Australian Motocross History

State Motocross WA

Australian Motocross History - Harley Scramble 1928 to 1963 at the Rope Works in Mosman Park
WA STATE motocross legends
Jeff Leisk - Runner up World 500cc Motocross Champion
Australian Motocross Champion Peter Nicol
WA STATE motocross rIDER FEATURE stories
1959 Bill Watson, winner of the Goldfields Open
wa STATE motocross  photos & VIDEOS
King of the Cross documentary Video cover
wa STATE motocross  pROGRAMS
1984 King of the Cross Program Cover

State Motocross Western Australia

WA played a huge role in the history of Australian motocross

Motocross is extremely popular in Western Australia with over 2,900 licensed competitors. 

In fact, the first ever large-scale motocross event in Australia took place in Perth on 17 June 1928 at the Rope Works circuit in Mosman Park. 

It was known as ‘Scrambles’ in those days with the Harley Davidson Motorcycle Club hosting the Harley Scramble between 1928 and 1964 at that circuit, with breaks during the war years. 

This event was originated by Aub Melrose, one of Australia’s earliest Isle of Man contestants. During his stay in England in 1927, Aub witnessed scrambles and bought the idea back to Australia. 

Riders rode heavy bikes (like 1000cc Harley Davidsons and 500cc BSAs) with suspension being non-existent. 

The circuits were longer – like an enduro – with the first event finishing at Billy Goat Farm on the banks of the Swan River. 

The ascents were so steep that gangs of helpers were stationed at the top, armed with ropes and grappling hooks, to haul stricken riders to the top if they failed mid-climb. 

With the sport expanding to Europe, the new name ‘Motocross’ was given with the first Motocross des Nations being held in 1947 between England and Belgium. 

In Australia, the sport came of age in the mid-fifties after World War II when our first National Championships were held in Korweinguboora, Victoria in 1953.

1928 Harley Scramble Program Rope Works Mosman Park WA

1928 Harley Scramble Program Cover

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Australian Motocross History - Harley Scramble 1928 to 1963 at the Rope Works in Mosman Park
Harley Scramble - Ropeworks Mosman Park 1950s
AMXH Australian Motocross Champions List - Poster - 350cc Class - Peter Nicol
Harley Scramble The Rope Works Mosman Park WA - crowds in the 1960s

In 1928 the Harley Scramble in Mosman Park, WA was the first large-scale motocross event held in Australia

The ‘Rope Works’ circuit was next to a rope factory.  Helpers would haul up stricken riders unable to climb to the top of the steep hills

Peter Nichol won the Harley Scramble a record five times between 1951-1957. He also won two National Titles at the venue in 1955

During its peak in the 1960s. the Harley Scramble at Mosman  Park, on the outskirts of Perth, would attract crowds of over 20,000 people

The inaugural State WA championships in 1955

WA held its first State Championship on 24 July 1955 at the Hilton Park circuit, hosted by the Coastal Motor Cycle Club. 

The 2.5 mile (3.7km) track was marked out through a limestone quarry with each class contesting a 10 lap race in the morning and a 14 lap race in the afternoon.

That was over 60 kilometers in one day for each class. And considering how tough the course was and the lack of suspension on the vintage bikes, the riders were unbelievably strong and fit. 

Bill Watson took out the inaugural 500cc State Championship event on a Gold Star BSA. 

Amazingly Bill is still competing today in Vintage Motocross, in his nineties.

The first WA State Championship was held over one weekend. But from then on, they were held over multiple rounds throughout the State – sometimes up to ten different circuits. 

This format is still in place today. Allocating riders permanent numbers began in 1959.

The spectacular Harley Scrambles and Herne Hill International in the 1960-70s attracted between 5,000 to 20,000 spectators. 

Both events often incorporated State Championship rounds.

1959 Bill Watson, winner of the Goldfields Open

Bill Watson (Kalgoorlie) won the first ever State Championship in 1955 at the Hilton Park Quarry circuit

1971 Jim Aird Scotland at Herne Hill 3 - Photos Tony Forsyth

During the 160s to 1070s the A.J.S. MCC hosted Hill International motocross events at Herne Hill (Photo: Tony Forsyth)

International motocross in WA

Herne Hill became an International event in the sixties, attracting riders from Europe, England and New Zealand. In 1960 it was the first scrambling event to be televised live in Australia. And in the seventies it was even televised live on two TV stations – the ABC and Channel 7.

The ’Motocross’ name eventually became the norm in the 1970s when the sport really flourished. It was around the time when the Herne Hill International event became part of an eight-round series across Australia. The 1971 series started at Herne Hill with the second round at Manjimup.

Race entries peaked in the 1970s. As numbers were in the thousands, two separate race meetings were run on the same day – for experts and non-experts. 

The AJS Herne Hill and Harley Davidson Harley Scramble events attracted more than 400 entries. One Harley
Scramble race in 1974 had almost 200 riders competing in it with 19 rows on the starting grid.

In the 1970-80s other spectacular motocross events replaced Herne Hill – when the track was closed due to development – attracting National and International competitors.

The King of the Cross (Southern Cross), Manjimup 15,000 (Cosy Creek), and Western Classic (various venues) all put up large prizemoney and attracted up to 10,000 spectators at each event.

While racing participation numbers have fallen since the sensational seventies, the sport has continued to become more professional with WA hosting the 1992 World Motocross des Nations at the Cosy Creek circuit in Manjimup, followed by a World 125cc Grand Prix at the same venue a year later.

The ’92 MX des Nations attracted more than 20,000 spectators – the first time ever that this team event was held outside of Europe.

From Scrambling to Motocross - 1992 Motocross of Nations Manjimup

The ’92 Motocross of Nations at Cosy Creek Manjimup attracted more than 20,000 spectators 

Motocross des Nations - Australian Team 1992

The Australian Team at the ’92 Motocross of Nations – Jason Marshall  (WA, 500), Dale Britton (WA, 250) and Kim Ashkenazi (NSW, 125)

Home town hero Jeff Leisk

Throughout the history of Motocross in Australia , West Australians have been competitive at National Level despite the disadvantage of having to travel so far to the majority of championship rounds in the Eastern States. 

And our own Jeff Leisk succeeded big time on the International stage. Jeff won his first Australian Junior at nine years of age and a World Championship at 13 in 1976. 

Before heading overseas in the early 1980s he won the National Championships, the prestigious Mr Motocross series, Manjimup 15000, King of the Cross and Western Classic – all multiple times. 

From 1986 to 1988 Jeff lived in the USA riding for the Honda America Team. In ‘88 he finished in the US Top 10 at both indoor supercross and outdoor motocross venues. 

Then in 1989 he moved to Europe and finished second in his debut world championship year in the 500cc class – winning many individual Grand Prix rounds that year.

1992 - Jeff Leisk in Europe after finish Runner-up World Champion the year before

Jeff Leisk racing in Europe in 1993 after finishing the Runner-up World 500cc Champion the year before

State WA Motocross champions

Western Australia has had many champion riders over the years.  But on home soil, three riders stand out from the pack – Dale Britton (Rockingham), Graeme Smythe (Kalgoorlie), and Neville Cutts (Manjimup).

Dale Britton won 13 State titles (including two Junior titles)  and a National 125cc Championship in 1996.  He also represented Australia several times in the World Motocross des Nations.

Graeme Smythe competed at the highest level for almost two decades in the 1970-80s – winning 10 WA State titles and two National Championships and Neville Cutts won nine State titles, including three in the Restricted License Holders class for juniors.

In earlier times Glen Britza won seven  State titles, and was twice runner-up in the sidecars, along with two Kalgoorlie riders Ritchie Kings and Bill Watson.

Dale and Graeme were both inducted into the WA Motorcycling Hall of Fame in 2014 and 2015, respectively and Neville in 2017.  They joined the likes of top International Australian rider Jeff Leisk and other local champions Glen Britza, Richie Kings, Peter Nichol, Gordon Renfree, Bob O’Leary, John Rock  and Charlie West in this exclusive club.

Jeff Leisk, who won a World Junior Motocross Champiosnhip and was the 1989 Runner-up World 500cc Motocross Champion only won one senior State Motocross Champion before he moved to the Eastern States, US and Europe.

Charlie West also spent significant time abroad – racing International motocross in Europe between 1962 to 1964.  West won six Australian Championships in the 50s-60s and at least three WA titles.  However, all the past WA results for that period are not available. 

Maybe you can help fill in any gaps.  Check out the WA Champions list below.

Dale Britton Australian Motocross Champion

Rockingham rider Dale Britton won 13 WA State Motocross championships in all solo classes in the 1980-90s, a National  125cc Title and represented  Australia in the World MX des Nations.

Graeme Smythe Australian Motocross Champion

Kalgoorlie-born Graeme Smythe competed in the WA State Motocross championships for more than 15 years in the 1970s-80s, dominating the 250cc, 500cc and Unlimited classes.  He won two National  Championships, ten State WA titles and a NSW title.

2021 WA State motocross calendar & information

Click on the right image or button below to go to the Motorcycling Western Australia’s website to find out what local motocross events are planned, find out what you or your children need to do to race, and where your local club is located.

Australian Motocross History