A Man Named Antonin Baborovsky
On Saturday night, March 26, 2011, the Rogers Center in Toronto, Canada will host round 12 of the 17-round Monster Energy Supercross Series. While relatively new to the American series, interestingly, Canada already has been running motocross races for a very long time. In fact, the French-speaking city of Montreal has promoted a highly successful Supercross race for over three decades. Canada actually has a long history in international motocross. On October 17, 1971, Finland’s Heikki Mikkola won round five of the then-fledgling Trans-AMA series in Hamilton, Ontario. One year later, on September 24, Roger DeCoster won the opening round of the Trans-AMA series at Copetown, Ontario. On September 30, 1973 Copetown hosted round three of the series, with West Germany’s Adolf Weil claiming victory.
In its history, the nation of Canada has also hosted precisely 11 FIM World Motocross Championship Grands Prix. In 1983, Dutchman Kees Van Der Ven won the 250cc GP at Saint Gabriele. Pierre Karsmakers (1975), Gerrit Wolsink (1976), Heikki Mikkola (1977), Gerrit Wolsink (1979), Hakan Carlqvist (1980), Andre Vromans (1982), Georges Jobe (1984) and Andre Malherbe (1986) won 500cc GPs in Canada. And in 1977, Andre Massant of Belgium won the 125cc Grand Prix of Canada at Hamilton.
Canada’s first true World Championships-status race took place – three decades prior to what will be this winter’s World Supercross GP series rounds – on Sunday, July 13, 1975 at the St. Gabriel circuit in St. Gabriel de Brandon, Quebec, Canada. The St. Gabriel track was a treacherous affair, dotted by a series of incredibly steep hills, most of them going straight-up and straight-down. Interspersed throughout the elevation changes were greasy on-and-off-camber turns. Super-technical in nature, the riders were further challenged by the circuit by an omnipresent yellow emulsion of yellow dust. Laid-out in a farmer’s pasture, the track was so dry and dusty that after Saturday’s practice session, a list of demands pertaining to track preparation was presented to the promoter by the riders. Workers tended to the bone-dry course all night, doing the best that possibly could. Discouragingly, things were not much better come Sunday morning, but the 27-man field decided to go ahead and race the Laurentide 125cc Championnat Du Monde anyway.
Russian Antonin Baborovsky and his Czechoslovakian-built Jawa-CZ factory bike grabbed the holeshot and led the pack out of the 180-degree first turn. Fighting their way through a thick, bellowing cloud of dust, Belgian Gaston Rahier (Suzuki) and Yoshitumi Sugio (Yamaha) vainly followed the Russian down a steep hill, across a wooden bridge, and then up a steep incline before disappearing in the distance. The Russian opened a small gap on the battling Rahier and Sugio, but a few laps into the moto, the little Belgian washed-out and the bottom of a high-speed downhill, nearly crashing into the spectator bridge. Sugio, now all alone, set-out after Baborovsky, reeling him in and zapping him on lap 10. Sugio would win the moto over the Russian by 17 seconds. Belgium’s Gilbert De Roover – on a Zundapp – charged all the way back from a last place start to finish an impressive third.
After the opening moto, the riders were livid about the dust. Said one, the only way to make it around each lap was, “to charge the corners and turn after you hit the fence.” A crew of track workers was sent out to water anything they could, but the situation was hopeless. All 27 riders shook their heads in disgust and lined-up for moto two.
Once again, Baborovsky and his surprisingly quick CZ125 grabbed the holeshot. Just behind him, though, was the lanky and brilliantly fast Gilbert De Roover. After four laps of stalking the Russian, the Belgian and his #3 Zundapp were through. Out of the dust – and able to see clearly for the first time that afternoon- De Roover and his Zundapp checked-out to win the moto easily. Baborovsky hung tough in second, however, and his 2/2 moto finishes were good enough for the overall victory. All things considered, it was a joyous day for both Baborovsky and CZ as the duo claimed the marque’s first-ever 125cc World Championship victory in its first year of trying. Later that evening a celebration was held to celebrate the town of St. Gabriel de Brandon’s 150th anniversary and to present winner Baorovsky with his trophy. When his name was called, the excited Russian approached the stage smiling and flashing the peace sign.
By Eric Johnson