Roger De Coster
Roger De Coster (born 28 August 1944) is a Belgian former professional motocross racer and current Motorsport Director of KTM and Husqvarna North America. De Coster's name is almost synonymous with the sport of motocross, winning five Motocross World Championships during the 1970s and tallying a record 36 500cc Grand Prix victories. His stature is such in the sport of motocross that he is often simply referred to as "The Man." As a team manager, he captained the first American team to win the Motocross des Nations in 1981. De Coster was inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 1999. The motorcycling publication Cycle News named him Motocrosser of the Century in 2000. In 2010, he was named an FIM Legend for his motorcycling achievements.
|Roger De Coster|
Roger De Coster in 1977
|Born||28 August 1944 (age 76)|
|Teams||ČZ, Suzuki, Honda|
|Championships||500cc - 1971–1973, 1975, 1976|
De Coster was born in Uccle, Belgium as the son of a steel mill worker. With four brothers, his family couldn't afford to fund De Coster's motorcycle racing ambitions but, by working six days a week while still going to school, he was finally able to purchase a motorcycle when he was 17 years old. He began competing on a 50 cc Flandria motorcycle before replacing it with an Itom. After his first racing season, he started to compete in motorcycle trials to fill the winter lull.
His main competitor in trials events was future Formula One driver, Jacky Ickx. De Coster lost to Ickx during their first season in the 1963 Belgian 50 cc trials national championship. 1964 would be a break out year for De Coster as he won the 1964 Belgian 50cc Junior Motocross championship and, won a Gold Medal in the 1964 International Six Days Trial. The International Six Days Trial, now known as the International Six Days Enduro, is a form of off-road motorcycle Olympics which is the oldest annual competition sanctioned by the FIM dating back to 1913. He also defeated Ickx for the 1964 Belgian 50 cc trials national championship. His trials experience improved his riding ability in wet, slippery conditions which, would later become an asset during his motocross career.
He began to work for ČZ motorcycles in their warranty department but, continued to race on his own time. He won the 1966 500cc Belgian Motocross National Championship competing on a ČZ but, his first foray into Grand Prix World Championships that same year was limited due to injuries suffered in a crash. De Coster was impressed by the meticulous bike preparation and efficient riding styles of Swedish riders such as world champion Torsten Hallman, observing how Hallman absorbed jumps with his body so that his motorcycle flew at half the height of his competitors which, allowed the rear tire to begin applying power to the ground sooner. De Coster was known for his smooth, controlled riding style and a commitment to physical training. His training regime gave him the stamina that allowed him to circulate for most of the race in mid-pack before putting in a late charge through the field to victory when other racers had begun to tire.
De Coster's performances earned him full sponsorship from the ČZ factory for the 1967 season in which, he ended year ranked fifth in the 500cc world championship. In 1968 De Coster won his first overall victory with a win at the 500cc Italian Grand Prix and, once again ended the season ranked fifth in the world championship. De Coster ended the 1969 season ranked fifth in the world for a third consecutive season and, felt neglected by the lack of support from the ČZ factory. The 1970 250cc motocross world championship would mark the beginning of De Coster's career-long battle with his arch-rival Heikki Mikkola. Suzuki teammates Joël Robert and Sylvain Geboers finished first and second in the 250cc world championship with De Coster coming in third place, just 1 point ahead of Mikkola.
Move to the Suzuki team
After the 1970 season, De Coster made the decision to leave the ČZ team due to their continued lack of support. He then joined the Suzuki factory racing team alongside his former ČZ teammate, Joël Robert. It was with the Suzuki team that De Coster would attain his greatest success. Whereas the ČZ motorcycle was already a proven winner, De Coster made the move to the Suzuki team knowing that he would have to help them develop their first 500cc motocross bike however, he was impressed with their willingness and ability to make requested changes to the motorcycle. De Coster's victory at the season opening Italian Grand Prix gave Suzuki the first ever victory for a Japanese factory in an FIM 500cc motocross Grand Prix. His main competition in 1971 came from Paul Friedrichs riding for ČZ and Bengt Åberg on a Husqvarna and the Maico team of Åke Jonsson and Adolf Weil. Going into the final race of the season, Jonsson held a slight points lead over De Coster. While leading the race, the spark plug on Jonnson's motorcycle came loose, allowing DeCoster to pass him for the victory and the 1971 World Championship.
With no weight limits imposed by FIM rules, Suzuki and De Coster were able to develop an extremely lightweight motorcycle which he used to win 6 out of 12 events to win the 1972 FIM Motocross World Championship.
De Coster's defense of the 500cc world championship was dealt a setback when, the FIM announced a new motorcycle minimum weight limit of 209 pounds just before the start of the 1973 season. European motorcycle manufacturers competing in the championship complained to the FIM that Suzuki was spending millions of dollars to build lightweight motorcycles that the smaller European manufacturers found impossible to compete with. Suzuki had already developed and built their race bikes so, there was no time to build new motorcycles. As a result, Suzuki resorted to adding ballast to the bikes. Unfortunately, these alterations threw the bikes out of balance and caused them to lose traction.
To make matters worse, Maico and Yamaha had developed new rear suspensions with longer travel which helped transfer power to the rear wheel over rough terrain. The Suzuki management felt they were being unjustly treated by the FIM and were slow to react to developments by the other manufacturers. Their frustration at their perceived unfair treatment led to a lapse in support and, Suzuki team riders De Coster and Sylvain Geboers then took matters into their own hands by modifying their motorcycle's frames and developed new rear suspensions.
Going into the final race of the season at Sint Anthonis, Holland, Maico's Willy Bauer was holding the championship points lead. The Sint Anthonis track was composed of deep sand which robbed engines of power and increased fuel consumption. A Suzuki engineer calculated that their bike's gas tanks did not have sufficient capacity to finish the race. De Coster then took one of their tanks and drove two and a half hours to have the tank modified to increase its volume. He then drove back in time for the race. Despite having little sleep, De Coster scored two fourth-place finishes while Bauer suffered a mechanical failure handing De Coster his third consecutive 500cc world championship just two points ahead of Bauer.
Suzuki provided De Coster' motorcycles with new engines and an improved suspension system for the 1974 FIM Motocross World Championship season however, the team suffered from poor reliability as they struggled through development issues on the new motorcycles. He faced strong competition in the form of Heikki Mikkola riding for the Husqvarna factory racing team as, the two riders dominated the world championship with either De Coster or Mikkola winning 17 out of 22 motos. Mikkola won the first four Grand Prix races of the season before, De Coster was able to win the Czechoslovakian Grand Prix. While Mikkola's Husqvarna showed a perfect mechanical reliability by finishing every race, De Coster' Suzuki suffered mechanical breakdowns while he was leading five races. Mikkola missed the German Grand Prix due to injuries suffered in practice, allowing De Coster to narrow Mikkola's lead to 10 points going into the final two events of the season. In the championship's final event at the Luxembourg Grand Prix, De Coster worked his way through the pack to take the lead before his Suzuki suffered an engine problem, forcing him out of the race and losing the world championship to Mikkola by 9 points. De Coster was magnanimous in defeat stating that, Mikkola deserved to win the world championship. After the world championship season ended, De Coster participated in the 1974 Trans-AMA motocross series in the United States where, he took four victories to win the series ahead of his Suzuki teammate Gerrit Wolsink.
De Coster and Suzuki returned with the same motorcycle for the 1975 season however, after a year of development work, the bike was more balanced and reliable. De Coster won 12 out of 24 motos during the season to claim the his fourth 500cc world championship over second place Mikkola. The Husqvarna team asked Mikkola to switch to the 250cc world championship in 1976, leaving De Coster to battle his Suzuki teammate Wolsink for the 500cc championship. Wolsink had seven moto victories against the nine victories by De Coster meaning that, both riders had a chance to win the championship going into the final race of the year in Luxembourg where, De Coster secured enough points to claim his fifth 500cc world championship. He also won a second consecutive Trans-AMA motocross series championship in the United States.
De Coster's rival Mikkola returned to the 500cc class for the 1977 FIM Motocross World Championship season, this time as a Yamaha factory team rider. De Coster won the season-opening Austrian Grand Prix but, then Mikkola and Yamaha went on to dominate the season by winning 8 out of 12 Grands Prix as, De Coster finished in second place. De Coster returned to the United States after the world championship and won a third consecutive Trans-AMA motocross series. In 1978 De Coster was seriously injured in an accident during pre-season training and had to have his spleen removed. De Coster recovered but, the loss of his spleen affected his fitness and, he dropped to fifth in the 500cc world championship as, Mikkola repeated as the 500cc motocross world champion. De Coster was regaining his form by the end of the world championship season and then won his fourth consecutive Trans-AMA motocross series.
1979 would be De Coster's final season with the Suzuki team. He won only won moto at the Belgian Grand Prix and he ended the season ranked sixth in the 500cc world championship standings. After Suzuki refused to renew his contract, De Coster accepted an offer to race for the Honda factory racing team. He raced one final season in 1980 and ended his riding career on a high note by winning his final world championship race — the 500cc Motocross Grand Prix of Luxembourg.
By the mid-seventies, he had established himself as the greatest motocrosser of the 20th Century. He was also a four-time winner of the Trans-AMA motocross series, a nine-time Belgian national champion, and was a member of six winning Belgian teams in the Motocross des Nations.
After his racing career, De Coster moved to the U.S. and remained involved in the sport, becoming the motocross team manager for Honda. In 1981, the Motocross des Nations team initially chosen to represent the United States featured many of the best motocross racers in America, but several of the manufacturers dropped out of the event due to expenses. De Coster convinced Honda to send an underdog team of Donnie Hansen, Danny LaPorte, Johnny O'Mara and Chuck Sun to compete in the Motocross des Nations. The upset victory by American riders in the 1981 Motocross des Nations indicated that American riders had risen to the top sport of motocross after years European domination. The victory began a 13-year period of domination by American teams at the Motocross des Nations.
De Coster rejoined Suzuki as their motocross team manager in 1999 and helped turn around a program that had been in decline since his departure. De Coster managed Suzuki team rider Greg Albertyn win Suzuki's first AMA 250cc national championship in 18 years.
In 2011 De Coster became the team manager for the Red Bull KTM team. He has also managed Team USA in the Motocross des Nations. In August 2018, De Coster was promoted to official Motorsport Director of KTM and Husqvarna North America, responsible for all racing efforts of both brands in the United States.
Motocross Grand Prix Results
- ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Roger De Coster at the Motorcycle Hall of Fame" . motorcyclemuseum.org. Retrieved 31 July 2011.
- ^ "BEST sports - Profile - Roger DE COSTER" . www.bestsports.com.br.
- ^ a b c d e "U.S. Trophee and MX des Nations Team, 1981" . motorcyclemuseum.org. Retrieved 13 November 2019.
- ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Jonnum, Chris (2000), "Motocrosser of the Century - Roger De Coster", Cycle News, Cycle News, Inc.
- ^ "FIM Legends" . fim-live.com. Retrieved April 20, 2020.
- ^ a b Jones, Robert F. "Old Rugged Motocross" . si.com. Retrieved 11 March 2019.
- ^ "History of the International Six Days Trial" . ultimatemotorcycling.com. Retrieved 22 February 2019.
- ^ "1967 500cc motocross world championship final standings" . memotocross.fr. Retrieved 22 October 2019.
- ^ "1968 500cc motocross world championship final standings" . memotocross.fr. Retrieved 22 October 2019.
- ^ "1969 500cc motocross world championship final standings" . memotocross.fr. Retrieved 22 October 2019.
- ^ "Heikki Mikkola at the Motorcycle Hall of Fame" . motorcyclemuseum.org. Retrieved 22 October 2019.
- ^ "1970 250cc motocross world championship final standings" . memotocross.fr. Retrieved 22 October 2019.
- ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p "Roger De Coster Interview" . supercross.com. Retrieved 9 June 2019.
- ^ a b "Ake Jonnson: King of Motocross Part 2" . vintagemotortees.com. Retrieved 30 November 2018.
- ^ "1971 500cc motocross world championship final standings" . memotocross.fr. Retrieved 9 June 2019.
- ^ "1972 500cc motocross world championship final standings" . memotocross.fr. Retrieved 9 June 2019.
- ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "1973 Suzuki RN-73" . mxworksbike.com. Retrieved 9 June 2019.
- ^ "The First US GP" . motoretroillustrated.com. Retrieved 9 June 2019.
- ^ "1973 500cc motocross world championship final standings" . memotocross.fr. Retrieved 9 June 2019.
- ^ a b c d e Pratt, Terry (1975). Grand Prix Wrap-Up . Cycle World. Retrieved 9 June 2019.
- ^ McDermott, Barry (22 July 1974). "It's Easier To Get Hurt Than to the Top" . Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 9 June 2019.
- ^ "Heikki Mikkola #1" . Canadian Motorcycle Association. Retrieved 26 October 2019.
- ^ "FIM MX3 Motocross World Champions / MX / 650 (4-stroke) / 500 (2-stroke) >>> MotorSports Etc" . www.motorsportsetc.com.
- ^ "1974 500cc motocross world championship final standings" . memotocross.fr. Retrieved 9 June 2019.
- ^ Roger Rakes The Trans-AMA , American Motorcyclist, February 1975, Vol. 29, No. 2, ISSN 0277-9358
- ^ "1975 500cc motocross world championship final standings" . memotocross.fr. Retrieved 21 October 2019.
- ^ "1976 500cc motocross world championship final standings" . memotocross.fr. Retrieved 21 October 2019.
- ^ a b c Trans-AMA Motocross Records , American Motorcyclist, February 1982, Vol. 36, No. 2, ISSN 0277-9358
- ^ "De Coster and Harrison Receive Promotions" . motocross.transworld.net. Retrieved 29 January 2019.
- ^ Roger DeCoster at the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America
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