Roger De Coster - Lommel, 1981
By Geoff Meyer | 02 Jul 2012
Roger De Coster is without question one of the most important people the sport of motocross has seen. One of his biggest challengechallenges in his career as a manager came in 1981 when Team USA headed to the Motocross of Nations (then known as the Motocross des Nations), set for the Lommel circuit in Belgium.
Here is his view on what would turn out to be the biggest shock in the events long history.
“Towards the end of August, as the des Nations approached, there seemed to be a lack of interest. No one seemed to be able to get their act together. No one was excited. Finally, I thought to myself 'Why don't we send all Honda riders as the US team?' At the time, I think that American Honda did not know too much about the des Nations events. They did not know what it would cost to send the entire team. I took a chance, but we did it. Now things were in motion. But by the time the events were to come about, the bosses at Honda started to complain, after realizing how much money we were spending on this thing. But now it was too late to do anything different. Plus we had the magazine Motocross Action with Dick Miller and Larry Maiers in helping us raise monies for the team. That fund raising and Honda paid for the entire thing.”
“The first event was the Trophee des Nations in Lommel, Belgium. I had problems with myself to a certain extent because it felt strange coming and representing the US. I had always tried to win as a rider for Belgium. In the Trophee des Nations, as a member of the Belgian team, I was part of the winning team ten years in a row. We also won six times in the open class (500cc - Motocross des Nations). It felt weird. But what made it easier was that the Belgian motorcycle federation never asked me for help. I had offered my help for the des Nations teams earlier to them, but they were not interested. That made me feel easier about helping the US team. Also, before the race, I had asked the Lommel club to help with financial support for travel expenses. They said 'What are you going to do here on a sand track with an American team? You are going to be slaughtered here. We are going to kill you. If you were going to come here and were the main draw, we might consider it, but you are! Also-rans'. So that motivated me even more.”
“Our team went over early. We went to sand tracks and practiced and practiced and practiced. We initially had a lot of bike problems because we had no experience in the US riding on sand like that. But we worked thru the whole thing, and by race-time we were ready.”
“Of course, everything was fine when we won. It was one of the greatest wins ever. And Honda was able to get so much advertising out of that race. I think the wins also gave a lot of confidence to the team and our riders. The following year would be good for us. That was the springboard for us to do well for the next number of years.”
In September, at the same circuit, with the same Team USA team manager the 2012 Monster Energy Motocross of Nations will happen, for those who want to see history made once again head to http://www.mxon2012.com/ for more information on this great event.
Photo: Roger De Coster - KTM image
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