The Forgotten Battle

1986. When motorsport was ‘booming!’, advertising was brainwashing us with alcohol and cigarettes. Men had hair everywhere and grew it with pride; as did the ladies.. Selfies were non-existent, bragging would earn yourself a punch in the face and we could use swear words in a gentlemanly fashion without offending a twitter following.

Beyond all of that however, 1986 was a year remembered mostly for the MXdN at Maggiora, Italy when Johnny O’Mara (to put it blunt and honest) kicked everyone’s asses on a HRC 125 Honda. He put the best riders on the planet to bed. ’86 is a year we don’t speak about enough about for a different reason though. It was one of the closest years in 500 Grand Prix racing of all time.

It was a battle of ‘3 musketeers’ at HRC. Dave Thorpe, the 1985 500cc World Champion, #2 Andre Malherbe the ‘bridesmaid’ in ‘85 and finishing the championship podium that season was Eric ‘The Kid’ Geboers #3. A battle back and forth between HRC,  which for the ‘modern’ enthusiasts, this is like Jeffrey Herlings, Antonio Cairoli & Jorge Prado battling for the #1 plate on the same team. (2020 maybe?)

Andre Malherbe (2) Eric Geboers (3) Dave Thorpe (1)

Back then the series was 12 rounds long. A much shorter series compared to today’s staggering 20 rounds. In ‘86 however, the series was cut to 11 rounds due to round 1 at Payerne, Switzerland being cancelled because of horrendous stormy weather. 

I shan’t mind numb you talking about each round but leading up to the final round only 4 points split the top 3 riders fighting for the title. 4 if we’re honest, counting George Jobe on the Factory Kawasaki, 20 points behind championship leader Dave Thorpe. Jobe had won the most races that season, and snapped his bike in half at the Dutch GP at Markelo battling at the front over a tabletop. The ‘what if?’ question makes you wonder what could’ve been for George.

Hawkstone Park 1986 500GP (Photo Courtesy Cycle News)

I’d give you the crowd number over that weekend in Luxembourg, but if Youthstream was to calculate them like today’s stats, it could be approximately 5.7 million! I joke of course, but it was absolutely packed, fans hanging over the wooden fencing around the circuit to support their hero.

1986 Carlsbad 500GP Eric Geboers leads Andre Malherbe. ( Photo Courtesy ©Mitch Friedman Photography)

Race 1 was a mighty fight between #1 & #2, Dave Thorpe & Andre Malherbe. 40+ minute moto of pure bar banging, but graceful racing between the two former World Champions on equal machinery. A team managers nightmare, but a spectators dream! On a circuit rougher than a pirates chin, slick, chalky terrain. Conditions harder than your common Grand Prix today. 

The first battle was won by Thorpe, closely followed by Malherbe. Geboers 3rd after a dismal start.

Andre Malherbe

Race 2 was a completely different story. Heavy rain between the races, made the already challenging circuit an absolute shit house. Conditions you wouldn’t wish upon your enemy.

It was title contender George Jobe on the 500 Kawasaki who lead, followed by Malherbe, Hakan Carlqvist & Thorpe. Carlqvist eventually made his way up to the lead and started to pull away, Malherbe followed, Jobe 3rd. At the closing stages it was Jobe who won the race and the overall. But Thorpe won the war winning the title. 

Thorpe won his second 500 World Championship by only 5 points at the age of 23 over his HRC teammate, Andre Malherbe. 

George Jobe
(Photo Courtesy Paul Chatfield)

If Maggiora MXdN had never of occurred, would this part of history be talked about as much as that?


© 2020

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