Tributes have been pouring onto social media following the death on January 6 of Blackmore Vale motocross legend Bryan ‘Badger’ Goss. He was 80.
Bryan was born at Yetminster on September 11, 1940 – during the Battle of Britain, hence his middle name, Winston, after wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
It was also at Yetminster that he acquired his ‘Badger’ nickname. His lifelong love affair with motorbikes began early, and before he got his own, he used to ‘badger’ fellow villagers for a go on theirs.
The habit led to one of his friends calling him ‘Badger’ and the name stuck.
His first bike was a 197cc Ambassador, which cost the teenager £40. Badger entered his first motorcycle scramble soon after his 16th birthday.
Perhaps inspired by grasstrack star Lew Coffin, another Yetminster resident, he also tried his hand at that discipline but crashed heavily at Exeter and broke his leg so badly that he was out of racing for a year.
‘I vowed to stick to scrambling from then on,’ he later recalled.
In 1959 Badger Goss became a works rider for Cotton and promptly beat some of the region’s best competitors to register five race wins during a memorable afternoon at Ham Hill, near Yeovil.
After Cotton failed to capitalise on his success, in the early 1960s he let Greeves, a leading works team from Essex, know that he would like to race for them.
To his surprise, they offered him a £25 retainer – a moment that Badger later described as a ‘dream come true’.
‘It was everyone’s ambition to race for Greeves at that time,’ he said.
The move kick-started the heyday of Badger Goss’s illustrious career. The 1960s were also the era of scramble meetings at Bulbarrow, which helped Badger to become a sporting hero in his own backyard. A generation of Blackmore Vale folk can still remember the sight of Badger and his rivals, such as brothers Don and Derek Rickman, flying over the jumps on the spectacular hillside course.
In the mid-1960s, Badger switched his allegiance again, this time to Husqvarna, a Swedish company, who would provide him with some of his greatest triumphs.
These included victories in the 1966 Trophée des Nations at Brands Hatch, the BBC TV Grandstand Trophy and the British 500cc championship, which he won in 1970, just before his 30th birthday.
As well as an eye for speed, Badger also had a head for business, and in 1964 launched his own shop at Yeovil, Brian Goss Motorcycles.
After winning the British title with Husqvana, he raised eyebrows the following year by switching again to the German manufacturer Maico. The move not only brought him more success but won him Maico’s UK import franchise.
‘Their bikes were not only fast but fantastically reliable,’ said Badger. ‘For three years on the trot we sold over 1,000 a year, which for a small concern like ours was like winning the pools.’
The Goss business continues to this day as a leading stockist of motocross helmets, kit and other accessories, run by the founder’s son and daughter, Jeff and Debbie, and Jeff’s wife, Sophie.
Badger met his wife, Jenny, on a blind date arranged by a friend – and he proposed on the Tilbury ferry while taking the cattle truck that he drove for a living back to Thundersley! The first night of their honeymoon was spent in the slightly more romantic setting of a Paris hotel.
The second night was supposed to be spent in a hotel in Lyon, where Bryan was riding in an international event. But they couldn’t find the hotel, and ended up sharing an old van with Badger’s bikes and his mate Don Hitchcock, who slept in the bunk below.
Badger went on to win the 250cc race in Lyon with Don Rickman winning the 500 event.
Jenny Goss died in 2012.
Motocross writer Ian Berry describes Badger as not only a ‘tenacious competitor on the track’ but a ‘great character’ off it. The rider once told Berry: ‘All I ever really wanted was to be everybody’s mate.’
He achieved that with interest.