As a member of Australia's first Motocross Des Nations team, David Armstrong was a bit of a ground breaker
How old and what were you riding when you first got into bikes?
I started as an eight-year-old on a KV75 Kawasaki, one of the early type minibikes with the small wheels and fold-down handlebar. That was followed by an SL70 Honda and I followed in my father’s footsteps and got into racing motocross on that. It was eventually replaced as my race bike by an XR75 but I still had the SL, we were spoilt.
You have your name in the record books a few times, what titles do you win?
I have six Queensland MX titles split between the 250 and 500 classes, I took the 1986 Victorian 250 title for Honda, and was runner up in the Mr Motocross in 1986 and ’87 and ran third in 1988. I also got second in the 1989 Australian 250cc Championship and took home the Australian Enduro Championship twice.
Have you raced anything other than motocross?
I did a bit of dirt track like most motocross riders do at some stage, winning the Maryborough Three-Hour three times then I tried the Finke Desert Race and eventually ended up riding enduros and rode the ISDE in Cessnock in 1992.
Does any particular race stand out in your memory?
Representing Australia three times in the Motocross Des Nations is very special for me, in Sweden in 1984, Italy in ’86 and the US in ’87. It was such an experience the first time. We were little fish in a big pond riding bikes that had done a full season in Australia and were well flogged, but we paved the way for successive Aussie teams. Also winning the Finke Desert Race on my first attempt in 1987 is something I’m proud of.
Are there any events still on your bucket list?
I would have liked to finish off my career with a few seasons in Europe, racing and doing the tourist thing in my spare time. We never had much spare time during the Des Nations trips. I did manage some riding in the New Zealand championships and some night supercrosses in Malaysia.
What is your regular ride these days?
I have a KTM 500 EXC and a 450 SX-F that I have a play around on. I did both this year’s and last years’ Troy Bayliss Classics, but mostly I trailride with my son Jeremy.
Are you still employed in the motorcycle industry or do you make a dollar elsewhere?
I’m a self-employed plumber with a few blokes working for me. Mum made me do an apprenticeship when I was 16, thinking to the future and that pays the bills and runs the toys in the shed.
The sport has changed over the years, what stands out for you?
Well obviously the newer bikes are just so good, and many riders don’t realise how well they have it compared to what was available in the past.
I’ve restored a 1984 and ’89 CR500 and to get off them onto the KTM really brings the advances home. The support for riders at race meetings is a whole lot better as well, in terms of money and a team to look after things, the whole pit set-up really. Strangely enough the crowds seem to be smaller than they used to be. We don’t seem to have the big advertising campaigns to promote the sport that were common when Mr Motocross was around.
Does any bike stand out in your memory, do you have a personal favourite?
Definitely my 450, I love that, but it’s still great fun to get out on the old two stroke 500s. A huge dollop of raw horsepower can put a big grin on your face for quite a while and there was only ever a handful of people that could really ride a two-stroke open classer to its full potential.
What was your toughest race?
Well in the 1987 Finke Desert Race I got a flat tyre 60 kilometres from the finish but, as it was a $10,000 prize for first place, I kept on going. Luckily in those days there wasn’t a lot of corners left by that stage, but I was so glad to see the finish line, for both the money and to end the wrestling match with the bike.
Do any rivals stand out in your memory?
Jeff Leisk, for sure, although to call him a rival is not quite right as he was always in front of me. Craig Dack and I were teammates in 1986 and he was a big help when I was recovering from a shoulder injury, helping me with training. Glen Bell was another who was always good to race with, but I hold high regard for James Deacon who was my sparring partner for the Queensland titles.
Who has been the biggest influence in your career?
My dad, no doubt at all. As an ex-racer himself he was always able to pass on good advice about picking lines and general racecraft, as there were very few riding schools in those days to learn about racing. We learnt mostly from trial and error and whatever advice we were given by others. He always made sure my bikes were well prepared.
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