1980 North­ern Ex­perts

Classic Trial - - CONTENTS - Words: John Hulme • Pic­tures: Malcolm Car­ling and Barry Robinson

Imag­ine that you have been told that your ‘works’ con­tract would not be re­newed due to a poor run of re­sults but we have a new model com­ing out we would like you to pro­mote be­fore the year end. Cum­brian based Nigel Bir­kett had rid­den for Suzuki be­fore mov­ing to Mon­tesa UK im­porter, Jim San­di­ford’s team. Start­ing with the Cota 348 model he then moved to the 349 but did not de­liver the re­sults ex­pected of him. San­di­ford de­cided not to hire Bir­kett af­ter his con­tract ended but in the mean­time asked him if he would ride the new Cota 200 model un­til the year end. Bir­kett agreed and what hap­pened next shocked the world of tri­als.

With a point to prove, Bir­kett took to the new ma­chine like a duck to wa­ter. He made a few mi­nor mod­i­fi­ca­tions to suit his del­i­cate rid­ing style that had earned him the nick­name ‘but­ter­fly Bir­kett’ and quickly won a string of Na­tional tri­als in­clud­ing two Bri­tish Cham­pi­onship rounds.

By the time he had taken a very im­pres­sive fifth place fin­ish at the Scott Trial, he had been of­fered the op­por­tu­nity to move to the fast emerg­ing Fantic brand to ride their new 200 model in 1981. San­di­ford came back to Bir­kett with a re­vised of­fer but his de­ci­sion was made and he duly agreed to ride the new ‘Red Devil’ from Italy.

His last ride on the new model Mon­tesa Cota 200 would be at the end of sea­son North­ern Ex­perts trial in De­cem­ber.

As it hap­pened, the event was held not far from Bir­kett’s home town of Broughton in Fur­ness near Pen­rith, jointly run by the Manch­ester 17 MCC and Cum­ber­land County MCC.

The north of the coun­try had been hit by a very cold weather front which in­cluded snow and ice on the ‘fells’ around the area which had turned it into a win­ter won­der­land. The sec­tion mark­ing team had to mark the fif­teen sec­tions, three mile course on the eas­ier side due to the ex­treme con­di­tions but first the rid­ers had to get to the event and for Bir­kett this jour­ney proved very haz­ardous. With ice cov­ered roads caus­ing havoc the nor­mal forty minute trip took Bir­kett two hours!

With a good qual­ity en­try of the top rid­ers from the var­i­ous North­ern Cen­tre’s, the event was quite a pres­ti­gious one to win and the North­ern Ex­perts Tro­phy car­ried the names of many fa­mous rid­ers. Bir­kett be­gan the event rid­ing with the con­fi­dence he had gained with the suc­cess on the Mon­tesa and took an early lead with a three mark score for his open­ing lap. Push­ing him though was fel­low Mon­tesa rider, Malcolm Rath­mell, on the Cota 349 and Fantic mounted Chris Grif­fin, who both wanted the win.

The event was prov­ing a touch on the eas­ier side as due to the win­ter weather con­di­tions many of the haz­ards were moved into the rocky rivers which were now be­com­ing deeper due to the melt­ing snow high on the sur­round­ing hills.

A Close Fin­ish

On the sec­ond lap it looked as though Bir­kett’s push for his fi­nal win was not go­ing to hap­pen as firstly his chain de-railed and with it a five mark penalty was regis­tered by the ob­server be­fore another two five mark penal­ties pushed him into sec­ond po­si­tion on eigh­teen marks lost be­hind Rath­mell with Grif­fin also in con­tention for the win. With the time el­e­ment now com­ing into play, Bir­kett had to rush his last lap and also con­tend with the ris­ing wa­ter lev­els but he had done enough to take a very pop­u­lar win by a sin­gle mark from Rath­mell as Grif­fin lost out on the most cleans tie de­cider. Be­hind these three, Chris My­ers came home in fourth po­si­tion in front of Peter Cartwright.

A very young John Lampkin on the SWM came out vic­to­ri­ous in the fight for sixth po­si­tion in front of new Moto Gori rider, Welsh­man Mike Leddy. Be­hind Leddy it was only two marks which sep­a­rated Peter Oak­ley, Tony ‘Sam’ Calvert, Steve ‘Butch’ Rob­son, Howard Jack­man and Ady Mor­ri­son on the Majesty.

Wilk’s Way

In the very strong side­car class it was Mick Wilkin­son and Kevin Lock­wood on the Ossa out­fit who took the win on the tie de­cider from Lan­cas­trian Malcolm El­lis and Frank Grif­fiths who just failed to make the re­sults a ‘one-two’ for Mon­tesa. Fur­ther down the or­der Clas­sic Trial Mag­a­zine con­trib­u­tor, Mike Rap­ley, with Man­nix Devlin in the chair of the Beamish Suzuki out­fit headed Robin Lus­combe with Steve Ker­shaw in the side­car of another Suzuki out­fit to round off the top ten fin­ish­ers.

Fin­ish­ing out of the awards was Martin and Alan ‘Sid’ Lampkin who had a fun day out at the event us­ing an old Bul­taco three wheeler.

De­spite the in­clement weather con­di­tions this ven­ture be­tween two North­ern based clubs had been voted a huge suc­cess.

End of an Era

As Bir­kett fin­ished the event and was an­nounced the win­ner the ever sport­ing Mon­tesa UK im­porter, Jim San­di­ford, gave Nigel Bir­kett a pat on the back and shook hands with him know­ing it was the end of an era for the Bir­kett — Cota 200 re­la­tion­ship.

John Hulme, Clas­sic Trial Mag­a­zine Edi­tor: “I rode in this event hav­ing trav­elled on the treach­er­ous roads with Dave Por­ritt and Scott Row­land in a car tow­ing three mo­tor­cy­cles on a trailer. The trip was very haz­ardous to say the least!

“The win by Bir­kett rounded off an ex­cel­lent year end for him. He was in­cred­i­ble to watch on the Mon­tesa Cota 200 and I of­ten won­der, as I am sure the late Jim San­di­ford did, what the part­ner­ship would have achieved in the 1981 tri­als sea­son. It’s a fact that no one else since has achieved the suc­cess Bir­kett did on a small ca­pac­ity ma­chine at the very top of the sport.”

Bri­tish Ex­pert win­ner in Novem­ber, Malcolm Rath­mell on the big­ger ca­pac­ity Mon­tesa could not match the per­for­mance of Bir­kett and the Cota 200.

Comer­ford’s Bul­taco sup­ported Peter Cartwright fights one of the fast flow­ing rivers.

Mike Leddy on one of his first out­ings on the Moto Gori. A very young John Lampkin was the only mem­ber of the fa­mous York­shire dy­nasty rid­ing the solo route. His fa­ther Arthur and Un­cle’s Martin and Alan com­peted in the side­car class. Tony Calvert stands tall on the 350 Holden sup­ported yel­low Ossa ‘Grip­per’.

Andy Gard­ner keeps his feet up on the 200 Fantic.

Moto Gori team man­ager David Hooke. Ear­lier in 1980 Gra­ham Tales had joined the Colin Ap­p­le­yard’s Mo­tor­cy­cles Tri­als team.

Glenn Sc­ho­ley fires the Comer­ford’s Bul­taco over an awk­ward rock.

Side­car win­ners Mick Wilkin­son with Kevin Lock­wood (350 Ossa).

The Colin Ap­p­le­yard’s Tri­als Team from left to right: Gra­ham Tales, David Calvert, Chris My­ers with the man­ager Stu­art Feeny.

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