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Sad death of SMX boss Tony Ford

One of Britain’s best-known motocross race organisers, Tony Ford of Southern Motocross, has passed away. The news was broken by his son Anthony who posted:

“Despite his usual efforts to fight hard and beat whatever he was up against, I’m devastated to say that Dad (the original Tony Ford, Mr Southern Motocross and many other names that he has no doubt been called over the years!!) passed away this morning.

“We are sure going to miss him however at least we have many, many years of amazing memories of life with him!

“To help us get through it, Mum, Tanya and I are going to recall those memories, smile, raise a cup of tea and shout Oi at the top of our voices at whoever we please!”

SMX has been a mainstay of club-level racing in the south of the UK for decades and many of the UK’s top riders cut their teeth there.

The history of the club is that Southern Moto Cross club was started because Tony Ford had an argument with a South Eastern Centre ACU club over the way they ran meetings, and treated the riders. The club in question’s answer was “If you can do better do it yourself”. He then rang the AMCA to ask to join them, and was told as he had an ACU licence he would have to wait until January the following year to join them

Tony Ford said: “My response was you’re as stupid as the ACU, not diplomatic but true. The Club started life in November 1981 and started running events on January 3rd 1982. Our aim was to give the rider a good days sport with the minimum of fuss and treat every standard of rider equally. It seems to have worked as we have a very happy atmosphere at all events.

“We instigated many innovations, for instance entry on the day at most events, riders paying a fee so that marshals could be paid expenses & paying a standard amount to pay paramedics fees. In 1982, total club membership was 156. By 2001 it was nearly 400 and over 500 in 2006

“Twenty years ago we had become too successful so that although we were affiliated to the ACU a cartel of clubs got together to try force the centres to restrict our events to two Sundays a month. They wouldn’t admit it was because they needed to run better events to compete with SMX. I obviously wasn’t happy about that, so I got together with Reg Slack, a good friend who owned Matchams, and we formed ORPA. Reg had good contacts in insurance as well as a good solicitor, who advised on the restrictive practices acts. These were used to force the ACU to change their rules, and recognise ORPA and allow riders and officials the freedom of movement between the organisations, that we take for granted today.

“In this first year we used eight different tracks, it was unheard of in those days for clubs to have more than two or three tracks. The second year we took on six more tracks and we have never looked back since. Although we have dropped some and taken on others, we have regularly used around eight or more tracks each year.

“Five of these tracks are permanently erected, which makes my life a lot easier. All permanent tracks are graded regularly now, whereas in the early days tracks were only graded once or twice a year. Also in the early days, there were only one or two jumps on tracks, now there are usually at least six, and often ten or more (except for the stubble field events that we run each year).

All the permanent tracks are ditched and piped so keeping them useable during the winter. Normal events consist of a series of heats with riders then graded into groups on ability, with trophies being awarded down to sixth place in each group.”

He was a true character and will be missed by many. Our thoughts go out to his family and friends.

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