Belgian motocross legend Roger DeCoster will be parting ways with the Suzuki factory at the close of the 2010 season.
The 66-year-old’s leaving Suzuki came as a huge shock and rumours are now that he may join the KTM factory as manager for them in the USA.
DeCoster is a six-time former Motocross des Nations winning team rider — racing for Belgium in the 10 years between 1969 and 1979 — and he won five 500cc world motocross titles in a sparkling racing career in Europe, but he has been a US citizen for many years and worked as team manager for the Honda factory before joining Suzuki 15 years ago.
His name is almost synonymous with the sport of motocross. In addition to his 500cc world title wins, he tallied a record 36 500cc Grand Prix victories along the way. He was known for his smooth, controlled riding style and a commitment to physical training.
His training regime gave him the stamina that allowed him to circulate for most of the race in mid-pack before putting in a late charge through the field to victory when other racers had begun to tire.
His stature is such in the world of motocross that he is often simply referred to as “The Man.” He was also a Gold Medallist in the 1964 International Six Days Trial, a four-time winner of the Trans-AMA series, and won the 1964 Belgian Observed Trials National Championship.
De Coster began his professional career with the Czechoslovakian firm ČZ racing in the 500cc class. He won the 500cc Belgian National Championship in 1966 and moved up to the Grand Prix World Championship in 1967. He won his first 500cc Grand Prix in 1968.
In 1971, De Coster made the difficult decision to leave ČZ and join the Japanese firm Suzuki. It was with Suzuki that he would attain his greatest success, winning the 500cc Motocross World Championship three years in a row in 1971, 1972 and 1973 before Heikki Mikkola dethroned him in 1974. De Coster came back and regained the World Championship for the 1975 and 1976 seasons. By the mid-seventies, he had established himself as the greatest motocrosser of all time. In 1980, He joined Honda for one final season. He left the sport on top, winning his final world championship race — the 500cc Motocross Grand Prix of Luxembourg at the end of the 1980 season.
DeCoster has been Team Manager for Suzuki’s Supercross and Motocross efforts for the past 15 years, and together they have earned numerous titles and championships.
DeCoster will continue to lead the team through the final two rounds of the Motocross series.
The championship-winning Rockstar Makita Suzuki team, led by Ryan Dungey, earned the 2010 AMA/FIM Supercross title in May and wrapped up the 2010 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross championship last weekend at Southwick, making him the most successful rookie in Supercross and Motocross history.
For now, the Rockstar Makita Suzuki team plans to focus on finishing off the 2010 season strong and celebrate the incredible year it has been. For 2011, the Rockstar Makita Suzuki team looks forward to defending its championships with Dungey sporting the No.1 plate in both the Supercross and Motocross series. The team will begin the search for a new manager in preparation for the 2011 race season.
American Suzuki Motor Corp., the Rockstar Makita Suzuki racing team, Rockstar Energy Drink, Makita Industrial Tools, Yoshimura R&D of America, and all the sponsors of the team wish Roger the best in his future endeavours and thank him for the great years spent together at the races.
“You can never replace an icon like Roger,” said Yoshimura R&D of America vice president Don Sakakura.
“However, with Suzuki and Yoshimura’s racing DNA still strong as ever, and with the core nucleus of the team staying the same, we are looking forward to defending the 2010’s championships. Roger has made great contributions with Suzuki and certainly has the utmost respect, friendship, and our acknowledgement of a job well done. We wish him nothing but good luck in the future.”
© Photos by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com