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A trip down memory lane: Greg Albertyn and the Finnish GP

With the Finnish GP back this weekend we thought we look back at a historic 250 GP there in 1993.It is hard to believe it was twenty years ago but Finland was the fortunate country that  saw one of the legends of the sport win his second world title.

After winning the 125cc world crown in 1992, young South African Greg Albertyn then shocked the establishment in 1993 by winning the 250 title at his first attempt – and did it with one round to spare!  Wearing bright blue Sinisalo kit, Albertyn wasn’t even riding a factory Honda that season, but a production Honda tuned by the late great Jan De Groot and serviced by his friend and mechanic Ian Harrison, (who now works for Factory KTM in the USA) was enough to let Albertyn get on with the job.

Coming into what was the 14th round of the 250cc series in 1993, Albertyn already had a big lead in the series and only needed a few points to make sure of the title.  The track in Vantaa, Finland, was sandy and had a few pretty big tabletop jumps to entertain both the crowd and the 250 class riders. The 250 series was deemed the premier class at the time and saw quality riders from the 125 and 500 class move into the championship that season.

Albertyn wanted to tie up the title as quickly as possible that day but it all went wrong in race one when Albee crashed early and had to come back from dead last but only managed to get to 11th. The race was won by defending champion, the late great Donny Schmit, on a white Chesterfield Yamaha and Albertyn’s championship celebrations had to temporarily be put on ice.

Race two and Albertyn only got a medicorce start while his title rival Stefan Everts, on the Bieffe Suzuki, cleared off for the win. But it was Albertyn who this time got his head down and rifled through the field to take third place and cross the line as the 1993 250cc world champion!

An ecstatic and tearful long-haired 20 year old thanked everyone around him before being lifted unto the shoulders of his JHK Honda team. – Albertyn had proved the doubters wrong and dominated the series. He then put an exclamation point on his season’s domination by winning the final moto (yes there were three 25 minute plus 2 laps motos back then!) in style, leaving Everts with a hollow overall victory.

A few years later I spoke to Albertyn about winning that title and he admitted that season was special to him, saying:  “1993 was the best year of my career. I won so many races that year, it was a great, easy year.”

Albertyn loved that ’93 Honda and was actually supposed to go to America on one in 1994, but it didn’t work out. “I was negotiating with Honda at the end of ’93 to go to the US,” explained Albertyn. “ Then, at the eleventh hour when I was about to sign a deal with them, Honda Japan decided they didn’t want to pay me to race a Honda over there when I was winning for them in the GPs for free!”

Then, referring to his struggles on the US Suzuki team before finally winning the 1999 US 250 national title, Albertyn says confidently and without hesitation: “It would have been a lot different I think if I had went to the US riding a Honda!”

After his plan on going to the USA in ’94 fell through, Albertyn stayed in GPs  for one more year and would narrowly win the 1994 250 World title.  Albertyn rode for Geboers Suzuki that season and at round 11 he would  race in Finland for the second and final time of his career – this time at the Heinola circuit.

It was another eventful day in the championship as rival Everts was forced to miss the Finnish round with a broken collarbone. Albertyn took full advantage and after a fifth in race one he claimed victory in race two (back to two motos in 1994) to claim second overall. And it was those points that ultimately won Albee his third world title in a row!

Now, twenty years later, Everts and Albertyn have been replaced by Cairoli and Herlings as the big names in the sport.  But Finland is ready to burst back into the world motocross series and if the races prove as eventful and historic as they were twenty years ago, the Finnish fans have got plenty to look forward to this weekend!

Article by Jonathan McCready

MX Vice Editor || 25

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