A new machine always gives you the winning edge, and that’s exactly what happened at the rain-soaked TT Leathers sponsored International ‘Superstars’ Trial as Martin Lampkin took his new 348cc Bultaco to a popular win at the event. Taking the win by a single mark from his Montesa mounted rival Malcolm Rathmell, he had to wait to hear the outcome of a protest from his fellow Yorkshireman. When the results had been announced Rathmell was placed second behind Lampkin, but claimed he had been awarded a five-mark penalty for brushing a marker whereas other riders had not been penalised for committing the same offence, which would have given him victory on the ‘most cleans’ tie decider. After a stewards’ meeting the decision was made to remove the hazard from the results, making Rathmell five marks better off – but it also removed the single Lampkin had parted with, handing him the £100 cheque for the winning ride by a single mark
Imagine the scene today in Yorkshire, on a cold, wet day: we have the world’s best riders competing on some of the most natural trials terrain found anywhere in the world. Throw in the genuine, factory supplied works machinery from around the world and the thousand-plus enthusiastic crowd who attended this end of season finale, and I am sure you can still sense the excitement. Yrjo Vesterinen from Finland had just won the first of his three world trials titles, having taken the crown from his fellow Bultaco team rider Martin Lampkin who had won the first ever FIM title in 1975. Montesa mounted Malcolm Rathmell had finished as runnerup in the World Series and wanted to end the season on a winning note.
Rain and Hail
The organising Wetherby and District Motor Club was not going to let the rain and hail dampen the spirits of this event as a healthy international entry of forty riders lined up to compete over the twentyseven hazards to be ridden over two laps. With rocks, steep banks, rivers and streams in abundance around Pateley Bridge this part of the country would challenge the best riders in the world over a nine mile road-based course that also had a time limit of six hours and thirty minutes to adhere to. At the group named ‘Middle Tongue’, a steep, close-on vertical rock step with a torrent of water gushing down, it unseated factory Suzuki rider Nigel Birkett who was badly shaken. He was riding a new, lower version of the 325cc Japanese machine which escaped any damage, but he took a few minutes before moving on.
Leading riders for the win, Martin Lampkin and Malcolm Rathmell, both took five-mark penalties as the hazard stopped many of the entry. Further on, another deep-water stream hazard at ‘Strikes Wood’ took the unsuspecting riders for quick fives. French champion Charles Coutard kept the Bultaco going forward though to rescue a three mark penalty as Nick Jefferies came to a halt on the four-stroke Honda, as did fellow Yorkshireman Rob Shepherd on the Montesa. The first hazard here would witness just a single clean on the opening lap, from Alan Lampkin, as his younger brother Martin knocked his machine out of gear to take a sudden five.
Further into the group of hazards at section eight, the slippery roots would see Finland’s new world champion Yrjo Vesterinen take control on the Bultaco for a spirited single-mark attempt matched by Jefferies, Lampkin and Rathmell. The next hazard was a rock-filled natural gulley, which was the scene of the Rathmell controversy when he brushed a flag. Vesty’s form on here was a pleasure to witness as he contorted his body to make a clean passage, much to the appreciation of the assembled, damp, crowd. This was the hazard that was eventually removed from the overall results. The final hazard at this group witnessed more superb riding from Vesty as Dave Thorpe maintained his challenge, matching the clean ride of his fellow Bultaco team rider, but Rathmell chalked up another five mark penalty. The entry were now beginning to realise that the time factor was catching up with them as Ossa mounted Mick Wilkinson was the last rider to pass through the hazard, having already used up three hours of his time allowance.
The open hillside at Kens Canyon, which was the final group of hazards, was littered with big boulders set in the grass; but with the clock ticking many riders opted not to inspect the hill but to ride it as it was. This opening hazard of the group would see eventual winner Martin Lampkin at his best, with a superb two mark attempt as no one cleaned it. The final hazard on the jumble of rocks was first cleaned by Belgium’s Jean Marie Lejeune before the riders signed off on the completion of the first lap.
Time Gentlemen Please
As the scores were added up after the first lap Lampkin held a clear eleven mark advantage over Thorpe, closely followed by Coutard, Spain’s Maule Soler and Rathmell, who were separated by a single mark. The Clerk of the Course, Ken Smith, was out and about checking the severity of the hazards in the persistent rain and, due to the adverse weather and the fact that the entire entry failed the steep climb out of Guise Cliff he made the decision to close it and remove it from the results. He also made the riders aware of the closing time limit.
On the second lap the hazards at Middle Tongue would ride much better as the slime was now gone from the rocks and Lampkin opened up his lead, losing three marks whilst Rathmell parted with six. Montesa mounted Rathmell was not out of the winning equation by any means and attacked the final hazards, showing his world class with some inch-perfect riding which was rewarded with a run of five clean rides and a single mark, compared to his Yorkshire rival Lampkin who parted with two fives and two single ‘dabs’ which would prove crucial in the final reckoning. Foreign riders Coutard and Vesterinen on the Bultacos were doing all they could to hold on to the leading Yorkshire pair, but to no avail. They both pushed the time limit to the edge as Vesterinen signed off with just two minutes left, and Coutard made the cut by a mere sixty seconds. Had the trial been a success? The majority of the riders had enjoyed the event despite the harsh, difficult conditions. The final result went in Lampkin’s favour despite Rathmell’s protest, and with it the winning cheque for one hundred pounds.
Martin Lampkin (Bultaco)
Malcolm Rathmell (Montesa)
Charles Coutard (Bultaco-FRA) – Best Foreign Rider
Nigel Birkett (Suzuki) – Riding another version of the factory supplied works Suzuki RL 325cc, Birkett survived a very heavy crash early on in the event
Yrjo Vesterinen (Bultaco-FIN) – ‘Vesty’ rides the rapids, as always giving 100% despite the tough conditions
Manuel Soler (Bultaco-ESP) – Feet up and showing total commitment in the deep water
Alan Lampkin (Bultaco) – Steady as she goes as ‘Sid’ keeps the machine straight and uprigh
Rob Shepherd (Montesa) – All eyes are on ‘Shep’ on one of his
last rides on the Montesa before the move to Honda in 1977
Nigel Birkett explains the crash to Yrjo Vesterinen, on the right
Chris Clarke (Bultaco) – Another young rider starting to make his mark on the trials scene tries to keep forward motion in the raging water
Fumihiro Kato (Kawasaki-JPN) – The day was a steep learning curve for the young Japanese rider
Brian Higgins (Honda) – A crash on section two resulting in bent handlebars kept him down the results on the Sammy Miller four-stroke Honda
Peter Gaunt (Kawasaki) – A man
of many talents with the trials motorcycle, his machine for the event was the dreadful KT 250cc
Kawasaki. Maybe they should have employed the Yorkshireman
to develop it in the beginning!
Bo Nilsson (Ossa-SWE) – Spare a thought for the Swedish rider who came all the way to Yorkshire only to retire with broken front wheel bearings