Dave Thorpe interview - Eric Geboers

Posted on November 17, 2022

British Motocross legend Dave Thorpe raced side by side with Eric Geboers. As HRC team-mates and rivals their battled became written in the folk law of our sport. Both ruthless to win and determined to win as many Grand Prix’s and world championships as they could.

Back in 1981, when Eric Geboers was finishing second in the World 125cc championship to Harry Everts, Thorpe was starting to make a name for himself in the 500cc class, finishing 15th in the championship, and scoring a handful of points.

At the top of that 1981 500cc championship were HRC riders Andrea Malherbe and Graham Noyce, the two leading HRC riders in a field of riders that would match any in the sport today.

While Geboers would go on to win the 1982 World 125cc championship, his first of five, Thorpe would finish sixth in the premier class, the almighty 500cc series.

Two years later in 1984 they locked horns for the first time, finishing third (Thorpe) and fifth (Geboers), and the love affair of competition was born between the two. A year later in 1985 and Thorpe picked up his first of three world 500cc championships and Geboers finished third, then a year later it was again Thorpe first and Geboers third, just 17 points separating the two, with Malherbe tucked in between second in the championship.

The 500cc class was at its peak, as more than a handful of present or future legends went at it. Geboers would move to the 250cc class and win a world title, and the two wouldn’t battle again until 1988, when finally, Geboers got that first 500cc world championship and claim the title Mr 875, the first rider in the sports history to win world motocross championships in all three classes (125cc, 250cc and 500cc). Only Stefan Everts has been able to match that feat since.

Thorpe and Geboers also battled in the 500cc class in 1989, with Thorpe again winning and Geboers third and finally in 1990 when Geboers would win and Thorpe fifth.

Sooner after Eric Geboers passed away, back in May of 2018, Dave Thorpe was kind enough to give us five minutes to reflect on a friendship and rivalry that was as strong as any in the sport history. We had run this at the time, but its memories like these that stay in our memories and I wanted to share again here in 2022.

MXLarge: Dave, thanks for your time, I can imagine its been a tough day for everyone who knew Eric, and you probably knew him as well as anyone from your battles on the track?

Thorpe: I was told by Roger McGee from KTM UK. To be honest, it is hard to take in right now to be honest. We are the same age, Eric was born August 1962 and I was born September 1962. I can’t get my head around it.

MXlarge: It isn’t like with Georges (Jobe) where we knew he was sick, and it was still a big shock to everyone. With Eric it was sudden and that seems to make it even more shocking for everyone. What can you say about Eric as a person and as a racer?

Thorpe: As a person, he was a lovely kind guy, very close to his own family, and as a competitor, he was tough. He was tough and a physical guy. He worked hard and trained hard and had one of those never say die attitudes. It wasn’t over until it was over with Eric.

MXlarge: Obviously he was a small guy in that 500cc class, and you would think that was a disadvantage. But I guess he was one of those guys with that desire and heart and as you said he wasn’t going to give up easy.

Thorpe: He was small in stature, but he was physically a strong guy. He was always in really good shape and had a very high pain threshold and when he got injured he had the ability to fight through. I am just job smacked and I can’t get my head around it.

MXlarge: It isn’t something you want to hear, and Eric was just as you always have been polite and friendly to the media. He was great at telling stories. Do you have a special story about a race you guys might have shared?

Thorpe: I had so many fantastic races with Eric. One that stuck in mine and might not have stuck in his was at Namur, I think in 1988. We had a really good race together and I managed to pass him on the last lap. It wasn’t so much the pass, but it was the fight to get to that point. It was hard, but fare, just as it always was with Eric. You could always guarantee he was a very fare guy on the track.

MXlarge: He of course won those three world championships in different classes, 39 GP wins, retired as world champion and as you know that isn’t easy to do, and in an era that was stacked with legends. It would be easy to rate him right up there with Stefan (Everts) and Tony (Cairoli) wouldn’t it. Maybe not the same amount of titles, but in a really tough era.

Thorpe: There are different generations. The word legend is used loosely. For me, having battled with him and raced him, and watched Stefan and watched Tony, he belongs right up there with those guys. He is a special guy. In the time you had the three classes, that was a very challenging thing to do back then, going from 125, to 250 to 500, he did very well. The problem you had in those days, you had four of five guys in each class that were really good. It was never easy, he was never head to head with just one person.

MXlarge: Thanks very much for your time Dave, and I am sure I will see you at his funeral?

Thorpe: Yes, definitely.