The history of motocross racing began in the United Kingdom in the early 1900s. The sport evolved from motorcycle trials competitions like the Scottish Six Days Trial and the Auto-Cycle Clubs. Bikes were equipped with swinging fork rear suspensions and rigid frames, more suitable for the rough roads. The fastest rider to the finish would win the intense competition on off-road terrain.
The first British off-road event was held in 1924 at Camberley and is known as the earliest origin of modern motocross. Event became more popular during the 30s, so many teams and companies joined the competition. Laps and obstacles such as jumps were added to the tracks. The bikes were very similar to those used on streets at that time.
The Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme (FIM) created an European Championship in 1952 with a displacement formula of 500cc. In 1957, it was upgraded to a World Championship and in 1962 a 250 cc two-strokes category was created. The technological evolution led to the development of the two-stroke engine into a heavier four-stroke. The best drivers from Belgium and Sweden dominated the sport, and companies from Japan started to produce high-quality vehicles. In 1988 motocross reached the United States when Torsen Hallman, the Swedish champion rode against American TT riders at an exhibition event held in Corriganville Movie Ranch.
The history of motocross racing during the 60s is dominated by evolution, both for the drivers and the motorbikes. Britain, Czechoslovakia and Sweden created many lighter, maneuverable models. The 1970 championship was won by a 250 cc Suzuki. Japanese manufacturers rivaled European counterparts. In the early 80s, they created water-cooled machines equipped with a single-shock absorber rear suspension, the first of their kind.
Americans were no match for the experienced Europeans in those early years, they rarely qualified on a top ten position. As the sport became more popular, American riders learned new techniques and gained more experience. In 1982, Brad Lackey was the first American in the history of motocross racing to win a Grand Prix world championship with his 500cc class bike. Danny LaPonte captured the 250cc series a few weeks later.
Environmental laws in California compelled producers to develop four-stroke eco-friendly bikes in the 90s. Manufacturers begun competing with four-stroke engines and many European firms also embraced the new technology. This caused the biggest change in the history of motocross racing. Sub-disciplines like arenacross, extreme freestyle motocross and supercross emerged. Today, there are two main motocross series, the AMA National Motocross series and the World Motocross Grand Prix series.