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Top 50 Riders of the 1980s (By The Numbers):#46 Andre Vromans

If you were to say the words “Belgian Motocross GP” to fans of a certain age, there would be one word coming back – Namur.  However, say that to a modern-day MXGP fan and there would be a different answer – Lommel. The town that serves as home to that deep sandy hell-hole was also the childhood home of our next legend of the 1980s – Andre Vromans.

Words: Ben Rumbold | Image: Jack Burnicle

Known as the Sand King by his native fans back in the day, Vromans had a typically Belgian old-school riding style. Conservation of energy at its core, the elbows were down, the smoothest lines were sought, and when at his best that efficient, unspectacular style was tough to beat.

(Lead Image – Vromans powers through the trees to a double moto victory and the lead of the World Championship at Norg in the Netherlands)


Born: November 1955

Years Professionally Raced: 1977-1989 (All 500cc GPs)

Machines Raced: Suzuki, Yamaha, Honda, KTM, Kawasaki

GP Wins: 5     GP Podiums: 16     GP Moto Wins: 12       GP Moto Podiums: 41

Nations Selections: 12 – Member of winning MX des Nations & Trophee des Nations teams 1980, Individual Winner Trophee des Nations 1981

Championship Medals: 1 Silver – 1982 500cc World Championship

Take a look at that Years Raced section – ALL 500cc GPs.  He never rode anything else in Grand Prix competition, although it was eventually on a 250 that he had one of his best ever days, memorably at his home circuit itself which he never raced a GP on.

Big-name Mentors

He didn’t start riding at an incredibly young age, but by his teens he was on a bike every day, amongst some of the biggest names in Motocross history – names like Geboers, Everts, Martens, Van Velthoven and even Roger DeCoster.  He caught The Man’s attention and it led to a Suzuki ride under the management of Johnny Strijbos, later head of the Belgian Federation but at the time working for DeCoster. He took the Belgian Senior Championship in 1976, and at the age of 21 he competed in his first GP, the 1977 British round at Farleigh Castle. He finished 9th in his very first moto, with the event won by his future title rival, self-exiled American Brad Lackey.

Andre managed to get funding for his private Suzuki to race the whole of the 1978 World Championship, starting with a 4th in the very first moto at Payerne in Switzerland, and finishing 11th in the series.  He progressed in 1979 to 7th, aided by his best moto yet, a 2nd to Heikki Mikkola in race two at Faenza on Italian hardpack, proof that he could ride terrain other than just the sand!  By this time he had already twice been picked for Team Belgium, first at the 1978 Motocross, then the 1979 Trophee des Nations, with limited personal success. He would make his breakthrough to a factory bike for 1980, at a time when that really did matter. He would pair up with new 250cc World Champion and red-hot Swedish firebrand, Hakan Carlqvist.

Vromans leads Andre Malherbe & Hakan Carlqvist on the way to his first Grand Prix victory, Valkenswaard (NL), 1980

Factory Yamaha Contender

Carla was the more accomplished figure, but Vromans was right on his pace, and won just as many GPs as the mighty Swede in 1980. He climbed his first overall podium with 3rd in Italy, then a week later not just his first win, but his first maximum, in the soft stuff at the Dutch GP at Valkenswaard. He was suddenly 3rd in the world behind the duelling Lackey and Andre Malherbe, but ahead of Carlqvist! He then finished top Euro behind Marty Moates and Danny LaPorte at Carlsbad, the first USGP won by a local, and 3rd in race two in Canada.  From there he took an amazing overall win at Gaildorf in West Germany, sharing the race wins with his teammate. A blank day at Namur put paid to his medal hopes. In the last GP, he finished 2nd behind DeCoster in the legend’s penultimate moto as The Man bowed out in style.

The Sand King could also win on hardpack, pictured here doing so above the beautiful village of Gaildorf in West Germany.

4th in points was a massive achievement behind Malherbe, Lackey, and Carlqvist, and Vromans also enjoyed success with a winning Team Belgium in both the Motocross and Trophee des Nations, finishing 7th overall in the 500cc event at Farleigh.  The two wins would be the last for Belgium in those races for 15 years, and no-one at the time would have believed that!

1981 was to be a frustrating year for Vromans. At the age of 25 and continuing with the factory Yamaha, he retained his number 4 plate but never looked like challenging the top 3 of Malherbe, Graham Noyce, and Carlqvist.  He won as many motos as both Carla and champ Malherbe, 5 in total, but could never take the overall win and mounted the 2nd step on the podium 4 times in all. Most frustrating of all was a loss to Suzuki’s Jean-Jacques Bruno in Czechoslovakia, going 1-3 to the Frenchman’s 2-1.

The classic Namur shot from under the famous old bridge, and Vromans has as much style as any of the famous racers pictured from here!

Legendary in a Losing Cause

On the 6th of September 1981, Andre Vromans enjoyed probably his best ever racing day.  Having to step in for the injured Malherbe, he led a team of otherwise 125cc specialists – Harry Everts, Marc Velkeneers, and Eric Geboers – at the 250cc Trophee des Nations. Wearing the #1 plate at the circuit of Lommel near to where he was born, he rode the 250 as if he was born on that as well! The Belgians had a banquet hall reserved for the winning celebrations, but that had to be cancelled as although Vromans won both motos going away, visibly grinning with no face mask on, it was Team USA who took their first famous victory in a Nations event.  Taking four of the next 6 individual positions behind Vromans, the Americans won by 20 points to 37, the next best Belgian being Everts in 8th overall.  It no doubt took the shine off for Andre, but he had to have been satisfied with his stunning performance.

One of the most famous days in Motocross history, it’s often forgotten that Vromans dominated the event in his home town ahead of Team USA taking their first ever team win. USA manager Roger DeCoster even told his team to ignore Andre as he would be too fast for them!

As Yamaha kept hold of Carlqvist and promoted new 250 World Champ Neil Hudson to their factory squad, Andre made the move to join Suzuki for 1982, of course staying in the 500s. He joined the 28-year-old Lackey, who had spent a year developing the bike for a factory that hadn’t won the premier class title since 1976.

All-Suzuki Title Battle

The first half of the season saw a battle royale between all four factories and one or both of their star riders. Malherbe & Noyce won rounds 1 & 3, Hudson won a moto for a Yamaha team missing the injured Carlqvist, and Vromans himself won both motos at round 2 in the sand of Norg in the Netherlands.  Bruno & Lackey won rounds 4 & 5 as well for Suzuki, and even a teenage Dave Thorpe won a race for Kawasaki. Although Lackey’s consistency saw him with a 10-point lead over Malherbe at the halfway mark of the series, Vromans & Hudson were still less than a race win’s worth of points away.  Malherbe was coming on strong but then broke his leg at the next round, the USGP at Carlsbad.

Show Andre a wide line and he would take it! On his way to a 4th career GP victory,at St Gabriel in Canada, 1982.

Lackey & Vromans responded by being top GP regulars behind Danny Chandler and Mike Bell, and with a 22-point gap to catch up, the Belgian got his head down! Taking the GP win in Canada, he then narrowly lost out to Lackey & Thorpe at Farleigh Castle. Finally, he broke his Namur curse with a fine 1-2 overall victory as a cautious Lackey, wary of malicious fans who had no qualms about interfering with non-Belgians’ prospects, went 3-4. That made the gap just 4 points between the Suzuki teammates going into the notoriously pro-Belgian cauldron of Ettelbruck in Luxembourg.  How hostile was the crowd? Well, a fan broke Graham Noyce’s hand with a track marker post! Vromans looked good in race one, running second behind Carlqvist as Lackey hung back to prevent the crowd abuse – a tactical plan which bore fruit when the American dived past the Belgian on the last lap and took 2nd before the crowd really noticed!  It didn’t help that a tyre defect was causing knobblies to fly off Andre’s rear wheel.

How mean can you look on a Motocross bike?! Andre finally won his home GP at Namur – his last ever overall triumph – as he did his utmost to catch Brad Lackey in the title chase.

This left Andre fired-up to make amends – the 6-point gap meant he needed to win and hope that Lackey finished 4th or worse.  And the Belgian made a stunning getaway, before making an error that he has probably regretted for the rest of his life.  The run of the circuit meant that on the first lap, on turn six, an uphill section wasn’t used like it was for the rest of the race.  Andre clean forgot that and went barrelling into the temporary marker tapes.  He rejoined quickly, but still 11th to Lackey’s 5th.  Vromans got back up to 6th but Lackey was 3rd behind Yamaha men Carla and Franco Picco, and took the title from his chastened teammate and his many onsite supporters.  The likeable Vromans would sadly never win another GP.  Amazingly, neither would a 500cc Suzuki.

Vromans leads Lackey through the Farleigh Castle roost at the height of their world title feud in 1982. The British fans’ eyes are all locked on the first race winner up ahead, home hero David Thorpe!

The Nations events in 1982 were dominated not just by the Americans, but by one in particular – Danny ‘Magoo’ Chandler. Vromans was 3rd overall behind Chandler and Johnny O’Mara on the 250s at Gaildorf, then 2nd overall at Wohlen in Switzerland to lead Team Belgium to 2nd in both events.  It wasn’t a bad recovery for someone who had lost a world title on such a crazy error.

Suzuki withdrew its factory support for 1983, prompting Lackey to return to the USA, his ambition fulfilled. Vromans and new teammate Harry Everts ran bikes through the Belgian importer, but although Harry won two motos during the season, Vromans never matched his opening round 3rd place, a leg fracture causing him to miss 4 GPs.  He came back to score a fine second behind Noyce in the first moto of the final round in Holland.  In his last ever race on his beloved Suzuki he took a solid 2nd behind David Bailey on home soil in the Motocross des Nations, again helping Belgium to 2nd overall.

A disappointed Andre explains what went wrong to his team after losing the 1982 world title to Lackey at the final round in Luxembourg.

Factory Honda & KTM

For 1984 Vromans would join the factory Honda team, but he became very much the fourth man behind Malherbe, Thorpe, and Geboers, even being given a ‘B’ Spec bike by HRC, like Thorpe, at the start of the year.  He again did well in Canada with a 3rd overall, then finished 2nd overall to Thorpe at Hawkstone Park.  At that event, Geboers wrote himself out of the rest of the season by breaking his leg over the famous double jump. Vromans did just enough at the end of the year to pip Eric for 4th in the table behind his other Honda teammates and Georges Jobe.  He had unremarkable rides in his final Nations appearances as well.

He picked up a factory KTM ride for 1985 alongside Kurt Nicoll, and the pair were 5th & 6th in the standings through sheer consistency, scoring no top 3 motos between them, although Nicoll got 3rd overall at Farleigh Castle with two 4th places!  The young Brit got the better of the veteran Belgian in the points.

The HRC ‘B’ spec boys, Vromans #6 and Thorpe #5, clash at the 1984 Belgian GP at Marches-en-Famenne. Thorpe won both motos, Vromans went 3-DNF.

At the age of 30, Vromans momentarily retired, before being tempted back for the last GP of 1986, in which he scored a solitary point! He returned to ride a Kawasaki for three more years, scoring a best of 7th in a moto at Namur in 1987, then in 1988 his best was a 5th in race one at Hawkstone and again in the Dutch GP at Lichtenvoorde.  His last points were a pair of 11th places in early 1989, and the 33-year-old then hung up his boots.  His place in Motocross history is consigned to that as one of the nearly men, one who was clearly world class in incredible company but just missed his chance to win a world title.  Either way, many riders who were more flashy and maybe more revered simply can’t match his record of 5 GP wins and 4 top-four championship finishes for three manufacturers.  He was a solid old pro and a worthy member of our top 50 of the 80s – By The Numbers!

Vromans skates around the blue groove of Villars-sous-Ecot, which hosts an MXGP round in 2023, during his title-challenging year of 1982.

The Numbers

Such a lengthy career as that of Andre Vromans does tend to dilute the “winning percentage” calculation that this list is built on, racing for the whole decade even though he raced for 7 full seasons, apart from his one-race 1986, after his last GP win in 1982. He was the last Euro to win the individual overall in the Trophee des Nations, so that adds to his 5 GP wins and helps his percentage, despite the 10 selections for his country. We are only counting Vromans’ 1 GP for 1986, but that still leaves him with the 7th-highest number of counting events on 119. Add that to the 25 GPs he raced at the end of the 1970s, and you’ve got a long old career!

Next time we feature our first British rider, a completely different character to Vromans who amazed everyone with his style and speed.

Andre Vromans 1980s Numbers:

GPs counted: 109 – 6 Wins

Nations Events: 10 – 1 Individual Win

Total: 119 Events, 7 Wins, Winning Percentage 5.9

Season By Season:

Year       Class                      Record             Champ Pos    Nations Individual Finish

1980:     500cc GPs    12 rounds, 2 wins      4th                                         7th MXdN & 8th Trophee dN

1981:     500cc GPs    12 rounds, 0 wins      4th                                         4th MXdN & 1st Trophee dN

1982:     500cc GPs    12 rounds, 3 wins      2nd                                        2nd MXdN & 3rd Trophee dN

1983:     500cc GPs    12 rounds, 0 wins      6th                                         4th MXdN & 32nd Trophee dN

1984:     500cc GPs    12 rounds, 0 wins      4th                                         31st MXdN & 27th Trophee dN

1985:     500cc GPs    12 rounds, 0 wins      6th                                         —

1986:     500cc GPs    1 round, 0 wins        59th                                       —

1987:     500cc GPs    12 rounds, 0 wins    18th                                       —

1988:     500cc GPs    12 rounds, 0 wins    21st                                        —

1989:     500cc GPs    12 rounds, 0 wins    34th                                       —

Have some Farleigh Castle roost. 1982 British GP.