Namur is, as the cover of this cracking new calendar proclaims, The Monaco of Motocross. The crazy Belgian venue that was running before the World Motocross Championship was born really does earn that comparison. An adaptation of public-access roads and pathways in a major local tourist area, its layout is as unique as the Monte Carlo F1 circuit, and the fact that it would never have been conceived in the modern era is also part of the same charm that Monaco possesses. The major difference of course is that Namur is no longer an active part of the World Championship, and while some parties are happy about that, its loss has taken away part of the soul of the sport at the highest level.
Thankfully, we do have memories, videos, and pictures like the 46 presented here in a gloriously random calendar from esteemed MX photographer Ray Mayes. There are still a few left if you contact Ray via social media, and I would recommend it to any old school motocross fan.
There is one thing lacking, however, and that is any sort of captions detailing who we are seeing and when. So with that in mind I thought I might fill in those blanks and stick this guide to the calendar on my blog page and share it about for anyone interested. I hope you are, and I hope it helps!
Top: 1990 – The Stade de Jeux in all its glory, with Dave Thorpe chasing down Kees Van Der Ven across the Esplanade. Thorpe won this opening moto on the #1 Kawasaki but a crash by the Citadel wall put him out of race two, still finishing 5th overall. Van Der Ven put his KTM on the podium with two 3rd places for 3rd overall, his best GP of the year.
Bottom Left: Brits & Belgians – friendly enemies through the years at Namur, fans that were always good-natured but passionate in their support. At a guess I’d say this is the 2001 Nations.
Bottom middle: 2000 – The first 250 GP (with World Championship status) at the Citadel. Mickael Maschio flicks his factory Kawasaki under the iron bridge on his way to 10th overall.
Bottom right: The classic cable-car ride to take you from the town to the ancient monument.
1991 – A packed hillside on the first woodland section of the circuit after the Stadium cheers home hero Jacky Martens (KTM) to his first of two wins at Namur. His next one would be on a four-stroke.
Top left: 2001 – Belgian icon Stefan Everts (Yamaha) takes the double win for his homeland at the Motocross des Nations. With Ramon & Smets not quite so fortunate the home team were 2nd to first-time winners France.
Bottom left: 1989 – All-out war between factory Honda men Eric Geboers & Dave Thorpe, here looking ready to pounce on the Belgian. Despite battling with a knee injury as well as his team-mate, Thorpey won the duel in both motos to take overall victory, although they were both behind their other team-mate Jeff Leisk in moto one. Geboers went 3-2 on the day and would lose his #1 plate to DT a week later in Luxembourg.
Right: 1991 – Kees Van Der Ven, for years a KTM man but now on a Honda, earned a couple of Namur podiums in his career. With the cool Dr Pepper gear in ’91 a solitary 6th in moto two saw him 9th overall, but still with great style.
Billy Liles month! Namur doesn’t hold great memories for the American, his title hopes ending there in 1992 as he cut his finger to the bone on the cobblestone road after the Chalet. The Bottom right shot is from his best GP there, 4th behind the HRC boys in 1989 with a 4-3 card. The other three are from 1991 when he was 8th overall with a 5th & a DNF.
Dave Thorpe month! Twice a GP winner at the Citadel, he beat home hero Andre Malherbe in 1985, and then of course toppled Geboers in 1989, as shown Top left. In 1990 he took his final race win there in moto one as shown Bottom left. Somewhere in the crowd to the right of this shot, my 12-year-old self is losing his mind at the Namur experience! In 1991, Right, he was a disappointing 10th overall at the GP between his final two career victories. Still looking awesome on the big Kawasaki.
Top left: 1991 – Italian Walter Bartolini, the original four-stroke revivalist, blasts his yellow Husaberg past Le Chalet du Monument. He was 14th overall with a second race 9th his only score.
Bottom left: 2001 – The comeback king! Kaptain Kurt Nicoll, 36 years old and 4 years out of retirement, helps Team GB to 4th overall in the Motocross des Nations with 7th in the Open class aboard a 4-stroke KTM. He won at Namur in 1992 when the KTM was a 500cc two-stroke in white & mint green.
Right: 1991 – Mervyn Anstie urges his black ES Honda past the Chalet on a pointless day for the Brit. His best Namur result was 5th overall in 1990.
Top left: 1991 – Paul Malin leads Jacky Martens in front of the Stade du Jeux. The future MXGP commentator had a sensational two GPs at Namur for Kawasaki. He didn’t finish lower than 4th across the four motos and spent serious time up front. This time he was 3rd overall with 2-3 scores behind Martens & Jobe.
Bottom left: 1990 – It’s early in moto two with all to play for! #8 Kees Van Der Ven leads KTM team-mate, #5 Jacky Martens. The Dutchman was 3rd overall, the Belgian 8th. Overall winner, #3 Eric Geboers (Honda) would pass them all and clinch his 5th world crown with the second moto win. He then shocked his home crowd by retiring on Belgian TV immediately after the race! #1 Dave Thorpe would collide with Martens and not finish, unable to add to his first moto win but still 5th overall.
Right: 1991 – Jeremy Whatley was new to the 500 class, and therefore a Namur virgin! The Action Workshop Kawasaki man was closing in on a British title and didn’t push it at the GP, finishing 18th overall.
Left: 1991 – Joel Smets #46 leads Ronny Weustenraed #85 and, to the edge of shot, #14 Georges Jobe. Jobe would win moto two for second overall, Weustenraed only took 17th. Future legend Smets was still working a day job and failed to qualify the previous year. In an early show of his mettle he earned 5th overall through two 7th-place finishes, his best GP to date. He went on to win there in 2000.
Middle: 1991 – A flying Spud! Brit Brian Wheeler takes his KTM to a points-scoring ride for 19th overall.
Right: 1990 – In his last GP at a track he loved, Rob Andrews takes his Honda to 16th overall. Mervyn Anstie is behind him here, as he finished in the first moto. Merv would score in moto two to grab 9th overall.
Top left: 2004 – Namur embraces another legend. It’s the first branded MX2 GP held at Namur and 18-year-old Yamaha pilot Antonio Cairoli takes his first ever GP win with a 2-4 card. The #222 would add many more, including the 2006 MX2 round at Namur with a far more typical double moto win.
Bottom left: 2000 – Adopted Brit Paul Cooper fires the factory Husqvarna to 6th overall as the bark of 250cc two-strokes makes its World Championship debut at Namur.
Right: 2000 –Radical German Pit Beirer gets the Winfield Kawasaki sideways on his way to 3rd overall.
Left: 1991 – “Awesome” Brit Jared Smith laces the Honda through the woods on a day when he wouldn’t trouble the scorers.
Top right: 1990 – In a shot taken just before the one on the front cover, Van Der Ven and Thorpe get airborne in front of a huge crowd on the Esplanade.
Middle right: 1991 – Georges Jobe has the crowd behind him on his way to 2nd overall and eventually his 4th world crown.
Bottom right: 2001 – On his only visit to the Citadel, future AMA legend Chad Reed impressed on the factory Kawasaki with 2nd to eventual champ Mickael Pichon in the single 250cc moto.
October – Lost Legends
Left: 1991 – 5-time World Champion Georges Jobe took a double moto win at the Citadel in 1986. Five years later he took his private Honda to a 3-1 card, earning him 2nd overall and that nice trophy.
Middle: 1990 – Also a 5-time World Champion, the first to win titles in all three classes, Eric Geboers waited until his final Namur appearance to win there, and he took the title at the same time. Chased across the line by Kurt Nicoll, “The Kid” then jumped into a helicopter to appear on Belgian TV and announce his retirement. Everybody was stunned.
Right: 1991 – Dirk Geukens was twice 3rd in the world and one of the hardest workers in the paddock. This particular visit to Namur wasn’t great for him with a 12th overall, a disappointment after finishing 6th in 1990.
NOTE: I did initially think “Where’s Carlqvist?!” when I first saw this page. The mighty Swede won at Namur in 1981, 1983, and most famously of all, 1988. The legendary stop for a beer at Le Chalet Du Monument is one of the sport’s all-time greatest moments and a brilliant sign-off for one of the most colourful careers in Motocross. Of course, Mr Mayes wasn’t there with his camera at the time, so we have no pics of him here. I just wanted to get him mentioned.
Top left: 1990 – 18-year-old Paul Malin launches his Kawasaki over the tabletop on the day when he truly made his mark on the world stage. Wearing the seriously cool Dainese Team Green kit, he led the early part of the race and kept in touch with Thorpey to take 2nd in the first moto. A second moto 4th meant that he was joint 2nd overall, a point behind winner Geboers. Sadly the tiebreak knocked him off the podium, but a lot more people were now watching him.
Bottom left & middle: 1991 – Malin repeated his excellent showing the following year, with an excellent 2-3 putting him on the podium this time.
Top right: 1991 – Georges Jobe blasts past the café on his way to 2nd overall. A mechanical failure the following year nearly cost him his fifth world title.
Bottom right: 1991 – Carlo Hulsen on the tarmac, a much harder service than he preferred. The Dutch sand specialist failed to get his Honda into the points on this occasion, but for style the black Scott facemask earns him top marks. He improved in 1992 to take a top 6 moto finish.
Top: 1989 –The calm before the storm. Thorpey’s poker face is impeccable as he hides his knee injury from a watchful Geboers. The HRC men would finish 1-2-3 for the day in the order Thorpe, Leisk, Geboers. #11 Dirk Geukens took his private Honda to 9th overall with 15-6 motos.
Bottom left: 2001 – French reigning champ Fred Bolley launches the Pamo Honda towards the shortened cobblestone straight. It was a poor race for the two-time champ as he finished only 7th in the single moto format.
Bottom right: 2000 – The sound of modern 250cc two-strokes echoed through the woods of Namur for their first Grand Prix in over 40 years as they joined the 500s for a 4-moto feast to kick off the new millennium. Ulsterman Gordon Crockard (#13 ) fights #2 Pit Beirer past the Chalet, sadly with imported dirt laid onto the road. The Honda man was 2nd overall, the German 3rd. His Kawasaki team-mate Mickael Maschio is just coming into shot on his way to 10th overall. French Yamaha star Yves Demaria took a double moto win in the 250s, but the crowd were more enthused by Joel Smets doing likewise in the 500s.
Congratulations have to go to Ray for a brilliant calendar, full of awesome shots around the greatest Motocross track ever seen. A fantastic homage to an amazing place.