Cycle News

Cycle News 2021 Issue 03 January 19

Cycle News is a weekly magazine that covers all aspects of motorcycling including Supercross, Motocross and MotoGP as well as new motorcycles

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Joel Robert: 1943-2021 S ix-time 250cc Motocross World Champion Joel Robert of Bel- gium passed away at the age of 77. Robert suffered a heart attack after having just been released from the hospital during a bout of Covid-19. Robert had also been dealing with health issues since suffering a stroke in 2018. Robert was inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 2000. The following is an in-depth biogra- phy courtesy of the AMA… Robert was a legendary Belgian motocross racer of the 1960s and '70s who won the 250cc Motocross World Championship six times, including five consecutive titles from 1968 through 1972. Robert was also significant to American motocross. Not only did he serve as an inspira- tion to early American motocross racers, but he also raced in the Trans-AMA Series in the U.S., win- ning seven Trans Am Nationals during the 1970 and 1971 seasons. Robert was an integral member of the group of European motocross champions who came to U.S. in the late 1960s and early '70s to help launch motocross in America. His presence helped lend credibility to America's first motocross championship. Born November 26, 1943 in Chat- elet, Belgium, Robert grew up in a family of motorcycle racers. His father, Fernan, was a talented speedway rider. His uncle and cousin also raced. "At my birth my father said, 'We will make a rider out of him,'" Robert said. "At the age of 2 I was able to take a chain off a bike, link by link." In school, Robert enjoyed other sports such as soccer and basket- ball, but at seven he was given his first motorcycle, a Gillet 125, and it would mark the course of his life. His boyhood heroes were Belgium motocross stars Rene Baeten and Auguste Mingels. Robert began racing in 1960 and within a month of starting his racing career he earned his first victory. In the early 1960s, Robert began competing in the European 250cc championships. The 250cc series was given world championship status in 1962. He traveled with his par- ents to many of the races close to Belgium. At other events he would travel with fellow racers or journalists, sometimes by train with his bike torn down and checked in as luggage. His apprenticeship paid off when he earned the 250cc World Cham- pionship in 1964, riding a privateer CZ. He was just 20 years old, at the time the youngest rider to win a world motocross title. In 1965, he became a factory CZ rider. For the next three years bad luck, mechanical problems and injuries plagued Robert, yet he managed to finish runner-up in the championship each year. In 1968, his luck finally turned around and he reclaimed the 250cc world title by two points over Swe- den's Torsten Hallman. Robert won the title again in 1969 over fellow Bel- giun CZ rider Sylvain Geboers. That IN THE WIND P22 Six-time 250cc MX World Champion Joel Robert helped bring motocross to America in the early '70s.

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