A look back at the race bikes that some of the truly great riders and legends of Aussie motocross rode to glory. Once fierce monsters — now works of art.
There was a time, before Yoshiharu Nakayama unleashed his YZ400F on an unsuspecting planet, when two-strokes ruled the earth. So dominant were they that the lowly four-stroke cousin was seen only as something suitable at best for carrying a bale of hay or providing a leisurely romp through the trees.
The two-stroke’s time at the top of the food chain was long and it shone brightly during that time. Many of the greatest race bikes of all time were born in the pre-Nakayama era. The greatest sounds a motocross bike will ever make, and the most alluring exhaust smells, came from this period too. Bikes were cheaper to run and maintain and the mechanics less complicated.
There were more classes and racing was more popular. These were the heady days, my friends, when a relative nobody could post an amazing result without the backing of a factory team. When a rebuild could be done between motos and when bikes had to be ridden with the utmost respect for technique and race-craft.
And when Yoshiharu did birth the true performance four-stroke, he wrought upon this world a fire breather to be reckoned with. The first team bikes were exotic and weird, expensive and beguiling. They were often hard to ride but epic to look at. They sounded like the underworld had unleashed a creature so foul its own voice was an affront to the gods who quivered in fear.
Here in Australia, we had some classic on-track battles with some of our most talented riders on their mind-blowing bikes. Bikes that you and I may or may not have ever been able to build — some were relatively basic while others had special secret parts that represented the mechanical secret sauce.
And so here and now we choose to celebrate some of the finest Aussie race bikes of yesteryear, as pulled from our archives. This is a salute to both the men and the machines to the tune of our national anthem, so stand with hand on heart and behold the beasts that tore the tracks up and made legends of many people and places.