Classic Trial - - CONTENTS - Words: Clas­sic Trial Magazine Pic­tures: Mal­colm Carling

Al­ways held in late Novem­ber, the Sh­effield & Hal­lamshire Mo­tor Club Lim­ited Peak Trial in the north, along with the De­cem­ber Knut Trial in the south, usu­ally sig­nalled the close of the na­tional tri­als cal­en­dar for the year. Here we fo­cus on the 1977 Peak Trial, which tra­di­tion­ally started at the Ken­nings Car Garage at Bam­ford in Der­byshire on the cross­roads near the Mar­quis of Granby Ho­tel at Hope. This was a very tra­di­tional start area with fuel avail­able, and with the re­fresh­ments pro­vided by the very able 1st Bam­ford Air Scouts. For the riders trav­el­ling from afar the Mar­quis of Granby Ho­tel was avail­able for ac­com­mo­da­tion.

The British Cham­pi­onship had been dom­i­nated by Span­ish ma­chin­ery since 1965 when Sammy Miller moved from Ariel to Bul­taco, and it was the Ir­ish­man who would help to once again break the trend. When he moved from Bul­taco to Honda in late 1973 he moved back to four-stroke ma­chin­ery to de­velop a win­ning tri­als mo­tor­cy­cle for the Ja­panese man­u­fac­turer. Rob Shep­herd won the 1977 British Tri­als Cham­pi­onship on the Sammy Miller de­vel­oped Honda, giv­ing them their first taste of tri­als suc­cess. The day af­ter cel­e­brat­ing the vic­tory Miller an­nounced that Honda was pulling out of tri­als and that he was out of a job.


Rob Shep­herd did not know in late Novem­ber at the Peak Trial what ma­chin­ery he would be com­pet­ing on in 1978 but he knew the four-stroke Honda was the best ma­chine for him to ride. He ar­rived at the event very fo­cussed, as un­known to him­self and the tri­als world at the time he would be stay­ing with Honda for the fol­low­ing year. Not know­ing this he was out to im­press the other man­u­fac­tur­ers as he thought he needed a job!

The Peak Trial was known to have a tight time limit and had an early start time of nine o’clock for the side­cars and nine-thirty for the so­los. Day­light was lim­ited at this time of the year and the or­gan­is­ers is­sued an al­lowance of four-and-a-half hours to the last group of haz­ards to keep the riders on the move. In very cold, over­cast con­di­tions the solo riders left the start area to cover a sin­gle-lap course in­clud­ing forty-three haz­ards scat­tered around the area.

Early haz­ards were in the river on route to Tideslow Rake and the very ex­posed steep climbs and de­scents. Shep­herd showed win­ning form through th­ese early haz­ards, matched by Dave Thorpe who con­sid­ered the Peak as one of his lo­cal na­tional events. Rob’s other brother Norman was also putting in some very spir­ited rides on the Bul­taco. On the short-stroke ver­sion of the four-stroke Honda was Nick Jef­feries, who was also look­ing good with some ex­cel­lent at­tempts at the un­for­giv­ing haz­ards. Nigel Bir­kett was about to move to Mon­tesa in 1978 and was out on a stan­dard 250cc Suzuki as he had been re­quested to re­turn his ‘works’ 325cc model. With the power dis­ad­van­tage he strug­gled on the steep climbs found so of­ten in this event. On the other hand young Chris Sut­ton had a su­per light­weight 250cc at his dis­posal in his first year of adult road-based events.

Tie Break

With an en­try of just over the one-hun­dred mark the time limit soon went as the en­try rode out to such haz­ards as Oxlow Rake and Pin­dale, and un­for­tu­nately many riders lost marks as they ex­ceeded the time al­lowance to the last group of haz­ards. Not Rob Shep­herd though on the su­perb sound­ing four-stroke Honda, as he fin­ished clear of fel­low York­shire­man John Hem­ing­way who kept a sin­gle mark in front of a three-way tie for third po­si­tion.

The lime­stone rock­ery and muddy banks found in the haz­ards had the riders fight­ing for ev­ery mark — and how cru­cial this would turn out to be. Three riders all fin­ished on sixty-four marks each but the tie de­cider put Dave Thorpe (Bul­taco) in third, with Norman Shep­herd (Bul­taco) fourth and Nick Jef­feries fifth. Lo­cal rider Chris Mil­ner (Bul­taco) was sixth in front of Ir­ish­man Colin Bell, who was hav­ing one of his last rides on the Bul­taco be­fore mov­ing to SWM, and Nigel Bir­kett in eighth on the 250cc Suzuki. For John Met­calfe the trial had got off to a bad start when he dropped the sin­gle-shock can­tilever Ossa into the river at the first group, fill­ing the en­gine with wa­ter. Even so he bat­tled on to ninth po­si­tion as Tony Calvert (Bul­taco) rounded off the top ten.

Su­per Tough Side­car

As it was, the side­car com­peti­tors had a su­per-tough day of com­pe­ti­tion. The time limit af­fected the three­wheel brigade badly, as the ex­pected chal­lengers for the over­all win such as Colin Dom­mett (Suzuki), Barry Watson (Suzuki) and Ge­orge Green­land (Kawasaki) were amongst the ex­cluded riders who missed the cut­off for the time al­lowance at the fi­nal group of haz­ards.

The solo Ja­panese two-stroke tri­als ma­chines have never re­ally had much suc­cess, if you put aside the Yamaha and Honda ma­chines with Mick An­drews and Rob Shep­herd hold­ing the han­dle­bars.

In the side­car world though it was a to­tally dif­fer­ent story, as the Ja­panese ma­chines filled the top plac­ings headed by the shock win­ner Martin Ratcliffe, with Alan Hud­son by his side, on the Suzuki out­fit. The Kawasaki KT model as a solo ma­chine had been a fail­ure, and its main suc­cess was once again with a ‘chair’ at its side as Jim Reilly and Colin Bil­ney (Kawasaki) came home se­cond.

Dave Thorpe (Bul­taco). John Hem­ing­way (Bul­taco) – Tideslow Rake. John made his name in tri­als rid­ing many of the ‘Mi­cro’ ma­chin­ery in­clud­ing Sprite, Suzuki and Mon­tesa. Rob Shep­herd (Honda).

Norman Shep­herd (Bul­taco). Nick Jef­feries (Honda) – Nick holds a unique record of be­ing the only ever rider for the mighty Ja­panese Honda man­u­fac­turer to hold both tri­als and road rac­ing fac­tory con­tracts. Chris Mil­ner (Bul­taco). Nigel Bir­kett (Suzuki) – More used to a 325cc Suzuki than the 250cc he is seen on here, he strug­gled on the steep climbs in the Pin­dale haz­ards. Colin Bell (Bul­taco) – This Ir­ish rider had shown much prom­ise and moved across to Eng­land to ride a Comer­fords Bul­taco. In 1978 he moved to the new Ital­ian SWM brand, but af­ter a poor run of re­sults re­turned home to Ire­land and away from the world tri­als scene for ever.

Chris Clarke (Bul­taco) – For many years Chris en­joyed the sup­port of Sh­effield based dealer Jeff Hall.

Chris Sut­ton (Suzuki) – Off the back of a very suc­cess­ful school­boy ca­reer ‘Sooty’ was find­ing his way around the adult na­tional cir­cuit in his first year of road based events.

Tony Calvert (Bul­taco).

John Met­calfe (Ossa) – Rid­ing the only sin­gleshock ma­chine in the event he ‘drowned’ his en­gine in the river at first group of haz­ards.

Jim Reilly & Colin Bil­ney (250cc Kawasaki) – Tideslow Rake.

A Fothergill & J Lewis (250cc Kawasaki).

Wal­ter Bul­lock & Brian Pearce (250cc Yamaha) – Mick An­drews sup­ported many riders with his ex-works ma­chines in both solo and side­cars.

Martin Ratcliffe & Alan Hud­son (Suzuki) – Shock win­ners of the 1977 Peak trial.

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