As we count down to the 2023 MXGP season, where we will (hopefully) see two riders with five world titles each to their names, for only the second time in history, MX Vice looks at the 1980s warriors who also got to that magic number. As with the first two, Joel Robert and Roger DeCoster, these racers were from that Motocross hot-bed of Belgium, one of the smallest countries in Europe but by far the most successful in the history of the sport. These are the brief stories of Eric Geboers and Georges Jobe.
Words: Ben Rumbold | Images: Jack Burnicle
The racer known as “The Kid”, because he was the youngest of five brothers who all raced to varying degrees of success, became the most successful rider of the 1980s in terms of GP wins (33) and World Championships (4, with a 5th in 1990). He won at least one GP in every single season of his career, and apart from 1984, when he broke his leg at Hawkstone Park, he took a top three Championship medal home each year as well. 17 years the junior of his brother Sylvain, who surely would have been a World Champion himself if not for Joel Robert, Eric Geboers was practising and training with most of the best riders in the world from almost as soon as he could throw his leg over a bike. He ultimately became one of the best to ever do so, achieving immortality with the “Mr. 875” title by winning World Championships in all three capacity classes, the only rider to do so on two-stroke motorcycles.
Naturally the family association with Suzuki, as Sylvain was one of their very first factory riders, continued when Eric was old enough to progress to GP level himself. Straight onto the 125cc factory team in 1980 alongside reigning World Champion Harry Everts, he took his first Grand Prix win at the fourth round in France and took two more in West Germany and Czechoslovakia. He finished 3rd in the standings, and went one better the following year with another three GP wins as Harry took his third straight crown and fourth in total.
Finally in 1982, just before he turned 20 in August, Eric nailed down his first world title by a distance from Italian Corrado Maddii, winning half of the 12 GPs on the way. He was even further ahead of new teammate Michele Rinaldi in 1983, as he shot out of the blocks with 5 GP wins from the first six, and the last one after clinching the title.
From there, his brother pulled a master stroke and secured him a much sought-after HRC Honda ride, shooting straight up to the premier 500cc class for 1984. Incredibly, he won the very first 500cc GP moto he entered! It took him until the Dutch sands of Halle before he could secure his first overall win, which he did with a double moto maximum, but then came that leg break which halted his run at the title and gave him his worst-ever Championship position of 5th… yes, fifth!
The leg did trouble him and whilst he was always there or thereabouts, he couldn’t nail down the title, despite being very close at the end of 1986, going into the last round as one of four riders who could have taken the crown! At Honda’s request he made a move to the 250cc class in an effort to win Big Red’s first title in that category. After a season-long battle with his fellow former 125cc Champ, Cagiva’s Pekka Vehkonen, he achieved the mission with 5 GP wins to Pekka’s 4.
That set him up for 1988, back on the big five-hunny and battling it out with teammate Dave Thorpe for the crown. The Brit had the utmost respect for his rival: “He was physically very strong and had the heart of a lion,” said Dave when speaking about him last year, with their Kawasaki-mounted competitor Kurt Nicoll adding that “Eric just had no weaknesses in his racing.” Geboers was maybe slightly fortunate with Dave getting injured at a British Championship round, although with GPs in The Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg to come the calendar was looking favourable. He clinched the title at Namur – no better place for a Belgian – and was hoisted aloft as the first ever to be crowned a Champion in all three classes.
DT did get revenge in 1989 as he limited Geboers to just one GP win, although Eric was top Euro at the USGP behind Ron Lechien as Thorpey had a nightmare. A DNF at Luxembourg led to the Brit clinching the title a round early for the only time in his career.
Finally, the 1990 season saw utter domination for the diminutive Belgian – “He would never have been picked for a basketball team”, says Nicoll in his book – as Thorpe struggled with his new Kawasaki and American Billy Liles got hurt as he was leading the series at the sixth round. The Kid ran away with it, collecting four double moto victories and clinching the title at Namur once more. On doing so, he shocked the Motocross world by announcing his retirement at the age of 28. There was one final flourish for the incredible Belgian, matching DeCoster by winning his final GP, this time against the might of the Americans at Glen Helen. Such was his efforts in beating Johnny O’Mara and Ricky Johnson in the California heat of race one, it made him throw up into his face mask during the race! Second behind RJ in race two sealed the overall win and a wonderful end to an amazing career.
Sadly, after several team manager’s roles as well as many successful business ventures, Eric passed away in 2018, drowning in a freak accident near his home in Belgium. He was, quite simply, one of the best of all time.
Compared to his fellow five-time Champs, Eric was the youngest to win his second title until Herlings & Gajser, and when he retired was second only to Robert in all-time GP wins.
Often a rival for Geboers with a completely different riding style, Georges Jobe was one of the most fiercely-competitive riders of all-time. He was willing to do just about anything to win, and he was not afraid to push boundaries and buttons. Also sadly no longer with us, due to contracting Leukemia in 2012, he was another member of the gang of Belgian hot-shots to grace the Suzuki team in the early 80s. Winning titles from his teens to his 30s, Jobe (pronounced “JOE-bay” with a soft J) overcame a lot of adversity with his determination and longevity on the way to his five Championships.
About a year-and-a-half older than Geboers, he became the first teenage World MX Champion in 1980 by a massive 86-point margin from Kees van der Ven in the 250cc class. Whilst often the fastest in the two following seasons, he was denied both times by the factory Yamaha team. Brit Neil Hudson overcame early-season machine issues to pounce just when Jobe picked up a small injury later in the year, and despite trying to ride the final round and cause some disruption to Neil, Georges was pipped at the post and lost the #1 plate.
1982 & 1983 were two great years in the 250cc GPs, as American invader Danny LaPorte battled it out with Jobe and KTM’s Van der Ven. Georges rated the Californian as his toughest ever opponent, but pulled away in ’83 with five GP wins to Danny’s two. See the following link for a great story about Georges from Danny himself: HISTORY: Danny LaPorte & Georges Jobe “Back In The USSR” – MX Vice
As with Geboers, Jobe headed to the 500cc class in 1984, and won the second moto of that incredible opening round at Schwanenstadt in Austria, winning the overall at his first attempt on the factory Kawasaki. He followed it up by winning the next one as well at the legendary Payerne circuit in Switzerland. Honda suddenly had their hands full! Against Malherbe and Thorpe, however, Jobe just fell short, and suffered his first winless season of the decade in 1985 to finish a lowly 4th.
Never scared to be vocal about his situation, he categorically claimed that if Kawasaki had listened to him, they would have won a title. A broken frame in 1986 cost him dearly, and despite winning six of the last eight motos that season, he was 4th behind the HRC Hondas once again. So it was case of “can’t beat them, so join them”, and as the factory bikes subsided in 1987, Jobe ran a private Honda with his own team, in proper 1980s pink M Robert kit! Injuries to reigning double champ Thorpe helped Jobe’s cause, and with 4 GP wins he claimed the title a round early in the mud of Luxembourg.
This put him in a position to go for the “Mr 875” title, so he took his team into the 125cc class for 1988. It was an ill-fated move, resulting in just two overall podium finishes as the factory Honda of Jean-Michel Bayle and Cagiva man Dave Strijbos waged war for the title. Jobe was 10th for the year, and Geboers became Mr 875 instead.
Georges, or “GJ” as his Belgian fans liked to call him (it sounds like “Jay-Gee” in French), returned to the 500s but couldn’t get back to winning ways in 1989, before trying a 500cc Yamaha project in 1990 which did not go well. Once more he set about a privateer arrangement with backing from his elder brother Claude’s building firm, and despite turning 30 at the start of 1991 looked to be in the shape of his life. KTM’s Kurt Nicoll looked like a sure-fire bet for the title, however, until he broke his leg in qualifying for the Dutch GP, the fifth of 11 rounds. Jobe had an awful day there but took the reins with a double moto maximum at the following round in Italy. Holding off Nicoll’s teammate Jacky Martens with great consistency, he won his fourth title, once more a round early in Luxembourg.
For 1992 Nicoll was back and healthy, as was the rider who suffered a similar fate in 1990, Billy Liles. Early season controversy was caused by Jobe ratting on Liles to exclude him from a planned run at the British title. Liles had a Belgian license at the time so wasn’t eligible, and that information was spread around the paddock to the point where he could race, but not for points. It’s not like Jobe was upset that Liles got factory Honda frames or anything…
The three of them had a royal battle throughout the year, which Jobe had announced would be his last. Nicoll led mid-season, but suffered an awful day at Hawkstone when his gate stuck, and there followed a real drop of form. Liles came on strong but crashed at Namur and dropped out of the chase there. There were reports of intervention from Jobe’s protege, Gerard Delepine, who helped the Champ out with a few blocks here and there, and was suddenly on the same Cinti Honda team. It all got very heated towards the end of the year, and even with Nicoll winning eight of the last nine motos in the new three-moto format, Jobe was 2nd in six of those races, and held on to his crown by two heart-breaking points from the Brit.
Despite the circumstances of that final year, there is no doubt that Georges was one of the greats of the sport. He turned from ludicrously-fast teenager to a determined and canny veteran, winning 30 GPs along the way. Of the five-time (or more) World Champions, only Stefan Everts and Jeffrey Herlings won their first one at a younger age, yet only Joel Smets won his fifth one at an older age. Only DeCoster rode for as many years (14) before winning his fifth crown. Jobe’s win tally is the lowest of the nine in this group, but considering the barren years he suffered from 1988 to 1990, that’s probably no surprise. What could he have done with a #1 factory 500 Honda in 1988? We’ll never know, but Georges certainly would have made it interesting.
|Rider||Eric Geboers||Georges Jobe|
|DOB||August 1962||January 1961|
|Career Year (Age)||3rd (20)||2nd (19)|
|GP Wins That Year||6/12 (50%)||3/12 (25%)|
|Career Wins To Date||12||3|
|Career Year (Age)||4th (21)||5th (22)|
|GP Wins That Year To Date||6/12 (50%)||5/11 (45%)|
|Career Year (Age)||8th (25)||9th (26)|
|GP Wins That Year||5/12 (42%)||4/12 (33%)|
|Career Wins To Date||28||27|
|Career Year (Age)||9th (26)||13th (30)|
|GP Wins That Year||4/12 (33%)||1/11 (9%)|
|Career Wins To Date||32||28|
|Career Year (Age)||11th (28)||14th (31)|
|GP Wins That Year||6/12 (50%)||2/12 (17%)|
|Career Wins To Date||39||30|