Fenwick, Ontario native Jay Kimber belongs to a group of unsung Canadian motocross heroes who have been all but forgotten. Kimber, who graced the Canadian motocross circuit from 1971 to 1981, was one of the toughest competitors of his generation.
Scrambles, dirt track, enduro, trial, road racing and endurance, in a career that spanned 22 years, Bill Sharpless rode them all. And he wasn’t just a dabbler. He tackled each discipline with panache, verve, and a winning form, earning himself the handle of “all-rounder” in the process.
Ron Keys is another case in point for those who believe that champions are born, not made. One weather-perfect Saturday in 1966, when Keys was 19 years old, he showed up out of the blue at a motocross track not far from his home in Oshawa, ON with a 305 Honda “Superhawk”, much to the amusement of everyone concerned.
Although 1960/70s Swedish motocross sensation Jan-Eric Sällqvist wasn’t the first foreign import to contest the Canadian National Motocross Championship, he was by far the most successful. Riders like Finland’s Seppo Makinen and Jorma Rautiainen, and Czechoslovakia’s Zdeno Syrovy and Vlastimil Valek, had preceded and won national No.1 plates before Sällqvist but none tallied his total championship booty.
Although Glen Nicholson never captured the elusive National No.1 plate during his career, he was one of the best riders to grace the Canadian Pro motocross scene during the 1980s, especially in the 500cc class. Nicholson started racing in the Schoolboy ranks in 1979 and showed great promise from day one.
When Doug “Sweeper” Hoover retired from motocross in 1988, at the relatively early age of 24, the sport lost one its best and most colourful competitors. In a career that spanned 11 years, the Mount Albert, ON native not only won all the pre-requisite amateur championships, he garnered two Expert National titles and numerous Ontario Provincial crowns.
Although Quebec has produced many great dirt bike racers from day one, Carl Vaillancourt may be considered the La Belle Province’s first big-name motocross star. In 1990, Vaillancourt, nicknamed the “Drummondville Flyer,” established himself as the top rider in Canada by defeating arch-rivals Ross Pederson and Allan Dyck.
British Columbia’s Bill McLean was one of a handful of 1970s motocrossers who managed to give the European, American and Japanese import riders a run for their money. In addition to winning all the requisite provincial titles, he grabbed the No.1 plate in the 1973 Canadian Nationals and won the Open Championship in 1978.