One Mo­ment

Bri­tish Ex­perts 1975

Classic Trial - - CONTENTS - Words: John Hulme • Pic­tures: Mal­colm Car­ling and Yoomee Ar­chive

Mo­tor­cy­cle tri­als started to emerge at the turn of the century and many be­lieve the first events such as the Scot­tish Six Days and the Scott trial were the ear­li­est form of the sport. Com­peti­tors have been pre­sented with many chal­leng­ing haz­ards over the years and none more so than at the pres­ti­gious Bri­tish Ex­perts trial. This event, which used to take place at the year-end af­ter all the ma­jor events and cham­pi­onships had been de­cided, was set out to de­ter­mine who was the Bri­tish Ex­pert - the best rider? The course was marked out with very de­mand­ing haz­ards to test the rider’s abil­i­ties to the limit. In Novem­ber 1975 the Birm­ing­ham MCC, in the rider’s opin­ions, pushed the lim­its of the solo men and ma­chines too far as they staged a mass walk­out and went on strike. This is the only recorded tri­als event that this has ever hap­pened at.

The event has not gone with­out con­tro­versy over the years af­ter the mass ex­clu­sion of rid­ers in the 1969 and 1974 events af­ter they ex­ceeded their time lim­its and were ac­cused by the club of wast­ing time wait­ing for the dif­fi­cult haz­ards to im­prove. They promised that the 1975 event would be so much bet­ter, but af­ter Mick An­drews and some fel­low rid­ers had viewed the haz­ards on the Fri­day be­fore Satur­day’s event, they were not con­vinced.

You must re­mem­ber that this was a real pres­ti­gious event in the eye of the man­u­fac­tur­ers who con­sid­ered the event as some­thing spe­cial to win and Bul­taco, Honda, Mon­tesa, Ossa, Suzuki and Yamaha had all their works rid­ers en­tered. It was ru­moured that some of the very top rid­ers could scoop a £2000 bonus pay­ment for the win!

Blue Riband

Con­sid­ered by many to be the ‘Blue Riband’ of tri­als, the 40th run­ning of the event started in very wet con­di­tions from Rhayader in Wales with twenty nine solo starters and twelve side­cars. Each rider was of­fi­cially started by the Mayor of Rhayader who wished them all a good days sport as they set off into the won­der­ful coun­try­side you can find around the Elan Val­ley and the Ca­ban Dam ar­eas.

The open­ing haz­ards were at Ca­ban Dam Base just out­side the vil­lage of Elan where Suzuki works rider, John Met­calfe, on one of the Ja­panese spe­cial 325cc ma­chines be­came the first of­fi­cial re­tire­ment. He fived the first six sec­tions in suc­ces­sion when an ab­scess on his arm proved too painful for him to con­tinue.

The third sec­tion in the open­ing group was even­tu­ally aban­doned as ev­ery rider’s at­tempt ended in fail­ure which started to cre­ate a hold-up which threat­ened to bring the trial to a stop.

Even­tual win­ner, Mick Wilkin­son, had de­scribed the haz­ard as sui­ci­dal and was con­cerned some­one was go­ing to get hurt. Rid­ing the pro­to­type 360cc Yamaha us­ing a con­ven­tional rear sus­pen­sion set-up with two rear shock­ers he had ear­lier in the year used to win the SSDT on, Mick An­drews took on the role of ‘pathfinder’ at the sec­ond group at Cwm Coel con­tain­ing six sec­tions. On the tough­est of the haz­ards An­drews showed his skill with a sin­gle mark at­tempt which de­feated both even­tual third place fin­isher Nick Jef­feries on the 306cc Honda and Sh­effield based Chris Clarke.

Martin Lamp­kin was the next rider and he en­tered the sec­tion in his usual de­ter­mined mood as he was look­ing to take the first clean at­tempt, when the Bul­taco skid­ded across the rocks scat­ter­ing the watch­ing spec­ta­tors and cam­era­man as his ma­chine clat­tered down the rocks with­out the rider bend­ing a rear shock ab­sorber in the process, he was not best im­pressed!

Mal­colm Rath­mell on the pro­to­type 310cc Mon­tesa had stud­ied his fel­low com­peti­tors for a while be­fore de­cid­ing to make his at­tempt. He treated the crowd to a su­perb ac­ro­batic demon­stra­tion of his abil­ity as he first took a steady­ing ‘dab’ be­fore storm­ing the fi­nal climb much to the ap­pre­ci­a­tion of the on-look­ers who needed some­thing to warm them up in the pour­ing rain. The Bri­tish Cham­pion was now leading the event.

Im­pos­si­ble

The rain con­tin­ued to come out of the sky at a con­sid­er­able rate of knots as the rid­ers moved onto the Gar­reg Ddu group which were sit­u­ated on the banks of the wa­ter­less Ca­ban Dam. The planned eight sec­tions had been re­duced to six and the sever­ity had also been eased to make them eas­ier.

John Hem­ing­way on the lit­tle 125cc Mon­tesa was not hav­ing a good day and vol­un­teered to be the first rider to at­tempt the six part ter­ror. He may as well have not both­ered as he only got three feet into the sec­tion be­fore it de­feated him. He was not happy, hav­ing lost a to­tal of fifty marks from a pos­si­ble eighty five so far, it was not a good day for the York­shire­man. He was well aware time was run­ning out for the en­try to com­plete the course on time.

The next at­tempt was made by Mick An­drews who was at his bril­liant best clean­ing ev­ery­thing in front of him apart from a wellplaced dou­ble dab on the sheer wa­ter­fall step which formed part of the haz­ard. By now though he was an hour be­hind sched­ule and was get­ting in­creas­ingly con­cerned about the time limit along with Hem­ing­way.

Nigel Bir­kett parted with five marks when he stalled the en­gine of the 325cc Suzuki but Clive Smith and John Reynolds, on the sin­gle rear shock can­tilever 250cc Ossa, both footed hard to part with three marks each but both John Luck­ett and Stu­art Oughton on the third works 325cc Suzuki failed mis­er­ably.

The next group of sec­tions was at Ca­ban Slot where the haz­ard looked al­most im­pos­si­ble to the rid­ers. Clerk of the course, Bob Col­lier, was on hand as the rid­ers ex­pressed their dis­gust to him at the sever­ity of the haz­ards. They de­cided enough was enough and en masse quit the event and set off in the rain to ride back to Rhayader. Honda pi­lot, Brian Hig­gins, wanted to con­tinue if his ri­vals would re­turn. He knew the im­por­tance of the event to the man­u­fac­tur­ers and wanted to see a re­sult. He spoke with Mid­lan­der Steve Wil­son but they both even­tu­ally agreed to join their fel­low strik­ing rid­ers.

Walk Out

Apart from seven other com­peti­tors, the rest of the en­try walked out on the event to go on strike. Back at the start area in Rhayader ten­sions were run­ning pretty high as the rid­ers con­fronted clerk of the course, Bob Col­lier, and the club of­fi­cials. He ex­plained that he knew the area very well and had plot­ted out the sec­tions ac­cord­ingly but pointed out that this was the Bri­tish Ex­perts not a Na­tional event and so you should ex­pect it to be of a higher level of dif­fi­culty.

The walk­ing wounded were Mal­colm Davies and Alan ‘Sid’ Lamp­kin who had both clouted their legs and an­kles in the rocky gul­lies. World Cham­pion, Martin Lamp­kin, was to­tally be­mused by it all as it was not in his na­ture to com­plain but he was very dis­ap­pointed with the clerk of the course for plot­ting out haz­ards which would prove vir­tu­ally im­pos­si­ble. Mon­tesa’s num­ber one rider, Mal­colm Rath­mell, de­scribed the whole event as a sham­bles and was well aware that many spec­ta­tors had trav­elled to see the best rid­ers in the coun­try com­pete over a tougher than aver­age event, but along with the other strik­ing rid­ers could see no op­tion but to walk out be­fore some­one got in­jured.

Mick An­drews had been out look­ing at the course on the pre­vi­ous day when he had wit­nessed the clerk of the course and his helpers change three groups of haz­ards to make them more ride­able. The ACU stew­ard, Ed­ward Da­ma­dian, ex­pressed views on how he saw both par­ties. From the or­gan­iser’s side he pointed out that they were not blame­less but in his opin­ion he thought the rid­ers had be­haved badly as when they en­tered an event they should ride to the best of their abil­ity.

In 1969 and 1974 ‘shock’ win­ners had taken the honours at the event due to the bulk of the en­try not mak­ing the time limit. The first of these in 1969 was John Har­ri­son who was a thirty three year old ac­coun­tant from Dublin on his 250cc Bul­taco who had raced around to catch his ferry home and in 1974 Mick Wilkin­son had watched his clock all day just to make sure he fin­ished in time and he won for that rea­son only. Was Wilkin­son think­ing of the bonus when he took win num­ber two in 1975?

The Win­ner

Seven rid­ers com­pleted the full course who were termed ‘black­legs’ at the time. This pro­duced a re­sult much to the de­light of the club of­fi­cials. They com­pleted the full group of sec­tions at Ca­ban Slot where the other rid­ers had staged their walk out.

Mick Wilkin­son was leading along with Nick Jef­feries and they were both in front of the el­der Wilkin­son brother, Bill, who was eight marks be­hind. At the dif­fi­cult sec­tions ti­tled Craig y My­nach, the younger Wilkin­son brother pulled out a slight ad­van­tage with a su­perb sin­gle mark ef­fort and he con­tin­ued to pull away get­ting the bet­ter once again over his ri­vals at Sawmills. Jef­feries dropped to third when he stalled the four-stroke Honda en­gine at the same group jump­ing down a steep in­cline. In the eyes of the pub­lic there was no win­ner but the his­tory books recorded that Mick Wilkin­son on the 250cc Ossa was the win­ner.

As his brother Bill had won the event way back in 1960 on a Greeves, they joined the Lamp­kin broth­ers as only the sec­ond fam­ily pair to win the event and the only two broth­ers to fin­ish in first and sec­ond po­si­tion.

The Bri­tish Ex­perts would sur­vive un­til 1997 as a pres­ti­gious event but it never re­cap­tured its glory days in the hey­day of Bri­tish ma­chine man­u­fac­tur­ers. What is quite fit­ting is that the event did make a one-off re­turn at Pen­rith near Carlisle in 2008 when Dougie Lamp­kin would join his fa­ther’s name on the tro­phy as the only fa­ther and son to win the event mak­ing it quite a nice fi­nale to this once great event.

This hand drawn map shows the course around the Elan Val­ley area

Mal­colm Rath­mell on the pro­to­type 310 cc Mon­tesa

Yamaha mounted Mick An­drews stays feet-up

About to part com­pany with the Bul­taco is Martin Lamp­kin

El­der brother ‘Sid’ Lamp­kin res­cues young Martin’s Bul­taco com­plete with a bent rear shock ab­sorber

Sid Lamp­kin straight­ens the bent rear shock from Martin’s Bul­taco on a tree Alan ‘Sid’ Lamp­kin stud­ies the line on the Bul­taco

1973 Win­ner Clive Smith ‘loops out’ on the Mon­tesa

Stu­art Oughton drops the pre­cious works 325cc Suzuki

John Hem­ing­way 125cc Mon­tesa

John Reynolds 250cc Ossa

It’s of­fi­cial we are on strike It’s a case of ‘what shall we do’ as the rid­ers walk out at Ca­ban Slot Back at the start the rid­ers ex­press their views to the club of­fi­cials

1975 Bri­tish Ex­perts win­ner Mick Wilkin­son (250cc Ossa)

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