Dave Thorpe Interview - Then and Now

Posted on October 22, 2021

Three-time World 500cc champion Dave Thorpe was of course the main man in 1985, 1986 and 1989, and as always, we were fortunate enough to have a chat with the British motocross legend about this very close 1984 and 1986 seasons. 

Similar to 2021, the 1980s was a golden era, and there were no better seasons than those in 1984 and 1985. Eric Geboers, Andre Malherbe, Georges Jobe, Hakan Carlqvist and so many other legends of the sport going head to head. Thorpe walks us through his season and also gives his opinion of the 2021 battle.

MXlarge: Dave, can you first tell me first about the 1984 season?

Thorpe: 1984 was the first year I really got to grips with the Honda and 84 was about George and Andre. I rode well in 84, won the last three on the trot, but I was never in it, because I had a bad America and Canada. Those two guys, they were head-to-head in 1984. The 1986 season was the one though, four of us all in the points.

MXlarge: We all know what an amazing era that was, we the fans and obviously you guys the racers. We rave about this year, but a lot of people might forget about the 1980s, at least the younger generation. Does that ever bother you?

Thorpe: I feel as excited now as I did when I was involved. This is how every promoter wants a championship to be it. It gets everybody engaged.

MXLarge: Tell me, in 1984 you won more GPs than anyone else. And those last three, winning with 1-1 results. How far behind you going into those last three rounds?

Thorpe: I rode well all year, but I didn’t ride very well and to be honest. It was my first year of being anywhere near contention. I managed to win both races at Hawkstone and considering the quality of sand riders we had at that time, it was amazing to me. There were 35,000 people and an amazing event and something that still sticks in my mind today. That gave me the confidence and the next round was not at Namur, but a track behind Georges (Jobe) house. It was a brilliant track for me, and I remember standing on the podium and Andre looked up to me and said, “Dave, what has happened,” I said, “what do you mean” and he said, “why are you riding so well, why are you so fast.” I didn’t know myself, I looked at him and laugh and said I don’t know. The last round was in Italy a really amazing track, big, fast, wide open and I loved it and blitzed that one as well. I wasn’t really in contention because the start of my season, but it ended well.

MXLarge: So, you win the title in 1985, then starting in 1986 you had a mixed opener. Can you tell me about that?

Thorpe: I won the first race, but I hit my knee on the radiator cap and knocked it off, and I didn’t score any points. It kind of went me, Eric and Andre winning and leading the championship and it was back and forth, back and forth. Georges started slow but came strong at the end and him and Eric were good at Namur and good going into the last round in Luxembourg. The Saturday it was 30 degrees and lovely and then Saturday night, they had some rain, and the first race was tacky, but still good and Andre and I passed each other it must have been 25 to 30 times. It was an amazing race and considering the circumstances, he was a very clean race. I managed to win it and going on the form going into that round, it should have been George or Eric. I pulled something out of the bag to win that first race. When we crossed the finish line Andre rode over to me and said, “well done champ” and I thought to myself he might be pushing a bit of pressure on me for the last race. The points were still very, very close. I had a sleep in my van, and I woke up to thunder and lightning and the biggest storm you have ever seen. I looked out my van window and there were rivers going down the track. Really, the second race was survival.

MXlarge: With the championship on the line and it being a mud race, that really must have been a lottery?

Thorpe: I know right. I got an okay start and I just needed to stay on. Eric led it, but half away around the first lap he turned across in a corner and because it was hard pack and very slippery from the rain he just went down, and I had the lead. I just tip toed around, and George came after me and I let him by and then Andre pressured me a lot at the end, and I let him pass. In those situations, you just do what you have to do. 1986 was just like this year, it was proper racing.

MXlarge: When you watch this year’s championship and how close it is and having come from your era. Do you ever sit yourself in those situations again and does it bring back a lot of memories?

Thorpe: Yes, it does. When I watch it, I think about the pressure, not at the race, but away from the race. When it is so nip and tuck, like it is now and it is, it is about what you do in the week. Look at Tim, he flew off it and broke his collarbone. I actually stopped riding during the week when it came down to a close championship. My thought was the law of averages, the more you ride, the higher risk. Those are the bits I think about the consequences and the commitment during the week. The racing is racing, it is always the same, they will deal with that, but you start to question if you need to ride during the week and that is what I think about.

MXlarge: I know you raced at this level, so you understand it better than most, for me, I watch it and wonder how they can control the pressure and the nerves. I can’t even imagine how a high-level sportsman control that?

Thorpe: You only have to look at all the championships these guys have all won. The pressure, I don’t think pressure gets to them. I don’t think they feel the pressure, I just don’t think they do. I think for them it is just another day at the office and they get in with it.

MXlarge: I know you are a Honda guy, so you probably go with Tim, but how do you see this final part of the season going, any tips?

Thorpe: It is so close, I am not a betting guy, I only bet if I am in a race. I don’t think you can point to one person and the next three GPs will be critical how it plays out. If one starts to stretch it, the points lead, then they can race according to the situation and who they need to beat. I can’t call it at the minute.

MXLarge: It is a track that could see some drama and a difficult track.

Thorpe: It is a great venue isn’t it. It always creates good racing, and I am really looking forward to it.