Guennady Moiseev - A Russian Legend
News Wednesday 11th July 2012
Having worked in this industry for just about my whole life it can at times get, well a little boring. I came across this article though on Russian Motocross legend Guennady Moiseeve. It was run on the VMX website, a famous vintage Motocross magazine in Australia and they borrowed it from Motocross Action in America. Funny enough Motocross Action was the first International magazine I worked for, all the way back in the early 1980's.
Once I saw those old photos in the article and the riding gear it reminded me of why I as a kid fell in love with the sport of Motocross.
I've mentioned this story a thousand times, but here goes again.
We used to all pile into my father old Valiant station wagon and head to the races any chance we got. Didn't really matter what it was, Speedway, Road Racing, Motocross, Enduro.
My father worked for the leading magazines in Australia at the time, which meant we did a lot of travelling in that old blue Valiant. As a young boy you are more excited when you venture into the new and unknown and my first couple of years following Motocross and racing myself was so much fun.
My father passed away a few years ago and I often find myself thinking about those days. When I was young everything was just about having fun. I didn't have kids, a morgage, I wasn't even interested in girls, which all made life easier.
I wouldn't swap what I have now, a great family, fun job and good friends, but I sure miss the 1970's sometimes.
Anyway, here is this cool Moisseev interview, made in the 1970s.
Twenty years ago the Russians came out of the Ukraine in stodgy Skoda sedans to contest the World Championships. At first it seemed incongruous that such a motley band of ill-dressed and sullen sportsmen could ever be a threat.
But what a threat! In 1963 Igor Grigoriev finished a shocking third in the 250 World Championships riding a CZ with black friction tape on the bars instead of grips.
A year later, Viktor Arbekov, Igor Grigoriev and Gregor Draugs finished third, fourth and eighth, respectively, for the USSR. And in only three short years, by 1965, Viktor Arbekov defeated Joel Robert and won the Soviet Union its first 250 World Championship.
Arbekov was the first great Russian motocrosser, but following the 1968 season Viktor was shipped home and never allowed to return to the Western world. It is rumored that Arbekov was becoming too westernized for the cold war commissars.
ENTER MOISEEV, AS IN MOY-SEE-EV
Guennady Moiseev (pronounced gennod-ee moy-se-ehv) made his first mark in the 250 World standings in 1969 with a tenth place, directly behind teammate Vladimir Kavinov. It was a promising start, but it was followed by years of frustration. It took Guennady Moiseev four years to get back in the top ten (during this time Soviet racers Vladimir Kavinov, Alexi Kibirin and Pavel ,Rulev were making their marks in the points standings). Moiseev was floundering. But that soon changed. In 1973 Moiseev was fifth (Hakan Andersson was World Champ). In 1974 Moiseev won his first 250 World title (Czech Jaroslav Falta was taken out at the final Grand Prix by Moiseev's Russian teammates in one of the GP's darker title fights). Nineteen seventy-five saw Moiseev fall by the wayside with injuries (Harry Everts won the title on a Puch). In 1976 Moiseev won more motos than anyone else but lost the title to Heikki Mikkola. Nineteen seventy-seven was a banner year for the Russians as Moiseev and Kavinov went one-two. The following year was Guennady's third 250 World Championship year, and 1979 was the last time the now three-time 250 World Champion made the top ten, finishing fourth.
WHERE HAS GUENNADY BEEN?
The MXA wrecking crew wondered what Moiseev has been up to, and while he has been racing sporadically in GPs the last few years, the appearance of the 37-year-old Russian Army major (nobody gets a free ride in Russia) tempted us to approach the aloof Commie
This is the first time he has talked freely to a motorcycle magazine.
MXA: Guennady, you are one of the-oldest riders to race the GP circuit. How many years has it been now?
Guennady: This is my 20th season in the 250 World Championships. In 1974, 1977 and 1978 I won the 250 title on KTMs. After my successful years, the Japanese manufacturers got more and more involved, and my production equipment wasn't fast enough or competitive enough to beat the factory Suzukis and Yamahas.
MXA: But you are still on KTM. Don't they have any Russian bikes?
Guennady: The Russian Sports Federation bought a couple of KTMs, and six Russian riders are racing the bikes. I think it is a good choice, because the production KTMs are very fast this year. Three riders are racing the 250 class: Yuri Khoudiakov, Andrei Ledovski and myself. Three other riders are racing the 125 World Championships. The main reason we aren't racing on bikes from my home country is because the Russian motorcycling market is only for civil use.
MXA: We are told that you are a major in the Russian Army. Is that true?
Guennady: (Long pause). . . No comment.
MXA: Let's rephrase that. Does that make it easier to leave Russia?
Guennady: (Longer pause) . I never had problems to leave my country.
MXA: But you're not allowed to stay in Europe, even if you wanted to- Guennady: Listen, can't we change the subject? MXA: It must be difficult to prepare yourself for the World Championships, what with the long, long winters.
Guennady: Most of the time we practice in the south of the USSR.
Guennady: (Abruptly) I prefer not to answer that question! MXA: Is motocross very popular in Russia? Guennady: Yes indeed! You can see for yourself that the Grand Prix in Russia is very well attended. The crowd attendance is always more than 50,000 people. I think that motorsports, including motocross, are the most popular sports in my country.
MXA: Are there other motocross races besides the Grand Prix?
Guennady: There are smaller events all over the country. And in the smaller races there is also big crowd attendance. One of the problems is the great distances people must travel.
MXA: Do you have motorcycle magazines in Russia?
Guennady: (Surprised) No, not that I know of. MXA: Have you ever seen a copy of Motocross Action? Guennady: I never saw the magazine.
MXA: Here's your first copy. That will be two bucks. Just kidding! Guennady: Thanks.
MXA: You're welcome. When you come to the European GPs, don't you feel like an outsider, an alien, around all the new sophisticated MX teams?
Guennady: No, not at all. I still have good friends in the 250 class, and the younger riders are also respectful of me. There is sometimes a language problem, and they are very busy with themselves. That feeling of being part of a big family is gone. I'm sure it will never come back again. Motocross has become business, and I am sorry about that. It was all different in the old days. Riders helped each other more than they do now. There is no real friendship between riders today.
MXA: Mikkola, Robert, DeCoster and Hallman have all retired. How long can you go on?
Guennady: I just saw Heikki Mikkola a few minutes ago, and we were talking about that. As long as I'm fast enough, and as long as I feel well with the motocross life, I'll keep racing. I'm 37, but I'm more motivated than when I was 20.
MXA: When you do retire, you will have to stay in Russia forever. Is your life going to change very much?
Guennady: At the moment I am very busy with motocross schools, but it is difficult to combine racing the GPs and teaching the schools. When I retire, I will have more time for the schools.
MXA: Is there much interest in motocross schools in Russia?
Guennady: Yes. All the riders are following a basic motocross training. All the kids are racing CZs.
MXA: Is Russia going to build its own motocross bikes in the future?
Guennady: As far as I'm concerned, the answer is no. The Russian market for motocross bikes is too small to start our own production. The MZ and CZ factories are still working, but they are building only street bikes. Motocross isn't so important to them anymore.