World Motocross Champions in Australia for the first time

World Motocross Champions in Australia for the first time

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1972 International Motocross Series

9, 10 & 17 DECEMBER 1972 - Basham Park (SA), Calder Park (VIC) and Oran park (NSW)
1972 International Motocross – L-R – Roger De Coster (2), Joel Robert (1), Bengt Aberg (6), Willi Bauer (5), and Adolf Weil (4)
1972 International Motocross Series with World Champions Joel Robert and Roger De Coster

Photos:  1972 International Motocross visiting riders [L-R] Roger De Coster, reigning World  500cc Motocross Champion (2, Suzuki), Joel Robert , reigning World 250cc Champion (1, Suzuki), Bengt Aberg, Swedish Champion (6, Husqvarna) and West German Champions Willi Bauer (5, Maico), and Adolf Weil (4, Maico)

World Champion motocross riders in Australia for the first time

On 9 December 1972, two reigning World Motocross Champions raced in Australia for the first time – factory Suzuki riders Joel Robert and Roger de Coster from Belgium.

This was the first time ever that a reigning World Champion, let alone two, raced down under – although others would follow after this.

The legends of the sport were competing in the first round of the International Motocross Superstars Series at Basham Park, promoted by South Australian businessman Linden Prowse.

Round 1 at Basham Park (SA) was held on 9 December 1972, round 2 was at Calder Raceway (Vic) the following day, then round 3 was contested at Oran Park (NSW) a week later on 17 December.

Prowse put up $100,000 of his own money, with some support from Coca Cola, and flew in the internationals, which also included reigning British 250cc Champion Andy Roberton, Swedish legend, Bengt Aberg (Husqvarna) and Germany’s top guns Adolf Weil and Willi Bauer (Maico).

A successful pet food manufacturer, Prowse came up with the idea of bringing international motocross to Australia after he visited Europe. 

But he didn’t know that Australian international pioneer Tim Gibbes had already established an annual international motocross series between 1966 to 1971.

The promotion leading up to the first event was unprecedented for a motorcycle event in this country and the full colour program even had a foreword from the Duke of Edinburgh (patron of the Auto Cycle Union of Great Britain) on Buckingham Palace letterhead, and wishes from Film star Steve McQueen.

But when the racing was over, amazingly it was Husqvarna rider Bengt Aberg from Sweden who took out the overall series over the two reigning World 250 and 500cc Champions, Robert and De Coster, respectively.

December in this country is stinking hot, but this did not deter the visitors who had just left wintery conditions and totally dominated the racing.

The best of the Aussies who competed in the whole series were Kiwi expatriate Brian Martin (NSW), Gary Adams (VIC) and the late Gregg Hansford (QLD) – who later switched to road racing (bikes and cars) and was tragically killed in a race car accident.

Image: The program cover for the 1972  International Motocross Superstars  Australian Tour.

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1972 International Motocross Program Cover

Swede Aberg upsets World Champs at Basham Park

1972 International Motocross - 6 Bengt Aberg (Sweden Husqvarna) leads Laurie Alderton (NSW)

Swedish Champion Bengt Aberg (6, Husqvarna) leads Laurie Alderton (NSW, 63, Montesa) in the opening round at Basham Park in South Australia

The first round was one of the first ever meetings at the new Basham Park circuit, owned by South Australian motocross legend Dave Basham.

Basham Park was located in the Adelaide foothills and was a tight, undulating circuit approximately 1.5 kilometres in length.

Before the racing even began there was drama with South Australian officials refusing to let the internationals practice on bikes where the countershaft sprockets were exposed and handlebar ends were not fitted with plugs, even though these machines had just competed in the World Championships.

The 10,000 strong crowd were becoming increasingly frustrated, but after a lengthy stand-off and Prowse calling the ACU in UK, the riders were allowed to race.

Predictably, the internationals dominated with Bengt Aberg (Sweden, Husqvarna) winning the first 20-minute leg from West German Maico riders Adolf Weil and Willi Bauer.

Weil managed to beat the Swede in Leg Two, but despite the pair tying for the overall points with a 1-2 finish each, Aberg won on a countback system.

West German Bauer wins at Calder Park Raceway

Round 2 was held 24-hours later at the new Calder Park Circuit, west of Melbourne. Like Supercross tracks are built today by bringing in truckloads of earth, the track was created on the inside of the road racing circuit. But after the track was tested and criticised by several of the top riders, it was completely rebuilt just in time for the scheduled start.

A disappointing crowd of only 5,000 people turned up due to the high entry price of $3.50 and extreme heat. Despite copious watering of the surface, dust quickly became a problem.

West German Willi Bauer (Maico) won the first leg ahead of round 1 winner Aberg (Husqvarna), with Roger De Coster (Suzuki) in third.  De Coster won Leg 2, ahead of Aberg and Bauer, with the West German taking out the overall round.

Expatriate Kiwi Brian Martin (Maico 400), Gary Adams (VIC, Bultaco 250) and Jack Pengelly (Maico 400) were the top-scoring locals.

Although crowds were down on Adelaide, the racing was better and the internationals preferred Calder over the smaller Basham Park circuit.

1972 International Motocross Series overall winner Willie Bauer (West Germany) is presented with his trophy at Calder by Douglas Lockwood (Melbourne Herald) with promoter Linden Prowse clapping behind

De Coster wins final round, with Aberg taking the series

1972 International Motocross – Adolf Weil (4) and Bengt Aberg (6) dueling at Oran Park

Adolf Weil (4, West Germany, Maico) and Bengt Aberg (6, Sweden, Husqvarna) dueling in the final of three rounds at Oran Park.

The final round at Oran Park in New South Wales, was also conducted on the inside of a road racing circuit, but this track included sections of natural terrain and had already staged several motocross meetings.

To the relief of the race promoter Prowse, a very healthy 10-12,000 spectators turned up.

The Europeans really excelled at this circuit – soaring over the jumps, braking later in corners and hitting the throttle earlier into the straights.  And after a somewhat disappointing series from the two World Champions, they returned to form at Oran Park.

De Coster (Suzuki) won the opening leg ahead of Robert (Suzuki) and Weil after fellow West German and Maico rider Bauer suffered a broken chain. Bauer made amends in Leg 2 winning the holeshot and, although pushed by Aberg for the race duration, held on to win, with De Coster in third.

Aberg, the most consistent rider over the series, was the overall winner.  Per Klitland was the local winner of the series, finishing first at Oran Park ahead of Jim Scaysbrook and Garry Adams.

Although the series boosted the Australian Motocross scene with the sport about to explode with the new wave of Japanese bikes becoming available and revolution in suspension systems, Prowse walked away from the sport and pursued other business interests, including becoming a breeder of successful race horses.

Three years later another Belgium Suzuki works rider and World Champion toured Australia. After clinching the 1975 World 125cc Championship, Gaston Rahier brought with him a host of internationals in a promotional tour.  His first event was at the Australian Championships in Sanford, Tasmania, where he cleaned up and won the 125cc, 250cc and Unlimited titles.

Steve McQueen with Joel Robert
1972 World Champion Motocross Riders at Basham Park South Australia - Roger de Coster and Joel Robert

Photo:  [Left]  A letter from famous Film actor Steve McQueen; and [right] Riders, associates and Cornell Suzuki staff prior to the opening round of the 1972 International Motocross Tour at Basham Park (SA) on 9  December 1972 , including three World Motocross Champions Joel Robert (Belgium, 500cc, seated in the middle) and Roger de Coster (Belgium, 250cc, standing 2nd from left) and Bengt Aberg (Sweden, 500cc, right next to De Coster).  Others include Andy Roberton (United Kingdom, next to Aberg) then Willie Bauer (West Germany), with Adolf Weil (West Germany, squatting far right).  

1972 International Motocross Series - Calder - Andy Roberton (3 Britain), Roger de Coster (2 Belgium), Adolf Weil (5 Germany) and Willi Bauer (4 Germany)
1972 International Motocross Series - Calder - World Champion Roger de Coster
1972 International Motocross Series - Calder - World Champion Joel Robert

[Left] International Motocross Series at Calder (VIC) –  Race start featuring Andy Roberton (3 Britain), Roger de Coster (2 Belgium), Adolf Weil (5 Germany) and Willi Bauer (4 Germany); [centre] World Champion Roger de Coster; and [right] another  World Champion Joel Robert.

1972 International Motocross Tour results

1972 International Motocross Series - Joel Robert at Oran Park on 17 December - By Ray Ryan

Overall International Winner
Bengt Aberg (Sweden, Husqvarna)

Round 1 winner Basham Park, SA 
Bengt Aberg (Sweden, Husqvarna)

Round 2 winner Calder Park, VIC 
Willie Bauer (West Germany, Maico)

Round 3 winner Oran Park, NSW
Roger De Coster (Belgium, Suzuki)

Overall Australian Winner
Per Klitland (Denmark/NSW, Maico)

Round 1 winner Basham Park, SA 
Per Klitland (Denmark/NSW, Maico)

Round 2 winner Calder Park, VIC 
Brian Martin (NZ/NSW, Maico) and
Gary Adams (VIC, Bultaco)

Round 3 winner Oran Park, NSW
Per Klitland (Denmark/NSW, Maico)

Photo:  Six-times World 250cc Motocross Champion Joel Robert at Oran Park, New South Wales on 17 December 1972 (By Ray Ryan)

Video gallery

Paul Not DownUnder – Joel Robert, the King of Motocross

Whiskey and Throttle Show – Roger de Coster Interview (starts 17m mark)

1972 500cc International MX Holland – West Germans Willie Bauer and Adolf Weil competing

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