MXoN Stories: Paul Cooper

Despite being born in South Africa, Paul Cooper was able to represent team GB at the Motocross Des Nations after basing himself in England from a young age to make it in the Motocross World. Cooper raced the event a total number of five times for Great Britain over the course of 1993 to 2004 and has some great memories from the event.

“I raced the Motocross Des Nations in 1993, 1995, 2000, 2003 and in 2004. In 1993 which was held in Austria, my greatest memory is Billy Liles telling me how slow my 125 was in the following way “your bike is so SLOW we were counting the spokes as you were coming out the turns!” (with his southern drawl it was hilarious). In 1995, Sverepec was remembered because I had a factory Honda 500 from Dave Thorpe and it was stolen from my mech’s house before I even saw or rode it! Oh and I also remember him shouting at me for holding up our lift from the track to the airport because I was trying to chat up one of the trophy girls”, Cooper told 

Coper was happy with the way he rode at the 2000 MXoN held in France at Saint Jean d’Angely, unfortunately GB just missed out on the podium losing out to Belgium by three points. Cooper had a good day going 4-8 in the moto’s. Cooper remembers being angry from an agressive Ricky Carmichael pass but the American was so fast there wasn’t anything he could do about it.

“2000 was great, I rode very well on the Motorex Husqvarna and we did well as a team in St Jean d’Angely. It was 35 degrees with a huge crowd turnout. A little story from this race. I holeshot Moto 1 and about 4 turns later, I dropped into the very inside rut thinking I had covered any chance of being passed there. A certain Ricky Carmichael had other ideas and literally just rode straight into me and bounced me out the rut. I was so angry in the moment, he had hit my bad knee full speed too. So in my head I was like ‘’right, that’s it I am nailing you the very next turn I possibly can!’’ Well, the truth is that half a lap later I literally smiled inside my helmet at myself because I could not even get within a 100 metres of him he was going so fast”, Cooper stated. 

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Three years later and Cooper was lining up at Zolder in Belguim, GB didn’t fair quite as well that day as they could only manage sixth overall but Cooper says he’ll never forget just how rough the track was – but he felt comfort when Ricky Carmichael who was beside him on the start line told him it was the roughest track he’d ever seen in his life.

“2003 my most vivid memory is just how rough the track was on race day. We had done a full day of racing on the Saturday for qualifying, then practise on Sunday morning so by the time we went out for the sighting lap before the main race the track was destroyed. I remember riding up onto a tabletop, stopping to check the best place to land and I literally could not see a single line that did NOT have huge ruts and ugly kicker bumps that would throw you over the bars. Once back in the Parc Ferme I said to Steve, ‘’I am actually freaked out, I literally do not know what line to take ANYwhere!’’. The only thing that made me feel comforted was that RC was parked next to me, looked at me and said ‘’this is the roughest track I have ever seen in my life’’. He and I were the only guys on 2-strokes. He smoked us all again of course. I got a 7th which I was fairly happy with”.

At the 2004 Motocross Des Nations it was in fact Cooper’s last time to race the event but it’s not a day he’s best pleased with as he rode “terribly”.

“In 2004 at Lierop, it was disappointing as I rode terribly. (Sorry team England!)”, concluded Cooper. 

Article: Andy McKinstry

Pic: Nigel McKinstry