Irish MXoN Stories: William Burgess – Part One

William Burgess has represented Ireland at a number of events over the years – the Coupe de l’Avenir, the Motocross Des Nations and the Vets Des Nations to name just a few of them. Starting to represent Ireland back in the 80’s and he’s still riding to this day – he still clearly enjoys putting in the laps and it’s great to see.

We recently caught up with Burgess to reflect on his career and the times he represented Ireland.

Gatedrop: What year(s) did you represent Ireland at the Motocross Des Nations and at what tracks/countries?

Burgess: The first thing I went too would have been the U21 Des Nations (Coupe de l’Avenir) when I was 17 and that was in Belgium. I wasn’t supposed to be there the first year actually, I was too young officially. From 1984 to 1992 I’d have represent Ireland one way or another. The U21 was always in Belgium at the same place. For the Motocross Des Nations, it was Sweden, Holland (Valkenswaard), Germany (Gaildorf), France (Villars-sous-Ecot), Australia (Manjimup) and Italy was 1986. I remember we drove there, it was 1500 miles there and back, it was at Maggiora. In Germany at Gaildorf, I remember we stayed at a place called the horror house of Herman. In Sweden we stayed in a wee place called the City, the city hotel in the city, I liked it. In 1989 I broke my ankle at the Brian Bell so I didn’t get going that year. I rode a 500cc Yamaha in Holland, a fella give me a photo one day of me riding it at Valkenswaard. I couldn’t remember riding that thing (laughs). It was a 500cc Yamaha and I wasn’t riding Yamaha’s in them days so I don’t know how I ended up riding that at the event.
Burgess in action. Pic: Nigel McKinstry

Gatedrop: The first time you got the call to represent Ireland at this event, how did it feel to get selected?

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Burgess: The truth about the whole thing, it’s only after I quit I realised all the things I done, it’s one of them ones. I just took it as another day to go racing. I’d already been to the U21 des nations  (Coupe de l’Avenir) so when I went to the MXoN it was just natural. It just sort of happened, it wasn’t like it was a big thing, I just looked at it as a race at the end of the year. The only one that really stood out for me was 1992 because it was in Australia. I had always wanted to go and race in Australia so it was one from the start of the year, this is the year I can’t get hurt because this is the place I want to go too and nothing is going to stop me. I rode the whole year with that in my head so to pick one that stands out would be that one in Australia. All the rest of them were just going to race in Europe, I done a couple of International races in France. The first time I done one of them was 1983, that was probably a bigger thing to go and do that because I was getting paid to turn up. To go to the Motocross Des Nations, I was winning at home so who was going to stop me? This might sound bad but it really didn’t mean that much at the time.

Gatedrop: What top riders where you up against from other countries to give people an idea of the level – do you remember which nation and individual riders that won (also who were your Irish team mates)?

Burgess: You’d be going back to Jonny O’Mara, Jean Michel Bayle, David Bailey, Ricky Johnson and a lot of Grand Prix men. My Irish team mates included Stephen Russell, Laurence Spence, Alan Morrison, Mark Morrow, Brian Steele, Stephen McCreery, Brian Dinneen and I think Julian Patterson went to one as well. They were the main ones in the team on a permanent basis.

Gatedrop: What were the tracks like at the MXoN you rode and did you feel you were well enough prepared for them?

Burgess: They were old style Motocross. Listen, compared to today’s racing, they were proper proper old style Motocross tracks. There were very little man made stuff at any of them, everything was natural, even the International races I done were natural. You had the odd ski jump but there were no big triples, doubles or double step up’s, none of that sh*t.  You had the odd table top but that was about it. Going back to the old GP tracks like Farleigh Castle, it’s the best one and were a lot of them have been. I ride that track now and it’s identical to what it was back then and what the tracks were like back then around Europe. The difference I remember when going to Europe was that the ground was a lot harder but other than that it was similar. If you go to Farleigh Castle on a good day, I was there last year at the VMXdN and it’s the same as it was in 1986 when I rode a the Grand Prix there. I didn’t ride in the actual Grand Prix but I rode in the support races. I only ever done two GP’s in my whole life.

Part two of the interview coming soon.

Interview: Andy McKinstry

Pics: Nigel McKinstry