HISTORY: Prime 50 Riders of the Eighties (By The Numbers) – Preview[:]

All through 2023 MX Vice goes to be operating via the final word listing of Eighties Motocross riders, the highest 50 the truth is, from each side of the Atlantic divide. With detailed statistics and unimaginable pictures from the vaults of legendary photographer Jack Burnicle, you’ll get the true story of the most effective riders from that iconic time.

Phrases: Ben Rumbold | Photographs: Jack Burnicle

The Eighties was a large decade for Motocross, and plenty of nonetheless contemplate them the Golden Years of the game. So, who had been the most effective riders? How can that be measured within the intensely divided Motocross world? When offered with the legendary names of the time, how do you select those on the very high?


The concept for this listing began with a web based “debate”. The standard factor, a couple of People argue with a couple of Brits, the Nations of ‘86 & ‘94 get talked about and everybody goes away with precisely the identical opinions they’d within the first place!  After I delved into the outcomes, the factors, the stats, I used to be discovering a number of names in there that simply don’t get talked about a lot when these years get mentioned.

So I wished to discover a method to spotlight people who actually did ship, and present them off in a barely extra unpredictable approach than simply itemizing the champions and winners from annually. A badass listing of the most effective that may deliver up a random-looking bunch of characters from totally different elements of the world and who rode wildly totally different bikes as effectively.  So right here it comes!

Jack Burnicle, pictured right here with Swedish legend Hakan Carlqvist, was proper in amongst them in the course of the Eighties, and we’ve got entry to his photograph archives for this sequence!


As at all times, the numbers merely can not inform the entire story. There isn’t any asterisk to say {that a} bike broke down, he was taken out, he was injured, and so on. All of the numbers can do is inform you received the general on any single day – essentially the most variety of occasions!  They will’t take into consideration the energy of the opposition, points with equipment, the extent of the taking part in subject. The stats can’t inform you all of that. What they CAN do is remove the ifs, the buts, the maybes.  That is what DID occur. These had been the names on the trophies, and that may’t be argued with.

These Gosh-Darn People

Doubtless the most important distinction between the Nineteen Seventies and the Eighties is the rise of the USA, in each main types of two-wheeled sport. American highway racers received 80% of the world titles within the 500cc class that grew to become MotoGP between 1978 and 1993. Within the Motocross world, People largely stayed in their very own nation, Supercross grew to become huge and the AMA Nationals additionally grew all through the last decade. People received GPs and naturally the Nations too, in order that they must be included within the dialogue.

Two Brits and an American battle via the 1982 USGP at Carlsbad. All three will characteristic in our Prime 50 of the Eighties (By The Numbers)

A few of you studying this had been there in individual, studying papers and magazines, or watching the inevitable VHS tapes that Santa would ship annually, and can have already got names bouncing spherical your heads. So let’s see how good they actually had been…

The Guidelines!

To get into the listing, a rider should have received at the very least TWO main total occasions from 1980-89 inclusive. The listing is ordered by proportion of wins towards races entered. Each Grand Prix or AMA Nationwide on a 125, 250, or 500cc counts. I’ll drop the bombshell right here – this does NOT embrace Supercross. Merely put, it simply grew to become a special recreation, performed solely on one continent, and it didn’t match with the purpose of discovering the most effective Motocross racers from the time. It’ll naturally get talked about once we speak of those that did it, however the statistics from Supercross don’t have an effect on this listing.

Crowd favorite Roger DeCoster powers to a double victory in his last ever Grand Prix. It was his solely win of the last decade, so we received’t see Roger on this listing. Sorry, RDC followers!

Now with the Nations, up till 1984 it was principally a modified GP, all on the identical capability bikes. We’re counting the MX des Nations for 500s, Trophee des Nations for 250s, and from 1981-84 the Coupe des Nations for 125s.  And we’re counting INDIVIDUAL wins on the Nations, crew outcomes don’t come into it. From 1985 onwards, all lessons ran on the identical day and if a rider received their class – 125, 250, or 500 – then that’s a win in direction of their complete on this listing.

The GPs had been easy. 12 rounds per 12 months for every sequence except one acquired cancelled, which occurred 4 occasions in complete. The AMA modified massively. From 7 or 8 rounds a 12 months for every class, to 10 or 11, to then radically splitting the lessons from 1986! From then, 125cc riders did 11-13 rounds while the massive bikes cut up the 12 months, so they’d 5-7 rounds on 250s, and 6 on 500s.

Right here’s an instance, for somebody who fell simply outdoors the highest 50 – Australian legend Jeff Leisk.

Jeff rode 14 GPs within the Eighties – The 1984 British 250GP at Newbury, the 1988 500cc USGP, and the complete 1989 500cc season.  He additionally rode three AMA seasons, 1986 & 87 within the 125cc Nationals – 23 races – then 6 250cc and 6 500cc Nationals in 1988. He additionally rode for Australia on the Nations in 1985, 88, and 89.  In order that’s (14+35+3 equals) 52 high class races, and he received 2 of them – the Finnish and San Marino GPs of 1989.  So he received 3.8% of his races. The person at #50 within the listing acquired 3.9%.  So poor Jeff acquired very shut! An empty gas tank at Valkenswaard kinda shut!

Jeff Leisk blasts round a Valkenwaard berm in 1989. If he hadn’t have run out of gas within the first race, he would have made our Prime 50.

We are going to reveal the listing weekly on MX Vice, operating from #50 to #1, highlighting these with the most effective profitable charges.  There are 26 People and 24 Europeans. 21 riders who centered on AMA racing, 24 who simply did GPs, and 5 courageous souls who did severe work on both facet of the divide! There are 6 Belgians, 5 Brits, 4 Dutchmen, 4 Italians, and 5 from different European nations – I’ll allow you to take your guesses who they’re. Most significantly the listing accommodates the winners of all 60 AMA & FIM titles obtainable within the Eighties, unfold amongst 15 AMA Champions, 17 World Champions, 2 who received titles within the 70s, 3 who would go on to be champions within the 90s, and an unfortunate 13 who merely by no means received a serious Motocross title!

Jeff Leisk (#10) made an early GP look on the 1984 British 250cc GP. Right here he’s making an attempt to carry off the Italian Maurizio Dolce.

So be a part of us as we rely down the Prime 50 Motocross racers of the Eighties – By The Numbers!  It kicks off with an Italian flavour and probably the most emotional season finales of all time. See you subsequent week!