Motocross developed as a kind of motorcycle or all-terrain racing sport that took place on off-road tracks including muddy, hilly, slushy or rocky routes. It was in the early part of the twentieth century that the sport had its origin in Great Britain. Known then as ‘Scrambles’, motocross was a word that derived from the combination of the French word motocyclette meaning motorcycle and ‘cross-country’. Since then the sport gained and grew in popularity as motocross.
The first known motocross event was held in 1924 in Camberly, Surrey and was called the Southern Scott Scramble. This is the event that led to the initiation of motocross in the sporting world. After this event, scrambles started becoming quite a rage with sporting events and this fad continued through the 1920s and 30s. Motocross racing spread wildly as a highly popular sporting event throughout Europe in the years to follow.
It was after the Second World War that the sport gained recognition at the international level. Towards the end of 1950, a proposal for the launch of a motocross event of international standing was submitted to the F.I.M. (Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme) or the International Motorcycling Federation, by the Belgian Federation. In 1952 the F.I.M. created the European Championship in which motorcycles with 500cc engines were used. This was a major turning point in the history of motocross racing and the sporting events associated with it. By 1957, this event had been upgraded to World Championship status.
The first of the motocross racing events of the championship series was held in 1952 in the 500cc category and had heavy Belgian dominance in that year as well as the years to follow. Auguste Mingels, Victor Leloup, René Baeten and Nic Jansen were some of the motocross riders that occupied the winning positions in those years. Great Britain’s presence was also felt in the motocross championships during this period with Les Archer, John Draper, and Jeff Smith as some of the famous riders of the age.
In 1957, the 250cc engine category was introduced to the F.I.M. Motocross World Championships. The first series in this category was won by German motocross rider Fritz Betzelbacher, followed in second position by fellow countryman Willi Oesterle. German dominance was overtaken, in the years to follow, by the British in the first few years of the 1960s. In fact, in 1961, the first three winning positions were all occupied by British motocross riders Dave Bickers, Arthur Lampkin and Jeff Smith, respectively.
This period also witnessed Swedish dominance in the 500cc category, with motocross riders from the country winning the first three positions in three consecutive years starting 1960.
It was in 1975 that the 125cc motorcycles entered the Motocross World Championship arena. Belgium was once again the dominating country in the initial few years. This was also the period when Japanese manufacturers started entering a domain that was largely dominated by European companies. Suzuki was the first such company to enter the motocross world with their 250cc engines.
The 1960s are also best-remembered in motocross history as the era in which the sport crossed international waters to be introduced in the United States.
Over the years, motocross has become one of the most popular motorcycling events in the world. It has also led to the development of variations such as Freestyle, Superhot, Super cross and Sidecars. All these developments are manifest of the excitement and adventure the sport continues to generate among riders of all kinds.