History of the Canadian Motocross National
By Bill Petro. First published in MXP Magazine
The first CMA sanctioned Scramble was promoted by the British Empire Motorcycle Club and titled the Ontario Grand National Scramble. It was held September 1, 1951 in Ancaster.
It wasn’t until 1957 that the first “National” was held, (the first US National was held in 1972). Everyone thought the CMA would give the race to the Ontario Centre, to be held at Copetown. The board shocked everyone by announcing the first National would be held at Delson, Quebec. It was especially shocking because it had been decided the National would be held one year in the East and the next in the West. That meant it would be 1959 before Ontario and the famed Copetown track had a chance of holding a National.
Jerry Marshall, Lachine Quebec, AJS, won the 500cc championship. Watkins won the lightweight class on a Triumph Tiger Cub. That was how names where recorded then, sometimes with a first initial, they also rarely said where a rider was from. Four Strokes dominated thru the 50’s and 60’s with very few 2 strokes.
In 1958 the national was held in Langley BC. Vern Amor, Triumph, won the lightweight title while Tom Richardson, Triumph took the 500 cc expert class. Even though the champions from the west and the east the previous year never raced one another, they would all be the riders that are our first National Scrambles Champions.
In 1959 the championship race came back to the east and was held at Copetown in Ontario. The reports say that there were entries from Quebec, Ontario, Alberta and the US but it wasn’t until the 1961 national, also at Copetown, that many considered the event a true Canadian national. Top Western riders included BC’s Vern Amor on the new Greeves square barrel who had just won the Western Canadian Championship. Arnold Gray from Calgary and Reg Bellerose from Edmonton. Americans Dave Robinson, Joe Bolger the Wetzel brothers among others also attended. National Champions Bill Sharpless and Gunter Sauren were among the Eastern riders represented. There is no mention of riders from Quebec or Eastern Canada. Matti Pellinen, who had recently emigrated from Finland, won the Expert open class and Vern Amor continued his winning ways with the expert 250 championship
This was also the year that the term Motocross was introduced. Scrambles was a British term that was originally adopted by the organizers of Motorcycle races and it featured races that were determined by the first rider to finish a pre determined number of laps on a closed circuit. Motocross was a term used mainly in Europe and it featured 2 or more races that were held over a period of time, say 30 minutes, plus 2 laps. Then the winner would be determined after tallying the points they were awarded for each heat race. Motocross became the new term for Scrambles, although the latter is often still used in Great Britain today.
Names like Gerry Marshall and Yvon DuHamel from Quebec, Jim Kelly, Bill Sharpless and Larry Bastedo from Ontario. Vern Amor, Zoli Berenyi Sr, and Rudi Zascko from the west, were names that show up quite often in the 50’s and 60’s. All of these riders went on to become legends ofCanadian Motocross and truly deserve recognition in the Hall of Fame.
The Canadian National Championship continued to run annually thru the 60’s although it’s importance was dwarfed by the Canada/New England challenge matches that took place from 1964 thru 1969. Multi event Canadian Nationals started in the early 70’s.