It’s a Belgian Blitz…

…screamed the headline, but Dave Watson pulled the Brits up to fourth in the 1980 MX d’Nations.

Words: Tim BrittonPics: Nick Nicholls Collection at Mortons Archive

Choosing material from the vast archive at the CDB head office is a monumental task, not because it’s difficult to find images to put in the magazine, but because there are so many it’s difficult to decide what to leave out.

Flicking through the back issues of The MotorCycle – the publication which forms the backbone of the archive – is often the way to start.

It helps of course when the issue concerned is from 1980, an era when the editor was actually reading the paper as an enthusiast rather than a journalist and each page is a memory jogger rather than a ‘good grief, did they really do that then?’

The attention of the crowd is elsewhere, despite No. 28’s efforts to impress.

So, September 1980, and the mainstream British industry, as far as off-road was concerned at least, was over. The Japanese were in control, mostly, though certain European factories were still capable of a good show but sadly without the resources of the Oriental makers.

For the international team event, then known as the Motocross des Nations, at least the venue was British – Farleigh Castle where the Vets MXdN is held every year to celebrate the Evo and Twinshock era of MX – as the results list was depressingly light of home talent.

If anything, this is a reflection of the enormous amount of MX talent racing at that time in the international scene, rather than any comment on the ability of the UK riders.

Vic Allan brings his KTM up behind Andreas Brunner’s Kawasaki.

In case there was any doubt about that, it’s worth pointing out 1980 was Graham Noyce’s year as world 500cc MX champion and Dave Thorpe would be hot on his wheels, add in that 1980 was also the year Neil Hudson would lift the world 250cc crown, so no lack of talent in the UK.

Unfortunately for the British team, injuries meant those three top riders were unavailable for selection and international honours would rest on up-and-coming youngster Dave Watson, former British champions Vic Allan and Geoff Mayes along with Peter Mathia.

This team, described in contemporary reports as ‘makeshift’, was praised by team manager Dave Nicoll, himself a former top racer and BSA factory team rider, for their tenacity and decent results.

On the day, photographer Nick Nicholls was there to record the event – Nick’s pictures from Farleigh and the report in MotorCycle by Alex Hodgkinson form the basis of our archive feature.

All eyes on the starter for that twitch, or shrug which indicates he’s going to drop the gate.

In those days – yes almost 40 years ago – the papers used very little colour as it was still expensive to reproduce and it was much easier to put everything down in black and white.

As the day started, it did seem as though the Belgians were going to dominate the event and with two world champions in Andre Malherbe and Georges Jobe, backed up by Yvan van den Broeck posting a ‘one, two, three’ in the first moto, they looked as if it was to be all their own way.

Read more and view more images in the Summer 2019 issue of CDB – on sale now!

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