1976 Su­per­stars

Classic Trial - - CONTENTS - Words: Sam Hill Pic­tures: Mal­colm Car­ling and The Nick Ni­cholls Col­lec­tion at Mor­tons Archive

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.

Vesty’s Form

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

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