Motocross Legend Vandenberg

Motocross Legend Vandenberg

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Australian Motocross Legend Vandenberg

Ray Vandenberg clinched the 1983 Mr Motocross series at the final round in Broadford
1983 Mr Motocross Ray Vandenberg, with Stephen Gall and Marty Moates - Photo Lou Martin
1983 Mr Motocross winner Ray Vandenberg - cartoon

Photos: Victorian rider Ray Vandenberg clinched the 1983 Mr Motocross series at the final round on home soil in Broadford. Top RHS: Accepting his winner’s trophy and prizes  at Broadford with Stephen Gall (NSW, second) and Marty Moates (USA, third) – Photo: Lou Martin

Vandenberg creates history, becoming the youngest rider to win Mr. Motocross

In 1983, at age 19, Ray Vandenberg from Heany Park in Victoria etched his name in the history books when he became the youngest rider to win the prestigious Mr. Motocross series.

Two years earlier, the Suzuki rider burst onto the national motocross scene finishing second in the Australian 250cc Championships, behind Stephen Gall (Yamaha) at Symmons Plains in Launceston, Tasmania.

Then in 1982, Vandenberg won the 125cc Championship on a Suzuki at the Echo Valley Circuit in Toowoomba, Queensland, after finishing ninth in Mr. MX – in his first attempt.

“Goof”, as he was nicknamed, was not expected to challenge the stars of the 70s and 80s on the big 500cc two-strokes. But he did in 1983!

That year was the tenth anniversary of the series and the line-up was strong including Mr. MX champions Anthony Gunter (1976, ‘77 and ‘79), Stephen Gall (1978, ‘80-82), plus two visiting US stars – Jimmy Ellis (KTM) and Marty Moates (Suzuki).

The race format comprised four back-to-back 20 minute plus 1 lap motos (with a five minute break in between races), changed from the previous four 8-lap sprints. 

The number of rounds was also increased from four to five and were held at Mallala (SA), Toowoomba (QLD) Newcastle (NSW), with the opening and closing rounds in Broadford (VIC).

Vandenberg blitzed the opposition in the opening round, winning it ahead of Gall and Ellis to lead the series early. But rounds 2 and 3 were evenly contested with Gall taking over the lead mid-way through the series and was now on track for four successive Mr. MX wins.

In Round 4, Leisk finally hit his straps and convincingly won in Newcastle to narrow the points gap on Gall, Moates and Vandenberg, who lost points after being disqualified in one leg for passing a rider under the yellow flag.

Going into the final round at Broadford, Gall now led the championship chase by 23 points over Vandenberg. But with double-points up for grabs, Moates and Leisk were also still in the title chase.

In front of a huge home crowd cheering him on, Vandenberg didn’t disappoint and won the first three moto’s.

The racing was spectacular and, with Moates crashing in the second moto and Gall in the third, Vandenberg was now the series leader with one race to go.  He only needed to place to secure the title, which he did cruising home in third place behind Moates and Gall.

The final placings were Vandenberg (Suzuki, 250 points), Gall (Yamaha, 231), Moates (Suzuki, 182), Leisk (Honda, 172) and Trevor Williams (Kawasaki, 162).

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1981 Australian 250cc Runnerup Champion Ray Vandenberg Symmons Plains, Tasmania

1981 Runner-up Australian 250cc Motocross Champion at Symmons Plains in  Tasmania

1982 Australian 125cc Champion Ray Vandenberg Toowoomba Queensland

1982 Australian 125cc Motocross Champion at the Echo Valley circuit in Toowoomba, Queensland

1983 Mr Motocross winner Ray Vandenberg in action

Vandenberg donning the No.9 plate, after finishing ninth in the 1982 Mr. Motocross series

1983 Mr Motocross winner Ray Vandenberg with his trophy at the final Broadford round

Achieving his boyhood dream at Broadford in 1983, to secure the Mr. Motocross series at just 19

From Team Suzuki to Team Honda

On a high from his history win, Vandenberg literally came crashing down a week later at the Australian Championships at Acusa Park in Adelaide (SA) when he severely injured his knee in a race accident.

Despite the injury, Team Honda signed Vandenberg up for the 1984 season, alongside Jeff Leisk, and Vandenberg recovered to finish second in the Australian 125cc Championship at Broadford.

But in 1985, after reinjuring his knee again while walking along the beach, he quit the sport and didn’t make his trip to America, which had been planned when he joined team Honda.

After several operations and a long rest, Vandenberg made a brief comeback at the 1989 Victorian State Championships to win the opening round on a Kawasaki ahead of the new kid on the block – Lee Hogan.

But a week later, Vandenberg reinjured his knee and this time called racing quits for good.

Ray Vandenberg with his father riding a minibike

Ray Vandenberg, as a child with his father, who was his mechanic and No.1 fan in earlier times

Castrol advertisement - Ray Vandenberg riding for Honda in 1984 - with Stephen Gall

Castrol advertisement – Ray Vandenberg riding for Honda in 1984, pictured  with Stephen Gall (Yamaha)

Ray Vandenberg with his wife and daughter at the Mr MX Legends event

Ray Vandenberg with his wife and daughter at the Mr MX Legends and Stars dinner in 2014

Ray Vandenberg's 50th birthday gift RM 500 Suzuki

Ray Vandenberg’s surprise 50th birthday gift – his winning Mr. Motocross RM 500 Suzuki bike

Goof’s surprise birthday gift, his title-winning restored RM500 Suzuki

Ray Vandenberg’s career was cruelly cut short after several severe knee injuries.

The 1983 Australian Motocross Championships in South Australia – just a week after clinching the Mr. Motocross series at Broadford – when he first injured his knee was the last time he lay eyes on his beloved RM500 Suzuki. 

When he got out of hospital after his operation, much to his dismay, he discovered that his Suzuki team manager Trevor Flood had sold the bike.

Thanks to the efforts of several of Goof’s good mates, the champion and his steed were finally reunited some 30 years later at his 50th birthday party.

Unknown to him, his mates had tracked down the bike and restored it to brand new condition – presenting it to him in an emotional ceremony at the birthday party – giving him the surprise of his life.

Photo: [L-R] Ray Vandenberg’s 50th birthday gift from Gary Hacking, (Ray), Rob Urquhart, Les Barfoot, Rosco Holden and Kristian Perry

Video gallery

1983 Mr Motocross highlights

MXTV Where are they now? Ray Vandenberg

3M Trailer MXTV Interview with Ray Vandenberg

1982 Australian Championships, Queensland

1981 Australian Championships, Tasmania

Full MXTV Interview with Ray Vandenberg

Vandenberg's achievements

Ray Vandenberg at a Supercross event

Ray “Goof” Vandenberg

Runner-up 250cc Australian Motocross Champion, Symmons Plains, Launceston (Suzuki, Tasmania)

Australian 125cc Champion, Toowoomba (Suzuki, Queensland)
9th place in Mr. Motocross (Suzuki)

Mr Motocross winner (Suzuki)

Runner-up 125cc Australian Motocross Champion, Broadford (Honda, Victoria)


During this period, Vandenberg also won five Victorian State Championships

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