With the next round of the MXGP championship at the Orlyonok circuit in Russia, it might be time to remember a little about the countries amazing motocross history.
Russia has a rich history with the Grand Prix series, dating back to the 1960s. Of course, in recent times it has been Evgeny Bobryshev who has shown impressive results in the MXGP class, and Alexandr Tonkov and Vsevolod Brylyakov in MX2 and now MXGP. But long before these guys were even born came the very best of Russian motocross.
Since 1963 Russian motocross sportsmen became regular participants of the International races of the highest level. However, there was an obstacle, since the Russian riders had to overcome the difficulties because of the ideological prohibition of the western motorcycles.
Russian racers were permitted to use only motorcycles produced by the allies of the Soviet Union, in particular, Czech Republic (then it was called Czechoslovakia). Czechs produced famous at that time models Jawas and CZ’s. But Czech motorcycles were weaker in many aspects compared to the machines produced in Europe and Japan.
Nevertheless, in 1965 Victor Arbeckov could become the Champion onboard a CZ, which was a real surprise for the motorcycling world. Arbeckov could gain a victory even over great six-time World Champion Joel Robert from Belgium, who was at the peak of his sporting career.
Another famous racer, Gennady Moiseev proved to the world the high potential of the Russian racers once again in 1973. During one of the rounds of 1973 World Championship Gennady Moiseev appeared to have no motorcycle, as the Czech partners were not in time to deliver their CZ for him. Then the representatives of the young KTM company from Austria offered the Russian racer their machine. Gennady Moiseev took the offer and won the race.
Frankly, that liberty cost the representative of the Russian delegation his Communist party membership and the position. On the other hand, the Russian team acquired the great KTM machine. With the KTM Gennady Moiseev became three-time World Champion, in 1974, 1977 and 1978.
However, in 1979 Gennady Moiseev was prohibited by the Soviet authorities to use Austrian KTM, and he was ordered to switch to CZ model again, which immediately worsen his position to the tenth place in the Championship.
Before 1980 the national team of Russia took the first places three times, two times - second places and four times - third places in Motocross of Nations and Trophy Des Nations. During the first 18 years the leading motocross racers of Russia - Arbekov, Grigorieyv, Moiseev, and Kavinov - won 4 golden medals, 2 silver medals, and 4 bronze medals in World Championships.
Only in the beginning of the 1990-s the Russian sportsmen got the freedom and possibility to use modern motorcycles produced in Western countries. But the ideological iron curtain had been preventing the natural development of motorized sports in Russia for years, and the riders lost their skills to be competitive with the rest of the world. Sometimes the Russian sportsmen couldn't qualify for the World Championship.
However, step by step Russian motocross gains the strength. There's a good organization and the Russian racers become more competitive, they work hard, and react quickly for the changes of modern motocross racing.