Most American motocross fans are familiar with two of the most massive jumps in MX history. LaRocco’s Leap, a 130-footer at RedBud MX, got its name when Mike LaRocco cleared the uphill triple jump in 1992 for the first time, and he did it on a Kawasaki KX125. Doug Henry was famous for a whiskey throttle take-off from what was supposed to be a drop-off at Budds Creek in 1995. He flew over Jeremy McGrath’s head, and the flat ground landing was enough to break Henry’s back. The spot is now named Henry Hill for his trouble. However, before those epic examples of airtime, there was Belgian Georges Jobé at England’s historic Hawkstone Park in 1984.
Locked in a battle for the premier 500cc Motocross World Championship title, Jobé was looking for an edge over opponents and fellow Belgians André Malherbe and Eric Geboers. Jobé knew it was coming at Hawkstone Park.
“Hawkstone Park in 1984 was a truly memorable race for me,” Jobé recalls. “In 1983, when I was still riding the 250 GPs, we also had a round at Hawkstone Park, and already that year, I was thinking about trying to jump that enormous leap. But, I was leading the championship, so I didn’t want to take any risks, and I didn’t jump it, but I wanted so much to do it one day. I ended up winning the 250cc championship that year, and when I moved to the 500cc class, and I heard we would be racing Hawkstone Park, I knew I would make the jump.”
Moving up to a factory Kawasaki SR500 certainly didn’t hurt his chances on the Hawkstone Park double jump, but it was not a fait accompli.
“I was thinking about it all year,” Jobé continues, “right up until the day we arrived at the track on the race weekend. It was such a big jump, but I knew it was possible. It was not a jump you could simply try and achieve. The take-off had a round face, and it was not steep, so it was not going to be easy. But, I knew it could be done. During training on Saturday, every lap I would think about it, come in really hard, and get set to jump it, but then at the last moment I would brake, and not attempt it.”
The crowd sensed that Jobé was thinking about sending it on his SR500 and encouraged him to attempt the jump.
“When I came ’round to the jump on the final lap of practice,” Jobé remembers, “I stopped before the jump. The spectators knew I wanted to do it, and they started clapping, cheering and shouting, ‘Jobé! Jobé! Jobé!’ I decided that I had to do it, and I did; the crowd went wild.”
The jump turned out to be a turning point for the 1984 500 GP season.
“On Sunday during the warm-up, Eric Geboers followed me over the jump, and he tried to do it, too, but he broke his leg,” Jobé said. “He didn’t even break it in the crash, it was just the impact because it was such a big jump.”
Although Jobé won the battle against the Hawkstone Park jump, it was not to be for the race or the season.
“I crashed in both races at the start, and I passed so many riders over that jump,” Jobé recalls. “I didn’t win, but I beat the Hawkstone Park jump and, in particular, everyone remembers me jumping over my good friend and rival Andre Malherbe.”
Local hero Dave Thorpe won that day on his factory Honda RC500, and he has his own story to tell about the Hawkstone jump.
“If you ever see the pictures of that race at Hawkstone, there were just thousands of people at that part of the track,” Thorpe describes. “Nobody expected me to win that day, especially as Georges, Eric, and André were all such good sand riders, but I did. I won, but it was the day of the iconic image of Georges double-jumping over André.”
“I was fastest in every session, but I didn’t attempt the double-jump in the race,” Thorpe says. “When I came back to the paddock from every session, everybody was talking about Georges jumping the double, and in my mind, I was thinking, ‘I have to jump it, too.’ So, when I came around on the last lap of practice, I went out and doubled it.”
As it turned out, successfully completing the jump was even more difficult than making the decision to jump, as Geboers had disastrously discovered.
“Unbeknownst to me, Eric had already broken his leg there just a minute earlier, and as soon as I took off, I realized I don’t have enough speed,” Thorpe recalls. “I got lucky because I come down completely square with that up-face. It gave me a big kick and, through no skill of my own, I saved it. Eric, on the other hand, had the same thought process because he hadn’t jumped it either. He tried to jump it but landed a bit further than me. It cart-wheeled him down the track, and he broke his leg. But, I was three seconds quicker than anyone else in qualification. So, I knew then that I could win, and I knew that anybody who wins at Hawkstone can win anywhere in the world because the track is so demanding and gets really, really rough.”
Malherbe went on to win the 1984 500cc World Motocross Championship, with Jobé and Thorpe right behind him in the standings. Thorpe won the next two 500cc titles, as well as in 1989, with Jobé taking the 500cc championship in 1987, 1991, and 1992. Geboers recovered from the broken leg and had his turns on top, earning the 500cc crown in 1988 and 1990.
However, Georges Jobé, who passed away in 2012, will be forever remembered for his epic airtime in 1984 at Hawkstone Park.