Irish MXoN Stories: William Burgess – Part Two

In part two of our interview with William Burgess he discusses some more of his memories from the Motocross Des Nations he rode on behalf of team Ireland as well as other big races he’s contested over the years. Burgess certainly has plenty of stores to tell which are worth listening too – good times!

If you missed part one, you can read it here.

Gatedrop: How did Ireland do at the events you represented them for?

Burgess: I don’t really remember the results. I suppose at the end of it all, the people around you that you seen and you weren’t at the spectators side of the barrier. You were standing in a line with those top riders and seeing what the machines were like and how quick they were, that would have been the thing that stood out the most. To actually see and be part of that and when they were presenting the countries and you were in that line of people, everybody was looking at you no matter who you were.

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The one that sticks out was either in 86 or 87, the U21 team was myself, Alan Morrison and Mark Morrow. Morrison and I were first and second, the U21 was I think two races back then. We went into the second race, we needed our third rider to finish no lower than seventh to win it that year. We ended up second because Mark finished eleventh but that was the closest we ever came to winning anything big. That was against all the U21 teams that came to that, it was a big event back then. It was miles better back then, we were riding against Grand Prix riders back then. If Morrison and myself had someone close to our level we’d have ran away with it because that year in particular we were first and second in the first race. In the next race, I’ve a feeling I crashed but finished third or fourth but if Mark could have got in the top seven, we’d have won.

Gatedrop: What memories/stories have you got about your racing career?

Burgess: In 1980, I rode a KTM, in the school boys, I had 118 wins out of 136 races. We had to keep a record of what we done so that sticks out. I went to Africa in 1986 and I won the central African safari which was a 12 week event with 32 races. I was able to win 27 or 28 of them. When it came to racing Grand Prix’s I just didn’t have the money, that was the problem. The first time I rode at a Grand Prix, it was a 125cc GP at Killinchy, I just got into fifth with three laps to go and I could see a rider in front of me. It was 3rd, 4th and 5th all close together, I thought I could make 3rd if I kept going at the speed I was going but I fell off and finished 11th. I fell off with three laps to go but I was aiming for third, that was the first ever Grand Prix I raced, I rode Brian Steele’s 125cc Honda.

A holeshot.. then goes wrong. Pic: Nigel McKinstry

Gatedrop: You mentioned earlier it wasn’t that important to you at the time to race the Motocross Des Nations but when you look back now, you must have good memories and realise what you achieved?

Burgess: The truth about it is that I just think there’s other events which were as special.  I went to events throughout my life whether it was in the school boy or adults. To me they were as big as event as the MXoN. The first time I ever rode the International in France, I shouldn’t have been there because I was only 17 riding a 500cc Kawasaki but I was getting paid to turn up, going to do something like that was great. I was riding against a Honda Grand Prix man, Karlsson I think it was on a 500cc Honda, I qualified fastest and I’d never seen any of these riders before. This was all a new world to me, to get 500 pound just for being there, stuff like that sticks out. I remember going to another one riding a 250cc Suzuki, I finished third and got on the podium but because I couldn’t speak French they didn’t want to talk to me on the podium so they bypassed me (laughs).

In Australia at the Des Nations we had to ride a horse, we got an invite to a banquet at the lord mayor’s office in Perth. We were the only country in the world that got the invite because of the way the representatives represented Ireland.  We got an invite to Manjimup, a banquet at the sheriff’s office which is like a council office the day after the race because of the way we presented ourselves. We went down to the parade around the town at the back of a pick up, when we got off we went into the wee shop and introduced ourselves. The woman couldn’t believe we turned up to the shop, she asked us to stay, she called her family to get them down so we could sign autographs.  We got the invite to the banquet after that and we were the only team at the Motocross Des Nations in 1992 that happened too. We stayed for a week after the race and then a letter came inviting us to the lord mayor’s banquet in Perth. The MCUI got the letter and we got the invite for being the best represented team, I’ll never know were the letter went but wee things like that are good to look back on.

In Maggiora, Italy, the only year Hong Kong had a team at the event, stayed at the same hotel as us. They didn’t know were they were going too and they brought all these presents, they’d never been to anything like this and didn’t know how to go about it. They give us all a present each because we looked after them, we spent three days with them.  I’m not very political but when we rode at the Motocross Des Nations we rode under the MCUI flag, we never rode under the tricolour because it was mixed.

Gatedrop: At a domestic level, what were your biggest achievements and what good memories do you have outside the Motocross Des Nations?

Burgess: I’ve seven Irish Championships, twelve Ulster, six British, Central African safari and one Maico World Championship. Not even half the people know that, if you were to ask that question today, no one could tell you. I’ve represented Ireland 31 times in my racing life, that’s not just all Des Nations, they’re only part of it. I’ve rode for Ireland, Scotland and England at the Classic Des Nations, I rode for England at the VMXdN at Farleigh Castle one year and we finished third. I’ve won the Vets Des Nations twice in the over 50’s. I need to take three photographs to get all my trophies fitted in, there’s one cup that no one else name is on it, only me because no one else ever won it.  I’m still racing, out of all the Irish Motocross men that raced in my era – I started racing in 1972 to 1991, how many of them are still racing?

Interview: Andy McKinstry

Pics: Nigel McKinstry