MXGP of Great Britain - History

The Grand Prix of Great Britain is one of the longest running GPs on the calendar. Starting way back in 1957, the first official year of the Motocross World Championships. It was Hawkstone Park where that first GP was held, and the event was won by British legend and two-time World Motocross Champion Jeff Smith riding a BSA.

Since that very special day nearly 60 years ago the British GP has visited many amazing circuits and seen some very special GP winners.

Hawkstone Park was the mainstay for the 500cc Grand Prix after that 1957 debut, and for eight years the best big bike riders competed around the tough sand track. Riders like Bill Nilsson and Rolf Tibblin scored victories at Hawkstone, but it was Smith who finished that early Hawkstone Park era with wins again in 1963 and 65 (no British GP was held for the 500s in 1964).

Hawkstone Park would drift in and out of the FIM Motocross World Championship series, and in-between the 500cc class, circuits like Farleigh Castle and Dodinton Park were visited. Many legends have won at these circuits, but none more popular than the British legend and three time 500cc World Champion, Dave Thorpe.

Thorpe would win GP’s at home in 1984, 1988 and 1989, although one of his greatest performances was in 1985 when he didn’t even win the GP. Crashing in the first corner with Merv Anstie (father of current MXGP rider Max Anstie) Thorpe got up in last place and rode all the way to first. Completely worn out from the charge he was eventually repassed by Andre Malherbe won went on the steal the GP victory.

The 250cc class was also loaded with memorable moments, from the first victory at the Ipswich circuit by Dave Bickers in 1962, to Stefan Everts dominating at the Foxhills circuit in 1995, 96 and 97.

The 250 class ran at several different circuits between 1962 and the late 1990’s, with Donington, Hawkstone Park and Foxhills being the three circuits that brought big crowds and an exciting atmosphere.

The 125cc class didn’t see a Grand Prix until 1975, and it was Belgian legend Gaston Rahier who won at the Pembrokeshire circuit. Several different riders won in the class between 1975 and 1999, but one of the biggest wins was that of local rider Paul Malin who took victory at the Foxhills circuit in 1995. A massive crowd arrived at the circuit and the win by Malin was the only time a British rider won a GP in that era.

In the new millennium the British GP spent a few years trying to find a home. Foxhills had aged out and was no longer a GP facility while Hawkstone Park had also disappeared from the GP calendar. Sure, some cool events at places like Isle of Wight, Matchams Park, Donnington Park, or Mallory Park were in, but it wasn’t until Steve Dixon built a circuit at the Matterley Basin facility in 2006 that the British GP came into its own again.

Since 2006 Matterley Basin has been the home of the British Grand Prix where names like Antonio Cairoli, Jeffrey Herlings, Clement Desalle, Tommy Searle, Glenn Coldenhoff, Tim Gajser, Valentin Guillod, and Pauls Jonass have all had success.

Not to mention the circuit also held the 2006 and 2017 Monster Energy FIM Motocross of Nations event, the first was where Stefan Everts had his swansong from the sport with a victory over James Stewart and of course just over a year ago when Max Anstie shocked the world and went 1-1, putting Great Britain on the podium.

Author: 
Geoff Meyer

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