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Canadian Motocross History 1970 – 1975

Zdeno Syrovy, Expert Open class winner, Barrie Nationals 1970

1970 was the start of what became known as the golden years of Canadian Motocross. By 1975 all of the manufacturers had large teams, most featuring foreign riders. A number of riders where receiving salaries and expenses. The Western Canadian Husqvarna distributor, Steen Hansen, started things off in 1969 by importing Gunnar Lindstrom from Sweden to take part in that years Nationals.

By 1970 former European transplants and a number of up and coming Canadian riders battled for their teams. In BC Bob Underhill, Bultaco, Peter Van Breugel, Yamaha, and Bob Mutch Husqvarna did most of the winning along with British riders John Bance and Rob Jordan who had moved west from Ontario. Ontario was the hotbed with Bob Fisher, Nick Hapta, and Fins Seppo Makinen, Pauli Manninen and Jorma Rautiainen all riding for Husky. David McLean rode the Bultaco while Irish Import Ronnie Matthews started off on a Bultaco before switching to Husky. Czech import Sdeno Syrovy rode the CZ along with Doug Sehl, Jimmy Fisher, Mike Kavanaugh, Norm Richens and 1969 CMA high point winner Ron Keys. Kawasaki entered the fray for the first time with Carl Bastedo. George Kalnin and Reg Bellerose from Edmonton ruled Alberta when one of the Husky imports weren’t dominating. Jean-Marc Houde was Quebecs top rider.

1970 winners at Sault Ste. Maries first MX. L. to R. David MacLean, Carl Bastedo, Paul Duncan

The 1970 CMA National was held at Barrie September 20th. The 250 Expert class was won by Jorma Rautiainen, Downsview, Husqvarna followed by Ronnie Matthews, Barrie, Husqvarna and Norm Richens, CZ, Coburg. Matthews wont the 125 c.c. class on a Bultaco followed by Nick Hapta, Husqvarna and John Penny, Burlington, Yamaha. The Open Expert went to Zdeno Syrovy, Guelph, CZ followed by Bob Fisher, Burlington, Husqvarna and Matthews back on his Husqvarna.

The big event of 1970 was the Inter-Am held at Copetown in October. The National Junior class was won by Gerry Young, Peterborough, Husqvarna with 2nd going to Helmut Clasen, Hamilton, Ossa and 3rd Mike Springer, Peterborough, Husqvarna. The National Senior/Expert class was won by William Wetzel, Mentor Ohio, Husqvarna with Dave McLean, Scarborough, Bultaco in 2nd. Third went to Bob Turner, Toronto, Greeves.

The International class was won by Torsten Hallman, Sweden, Husqvarna, 2nd Gunnar Lindstrom, Sweden, Husqvarna, 3rd Willie Bauer, Germany, Maico. Top Canadian was Norm Richens, Coburg, CZ in 5th place while the top U. S. rider was Ron Jeckel, Glens Falls N. Y., Greeves in 9th.

In 1971 the teams continued to build. Kawasaki hired Heikki Ylonen to build them a competitive Motocross machine for Canada and Heikki, along with Paul Duncan had a lot of success on the custom built 250’s while both riders and Carl Bastedo rode the 125’s. Ron Keys switched to Husqvarna’s and had one of his best seasons. Yamaha got into the action with John Bance and Barry Kohls while Suzuki hired Ronnie Matthews to ride their new Motocross machines. The Husqvarna team remained strong with Keys, Seppo Makinen, Jorma Rautianinen, Bob Fisher, and Norm Richens in Ontario Tom Nelson in Alberta and Bob Mutch in B.C. CZ had Szdeno Syrovy, and Jimmy Fisher in Ontario and Zoli Berenyi Jr. and Joe MacIntosh in Alberta. Nick Hapta, David Eaton and Roger Cracknell rode the Maico’s in Ontario while Stan Amor looked after B.C. BC’s Peter Van Breugel was in his last year with Yamaha while Bob Underhill was on the Bultaco.

1971 Quebec Championship winners. Expert #61 Bob Fisher, Husqvarna, Burlington. Senior #356 Paul Duncan, Kawasaki, Niagara Falls, Ont.

The Eastern Canadian Nationals for the Bardahl Trophy were held on a very muddy Marshall Park track in Coburg in 1971. The 125 class was a battle between the brothers Fisher with Bob taking the win on a Puch engined Dalesman ahead of a hard charging Jimmy on a Yamaha. Roger Cracknell on the Maico was third. The track was so muddy for the 250 Expert that only three riders finished with Bob Fisher taking the win again, this time on his Husqvarna with Jorma Rautianien, Husqvarna second and Mike Kavanaugh, CZ third. The Open class was won by Seppo Makinen, Husqvarna with Nick Hapta, Maico in 2nd and Norm Richens, Husqvarna in third.

Totem Raceway in British Columbia was the scene of the 1971 Canadian Nationals and although a number of Americans usually showed up the ’71 version had a huge contingent from South of the Border. The 125 Expert class saw 42 riders compete with Larry Watkins, California, DKW taking the win over Ron Matthews, Barrie Ont., Suzuki and John Rice, California, Puch. The 250 Expert had 30 riders. 1st Ron Keys, Oshawa, Ont. Husqvarna, 2nd Jim Pomeroy, Washington state, Bultaco and 3rd Barry Kohls, Vancouver B. C., Yamaha. Open Expert, 26 riders. Seppo Makinen, Ontario, Husqvarna 2nd Bob Mutch, B.C., Husqvarna and 3rd. Stan Amor B. C. Maico ahead of Washington States Rick Poulin, Maico.

The big event of 1971 was the running of one of the 12 race North American rounds of the TransAm at Copetown. A large field featuring 15 European factory riders and 25 Pro American riders competed along with the Canadian Experts in 3 classes.

The 250 Support Class was won by Tom Rapp, California, Bultaco with 2nd Gary Chaplin California, Maico and 3rd Mike Cram U.S.A., Maico. Top Canadian was 6th place Jorma Rautiainen on his Husqvarna.

The Open Support Class was won by DeWayne Jones, California, Yamaha followed by Lars Larson, California via Sweden, Husqvarna. Two Canadians finished in the top 10 with David Eaton, London, Maico taking third and Ron Keys, Oshawa, Husqvarna in fourth.

The International class was dominated by the Euro’s 1st Heikki Mikkola, Finland, Husqvarna, 2nd Adolph Weil, West Germany, Maico, 3rd Willie Bauer, West Germany, Maico. The top U. S. rider was 11th place Mark Blackwell, California, Husqvarna while Brad Lackey, California, CZ came 13th. Top Canadian was 18th place for Seppo Makinen, Toronto, Husqvarna.

Team Kawasaki at the 1972 International Motocross at St. Gabriel De Brandon L. to R. Heikki Ylonen, Kari Nissinen, Paul Duncan and Carl Bastedo

The teams expanded even more in 1972. Husqvarna imported Niels Arne Nielsen from Sweden for Alberta, and Kawasaki signed Finish rider Kari Nissinen. Yamaha shocked everyone by signing National Champion Ron Keys. Former World Champion Jeff Smith from Great Britain showed up at a spring race at Vespra Chalet Park in Barrie and decimated everyone in the 125 class on a prototype motorcycle developed by Bombardier, later dubbed the CanAm.

Quebec promoter and CZ marketing manager George Kirkpatrick put on a 250c.c. International race at St. Gabriel de Brandon, the first International race promoted in Quebec. George was hindered by getting a date that was to early to attract a large International entry but he did attract a number of Americans and the CZ team of Dave Bickers and Stuart Nunn from Great Britain. Bickers knew a number of the new imports to Canada and of course had an old rivalry with Jeff Smith who was riding the Bombardier. Results of the 250 International class, 1st Dave Bickers, Great Britain, CZ
2nd Jeff Smith, Valcourt P. Q., Bombardier 3rd Jorma Rautiainen, Thornhill, Husqvarna.

The National championship in 1972 was held in Chicoutimi Quebec on September 10. With the Grand Prix of Canada taking place at Copetown September 24 the event had a hard time getting the respect it deserved and a poor turnout of riders was the result. Winning the National title in the Open Expert class for the third year in a row was Oshawa’s Ron Keys on the Yamaha. Heikki Ylonen, Toronto, Kawasaki won the 250cc title.

Again, a large contingent of International and U. S. stars converged on Copetown for the running of the 1972 500 c.c. Grand Prix of Canada. Winners of the 250 support class, 1st Peter Lamppu, California, Montesa, 2nd Gary Semic, Ohio, Husqvarna, 3rd Frank Stacy, New York, CZ. The Open class, 1st Mike Hartwig, Michigan, Husqvarna, 2nd Paul Duncan, Niagara Falls, Ont., Kawasaki and 3rd. Lee Miller, California, Maico.

Winners of the Grand Prix class, 1st Roger DeCoster, Belgium, Suzuki 2nd Ake Jonsson, Sweden, Maico and 3rd Heikki Mikkola, Finland, Husqvarna. Top American was Brad Lackey, California, Kawasaki in fourth.

1973 Calgary Nationals, #1 Ron Keys, Oshawa Ont., Yamaha leads Zoli Berenyi Jr., Edmonton Alb., CZ.

In 1973 Yamaha fielded a very strong team which included Bill MacLean and Tom Kratzer from British Columbia. Ron Keys, Kari Nissinen, and John Bance from Ontario and Paul Corriveau in Quebec. Bombardier had named their motocrosser the Can Am and hired Bob Fisher and Ronnie Matthews to ride them in Canada along with Jeff Smith who was now on a 250. CZ had Zoli Berenyi Jr. in Alberta as well as Californian Jeff Wecker, and Jorma Rautiainen they also imported former World Champion Vlastimil Valek to terrorize the Can Am boys in Quebec. Kawasaki had Jean Marc Houde in Quebec and Heikki Ylonen, Paul Duncan and Carl Bastedo in Ontario. They would be joined later in the season by Wecker. Rob Jordan rode the Husqvarna.

The 1973 Canadian Nationals where held at Blackfoot Motorcycle Park in Calgary. In the 125 Expert class it was Bill MacLean, Vancouver B. C., Yamaha 2nd Rob Jordan, Ontario Husqvarna, 3rd Zoli Berenyi Jr., Edmonton, CZ. The 250 class, 1st Ron Keys, Oshawa, Yamaha, 2nd Vlastimil Valek, Czechoslovakia, CZ, 3rd Robert Olechowski, Calgary, Honda. The open class, 1st Vlastimil Valek, Czechoslovakia, CZ, 2nd Tom Kratzer, B. C. Yamaha and John Bance, Ontario, Yamaha.

The 1973 running of the 500 c.c. Grand Prix of Canada at Copetown was also round 3 of the 12 round Trans-Am series. Winning the 250 support class was Tom Rapp, California, Bultaco 2nd Bryar Holcomb, California, Bultaco and 3rd Frank Stacy, New York State, CZ. The open support was won by Jeff Wecker, Quebec, CZ, 2nd Douglas Wilson, New York, Yamaha, 3rd Tom Kratzer, B. C., Yamaha.

The 500 c.c. Grand Prix class was won by Adolph Weil, West Germany, Maico followed by Willi Bauer, West Germany, Maico and in 3rd Gerritt Wolsink, Holland, Maico.

1974 Molson Diamond series, Peterboro. Start straight, which is when it was decided not to have a jump before the first turn. #7 Bob Levy, #448 Allan Jaggard, #31 Gerald Kimpton, #30 Casey Ciere.

In 1974 Molson’s sponsored a 5 race professional series in both Ontario and Quebec (Laurentide). Kawasaki imported Swedish rider Jan Eric Sallqvist to take on the rest of the imports and he proved to be the dominant rider throughout the season.

The Ontario rounds awarded winners to overall in the Junior, Senior and Expert classes. Junior class winners Al Jaggard, Honda, Gord Stafford, Bultaco, Jacques Dubois, Husqvarna, Dan Gregoroff, Yamaha and Mike Hastings, Honda. Senior class winners Al Logue, Suzuki, Peter Adams, Honda, William Morrison, Maico, Bill Van Vugt, Husqvarna and Rick Bray, Honda. The Expert class winners Jan Eric Sallqvist, Kawasaki, Heikki Ylonen, Yamaha, Kari Nissinen, Yamaha, Jeff Wecker, Kawasaki and Jay Kimber, Kawasaki.

Quebec’s Laurentide series split the riders up with 125 expert class winners Heikki Ylonen, Yamaha, Jeff Smith, Can-Am and Jeff Wecker, Kawasaki. 250 winners Jan Eric Sallqvist, Kawasaki, Jeff Smith, Can-Am and Kari Nissinen, Yamaha. Open Expert winners Jan Eric Sallqvist, Kawasaki, Kari Nissinen, Yamaha and Vlastimil Valek, CZ.

The National Championship was decided at two rounds for the first time. Thunder Bay Ontario and Kamloops B. C. hosted the events with Jan Eric Sallqvist, Kawasaki winning both the 250 and Open Expert classes and carrying the #1 plate into 1975. More info on these rounds will added in the future.

1974 Molson series #2 Kari Nissinen, Yamaha leads #2 Ron Matthews, CanAm, #441 Eddie Cole, Kawasaki, #4 Jeff Wecker, Kawasaki and #8 Rob Craig.

The non world points Grand Prix of Canada was held at Copetown, Ontario and due to a dispute with the AMA the event was not part of the Trans-AMA series. Most of the top riders showed up anyhow to get ready for that series, compete for a $15,000 U. S. purse and to ride what they described as the best track in North America. The top 5 in the 500 c.c. support class where Terry Clark, California, Husqvarna, Heikki Ylonen, Toronto, Yamaha, Tom Kratzer, B. C. Yamaha, Chris Berg, New York state, Husqvarna and Barry Mayo, Michigan, Yamaha.

The 250 c.c. support class Frank Stacey, Depew New York, CZ, Bob Grossi, California, Husqvarna, John Savitski, Pennsylvania, Bultaco, Gary Semics, Ohio, Husqvarna and Bill McLean, B. C., Yamaha.

Winners in the 500 c.c. International class were Roger DeCoster, Belgium, Suzuki, Gerrit Wolsink, Holland, Suzuki, Pierre Karsmakers, California, Yamaha, Brad Lackey, California, Husqvarna and Tony DiStefano, Pennsylvania, CZ. Jan Eric Sallqvist was the top Canadian entry in 11th even though the cold and damp aggravated an old back injury and the motor and suspension on his Cliff White tuned Kawasaki were no match for the factory machinery of the Euro’s and the Americans.

1975 Nationals. #25 Vlastimil Valek, CZ gets to the corner ahead of #7 Kari Nissinen, Yamaha, #6 Jan Eric Sallqvist, Kawasaki, #4 Jeff Wecker, Kawasaki and # 35, Nick Hapta, Husqvarna.

Seven different brands fielded teams during 1975, the peak of the Golden Days of Canadian Motocross. CanAm had Californian Mike Runyard and Washington States Buck Murphy. They supported Ed MacDonald in Alberta and Eric Nielsen in Ontario. Yamaha’s National Champion Bill McLean was out most of the year with a broken leg but fellow B.C. rider Larry McKenzie made a name for himself while Japans Nobuyasu (Nicky) Kinoshita and Heikki Ylonen rounded out this strong team. Suzuki imported Japanese rider Masaru Ikeda to assist Finish import Kari Nissinen who had moved to his 3rd team while in Canada. CZ had former World Champion Vlastimil Valek. Husqvarna Seppo Makinen. Honda supported Marv Cross and Dan Amor in B.C. Kawasaki fielded the largest team with Swede Jan Eric Sallqvist, Californians Jeff Wecker and Eddie Cole B. C.’s Bob Levy and Ontario’s Jay Kimber, Paul Duncan and Jorma Rautiainen.

The Expert class riders had two points paying World Championship rounds, a 5 race Molsons Series in Ontario, a 5 race Laurentide Series in Quebec and 4 National Championship rounds for a total of 16 major races plus Provincial Championships.

Team Kawasaki at Hully Gully 1975. L. to R. Paul Duncan, Eddie Cole, Jeff Wecker. Rear Jan Erik Sallqvist, Denny Desi, Jorma Rautianen, Jay Kimber

Controversy raged over the import of so many non-Canadian riders. Cycle CMA editor Mike Kerley (himself a California import), discussed the matter with Expert rider Eric Neilson after the Molson Oshawa round. “Eric rode a very creditable race at Oshawa finishing eighth overall in the 250 Expert, he admitted that he’s never ridden that fast, never been that far over his head in his life. In fact, he hadn’t known he could go that fast until the pace and his competitiveness forced him to do it. Now he knows, and he’s a better rider for it. So the perfidious foreigners have made on Canadian a better rider in just one race. And he may turn around and beat them for it someday.”

The first points paying World Championship rounds held in Canada where the 125 c.c. Grand Prix of Canada at St. Gabriel De Brandon Quebec, July 13 and the 500 c.c. Grand Prix of Canada at Copetown, Ontario in June.
Winners at the 125 c.c. event where Antonin Baborovsky, Czechoslovakia, CZ, 2nd Gilbert DeRoover, Belgium, Zundapp, 3rd Yoshitumi Suzio, Japan, Yamaha, 4th Gaston Rahier, Belgium, Suzuki and 5th Akira Watanabe, Japan, Suzuki. The Open support class was won by Vlastimil Valek, Czech, CZ 2nd Bob Thompson, New York State, Husqvarna and Christian Ethier, Ste. Therese P.Q., CZ.

1975 Molson Series #40 Japanese import Nikky Kinoshita, Yamaha chases Swedish import #1 Jan Eric Sallqvist, Kawasaki.

Winners at the 500 c.c. Grand Prix of Canada at Copetown where Pierre Karsmakers, Holland, Honda 2nd Gerrit Wolsink, Holland, Suzuki, 3rd Tony Distefano, U. S., Suzuki.

The 250 Support class was won by Frank Stacey, New York State, Can Am, 2nd Bob Thompson, Pennsylvania, Husqvarna 3rd Marvin Wilson, New York State, CanAm.

The Canadian Nationals where held with rounds in Edmonton Alb. Kamloops B. C., Val Cartier, Quebec and Ste. Julie, Quebec. Winners where 125 c.c. Expert, Masaru Ikeda, Suzuki 2nd Bob Levy, Kawasaki 3rd Ed MacDonald, Can Am 250 c.c. Expert Mike Runyard, Can Am, 2nd Jan-Eric Sallqvist, Kawasaki 3rd Nicky Kinoshita, Yamaha. The Open class winners Jan-Eric Sallqvist followed by Nicky Kinoshita and Mike Runyard.

The overall and #1 plate holder going into 1976 was Jan-Eric Sallqvist.