Latest News

FLASHBACK // 1993 British 500cc GP, Hawkstone Park

MX Vice runs regular “… Years Ago” posts on social media as little reminders of Motocross’ great history and the riders that helped to shape it.  In the case of Hawkstone Park 1993, which saw something of a new era dawning for the big-bike class in the World Championship, our legendary snapper Jack Burnicle just had too many awesome photos to condense into a small post.  So here is Jack’s gallery from that historic day with a few notes on how it all played out.

Words: Ben Rumbold | Images: Jack Burnicle

1993 saw two major changes to the Motocross World Championships for the 500cc class, which had been the primary focus for most manufacturers a decade before, but became less important with dwindling sales for the half-litre monsters. So much so that this season was the last for the class in the USA, being reduced to just a four-round Championship and won by Kawasaki’s Mike LaRocco.

The first major change was the 250cc class was now defined as the “Blue Riband” Premier class, with financial incentives increased to match that status. The second was that four-stroke machines were allowed an increase in capacity to a maximum of 650cc. The first change had seen an exodus of the entire top three from 1992. Champion Georges Jobe had retired, with four-time runner-up Kurt Nicoll unwilling to push for another title in the 500s after being so narrowly denied at the final round. He was joined by Bronze-medallist Billy Liles in tackling the 250cc class for 1993, leaving the 500s somewhat lacking in star quality as well as in factory support.

So it was time for new stars to shine. Younger twenty-somethings Joel Smets, the highest-ranked rider left with the #4 plate, Johan Boonen wearing #6, and Marcus Hansson from Sweden were massive big-bike fans and up for the challenge. Veterans Jacky Martens, Dirk Geukens, and Jorgen Nilsson were ready to step up, as were British challengers Jared Smith, Brian Wheeler, Jeremy Whatley, and of course three-time World Champ Dave Thorpe, convinced that he still had what it took to challenge for the crown.

Promising Belgian Joel Smets was moved to the four-stroke Husaberg to enjoy the higher capacity limit for the thumpers.

The second change was to truly be the lifeline for the class to last for the further decade that it did after the AMA version was cut. Four-strokes had made small incursions with Walter Bartolini on a Husaberg in 1991 and Jacky Martens’ factory Husqvarna in 1992. Martens was back on the bigger version of the snorting Husky, and Smets joined him on the four-banger after being smitten with the Vertemati brothers’ revised Husaberg in a mid-season test the previous year.  Between them they formed the prologue to the true four-stroke revolution that was to come.

Most of the other riders were on privately-funded Hondas, Kawasakis, and KTMs. The Austrian factory had gone into liquidation at the end of 1991 despite finishing 2nd in all World Championship classes that year. Nicoll had again finished 2nd on what was left of the factory effort in 1992, but there was nothing apart from a sweet 250 for Trampas Parker in terms of KTM support for 1993.

It’s GO for the British 500cc Grand Prix of 1993! A full field of 500cc monsters launch away with Jorgen Nilsson (7) up the inside, next to Ronny Weustenraed (16), Jo Martens(14), and Carlo Hulsen (20).

There was also another wild-card in action at Hawkstone, in the shape of one of those 1991 runner-ups, Mike Healey!  On a private Honda with the eye-catching #111, it wasn’t the greatest of showings for The Gunner and he left with no points.

Jorgen Nilsson won the first moto by a distance.

Jared Smith chases Johan Boonen in race one, as Ronny Weustenraed and Nilsson blast up Hawkstone Hill!

Other privateer Honda riders did better, however, with 28-year-old Swede Jorgen Nilsson on fire from the get-go on his #7 Wulf-sponsored CR500. Three times winner of 250 GP motos in the 1980s, and 3rd-placed finisher at the final round of 1992 behind Nicoll and Jobe, Nilsson was on his second year of CR500 racing and cleaned up in the first moto ahead of Ronny Weustenraed, the most mis-spelt name in Motocross. “Wursty-Sausage” finished ahead of another Belgian on a Kawasaki, 24-year-old Johan Boonen. Smith put in the best British moto of the day with 4th ahead of the black Scott Facemask-wearing Carlo Hulsen, a classic Dutch sand specialist who excelled in little else! Smets and Martens took 6th and 8th, either side of Thorpey, who was taking part in what would be his final British Grand Prix.  A blanket could have covered the three of them across the line, as captured in Jack’s excellent shot below. Sadly, it wouldn’t get better than that at Hawkstone for DT.

Not far behind 5th-placed Hulsen, Joel Smets just holds off Dave Thorpe and Jacky Martens at the finish of race one!

Dave Thorpe was competing in his final British GP in 1993.

Slechten-sponsored Weustenraed made a better fist of the second-race start and showed the sort of pace that brought him a surprise moto win at the start of 1991, when no-one had a clue who he was! With Hulsen 2nd and Nilsson 3rd, the overall result looked to be between those three.

Ronny Weustenraed had such an odd career. The second moto at Hawkstone was the second of three career moto wins, but he never took an overall victory and finished no higher than 6th in a World Championship. A true enigma!

New Zealander Darryl King took a fine 4th ahead of Smith and Honda man Jo Martens (no relation to Jacky). Just behind them was Dirk Geukens.  Another moustachioed Belgian, Dirk had won the second of his two career GPs at the 1991 Hawkstone round. Twice a world number three, it wasn’t looking too good for him on his KTM debut. But more was to come…

Carlo Hulsen crests the sort of hill you never see in the Netherlands. Always a lover of the soft stuff and a personal favourite with his black Scott facemask, Carlo took 3rd overall with consistency at Hawkstone 1993.

The Brits, apart from Smith, weren’t having a good one. Whatley could only manage 11th, and DT fell whilst chasing Jem and ended up 15th. Brian Wheeler and Warren Edwards, both fairly local boys, wouldn’t trouble the points scorers. James Marsh got into the points with 14th in both races two and three.

Whatley fends off Thorpe at the top of the hill. The two good mates battled outside the top ten in race two.

Smets had also had a quiet day, but he roared the Husaberg to the holeshot in the third moto ahead of Edwards and another local boy Daniel Smith! Austrian Karl Sulzer was also up there early, but Geukens was swiftly through to take a stunning race win ahead of Jacky Martens, who had a massive bandage across his face from a broken nose sustained in practise! Nilsson brought it home in 3rd again to ensure a massive first career overall Grand Prix victory!

Third race action with Smets leading on the #4 ahead of Warren Edwards (22), Daniel SMith (86), Karl Sulzer (13), and winner Dirk Geukens (8)

Amazingly, Weustenraed had destroyed his Kawasaki with a big crash through the tunnel, but was still second overall with just the first two moto scores, as Hulsen could muster no better than 11th, just enough to deny Geukens an overall podium finish! Smith suffered a poor start and could only get 10th, 3 points off the overall podium but still top Brit in 5th overall.

Weustenraed flies through the tunnel at Hawkstone. It was through this section that he destroyed his Kawasaki in race three, but still earned enough points to finish 2nd overall!

Jared Smith was top Brit in 5th overall, seen here leading Warren Edwards at the top of Hawkstone Hill.

The late Dirk Geukens acknowledges the crowd after winning race three – they did separate moto podiums ceremonies back then! Martens grimaces through the pain of his broken nose, vital points gained on the way to the World title.

It wasn’t a great day for future World Champion Marcus Hansson, just 13th overall with a best moto finish of 8th.

The title, like in 1992, would go down to the final race and decided by a handful of points. Nilsson was the rider that just fell short, as Jacky Martens would take the first World Championship for a four-stroke rider since Jeff Smith in 1965. It was a royal battle all season, which will catalogue for you amongst all the action here at MX Vice!

Overall Podium for the day sees celebrations for Jorgen Nilsson, ahead of Ronnie Weustenraed and Carlo Hulsen. Nilsson would go on to finish 2nd in the series, and the other two? Ended in 22nd (Carlo) and 23rd (Ronnie) in the final championship table!

Fascinating first race line-up: Hans Koenen (44), Jeroen Royakkers (45), Anders Svensson (91) and Eric Delannoy (50) finished 21st, 22nd, 23rd and 24th! At the far, unfavoured end of the grid Franco Rossi (5) retired and at the extreme far end, riding his first 500GP, is the colourful helmet of former world 250 runner-up Mike ‘Gunner’ Healey (Honda 111), who also failed to finish but lapped at the same pace as the top six in the first two motos before failing to appear for race three!

Full Results:

Pos.RiderNat.BikeRace 1Race 2Race 3Points
1Jorgen NilssonSWEHonda1st3rd3rd50
2Ronny WuestenraedBELKawasaki2nd1stX37
3Carlo HulsenNEDHonda5th2nd11th33
4Dirk GeukensBELKTM13th7th1st32
5Jared SmithGBRKawasaki4th5th10th30
6Jacky MartensBELHusqvarna8thX2nd25
7Darryl KingNZKawasaki9th4th12th24
8Soren MortensenDKKawasaki11th8th6th23
9Joel SmetsBELHusaberg6thX5th21
10Jo MartensBELHonda12th6th9th21
11Johan BoonenBELKawasaki3rd10thX21
12Rudy van LeeuwenNEDHonda10thX4th19
13Marcus HanssonSWEHondaX9th8th15
14Jeremy WhatleyGBRKTMX11th7th14
15David ThorpeGBRHonda7th15th13th13
16Hans KoenenNEDHondaX12thX4
17James MarshGBRHonda14th14thX4
18Pekka VehkonenFINHonda15thX14th3
19Gerard DelepineBELHondaX13thX3
20Klaus NielsenDKKawasakiXX15th1