Sylvain Geboers interview - Motocross Pioneer
Interview Tuesday 11th May 2010 By Geoff Meyer
Similar to an Australian Motocross Championship or South African championship, but for sure not as strong as the British and French Championships the American series was a happy hunting ground for the leading World Motocross Championship riders.
A lot has changed over the years, the American series has grown to be one of the most exciting series in the World of Motocross and the industry in America is huge. Geboers arrived in America 40 years ago and grew to love the adventure of that amazing country. We just had to ask him about his experiences.
MXlarge: Sylvain, so when did you first race in America?
Geboers: It was in 1970 and it was great. At that time American Motocross was not as developed as it is now. We started the races with the left hand on the helmet instead of on the clutch you know, really funny. We crossed all over the United States; one race was even in Hawaii. We rode in 250cc and 500cc classes. We had Roger De Coster and Ake Jonsson in the 500cc class and Joel Robert and I in the 250cc class, plus of course other riders. The competition after the World Championship gave us the chance to earn good money and visit the United States; they took us in as princes.
MXlarge: How did you go in your first race?
Geboers: Let me think, my first race was Saddleback or Carlsbad and I won that race. It was the USGP, but not the official USGP. I won two or three of the races and I won that, then I won the Trans AMA series in 1970 that was great fun and times. We raced guys like John De Soto, Brad Lackey, and Jimmy Weinert.
MXlarge: I remember seeing pictures of you guys with movie stars like Steve McQueen and Sofia Loren. What was that like for a young Belgian man?
Geboers: Every state we visited we were welcomed by the dealers, they made big parties for us. I missed Steve McQueen that was Joel Robert and Roger De Coster; they had contact with him, the previous year, also with Torsten Hallman.
MXlarge: How was the racing, how serious was it?
Geboers: The competition wasn’t as serious as in the World Motocross Championship. You had to travel the whole week to be at the race, but it was good, it was a good introduction of Motocross into the country, and look how it has grown.
MXlarge: Did you also enjoy the lifestyle over there?
Geboers: Our interest was the sport and we were guided from Japan, and back then we would get Japanese mechanics and somebody to interpret for the Japanese, because they didn’t speak English and also Joel Robert spoke English and French. We were supported by the factory to race in those races. It is totally different now. Also an American car was a truck for us. The riders used to fly from race to race and at that time, but I was afraid to fly. I asked can I drive a car, so I drove from Los Angeles to Unadilla in New York, then back and so on, it was a lot of driving, but I got to see the country. The lifestyle was totally different, compared to Europe back then. In America you could go to restaurants so easy. You could eat beside the road wherever you wanted and in Europe at that time it was hard to find a hotel, in America they were everywhere.
MXlarge: Did you attend the USGP in Glen Helen in 1990 when Eric won?
Geboers: I wasn’t at that 1990 Grand Prix. I worked with Harry Everts and Eric at the 125cc GP at Ohio that worked okay. We had to send the bikes to American Suzuki in Los Angeles pick them up and drive to Mid-Ohio. The Japanese mechanic travelled with me, and we drove the van. It was a different life compared to now, and it worked out okay. We got used to the heat, air conditioning or windows open.