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Toni Gor­got

For a long time the his­tory of tri­als was dom­i­nated, start­ing in the late six­ties, by the three main Span­ish mo­tor­cy­cle man­u­fac­tur­ers - Bul­taco, Ossa and Mon­tesa. And it was in this same or­der that this rider was crowned as Span­ish Tri­als Cham­pi­ons, each ti­tle won con­sec­u­tively for two years with one of the three brands. We are speak­ing of no other than An­to­nio Gor­got Lazarus, Toni Gor­got to most of us. Toni was six times Span­ish Tri­als Cham­pion con­sec­u­tively from 1978 to 1983 and has only been sur­passed in the to­tal of num­ber of do­mes­tic ti­tles by the magic of a cer­tain Jordi Tar­res who achieved nine Span­ish ti­tles. Words: Ra­mon Salles, John Hulme and Josep Auferil Pic­tures: Josep Auferil, Eric Kitchen, Mal­colm Car­ling, Alan Vines, Colin Bul­lock and Toon van de Vliet

His ca­reer started in the Ju­nior cat­e­gory of tri­als in 1977 rid­ing an Ossa, be­fore it pro­gressed to the Ex­pert cat­e­gory the fol­low­ing year when he was made an of­fi­cial rider for the Bul­taco fac­tory.

Af­ter win­ning the Span­ish Cham­pi­onship in his first sea­son, in the later years he would take the hon­our of be­ing the first Span­ish win­ner of the leg­endary Scot­tish Six Days Trial in 1983. He would also be­come the first Span­ish win­ner of the event rid­ing a Span­ish ma­chine, a Mon­tesa. This was not un­ex­pected though as in 1982 he took the run­ner up po­si­tion.

Through­out his ca­reer he had al­ways shown po­ten­tial but some be­lieve it could have been so much bet­ter, but, as al­ways, lady luck some­times does not al­low it to fol­low the path you would ex­pect. In 1977, his first year of World Cham­pi­onship com­pe­ti­tion as a pro­fes­sional rider, he fin­ished in sev­enth po­si­tion, in 1979 he was thir­teenth, in 1980 was again sev­enth, eighth in 1981 be­fore scal­ing the heights fur­ther in 1982 for his best plac­ing of fourth be­fore drop­ping to fifth in his fi­nal year of 1983.

Toni be­gan rid­ing tri­als at the ten­der age of four­teen on a Mon­tesa Cota 74 in Darnius, Spain, the town where he was born in 1959. It’s a small vil­lage sit­u­ated to the north of the city of Figueres in the moun­tain re­gion of Am­pur­dan and near the bor­der with France. A beau­ti­ful place sur­rounded by per­fect ar­eas to prac­tice tri­als. He im­me­di­ately proved to have a great gift for the sport and he be­gan to com­pete and like the ma­jor­ity of people in those early years, it was a test of strength and char­ac­ter.

Team Rider

The year was 1976 and in the town of Figueres mo­tor­cy­cle man­u­fac­turer Ossa had a deal­er­ship that sup­ported lo­cal rid­ers. A tri­als en­thu­si­ast from Barcelona named Pe­dro Alo­mar knew the deal­er­ship own­ers and had seen Toni com­pet­ing. His nat­u­ral abil­ity was ev­i­dent to see im­me­di­ately.

Pe­dro was very good friends with the boss of Ossa, Ed­uardo Giro, and he loaned Toni a ma­chine through the deal­er­ship for the fol­low­ing sea­son to com­pete in the Ju­nior Cham­pi­onship of Spain. He would achieve the ti­tle tak­ing two vic­to­ries along the way.

In 1978 he ob­tained spe­cial per­mis­sion from the Span­ish Fed­er­a­tion to move up to the Ex­pert cat­e­gory. Due to the good for­tune of Oriol Puig Bulto, the boss of Bul­taco, it meant they had funds to swell the ranks of the Bul­taco com­pe­ti­tion sup­port con­cen­trat­ing on tri­als ma­chines. They were able to run a works team with a num­ber of rid­ers which in­cluded other Span­ish rid­ers Manuel Soler, Jaime Puig, Javier Cu­curella, Marti Terra and Al­fonso Soler.

In this first year in the Na­tional Cham­pi­onship, Toni man­aged to take third place on four oc­ca­sions and this con­sis­tency gave him his first home Cham­pi­onship ti­tle. Due to the ex­tra sup­port from Bul­taco he could now launch a full as­sault on the World Cham­pi­onship. He had some ex­cel­lent re­sults in his first full year which in­cluded a sixth po­si­tion in the muddy Ir­ish event, the Hurst Cup, al­though his best re­sult was third po­si­tion in Italy and a fourth in Cze­choslo­vakia, fin­ish­ing sev­enth in the fi­nal Cham­pi­onship po­si­tions. The Czech event was the fi­nal round of the year and ended with an un­ex­pected cel­e­bra­tion. At the prize giv­ing Toni, Fin­land’s Yrjo Ves­ter­i­nen and fel­low Span­ish rider, Jamie Su­bira, im­pro­vised a band by tak­ing ad­van­tage of the in­stru­ments of a group that had been booked to en­ter­tain at the prize cer­e­mony!

1979 would see him again mounted on the Bul­taco but in a prac­tice ses­sion be­fore the start of the sea­son he in­jured his col­lar­bone. He tried to ride in the open­ing round in Bel­gium but the ground was frozen and he crashed with an­other com­peti­tor on the way to the first sec­tion, ag­gra­vat­ing the col­lar­bone in­jury and de­spite a gal­lant ef­fort he fin­ished out­side the points. This fur­ther im­peded his ef­forts at the Swedish round. How­ever he fin­ished third, bet­ter­ing his re­sult of the pre­vi­ous year.

In Fin­land he was sixth and fin­ished off the year thir­teenth over­all at the end of the Cham­pi­onship. How­ever, things did get bet­ter and he won the Trial de Reyes in Spain and with fur­ther good re­sults he took an­other Na­tional ti­tle.

Back to Ossa

With the on­go­ing prob­lems at the Bul­taco fac­tory, he made the de­ci­sion to move back to Ossa in a team along with fel­low Spa­niards, Francesco Paya and Al­bert Ju­vantey mounted on the fa­mous gaudy look­ing yel­low TR80 model “Grip­per” ma­chine.

The ma­chine had seen very lit­tle test­ing by Mick An­drews who had been in­volved in the de­vel­op­ment and needed more work for the World Cham­pi­onship com­pe­ti­tion but bad luck would once again af­fect the at­tack on the World Cham­pi­onship. He in­jured his foot prior to the start of the sea­son but still man­aged a fourth place at the open­ing round in Spain. In France he dam­aged the lig­a­ments in his other foot and in Italy no ma­chine ar­rived for him to ride. The prob­lems con­tin­ued all year with his best ride com­ing in Cze­choslo­vakia where he took third. He would fin­ish a dis­ap­point­ing sev­enth over­all in the Cham­pi­onship at the close of the year.

On the way to an­other Na­tional ti­tle he took many wins mak­ing it three in a row and along with these re­sults, a win in the fa­mous Cin­gles Three Day trial, fin­ished the sea­son on a high. They had fur­ther de­vel­oped the Ossa and it was now at its best and he en­tered 1981 with high hopes of suc­cess.

The open­ing round in Spain gave the com­peti­tors a shock as snow greeted them! Gor­got was on form tak­ing a solid fourth po­si­tion as Manuel Soler be­came the first Span­ish rider to win a World Cham­pi­onship event mounted on a Span­ish ma­chine, Mon­tesa.

This was a good omen for the Span­ish as Gor­got would also break the mould with a win in the Ital­ian round in Cuorgne to the north of Torino and once again on a Span­ish man­u­fac­tured ma­chine, Ossa, mak­ing him the thir­teenth rider to take a World round win since the se­ries started back in 1975. De­spite these en­cour­ag­ing re­sults he had lost some of his con­fi­dence and scored a string of mid po­si­tion fin­ishes to end the sea­son in eighth over­all.

In the Na­tional se­ries he had the usual hand­ful of wins but it was once again con­sis­tency which was key to the fourth ti­tle, equalling the records set by Ig­na­cio Bulto and Man­ual Soler, could he set a new record in 1982? With the well doc­u­mented eco­nomic prob­lems in the Span­ish mo­tor­cy­cle in­dus­try, Toni would be forced to leave the Ossa con­cern when they could only of­fer him a ma­chine and some ex­penses and as a pro­fes­sional rider want­ing to com­pete at the high­est level he turned to Mon­tesa.

1980: Cin­gles Three Day Trial with the Ossa team.

1981: WTC ac­tion on the Ossa

1981: Span­ish Cham­pion on Ossa

1981: SSDT on the Ossa. 7th po­si­tion and the Best New­comer Award

Fi­nally Mon­tesa

The team was very pro­fes­sional and well run and he wel­comed this. They would cater for all his needs in or­gan­is­ing the World Cham­pi­onship cam­paign book­ing ho­tels and or­gan­is­ing me­chan­ics, etc.

With this new enthusiasm his World Cham­pi­onship re­sults im­proved. He was sec­ond in Fin­land, third in Eng­land, Ger­many and Poland and fourth place in Aus­tria and the USA, which would see him fin­ish the sea­son in fourth place at the year end, his best ever fin­ish­ing po­si­tion in the World Cham­pi­onship.

He in­ter­rupted his World Cham­pi­onship cam­paign to take a solid sec­ond place be­hind Amer­i­can, Bernie Schreiber, on the SWM in the pres­ti­gious Scot­tish Six Days Trial. His fifth ti­tle win in the do­mes­tic se­ries broke the record of wins and many started to ques­tion just how many more he could win.

Mon­tesa were very happy with the re­sults and he de­cided to con­tinue with them in 1983 de­spite the on­go­ing eco­nomic prob­lems in the fac­tory.

In Spain a new breed of young rid­ers were be­gin­ning to shine through, Lluis Gal­lach, Gabino Re­nales and An­dreu Co­d­ina who had pro­gressed from Cy­cle Tri­als.

The World Se­ries started well with the Span­ish round held in Olot and he gained an ex­cel­lent sec­ond po­si­tion, re­peat­ing this in Bel­gium and there­fore be­com­ing the first ever Span­ish rider to lead the Cham­pi­onship. A third in Ire­land fol­lowed by two fifth po­si­tions in Eng­land and Ger­many and a sixth in Swe­den were ex­cel­lent re­sults. Suc­ces­sive in­juries in Aus­tria and Italy rel­e­gated Toni a po­si­tion lower than the pre­vi­ous year in the over­all standings at the sea­son close. He ex­tended his Na­tional ti­tles with an­other win which would be his last but he backed this up with a win once again in the Cin­gles Three Day.

His great­est sat­is­fac­tion though was win­ning the Scot­tish Six Days. In those days that was al­most more im­por­tant to the rider and man­u­fac­turer than win­ning the World Cham­pi­onship.

JJ Cobas

1984 would be his last year as a pro­fes­sional rider and he left Mon­tesa and signed with Jac­into Mo­ri­ana the boss of JJ Cobas who had al­ready helped to spon­sor him in pre­vi­ous sea­sons.

The tal­ented An­to­nio Cobas had set him­self a goal to man­u­fac­ture a tri­als mo­tor­cy­cle, a pro­to­type that broke the tra­di­tional moulds by us­ing alu­minium and dif­fer­ent me­chan­i­cal so­lu­tions, in­clud­ing a rev­o­lu­tion­ary twin spar chas­sis pur­posely de­signed to min­i­mize the ten­sions and stress that is trans­ferred from the com­pres­sion of the sus­pen­sion.

The ma­chine was an ex­am­ple of the su­perb en­gi­neer­ing in­no­va­tion that Cobas could ap­ply to the hum­ble tri­als ma­chine. The en­gine would be from a Bul­taco, al­though it could also ac­com­mo­date a Mon­tesa mo­tor.

In the World Se­ries he took a sixth po­si­tion in Ger­many and a tenth in Spain. These were his best re­sults on the JJ Cobas as his form slumped in the other events.

The sup­ply of Bul­taco spare parts be­came a prob­lem and so they moved to the Mon­tesa power plant.

Toni be­came dis­il­lu­sioned with the ma­chine and tri­als which re­sulted at the end of that sea­son with a de­ci­sion to leave the World Cham­pi­onship in the hands of the younger rid­ers and re­tire from the pro­fes­sion of tri­als. He fin­ished off this il­lus­tri­ous ca­reer with a third place over­all in the Na­tional se­ries be­hind the new breed of Span­ish rid­ers, Gal­lach and Co­d­ina.

Rem­i­nisc­ing

In the early years the jour­neys to events were car­ried out with what­ever trans­port you had and us­ing a car and trailer he had many happy times on his trav­els. When the weather was hot and sunny they would sleep in a tent or the car if it was cold.

He trav­elled with other Span­ish rid­ers and al­though they were of­ten rid­ers of other man­u­fac­tur­ers there was al­ways a great friend­ship among them. Above all, the times with Jaime Su­bira in his grey coloured Mercedes Mon­tesa van were the best. The van mir­rored very much the home con­ver­sions of vans sim­i­lar to the present day. Toni re­calls many of the long jour­neys made to Eng­land stop­ping at the var­i­ous im­porters and rid­ers who al­ways made them very wel­come.

He prac­ticed at the homes of rid­ers such as Mick An­drews and Martin Lamp­kin, who, by that time, al­ready had a young Dougie fly­ing around on his cy­cle.

His friend Se­bas­tia Ven­tañol, Max who was a car me­chanic from Tar­rasa and also great tri­als fan took Toni un­der his wing as did Josep Casade­munt who be­came a tu­tor and al­most a fa­ther since nei­ther of the other two were eigh­teen years old and there­fore couldn’t drive a car. Max took charge of tak­ing them to train and to the events.

Pitu Casade­munt is an area in Rel­li­nas, Spain and they went there reg­u­larly to train and Toni re­calls a young­ster on a sim­ple bi­cy­cle while they prac­tised. Lit­tle did they know that this young­ster would in time be­come a World Cham­pion, his name was Jordi Tar­res.

Toni had moved to live in Tar­rasa be­cause he was study­ing en­gi­neer­ing and be­cause they had the ideal en­vi­ron­ment to train with other rid­ers and fur­ther­more it was near the man­u­fac­tur­ers.

Max went with Toni al­most every­where in his first year with Bul­taco but for the sec­ond year Toni in­sisted that Max was paid ex­penses and thus em­ployed him as his pri­vate me­chanic and min­der. In those days a min­der was not part of the sport so it can be said that Max was the fore­run­ner of the cur­rent min­ders role in the sport.

Dur­ing the sea­sons with Ossa, Max ac­com­pa­nied Toni as a min­der and on one of the trips to the Ital­ian round; Max trav­elled by car and fell ill hav­ing to stop in Turin to sleep in a ho­tel and re­ceive med­i­cal at­ten­tion for stomach cramp. Toni was al­ready at the trial and Max didn’t ar­rive and didn’t send word to his friend un­til the fol­low­ing day, the same day of the event. Max ar­rived in a ter­ri­ble state and was not able to ac­com­pany Toni around the sec­tions. That day Toni won the only World round of his ca­reer.

Upon re­tir­ing as a pro­fes­sional tri­als rider, Gor­got re­turned to Darnius the town of his birth where he started a forestry busi­ness. He mar­ried his long term girl­friend and they had two daugh­ters and for nine years he didn’t think about mo­tor­cy­cles at all. He cel­e­brated not hav­ing to get up early on Sun­days to hook up the trailer to go to events.

Toni still main­tains his char­ac­ter­is­tic ap­pear­ance of tran­quil­lity and care­ful­ness. He en­joys ski­ing in win­ter he still runs and rides moun­tain bikes to keep fit.

But do not think that he has for­got­ten tri­als. Al­though he no longer prac­tices he main­tains in­ter­ested in the sport with a mo­tor­cy­cle busi­ness in Figueres and re­calls with great nos­tal­gia his years of be­ing in­volved in the sport.

1979: It’s much colder than Spain here in the 1979 Bel­gium WTC

1978: Span­ish Cham­pion on Bul­taco

1979: Span­ish Cham­pion on Bul­taco

1980: Span­ish Cham­pion on Ossa

1982: SSDT on the Mon­tesa. Po­si­tion 2nd

1982: Span­ish Cham­pion on Mon­tesa

1982: WTC ac­tion on Mon­tesa

1983: On the way to win­ning the SSDT on the Mon­tesa

1983: SSDT – The win­ner takes shel­ter at lunch

1983: SSDT – Cham­pagne and the sweet taste of suc­cess

1983: Span­ish Cham­pion on Mon­tesa

1984: Rid­ing the Bul­taco pow­ered JJ Cobas in the WTC

1983: WTC ac­tion on the Mon­tesa

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