Joel Robert was for many years the most successful rider in the history of the FIM Motocross World Championship, with no fewer than six 250cc titles and fifty Grand Prix victories to his name.
The Belgian won his first title as a privateer at the age of just twenty back in 1964 and was awarded with the “Trophée National du Mérite Sportif” in his home country.
He finished runner-up the next three years before claiming five straight championships from 1968 to 1972. He was also part of the Belgian team that won the 1969 FIM Motocross des Nations and the 1969 and 1970 Trophée des Nations.
Joel Robert, recognised as one of the most naturally talented riders in the history of the sport, was instrumental in the success of the motocross in the USA, inspiring young American racers and winning seven Trans Am Nationals during the 1970 and 1971 seasons. After his retirement from racing he was inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame.
He was at the origin of the “Coupe de l’Avenir” and the “12 Heures de la Chinelle” events in Belgium and later acted as team manager for the Belgian team for the FIM Motocross of Nations with victories in 1997 and 1998.
Joel Robert sadly passed away overnight in Belgium.
Born Nov. 26, 1943 in Châtelet, Belgium, Joel Robert grew up in a family of motorcycle racers. His father, Fernan, raced speedway events. His uncle and cousin also competed.
“At my birth, my father said, ‘We will make a rider out of him,’” Mr. Robert once recalled during an interview. “At the age of 2, I was able to take a chain off a bike, link by link.”
At 7, Robert was given his first motorcycle, a Gillet 125.
“I didn’t even reach the foot pegs,” he said. “To start or stop, I needed a wall or a tree to lean against.”
Robert earned his first 250cc world championship 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 1968, he reclaimed the title by 2 points over Sweden’s Torsten Hallman. Robert won the title again in 1969 over fellow Belgium and CZ rider Sylvain Geboers.
Robert won the 1970 250cc Motocross World Championship on a factory Suzuki RH70. It was Suzuki’s first world motocross title, and also the first for a Japanese manufacturer. He would go on to win the world championship again in 1971 and ’72 with Suzuki.
Remembered as one of the most naturally talented motocross riders in history, Robert won 50 motocross Grands Prix, a record that stood for more than 30 years until it was broken by fellow Belgian Stefan Everts in 2004.
Mr. Robert began traveling to America in 1967, along with other world championship riders, for a series of races against America’s top riders. He won seven Trans-AMA Nationals during the 1970 and ’71 seasons.