New Zealand, Australia and South Africa - Recovery Time
News Thursday 25th October 2012 By Geoff Meyer
I remember when I was a kid, way back in the '70s when Aussie contender, Terry Gunter, travelled over to Europe to race in France. At the time, it was more about International riders coming over to Australia. While names such as Pelle Granqvist from Sweden, and Jimmy Ellis, Marty Moates and Eddie Warren from America spent a portion of their careers racing Down Under, Australian riders didn't really make the jump to further lands.
International events were run all over Australia in the '70s and '80s, with competitors including World Motocross Champions Roger De Coster, Joel Robert, Bengt Aberg, Dave Bickers, Neil Hudson, Gaston Rahier, Hakan Carlqvist, and AMA legends Marty Smith, Jimmy Weinert, Mike Bell all competing in Aussie Internationals.
This was around the same time the Australian team contested the Motocross des Nations in the early '80s, with names like Stephen Gall, Vaughn Styles, Trevor Williams, Craig Dack, Glen Bell and David Armstrong leading the way. The highlight was fourth place Overall in 1986 and 1988, and was only bettered by Team Australia in 2011, where they finished third.
Many riders from that era raced a Grand Prix or two, with Dack racing the complete 1989 World 250cc Championship. Enduro legend, Geoff Ballard, raced in selected American Enduro series in the 80s, and of course Shane Watts' adventures into Europe and America were just as impressive. Next were the visits from the King Brothers and Josh Coppins, followed by Ben Townley jumping onto the Motocross Grand Prix scene.
Jeff Leisk also made the journey to America, and then Europe, finishing with a runner-up spot in the 1989 World Motocross Championship. Kim Ashkenazi followed Leisk in the quest for success, finishing with a third place in the West Coast Supercross Championship.
Then there's the arrival of the brat-pack of the 2000s - Chad Reed, Andrew McFarlane and Michael Byrne. All three exploded onto the World scene after their stunning Australian Grand Prix performances in 2000. Amazing to think that it's now more than 12 years ago that those three brought on the golden era of Motocross for Australian riders overseas.
Funnily enough, after every golden era comes an era of recovery, of rebuilding, and it seems as though countries like Australia, New Zealand and South Africa are now in that period. There isn't a Chad Reed, a Ben Townley or a Tyla Rattray on the horizon.
International events are becoming non-existant Down Under, and while the sport in Australia is healthy with former GP riders such as Josh Coppins, Brad Anderson and Billy Mackenzie racing in 2012, their time is limited, as all are veterans. Coppins has of course retired, Anderson returned back to UK and Mackenzie is now the only GP rider left racing down under.
The short term future of the sport in Australia doesn't look as positive as it was ten years ago, but just like 10 years ago, that can change in the blink of an eye.