1994 MXDN Team GB: Heroes…Just For One Day

It’s hard to believe it is almost twenty years ago that one of Britain’s greatest and perhaps surprising motocross and even overall sporting achievements took place.

It was in Switzerland on the fast, grassy, hilly Roggenburg track that team GB ended the thirteen year winning streak of the Americans. Team USA have never put together a run of wins that long ever since.

Kurt Nicoll (500), Rob Herring (250) and Paul Malin (125) were the men that did the damage. On paper it was a good team, a top five or even a podium team was the prediction (not dissimilar to this year) but on that day every rider rode to their talented potential.

Paul Malin was the rider that did most of the damage. The youngster with the elbows up American style won both his 125 motos against American hero Jeff Emig in a display of breathtaking riding.

In moto one Malin got a bad start but he pushed through the field then banged bars with Emig trying to force a way through. He ultimately made the pass and Emig didn’t see Malin for the rest of the day as Paul quickly went to the front of the 125 class and cleared off!

Race two was tougher as Malin had to chase down Davy Strijbos. Malin had come through the field but didn’t realise Strijbos was still ahead of him. In the closing laps Malin upped his game and passed Strijbos round the outside on the last lap! The Dutchman crashed trying to come back up the inside and that would allow a slightly fortunate Emig to take second place. Emig had been battling with Frenchman Vialle and Belgian De Witt all moto for third but when De Witt crashed as well as Strijbos, Emig took his second, second place of the day but he could do nothing about Malin.

It seems surprising in hindsight but at the time the usual British negativity about the selection and specifically Malin as the 125 choice was abundant. Malin had been having a disappointing year in the 250 GP save for one or two bright performances but team manager Dave Thorpe thought Malin had the potential to do the business on a 125. The British 125 regulars were not happy at being snubbed and some of the fan were not happy either but after the rides Malin put in, everyone was silenced.

Rob Herring was on the RWJ Kawasaki and almost won his first moto! Herring had been closely chasing 250 World Champ Greg Albertyn until the South African hit a Deer that was crossing the track on a fast downhill! Albertyn was bruised, the bike badly damaged and the deer dead!

All this Hollywood drama left Herring in the lead with a good gap over Belgian Marnicq Bervoets. But after leading for a while Herring got nervous and pumped up. Bervoets, who always rode well at the Nations, stepped it up and passed Herrling near the end but Rob had done his job in getting second and beating American Kiedrowski by a distance.

Kurt Nicoll was back on the 500 and finally got to ride a 500 Honda! Nicoll had been riding 250 GPs for two years but was the logical choice for the 500 ride. And he didn’t disappoint.  In the first moto Nicoll got third right behind Larocco despite not being totally happy with his riding.

Arguably the fastest ride in the world at that time was Yves Demaria. The enigmatic Frenchman had been winning most of the 250 Grand Prix races in the final half of the year but due to early season inconsistency he wasn’t involved in the battle for the title between Greg Albertyn and Stefan Everts. But for the Nations Demaria got Bayle’s 1992 factory 500 and sped off into the distance in the first moto to give France a realistic shot at the win.

It was down to the last moto and the title was between GB, (who lead going in) USA, Belgium and France. But predictably, it all went wrong for France and Belgium in the first turn when both Demaria and Jacky Martens went down! (Martens was controversially picked ahead of Stefan Everts who was supposedly faster in testing on the KX500).

But it was Kurt Nicoll who eventually came out with the lead! Frenchman Fred Bolley was second on the 250 and Larocco third. Bolley actually went into the lead for a time as Nicoll kept Larocco at bay. Nicoll then launched himself by Bolley to retake the lead of the race – but Larocco followed him through like a hungry animal chasing his prey. Nicoll felt he could beat Larocco but he played it smart, he knew he didn’t have to beat the American and literally and hilariously waved Larocco through!

Nicoll had feared the American would try and take him out to win (which Larocco later admitted he would have done). So Kurt then calmly came round on the last lap second in the 500s to give Britain an unexpected but glorious win to despair of the American team.

Nicoll was lifted off his bike in jubilant celebration and hoisted aloft by the frenzied British fans. Britain hadn’t just won it for Britain they had won it for all of Europe as everyone on the continent was glad to see an end to American dominance.

It was a day no-one, especially those three riders, will ever forget and this is what they said straight after their win;

Paul Malin:  When the choice was first made a lot of people weren’t happy. So now I hope after two wins they are happy. The first race we banged bars and the pass didn’t stick, then I passed him (Emig) somewhere around the third lap. I didn’t worry about him and dropped him by ten or twelve seconds. I got by Beirer and dropped him eventually.

The second race I was fourth from the back in the first turn. The first few laps I was just aggressive I went through traffic -250s, 500s, 125s it didn’t matter. People were in front of me, they were slower than me, I passed them. And that’s what got me the two wins in both races.

Rob Herring: The first race was really good. I settled in behind Greg then caught him up because I could concentrate on what he was doing with no pressure. Then when he went down big time I was really nervous and my arms pumped up. Thanks to David we trained and rode together when we could. Morale has been really high and I think that is one of the major things – you have to get on as a team and we got on really good as a team and gave each other confidence. We all rode good.  All those people that thought we chose the wrong team – we didn’t.

Kurt Nicoll: I didn’t ride well at all in the first race. I didn’t ride a 500 for two years and I started to snatch at things and I was riding in 250 ruts and the bike was telling me it didn’t go there! I felt better at the end and I felt good in the whole second race. I always thought I had it won but obviously at the end when they told me I only needed to finish second I backed off but until then I felt pretty good.

Team Manager Dave Thorpe: I knew we had picked the right team, we all worked hard, we had a nice atmosphere within the team. I knew given a bit of luck in the first turn we could do it. When you have four professional people that really want to do the same thing you are always going to have that good spirit. It was great it’s just like winning another world championship for me it’s brilliant.

So, can we do it again with the current team? Why not – they all have the talent, just like the now legendary team of 1994!

Article by Jonathan McCready

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