wins his first senior Australian Motocross Championship at Symmons Plains in Tasmania in the 125cc class

Jeff  won his first senior Motocross Championship in the 125cc class at Symmons Plains in Tasmania

In 1992 Jeff Leisk rode for the Toshiba Yamaha Team and won the 500cc National title

In 1982 Jeff Leisk rode for the Toshiba Yamaha Team and won the 500cc National title at 17

Jeff Leisk with his father Bob, back riding with Honda

Jeff Leisk with his father Bob, back riding with Honda in the mid eighties

Jeff Leisk won back-to-back Mr Motocross Championships in 1984 and 1985

Jeff Leisk won back-to-back Mr Motocross Championships in 1984 and 1985

Jeff Leisk was almost unbeatable on home soil before moving to the US

On home soil, Leisk was almost unbeatable in the mid eighties before he moved to the US

Jeff Leisk twice won the prestigious Mr Motocross title, in 1984 and 1985

Leisk (here with Vaughan Style and Stephen Gall) twice won the prestigious Mr Motocross title

Jeff Leisk - Mr Motocross poster

Jeff Leisk won back-to-back Mr Motocross titles in 1984 and 1985

1985 Western Classic presentation Jeff Leisk and Jimmy Ellis

Leisk with Jimmy Ellis (USA) at the 1984 Western Classic  at Noble  Falls (WA), which he won.

1985 - Three Manjimup 15000 winners side-by-side - Jeff Leisk, Jimmy Ellis and Craig Dack

Three Manjimup 15000 winners side-by-side – Jeff Leisk, Jimmy Ellis and Craig Dack

Jeff Leisk – Two-time winner of the King of the Cross at Southern Cross, plus Kid of the Cross

Racing in the United States

Jeff Leisk racing in the US in 1986

In 1986, Jeff was ready to tackle the International circuit. But at a time when the top Australian riders focussed their attention on the English and European scenes, he decided to start in America.

Leisk based himself in Uplands, California, living with World Road-racing Champion Eddie Lawson, and competed in the Professional AMA Motocross series in the 125cc class.

His first year in the US was a big learning experience and the competition was extremely tough, after being sidelined early with a broken jaw which he sustained at the San Diego Supercross.

On 17 August 1986, Leisk became the first Aussie to finish on the podium in the 125cc AMA outdoor motocross championships, finishing third behind Eddie Warren (Kawasaki) and Micky Dymond (Honda) and ended up finishing 9th overall in the 125cc AMA series.

The following year, Leisk finish sixth in the 1987 Professional AMA Motocross 125 series, becoming the first Australian to win an AMA moto.

A year later, he was still improving and move on from the 125 AMA series to finish fourth in the 500cc class and sixth in the 250s. That year he also finished third in both the Daytona and Meadowlands Supercross events.

Photo: Jeff Leisk launched his international motocross career in the United States in 1986

World Grand Prix Motocross Racing

With a round of the 500cc World Championships being held in America in 1988, Leisk was given the opportunity to compete against the elite in the US Motocross Grand Prix. And he grabbed the opportunity with both hands!

He won the second moto and finished third overall alongside World Champions Eric Geboers (Belgium) and David Thorpe (England).

From this performance, Leisk secured a lucrative contract with the Honda Factory Team for the coming 1989 500cc World Championships.

In preparation for the coming season, he decided to return to Australia to contest the 1988 Australian Championships at Mackay in Queensland.
That weekend Leisk won every class – the 125, 250 and 500cc Championships – at the time becoming only the second rider in the history of Australian motocross to achieve this feat, which Victorian rider Gary Flood achieved in 1969.

Upon arrival in Europe, Leisk competed in several international meetings as a lead-up to the World Championships. 

All were successful and, in particular, a third overall placing in a pre-season series gained him much media attention. He also lured Chambers, a major Italian clothing manufacturer, as another major sponsor.

Being a “Sandgroper” from Western Australia, Jeff was a sand circuit specialist. As the European weather and circuit conditions were quite adverse to Australia and America, the Dutch, Finnish, Belgian and Swedish sand rounds previewed as his best chance for success.  And that’s the way it turned out!

Jeff Leisk racing in the 1988 US Grand Prix
Jeff Leisk racing in the 1988 US Grand Prix
Jeff Leisk racing in the 1988 US Grand Prix

After Jeff Leisk’s performance in the 1988 US Grand Prix, Honda offered him a contract for the 1989 World Championship season

1989 World Motocross Championship

Jeff Leisk Runner Up World 500cc Motocross Champion

In his first ever World Championship, Jeff Leisk became the 1989 Runner-up World Champion behind Honda team mate David Thorpe of England

During the 1989 season, Jeff was to set the fastest lap times in all but the wet-muddy championship rounds.

In the opening round of the season in Holland, he led the first 45-minute moto until he ran out of fuel, with only one and a half laps remaining. Pointless, he was determined to make amends and he overcame his disappointment by convincingly winning the second moto.

In France, he was 4th and 14th, in Austria 5th and DNF, and in Italy, he finished on the winners’ podium with a 2nd and 4th.

The Finnish round was to be his best result to date, taking overall victory with a 3rd and 1st placing. History was made as this overall victory was the first ever by an Australian in a World Motocross Championship.

Jeff continued through his first season with great consistency and won the San Marino Grand Prix with a 1st and 2nd, elevating him to fourth overall in the Championship, with striking distance of the leaders Eric Geboers (Belgium), David Thorpe  and Kurt Nicol (Great Britain).

After leading the Championship early Thorpe went through a form slump during the middle of the year.

And although Leisk finished on the winners’ podium at the preceding British and Belgian rounds, Thorpe regained his form and won the final four grand Prix’s of the season – winning seven out of the eight motos.

With two rounds remaining in Luxembourg and Switzerland, the World Championship was now out of reach for Leisk.  But he was in line for a top 3 placing in his first ever World Championship.

With good performances at both, he became the 1989 Runner-up World Champion, behind David Thorpe.

No.1 Team Honda Factory Rider

Team Honda were so impressed with Leisk’s performance, that he was appointed the Number 1 factory rider for 1990. But 1990 was to be a disaster and, as it turned out, his final year of international competition.

Right from the opening round things turned sour and while leading the opening Dutch GP, Leisk was centre-punched by another rider and left unconscious on the circuit.

At the second round in Switzerland, he bounced back to win the opening moto and was placed fifth overall on the day.

At the French GP, things were looking up when he was leading the first moto. But once again, his run of bad luck continued and he crashed, breaking his finger.

This injury caused him to miss several rounds and even when he attempted to make a comeback, he was restricted with his finger for some time.

By now, Belgium’s Eric Geboers was running away with the championship. For Jeff, winning was out of the question and he was just hoping to end the season on a good note.

Maybe the final American GP would be favourable. However, after receiving food poisoning during the week, he crashed out in the first moto. 

For a season that previewed with high hopes of a World Championship, Jeff just scraped into the top 10. 

At least he broke through to finish the year off with a win in the 500c class in the final moto at the Motocross des Nations international team event.  Jeff finished second overall in this class behind Belgium rider Dirk Geukens, in what would be his final race at international level.

The most successful Australian Motocross of Nations Team ever – Craig Dack (251), Jeff Leisk (500) and Glen Bell (125)
1990 Jeff Leisk won the 500cc class at the Motocross of Nations
The most successful Australian Motocross of Nations Team ever – Craig Dack (250), Jeff Leisk (500) and Glen Bell (125) with team manager Stephen Gall

[Left] In 1988 Jeff Leisk (500cc), Craig Dack (250cc) and Glen Bell (125cc) finished fourth overall in the Motocross of Nations Team event at Villars-sous-Ecot (France), which was Australia’s best ever performance  under the guidance of team manager Stephen Gall; [centre] In 1989, Leisk finished  third overall in the 500cc class at Gaildorf, Germany behind Jeff Ward (US) & David Thorpe (UK); and [right] Leisk, Bell, Dack and Gall in Sweden in 1990, Jeff’s last ride in Europe.

Leisk retires from Motocross in 1990

Jeff Leisk - KTM Australia General Manager

Between 1995 and 1999, Leisk managed the KTM motocross team and became General Manager of KTM and Husaberg Australia

It was a sad day for motocross fans when Jeff returned home and announced his retirement. But after his disastrous season and 19 years of competition, it was understandable. 

In Australia, he had achieved every possible feat and, at the time, he was Australia’s greatest ever motocross rider.

Since then the late Andrew McFarlane and Chad Reed also achieved international success and both equalled Leisk’s feat of winning Grand Prix races and finishing runner-up in the World Motocross Championships, with Reed twice winning the World supercross championship.

Just as Wayne Gardner did for road racing in Australia, Leisk did the same for motocross – putting Australia at the centre of attention in the world of motocross.

His performances helped strengthen Australia’s bid for the 1992 World Motocross of Nations, which was awarded to Manjimup in Western Australia. This was the first time this prestigious international teams event was held outside of Europe and in the southern hemisphere.

Soon after returning home to Perth in Australia, Jeff Leisk took up racing sprint cars at Claremont Speedway in 1991, started work with his father Bob’s plumbing business the next year, and in 1993 got married and started a family. 

He would go onto ride motocross again, winning National Championships in the Thumper and Veterans classes, on a KTM, forgoing a new relationship with the motorbike manufacturer.

Leisk's key motocross achievements

Jeff Leisk Key achievements
Australia

Junior Motocross

1974
Australian Junior Motocross Champion

1976
Australian Junior Motocross Champion – 125cc

1979
Australian Junior Motocross Champion – 125cc
World Mini Grand Prix Champion – 125cc

Senior Motocross

1979
Australian RLH 125cc Champion

1980
State RLH 125cc Champion
Australian RLH 125cc Champion

1981
First Year Professional Rider in Australia
State 250cc Champion
Australian 125cc Champion

1982
Australian 500cc Champion
King of the Cross

Australia

1984
Australian 250cc Champion
Manjimup 15000 winner
Mr Motocross

1985
Manjimup 15000 winner
King of the Cross
Mr Motocross
250cc Representative Motocross des Nations

1987
1st Burswood Supercross

1988
1st Burswood Supercross
Australian 125cc Champion
Australian 250cc Champion
Australian 500cc Champion

2013
Inducted into the Motorcycling Western Australia Hall of Fame

2016
Inducted into The Australian Motor Sport Hall of Fame

international

1986
9th 125cc AMA Pro National Motocross Series (USA, Honda)

1987
6th 125cc AMA Pro National Motocross Series (USA, Yamaha)

1988
4th 500cc AMA Pro National Motocross Series (USA, Honda)
6th 250cc AMA Pro National Motocross Series (USA, Honda)
3rd Daytona Supercross (USA)
3rd Meadowlands Supercross (USA)
3rd 500cc Grand Prix, moto win (USA)
Australian 500cc Representative Motocross des Nations

1989
Runner-up World 500cc Motocross Champion
1st Finish 500cc Grand Prix, moto win
1st Italian 500 GP, moto win
Dutch Grand Prix moto win
Belgium Grand Prix moto win
Federation Internationale Motorcycliste Medal
Australian 500cc Representative Motocross des Nations
1st one night Paris Supercross

1990
10th in World 500cc Motocross Championship
1st French 500 Grand Prix
Swiss Grand Prix Moto win
1st 500cc Motocross des Nations

Video gallery

1989 World 500cc Grand Prix – Round 1 Valkenswaard, Holland

1989 World 500cc Grand Prix, Finland – Round 5 (SBS Special)

1989 World 500cc Grand Prix – Round 8,
San Marino, Italy (S
peedblitz22)

Interview with Lee Ashby (Motocross & Speedway Memories)

1985 World Motocross of Nations – Gaildorf, Germany

1989 World Motocross of Nations – Gaildorf, Germany (3M Trailer)

1989 World Motocross of Nations – Gaildorf, Germany

King of the Cross documentary

Western Classic documentary

1981 Australian Championships, Tasmania

1982 Australian Championships, Queensland

1984 Leisk swinging for World Sidecar Champion Emil Bollhalder

KTM Tribute to Jeff Leisk

Australian Championship results and photos

Click on the links below to view Australian Motocross Championship results back to 1953, event photos or rider profiles.

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