The wonderful sport of MX racing is only truly understood by those in the know. This thrilling, sometimes dangerous and always entertaining sport is full of heroes, largely unsung in the mainstream sporting world, but much loved within the MX arena. Read on as we take a look at the world’s ten best MX racers of all time, ranked by World Championship wins, starting at number one. As you’d expect, the list is heavily populated by Belgian riders, some of the most ambitious, fastest and creative riders ever.
Arguably the greatest MX racer of all time, thanks to an immense 10 World Champion victories. With a dad like Harry Everts (see number 10), a dominant racer in the late seventies, it was little wonder that Stefan would follow in his footsteps. Stefan’s unique driving style was smoother than any of his contemporaries, making a difficult sport look easy. Also, few riders have been so able to stay on two feet whilst taking such tight corners! His most recent win was in 2006, after which he promptly retired, as he could happily call himself the most successful MX racer ever.
Italian rider, Tony Cairoli, brings a sense of style and class with him to the muddy sport of motocross. With nine world titles, he is easily the second-best MX rider of all time. After a torn ACL in 2006, he remained injury-free until 2014, during which time he won six of his titles. He then suffered a series of injuries in the following years, including two broken ribs, a knee injury and a fractured elbow. However, he came back in 2017 to win his ninth world title. Still racing for team KTM, Cairoli is the only sportsman on this list still in the game!
Known for his legendary rivalry with Torsten Hallman (see number 8), Joel Roberts is the third best MX racer in the sport’s history. Another Belgian national, Joël won a total of six 250cc World Championships, including five in succession from 1968 to 1972. Despite his amazing achievements, Joël Roberts was infamous for his lack of commitment to training plus his love of smoking cigarettes…as they say, it could only happen in the seventies!
Roger De Coster
Another Belgian superstar, Roger De Coster is a five-year World Champion enjoying a reign of victory in the early 70s. Famed for his physical stamina and commitment to fitness training, De Coster was able to sustain his energy levels throughout races, and follow it up with an energy-fuelled super charge at the end, when his competitors were getting tired.
Joël Smets is the fourth Belgian of the top five greatest ever MX racers. Known as the ‘Flemish Lion’ throughout his winning career, Joël Smets won five world championships in total, across 500cc and 250 cc competitions. Unfortunately for Smets, knee injuries adversely affected him reaching his potential throughout his career and eventually resulted in early retirement.
Following his retirement he was then appointed the KTM Motocross Factory Racing Sports Director.
This top Belgian rider could just as easily have gone on to play for Belgium’s national football team, but he chose the excitement of MX racing over the beautiful game. This was probably for the best, as he went on to become a five times world champion. Jobe was captured in one of the most iconic images of MX history when he was photographed in a race in the UK jumping over another rider. Sadly, his later life was marked by multiple tragedies. Having been paralysed in 2007, which required four years of rehabilitation, Jobé was diagnosed with leukemia in 2011, which led to his untimely death in 2012, aged just 51.
Nicknamed ‘The Kid’, Belgian Geboers was the first ever racer to win a World Championship in the three categories of 125cc, 250cc and 500cc. He continued his successful sporting career with a venture in GT car racing in the early noughties. Eric Geboers sadly drowned in a Belgian lake in May 2018 trying to save his dog. RIP The Kid.
The only Swede on this league, Torsten Hallman is as celebrated for his four World Championship titles as he is for being honoured for introducing the sport of MX to the United States. Hallman was the leading racer during Sweden’s MX Golden Age in the early 1960s, alongside big names such as Sten Lundin and Bill Nilsson. After retiring from the sport, he set up his very successful racewear range, which became THOR Motocross (Torsten Hallman Original Racewear).
The best motocross racer to come out of Finland ever, it's no wonder that Heikki Mikkola became a national treasure following his four World Championship titles during the 1970s. Mikkola represented the Hyvinkää Motor Club throughout his career and was known for his determined, almost fierce, style of racing. He was also known affectionately as the Flying Finn.
Father of Stefan Everts, Harry Everts rightfully deserves tenth place on this list. Having raced for three teams during his career - Puch, Bultaco and Suzuki - he won a total of four world titles. However, being the dad of the man at number one could well be his proudest achievement.
The sport has now seen 100 years of mud, superstar racers and amazing feats. This is the definitive list of inspiring MX racers from the 60s trailblazers to the most recent stars such as Cairoli.