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Godspeed Dave Nicoll: 1944-2023

Motocross has lost a true icon of the sport as Dave Nicoll passed away peacefully this week at his home in Saffron Walden following a long fight against illness. He was 78, and had been involved in racing since 1960.

Dave Nicoll in action on his beloved BSA

Nicoll’s life was dedicated to international motocross as he is a former factory rider, a 500 GP winner and helped bring top-level motocross to the USA.He was team manager of Britain’s Motocross des Nations team and was FIM Clerk of Course for the motocross world championships until ill health meant he had to stand down five years ago. And of course he is the father of eight-times British champion Kurt Nicoll and top GP mechanic Aaron, who turned the spanners for Kurt for many years.

Dave Nicoll officiating at the start of the MX of Nations in 2009

Kurt broke the news to MotoHead this week and said: “Dad tried every treatment to fight his illness but in the end he came back home from hospital and passed away in his sleep. He’d been very ill since last summer so we have to take the last six months as a bonus.

“He had a great life being involved with the sport he loved and spent his whole life traveling the world to motocross – exactly what he wanted to do. He only stopped when he became ill.”   

Dave Nicoll started riding friends’ bikes aged seven and got his own Royal Enfield when he was ten – in the days before under-16s were banned from racing. He started racing three days after he turned 16 on a Matchless and was immediately a success, picking up sponsorship to ride a Greeves. A year later became a factory rider for James.

In 1964, he made his debut in the 500cc motocross world championships for the Matchless factory team and three years later moved to the BSA factory team where he became most famous and successful, winning the 1969 500cc Luxembourg Grand Prix at Ettelbruck.

Nicoll in typical muddy Grandstand action

He was also a major star in the UK thanks to his performances in the BBC Grandstand TV races which were broadcast to audiences of millions, and was a regular winner at International races in France where he bought a house.

He also beat world champions Joel Robert and Jeff Smith to win the 1970 Trans-AMA motocross series, a series set up by AMA to help establish motocross in the USA.

Dave had his own paddock transport at many GPs

After retiring from racing aged 33 in 1978 when BSA folded, Nicoll worked as the manager of the British Motocross des Nations team as well as FIM jury president. Then when Kurt began racing GPs, Dave had to give up his FIM role so became Kurt’s team manager – helping him to four runner-up places in the 500 world championships, seven British titles and a win in the 194 Motocross des Nations.

When Kurt retired from pro racing in 1997, Nicoll become the Clerk of Course for the MXGP championship and went to every round for 20 years until ill health curtailed his travels.

Dave Nicoll was always one of the most popular, friendly and approachable people in the paddock. He was diplomatic, fair and had time for everyone involved in the sport he loved. He will be sadly missed by everyone who ever had the pleasure to meet him.

Godspeed Dave Nicoll: A true great of the sport