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Motocross rider
Run to the German Quad MX Championship in Radevormwald, September 2005

Motocross is a motorcycle - and Quad - sport . Driving is on off-road vehicles with long suspension travel, progressive spring characteristics and coarse tires.

Since the competitions take place on closed, non-public area, the vehicles do not have to comply with the StVZO regulations and therefore do not have lighting, indicators, horn, stands and license plate holders. While the motorcross sport with sidecar motorcycles has lost its popularity, the popularity of quads has created a new variant of this sport.

The drivers are equipped with extensive protective equipment. They wear helmets, boots, gloves, knee, neck, back and chest protectors.

Motocross races are carried out in a wide variety of modes. There is a general distinction between indoor and outdoor races. Indoor racing is commonly referred to as supercross and outdoor racing is commonly referred to as motocross. Supercross is being held more and more often in winter because during this time the motocross tracks are hardly or not accessible. The main stages of the event are the World Championship and the American Motorcyclist Association championships . Since 2005 there has also been a motocross world championship for women.

The term "motocross" is a contraction of the two words motorcycle (motorcycle) and cross country (off-road driving).

History of Motocross Sports

Beginnings (1900-1945)

The first motorcycle races were held on the road from 1900. The first off-road drives were held in England . The drivers tried to climb a mountain or hill with their motorbikes, whoever got the farthest won. The so-called hillclimb was only popular with a small group of riders, which was due to the fact that higher speeds were reached in road races and was therefore more attractive for spectators at the time. To make off-road driving more popular, the first off-road race was held on military grounds in the spring of 1908. It was carried out in the form of a fox hunt . 13 motorcyclists and 16 riders each formed a group that competed against each other in the field. The riders won because only two motorcyclists crossed the finish line. Several such races followed, which despite the higher speed attracted only a few spectators. With the reliability competition Scottish Six Days Trial , which was held for the first time in 1909 , motorcycling gradually gained in importance off-road and on unpaved roads. In 1913 the International Six-Day Race, the first competition announced by the Fédération Internationale des Clubs Motocyclistes , was held. The races resembled a six-day motorbike rally . This exit was repeated every year until the beginning of the Second World War. Since machines with a strong frame, large engines and an enlarged tank were required for war conditions, the development of motorcycles for off-road use was intensified.


Due to the increase in road traffic, the decreasing opportunities to move motorcycles in open terrain and the need for appropriate training opportunities, the first permanent circular routes in the field emerged after the Second World War. Here, in some cases, existing options for grass runways were tied in with. In the beginning there was hardly any difference between motorcycles for off-road motorcycle sport and motocross, but soon vehicles were created that were adapted to the special requirements of circuit racing. The engines were compressed more, and the off-road capability was further improved thanks to a higher ground clearance and higher mudguards.

Initially, motocross races were a popular motor sport, especially in Great Britain and Belgium. In 1947, the Motocross des Nations (later Motocross of Nations) was the first to be a comparative competition between national teams. Each country had a team of three to twelve drivers. The winner was the country with the best results of all the drivers on its team. As the first uniform championship for motocross, the first European motocross championship was held in 1955 with races in six countries. This and most of the other motocross races of the 1950s were held in the 500 cc class, but there have also been races with 250 cc and - very rarely - even with 1000 cc machines. John Draper became the first European Motocross Champion on a BSA motorcycle.

A motocross world championship was held for the first time in 1952 . Machines up to 500 cm³ were allowed to drive for the title. After the first two races of the season, more precise regulations were issued for the requirements for the racetracks, as the tracks differed greatly. At the end of 1957, Bill Nilsson from Sweden was the first motocross world champion on an AJS .

In the following period, further structural improvements were made due to the demands of the competition. The motocross motorcycles were given more robust special frames. In addition, the rear swing arms have been reinforced and better ball bearings have been built into the frames. With the telescopic forks common at the time , the spring travel was lengthened and the fork bridges (the connection between fork and frame) reinforced. Another innovation was the chain guide with fixed mechanical tensioners. This chain guide proved to be simpler and more reliable than the spring-loaded tensioners previously used, which malfunctioned when braking. The more stable new motorcycles were also heavier and so the motocross motorcycles in 1960 weighed an average of over 150 kg.

In 1960, drivers from the GDR took part in the European Championship for the first time, and at the same time the GDR hosted a European Championship run in Merkers . Czechoslovakia became European champions this year. The CZ - two-stroke motorbikes had not the highest performance, but they were the leichtesten of that time. The two-stroke engines were significantly lighter because there were no valves and other small parts that increase the weight (the so-called rotating masses are also much higher in four-stroke engines). In the years that followed, more and more manufacturers switched to two-stroke engines. At first only in the 250 cm³ class, as weight plays an even more important role in this class.

From 1965, the two-stroke engines also dominated the 500 cm³ class. This development made the races in the 250 cc class more exciting, as the new two-stroke engine had almost twice the performance. In the years from 1966 to 1970, the development progressed rapidly, and a more powerful braking system was soon needed. Until the 1960s, drum brakes were still used , which were sufficient for the four-stroke engines, but the new two-stroke engines needed better braking performance, because a two-stroke engine, unlike the four-stroke engine, has hardly any engine braking effect. The Czech motorcycle manufacturer Jawa was the first to use disc brakes in motocross. This advantage in braking performance was evident in the 1969 season in which the Jawas won outstandingly.

1970 to 1989

In the early 1970s, many World Championship and European Championship drivers went to the United States to compete for the championship of the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) due to higher prize money . This is how the American championship developed into the decisive motocross championship. Despite the departure of many good drivers, the World Championship remained at a high level. In the 1970 season, Suzuki , the first Japanese motorcycle manufacturer, entered the World Cup. Suzuki was already successful in road racing, already had experience with two-stroke engines and was able to incorporate many developments from road racing into their first motocross motorcycle. The European manufacturers such. B. Maico , Jawa and CZ mainly focused on the large 500cc machines. For this reason, Suzuki was able to gain a foothold in the 250 cm³ class. Suzuki won the first season in 1970 with Belgian driver Sylvain Geboers . In 1971 Suzuki also drove in the 500cc class and Yamaha also entered both classes, which Suzuki won. In 1972 the class up to 250 cm³ was renamed MX 2 and the class up to 500 cm³ was renamed MX 1. In addition, a third class up to 125 cm³ was introduced, the MX-3 class.

As the AMA championship attracted more and more spectators, it was decided in the summer of 1972 to also race in winter. These races should form a championship of their own, which should take place in football or baseball stadiums. Due to the lack of space in the stadiums, the jumps were very short in succession, which was very exhausting for the drivers, but attractive for the spectators. For this reason, the race distance was shortened by half. The first so-called Supercross Championship was held in the winter of 1972/1973, with around 10,000 spectators per run. In the following winters, more and more European drivers entered this championship. This was mainly due to the fact that the championship took place in winter, so the drivers could drive both Supercross and World Championship.

In the years from 1973 to 1975 the then still young manufacturer KTM and the established Japanese brands Honda and Kawasaki entered the World Cup. The Japanese manufacturers soon dominated the World Cup and EM. In 1979, after their great success in the World Championships, the Japanese manufacturers entered the AMA championship and the Supercross events almost simultaneously. Yamaha won the US championship in its first season in 1979 and was also 250 cc world champion. The 1980s were the heyday of the Japanese brands, only KTM was rarely able to win. Yamaha, Honda and Suzuki invested time and money in the development of motocross motorcycles. Longer spring travel made higher jumps possible. Better tires with a more durable profile and thus more propulsion were developed. The chassis geometry has also been improved and the performance of the two-stroke engines has also been increased. The performance of the 500 cc two-stroke engines was already so high in 1985, due to the ever-improving engines, that not all drivers could get along with these machines. From 1983 to 1985, four drivers died in the World Cup and the US Championship in the 500 cc class alone. In the early 1980s, the sponsors' interest in motocross increased. The donors brought further capital into the sport. Because of this, the events got bigger and the prize money higher. In 1989 KTM became world champion in the 125 cc class for the first time.

Since 1990

After 1990, many new motocross clubs emerged in Eastern Germany and Eastern Europe. This was favored by the now easier to acquire motocross motorcycles and the easier construction of appropriate racing tracks. In other European countries such as Italy and France, too, interest in motocross grew significantly. This led to the fact that more and more money was earned with the spectators and the budgets of the teams in the World Cup also increased. In 1995 the events of the season had a budget of 1.2 million euros. The world championships in the various classes were dominated from 1991 to 2006 by the Belgian Stefan Everts , who became world champion ten times during this period.

In order to bring racing machines closer to road machines, the first manufacturers started using four-stroke engines again in the late 1990s. After more and more manufacturers changed, a new classification was introduced in 2003. The MX1 class was now intended for four-stroke motorcycles up to 450 cm³ and two-stroke engines up to 250 cm³, the MX2 class for four-stroke engines up to 250 cm³, two-stroke engines up to 125 cm³ and the MX3-class for motorcycles with 650 cm³ four-stroke and 500 cc -cm³ two-stroke engines. While four-stroke motorcycles predominate in the MX1 class, two-stroke motorcycles are still represented in the MX2 class. Here the difference in performance between the two types is not so great and the design disadvantages of the two-stroke engine are not decisive. However, only four-stroke motorcycles are used in the world championship.

Forms of competition

Sidecar motocross

Motocross (MX, Moto-X)

The classic type of motocross is driving on routes in open terrain. The length of the routes varies between 1000 m and 4000 m. The so-called "outdoor" routes are not as technically demanding as the supercross routes. They are usually wider and longer, so that the jumps do not follow one another in quick succession, which means that higher speeds are achieved. Since this sport is carried out outdoors, it can happen that the route changes its condition and texture due to different weather conditions. On hot days, for example, visibility is restricted due to a lack of moisture because dust is thrown up from the ground, or, at the other extreme, the ground is soaked and the drivers have to cope with a muddy and slippery route. The nature of the respective subsoil varies from route to route, sometimes even from route section to route section. The routes can be made of sand, clay or earth. Roads made of clay are usually rather hard, in places similar to asphalt, roads made of sand or earth are medium to soft. Here, as in all other racing sports, the sports equipment has to be adapted for every condition, i.e. This means that the chassis as well as the tires and many other settings must be adjusted to the circumstances.

The races are divided into two runs. A maximum of 40 drivers are allowed to take part in a race. During qualification training, the order in which the drivers can choose their starting position at the start gate is determined. There is space for 30 drivers in the front row, with the rest behind. In the Motocross World Championship, a run is over after 35 minutes and two laps. After adding up the points from both runs (with the second run being weighted more heavily in the event of a tie), the winner is determined.

The number of spectators in motocross is usually slightly lower than in supercross and often depends on the weather. In addition, on most of the routes it is not possible for a spectator to see the entire route.

Supercross (SX)

The races mainly take place in halls or stadiums that have been specially prepared for the respective events, i.e. H. be filled with earth or clay. Supercross terrain is usually hard. Since there is only limited space available in a hall, the route layout is technically demanding and spectacular. There are relatively many jumps, so that the driver hardly has time to "calm down". Therefore, Supercross races are held over a short distance (around 15 minutes per race). There are many runs to be seen per event, as only a few drivers can drive at the same time. Qualification runs and, later on, the eighth, quarter and semi-finals are used to select who is allowed to compete in the “main event”, the so-called final and at the same time the highlight of the event. Supercross events are not only characterized by the races, but also by a large supporting program with music and freestyle shows. In Germany, the events usually take place in halls with up to 10,000 spectators. In the United States, on the other hand, the races are played in large, often covered football stadiums that can hold up to 75,000 spectators. The advantage for the spectator is the possibility to see the entire route. The most successful supercrossers to date are Ricky Carmichael and Jeremy McGrath .

Freestyle Motocross (FMX)

Freestyle motocross

Freestyle Motocross, or FMX for short, developed from motocross. Originally, in motocross competitions, in addition to the actual races, competitions were held to determine which of the riders could do the best or most beautiful trick with their machine during the jump. Soon, riders began to focus only on this competition, making Freestyle Motocross an independent discipline of the sport.

Historic motocross sport

In addition to the competitions with current motorcycle models, races with older machines have also been held since the early 2000s. In 2007 the DMV announced the German Classic and TwinShock Motocross Championship for the first time . The events are intended to appeal to older and former motocross riders in particular. In contrast to today's modern motorcycles with central spring struts, TwinShock motorcycles still have two conventionally sprung shock absorbers at the rear.

Known drivers

Web links

Commons : Motocross  - collection of images, videos and audio files