British motocross has lost one of its greats, as Vic Eastwood passed away on Sunday after a long illness, age 78.
Vic was not only one of the most successful riders this country has ever produced, but a talented test rider and innovative motorcycle engineer, a visionary when it came to spotting the next big thing in motocross, a bike shop owner, sponsor and supporter of many riders, and proud dad of two successful racers, Mark and Scott Eastwood. He is also survived by his wife Ann, who was Vic’s rock and unwaveringly supported him, and the family, at motocross events for decades.
Vic’s interest in bikes was down to his father who was a keen motorcyclist in the 1950, competing in the Isle of Man TT, as well as trials and scramble events. Vic showed a keen interest and showed he had the ability when his father gave him his BSA 500 Gold Star.
Vic’s racing heyday was in the mid 1960s when he won the Motocross des Nations as part of team GB three years in a row. His first win was in 1965 at Namur alongside Arthur Lampkin and Jeff Smith, then at Remalard in France alongside Dave Bickers and D.J. Rickman, and again a year later at Markelo in Holland with Bickers and Smith. That team victory in 1967 was a milestone as Vic won the event outright and beat the Dutch and Belgians in their own backyard on their preferred terrain, deep sand.
He finished fourth in the 500cc world motocross championship in 1965 on a works BSA and led the championship several times.
One of his crowning glories was winning the muddy 1968 British 500 GP at Farleigh Castle on a 420 Husqvarna. He won the first race then took third in the second with a rear puncture to take the overall.
In 1969 Vic was a real contender for the world title but unfortunately badly broke his leg at Hawkstone Park while competing in one of the popular BBC Grandstand televised races. He’d had huge successes at these massively popular events which made him a household name.
He also competed through the 1970s and raced against fellow greats like Roger De Coster and Joel Robert, with some legendary battles at the British GP at the now defunct Dodington Park.
Vic was second in the British championship a staggering eight times, narrowly missing the title by a handful of points on several occasions.
Vic was always at the forefront of pushing motocross technology and rode many different bikes during his career. Although he spent successful years on BSA and Matchless four-strokes, he was quick to adapt to two-strokes like the Husqvarnas as he sought to improve and set new levels of race technology.
He was heavily involved with one of the first ever aluminium-frames bikes, the VE Hagon Suzuki and Yamaha, and helped put CCM on the route to success with his riding and development. But it was when Honda moved into production motocross bikes that Vic saw the future and was instrumental in bringing the Japanese dirt bikes to the UK.
He stayed loyal to Honda and his family business, Vic Eastwood Motorcycles, is still a premier Honda dealer based in Kent near the Canada Heights circuit – a track Vic was also involved in supporting.
The shop has now been open for 45 years. Vic started it while still racing professionally, which he did until 1979. He became a main Honda dealer in 1980 and has been the Wiseco importer since the 1980s.
The business is now managed by his son Mark – a former GP and AMA racer an ex British Motocross of Nations team manager – who tunes the suspension for Honda’s No1 motocross team in the UK.
Vic was a fearsome competitor on the track, but off it was one of the most liked and approachable people in the paddock who was always keen to offer help and advice – a true gentleman. He supported many up and coming racers, and many have already paid tribute.
Former British 125 champion and ex factory Cagiva rider Paul Hunt said: “Rest in peace Vic. A great guy, rider and engineer.”
Former GP racer Perry Leask, whose father helped Vic when he switched to Husqvarna, said: “So sorry to hear the very sad news that Vic Eastwood has passed away. He was a really lovely man. A motocross legend who I have many fond memories as a child, watching him on my father’s Husqvarna bikes when we travelled in Europe. My thoughts are with Anne, Scott, Mark and family.”
Our thoughts are with his wife Ann, sons Mark and Scott, and all his family and friends at this difficult time.