Pit Beirer - A German Motocross Legend
News Friday 27th July 2012
Amazingly Beirer never really performed that well at his home Grand Prix. Even in his best season ever (1999) when "The PitBull" finished second in the world (losing the title by 18 points) he couldn't put two races together at the Grand Prix of Germany (then held at the Gaildorf circuit). Going into that German GP he had a lead in the World 250cc Championship, leaving Gaildorf the title was under the control of Frenchman Frederic Bolley.
He did however win a German Grand Prix in 1997, some 15 years ago. Beirer went 2-1, beating Stefan Everts who went 1-2. He also won a 125cc/MX2 GP in Germany in 1991.
Pit Beirer - A Career in view
It all started back in 1982 just after my First Communion. After years of begging I was finally allowed to buy my first motorbike out of the communion money my relatives had given me. It was a Suzuki RM 80 bought from Zweirad Wehrle in Nussdorf and it cost me DM 2,300.
Back then Joachim Wehrle gave me a motocross newspaper with a check list in it titled: "How will I become a motocross rider" I still remember today that I told Jochim that I fully intended to become a motocross rider.
I was probably the only one who believed that this was a perfectly serious resolution. At that time my father Peter was also a recreational motocross rider and in September my dad and I took part in my first ever race in Bisingen.
He was the oldest, and I was the youngest in the race. On the Saturday I immediately had a crash that took some of the wind out of me. As the medic as about to shove me in the ambulance I stood up and bolted! I really wanted to race on Sunday.
I made it into the B-final and I finished third. It was at this race that we got to know the Seiler family from Owingen who were just about as crazy at the Beirers and who had their own motocross track just 15 km away from where we lived.
From that point on a terrific friendship developed between Marco Seiler and me and outside of school we spent every free moment out on the motocross track in Unterbach. In 1983 I also competed in a couple more races and I wound up in 11th place in the German Junior Championship.
In 1983 Ecki Seiler organized a rider training session with Ludwig Reinbold for us young riders during the Easter holidays. That was the beginning of an intensive and long friendship with Ludwig that continues to this day.
1984: German Junior championship on Kawasaki KX80
1985: German Vice champion
1986: I had a serious crash in the final round of the German Championship in Mernes: punctured lung, fracture of my upper arm and spent 14 days in intensive care in Gelnhausen.
1987: Winner in the 80cc class at the OMK and the 125 cc championship in the former KS. 1988: OMK trophy winner in 125ccm. This season I won all the races that I started in.
In December ‘88 I was at the Indoor MX (now SupercrossSX) in Munich together with my dad and our friend Fredi Bühler, where we planned to meet the reprentatives from Honda to discuss the ‘89 season.
When they left us stranded we rang Hermann Kurz from a telephone box (at that time we thought mobile phones were far removed from normal people) and asked him for an appointment.
Next morning we sat in the Crown in Rosenberg and discussed my future. During our conversation, Hermann Kurz wrote out the whole contract by hand and when we had finished talking, we signed the document.
Six motorcycles on loan and a spare parts budget of DM 15,000. I was the happiest guy on the planet. Luckily Fredi's car had a trailer coupling so we were immediately able to borrow a trailer and take home our first Suzuki.
On the same evening I was out on the main street in Ludwigshafen and did a wheelie right in from of our favourite pub, the Crown, so that the entire village knew that our trip had been a success.
From that time on, it was almost pre-programmed that I was going to be one of the fastest motocross racers in Germany. However the financial problems we had at home almost forced me to give it all up. But then my father and friends rallied around and formed the Pit Beirer Fan Club.
This was a group of energetic young guys who believed in me and who weren't gong to stand by and see me have to give up on my favourite sport because of financial worries.
They managed to raise funds so that in 1989 I could compete in my first world championship season - and they did it by holding village festivals, collecting donations and with money out of their own pockets.
The material was secured through Mr. Kurz and Suzuki and nothing more stood in the way of an international career. April 1989 Faenza Italy: I qualified as 12th in my group for the world championship race on Sunday, which back then was a small sensation.
And when I came in at 11th in the first race and picked up my first world championship point, we were all a bit surprised. By the way, a young rider named Stefan Everts also raced his first world championship race that same day.
But the euphoria only lasted three days because while training in Hügelheim, going over a double jump where on a 125 cc you had to hit full gas in sixth gear, the upper eye of the shock absorber snapped off and I took a nasty fall.
The result: concussion and a broken collarbone. On the way to the hospital I must have asked the guy with me at least a 100 times whether I had really raced in my first world championship race and whether I had really picked up my first five championship points.
Didi Lacher came to visit me and brought me a clean T-shirt and the basic stuff I needed for my stay in hospital. But I used his visit as a way to sneak out of the hospital by the back door. I went straight back to my workshop and did a trial run sitting on my Suzuki.
I thought to myself that my collarbone felt quite stable but Ludwig Reinbold and the others there with us thought I was joking when I said: "By the way, I want to ride in the German championship race at the weekend!"
With this in mind I went to Freiburg to see my personal physician Dr. Wolfram Winterer and tried to convince him to help me. What he said was: "Well, it's certainly going to hurt!"
We went off to Schnaitheim for the championship race with a couple of rolls of tape in our luggage and I finished 4th and 6th. After that there were no races in the German championship for four weeks so I could let my collarbone heal up.
I ended my first professional season in fourth place in the German championship and finished 36th in the world championship.
1990: German Vice-champion behind Bob Moore, 13th in the world championships. Donny Schmitt was world champion that year. I was third in the last world championship race in 1990 in Wohlen (Switzerland) and at the same time that represented my breakthrough on the international MX scene.
1991: German champion and Inter-German champion, as well as 8th place in the world championship. That year, three riders finished the season in eighth place with equal points: Donny Schmitt, Pit Beirer and Greg Albertyn.
World champion was Stefan Everts. In was in this season that I broke my arm in France and a few weeks later in Reil, I won my first world championship race. Like it always is in sport, highs and lows are very often close together.
1992: German champion in the 125cc class, Inter-German Champion and seventh place in the world championship.
1993 then turned out to be a fateful year. In the first world championship race I left my chances of a good result in the mud and only picked up a few points. I crashed at the start of the second race and ended up with a deep cut in my arm. I was in 14th place in the standings after this second race.
After that I rode a couple of fantastic races. I was on the podium after practically every race and I rapidly made up ground in the standings. By the middle of the season I was the strongest rider in the field.
I won the world championship races in Poland and in the Czech Republic and I then went to Gerstetten for the German race. I was second in the first two runs and I was leading the standings before the third race.
I slipped a bit in the first lap in the third race (back then there were three at the event). I put me leg down on the ground and Mikael Pichon plowed straight into my knee with his front wheel. I tore my cruciate ligament and my season was over.
This injury was a real setback for me and in the 1994 season I was not in the same form as I had been in 1993. I rode quite a reasonable season, took a couple of podiums and finished in fifth place in the world championship.
1995 was the year I moved up to the 250 cc class riding a Pamo Honda. I was also able to finish in fifth place at then end of the season and I could have won the last world championship race in France. That was the day that Stefan Everts celebrated his first 250 cc world championship title.
1996 was my worse ever world championship season. After the first three races nothing seemed to work for me and suddenly I was fighting for 10th places.
Then in the summer, just as things were starting to improve and I had made it into the top five, I broke the scaphoid bone in my hand while training in Rixheim. Back then this was an injury that called for six months out of the competition.
Again I found myself sitting in Wolfram's surgery, my trusted doctor. Then Dieter Porsch (ADAC Head of Sports) gave us the telephone number of Dr. Werber in Munich.
Back then, DR. Werber was the only one who could operate on such a sports injury where you could return to competition more or less straight after the surgery. None of the other hand specialists would take it on.
The likelihood that I would be able to compete again in three weeks was incentive enough for for me. Naturally I went to Munich and I did on fact ride again three weeks later in the world championship race in Kester.
My riding was better than before my injury and I never had any more trouble with my hand. By the way, the screw is still in there today - certainly an example of good material. I finally finished the season in seventh place.
In 1997 everything finally started to go better for me. I trailed Stefan Everts and Marniqu Bervoets as the third power pack in the top group. I beat Stefan in the GP at Gaildorf and I put in two great races at the Motocross of Nations in Belgium.
Drawing a line under 1997 I was the Swiss champion, third in the world championship 250 ccm and winner of the individual class at the Motocross of Nations. In 1998 I was again third in the world championship.
Everts and Tortelli dominated the season in which there were only three GP winners: Everts, Tortelli and Beirer. If Tortelli won in the final in Greece, then Stefan only needed a second place to be the world champion. Honda had asked me to protectively help Stefan and they had promised me the same material as he got for the next four years.
So when in ‘98 I was given Stefan's old material and he again got the better version, I was pretty upset. In fact by then, I was totally fed up. I told the Japanese race boss before the final that he couldn't count on my help anymore.
By then I already had a contract with Jan de Groot in my pocket for a ride with the Kawasaki factory team. Tortelli won twice, I was second and Stefan was third, so Tortelli took the world championship title by a slim margin.
By this time I had won a few world championship races and had been German champion a couple of times but I had not yet achieved my big aim, to be world champion. Then I made a radical change in my former life.
I cut my ties with my long-time team of assistants and mechanics and went to Belgium on my own. I wanted to make a new start and above all, I wanted to become the world champion.
At the end of October I went to visit Jan de Groot and to check out my new surroundings. I also had the telephone number of Willy Linden in my pocket, which he had given to me at the last world championship race in Roggenburg.
He was the trainer of the Everts family and had been with Harry for four titles and had been Stefan's fitness trainer for his four titles. He had cut his ties with Stefan at the end of ‘97 and he offered me his services for the ‘99 season. I thought to myself that if anyone could help me beat Stefan then it would be his former trainer.
So on the way back from seeing Jan I dropped in on Willy and we quickly came to an agreement about cooperation. He wanted me to move to Neeroeteren, which rather controversially was where Stefan was born.
That same night we checked out an empty house with the aid of a torch and the next day I telephoned from Germany and rented it.
That was pretty hard, preparing for the world championship in Stefan's hometerritory, knowing he was going to be my toughest opponent. I certainly didn't want to get into any situation with Stefan but we both had a problem - we both wanted to be on the top of the podium and up there, as everyone knows, there's only room for one.
There was a new surprise waiting for me every morning when I went out to my car. Either the windshield wipers were ripped off, the paint work scratched or the windshield smeared with sh......
But from November 5 onwards I worked six days a week with Willy towards my main goal and looking back, it should have been my most successful season. I had the lead in the world championships for a couple of months but at the German world championship race in Gaildorf things started to go down the tube.
Unfortunately Stefan got badly injured in the pre-season classic at Beucaire and couldn't start in the first world championship race. Bervoets from my own team became my main rival and we both took a few points off each other and when I did manage to put pressure on him he just got stronger.
I went to Gaildorf for the second last world championship race with a large points lead in the standings. After we got the pole position on Saturday, everything looked like we were heading for the title.
A crash at the start of the first race was the signal for a pending defeat. The rear wheel brakes were wrecked and suddenly, instead of being 14 points in front, I was trailing by six points.
I started the second race in fifth and I badly wanted to win back some points. I overtook Hughes, Bolley und Everts, then suddenly a part of my front fork came off and got jammed in the steering head. I jumped off onto the side of the track and just managed to avoid a big crash.
I managed to finish in sixth place with my damaged bike but again I lost some more valuable points to Bolley. He then only needed two respectable results at the final in Budds Creek to become world champion.
I was vice world champion and was nevertheless disappointed that it was not quite enough to make the title.
In 2000 I was again third in the world championship and Pichon, back from the USA, was world champion. In 2001 I let myself be dazzled by a financial offer from Italy and with hindsight I have to admit that it was a big mistake for me to have left Jan de Groot After that, there were two years of pure adventure.
I had a contact for a Yamaha factory bike with an unbelievable sum of money on the top of it. But the reality turned out to be a standard Yamaha with an Öhlins chassis and the payments were mostly made with cheques that weren't covered by the necessary funds.
At the end of the season the team switched to Honda without me knowing about it, which from the competition point of view was actually lucky for me. Again, we only had standard bikes, but a standard Honda was fine for me and I ended up with another third place in the world championship.
I was also able to win the German MX as a guest rider for Team Sarholz Another bitter disappointment was that the rider that finished in front of me in second place in the world championship tested positive for doping and got away with it with just a small fine.
But two years of adventure were enough and I then asked Kurt Nicoll and Heinz Kinigadner to please take me into the KTM factory team. We had been talking about working together for years but my goal was to be world champion in 250cc and KTM only officially entered the 250 class for the world championship in 2002.
We already had close contact from the end of 2000, but Heinz said we should wait until they had a competitive 250 bike. By the end of 2002 that had happened and for me it was a dream come true: to start as a German-speaking rider for a German-speaking manufacturer.
Regrettably, my luck didn't hold out for very long. I was in second place in the second world championship race in Valkenswaard when I had a big crash and tore a ligament in my thumb. Dr. Werber, who I have already talked about earlier, had to whip my thumb into shape using a nail and a small screw.
I had just managed to recover a bit from this injury and it was time for the world championship race in Montevarchi. It was the changing of the guard for 250 cc bikes with the entrance of the strong 4-stroke machines. Stefan Everts won the race from Smets and Federici.
Pichon was the first 2-stroke across the line in fourth place and I was glued to his rear wheel in fifth. Back then it was clear to me that when I could be up there with Pichon's Suzuki factory bike then we had a super package, because the next two-stroke was miles behind us.
All the same there was not much else we could do against the 4-strokes on a hard, slippery track like Montevarchi. One week later was the last race of my career.
June 8, 2003 Sevlievo Bulgaria I won the start and led the field in the first round!!! Again it was very slippery and the 4-stroke bikes were putting a lot of pressure on me.
My ambition, which had brought me so far until that day, was about to almost cost me my life. I simply could not accept that on this day there were faster racers out there than me. I put too much pressure on myself and in doing so, I allowed myself to make a couple of small mistakes.
I was too far on the outside going into the big start-finish table and I had to take another spur for the jump than the one planned. And in this spur there was a nasty hole that catapulted me over the handlebars in a high arch.
After 30 meters I hit my head and at the same moment a bolt of lightning went through my body. For me it was absolutely clear at that very second that I was going to be paralyzed. At the same time I felt that my lungs were badly injured and I began a days-long battle with death.
When I regained consciousness some days later in Murnau the paralysis, strangely enough, was not so difficult for me to accept. The joy in the fact that I was still alive was much greater. I had a six months old daughter and my wife Ilona and I knew that she needed me.
Naturally at the beginning I was not very useful because laying there the only thing I could move was my hands. What followed were three months of hard physiotherapy and a total reorientation of my life.
Up until the time of my accident we had lived in Monaco and it quickly became clear to us that this location was not really suited to a wheelchair, While I was in the hospital Ilona had initiated all the things necessary for our future and had set up a beautiful house for us in Simbach that was fitted out to suit a wheelchair.
Heinz Kinigadner brought us the news from KTM that they were preparing a workplace for me. So when I left the hospital at the end of September it was possible to start a new life. Apart from my family, Heinz was certainly the most important person for me as I came to terms with my new life.
March 2004: Marriage to Ilona in Gmunden 2004: Went to work in the Sports Department at KTM 2005: Sports Manager alongside motorsports boss Kurt Nicoll and sports director Heinz Kinigadner When Kurt Nicoll transferred to KTM North America in the summer of 2006 I took over as head of the offroad sport department at KTM.
The irony of this was that it was my destiny to go to Belgium in the summer of 2006 to engage 10-times world champion Stefan Everts to head our motocross factory team.
I still believe in working together with the best people and in leaving nothing to chance.
Born: 19.10.1972 1979-1983
Primary School Ludwigshafen, Germany 1984-1989
High School in Stockach 1993-1996
Training as industrial sales representative with Reinbold GmbH in Emmendingen