André Malherbe, motocross legend
Three times world champion in the premier motocross class, André Malherbe made his mark in the 1980s. Flamboyant both on and off the track, he is considered to be the one who opened up the sport to a mainstream audience during these golden years.
As the son of a former motocross rider, inevitably André Malherbe was introduced to motorcycles at a very young age. And since this young inhabitant of Huy was not short of talent, he competed in his very first races at the age of eleven on a motorcycle prepared for him by his father. At the age of fifteen, the young André won the European Motocross Championship riding a 125cc machine and the following year, he finished third in the 250cc World Championship class.
A young champion...
Before he turned 18, the young rider had already been invited by the Zündapp team to take part in the newly created European 125 Championship in 1973. Unfortunately, Belgian regulations that had come into force the previous year prohibited motorcycle racing for anyone still a minor. Wanting to launch a professional career at all cost, André Malherbe reluctantly undertook the procedures to obtain a license in France. It was granted to him just a few days before the first event of the season. Therefore, it was under the French flag that he won his first Grand Prix, and the European title at the end of the championship. A title that he managed to win again the following year!
Star of the 80s...
In 1978 he started competing in the premier motocross class, the 500 cc. Two years later, in 1980, André Malherbe won his first world title.
During this decade, he was a regular on the podium and won three world titles. Having becoming one of the greatest riders in the world, the charismatic native of Huy (province of Liege) retired as a motocross rider in 1986. Crowned with an exceptional list of three world titles in the 500 cc class (1980, 1981 and 1984), he was also runner-up in the premier class in 1983, 1985 and 1986. With a total of 41 Grands Prix to his name, André Malherbe also won three times with the Belgian team in the Motocross of Nations in 1977, 1979 and 1980.
Tragedy during the Paris-Dakar Rally...
In 1987, André Malherbe turned to motor sports and more precisely to Formula 3. He also signed a contract with Yamaha to participate in the Dakar race. On 6 January 1988, disaster struck! The Belgian racer had a terrible fall with his motorcycle which left him paralysed from the neck down for the rest of his life. It was a new challenge for the man who people affectionately referred to as Dédé.
He had been ill for some time and passed away on 24 November 2022, at the age of 66
Photo : Copyright Archive Belgian Motorcycling Federation