The end of the Greeves era
It would be a rain lashed 46th running of the Victory Trial by the Birmingham MCC in early March 1971 where Derek Adsett would record his only success on the Puch engined Greeves Pathfinder. The once mighty and proud Greeves competition motorcycles built in Great Britain had tasted success in the past, but the glory days were now all but over. Using Villiers engined machines they had proved successful in the hands of Bill Wilkinson, who won the 1964 Scott and 1969 Scottish Six Days Trial. His younger brother Mick along with Tony Davis, Gordon Farley and Adsett, to name but a few, had also tasted success winning national competitions. Villiers had announced in late July 1968 that they were ceasing production of the 37A trials engine and from that day on Greeves were in decline, along with so many other British trials manufacturers that also relied on the engines to power their machinery. The Austrian Puch engined Greeves machines became available way too late and were not properly developed against the Spanish onslaught of Bultaco, Montesa and Ossa. One week after the Colmore, Scott Ellis would win the Cotswold Cup and in October Mick Wilkinson would take the final Pathfinder model victory on a much modified machine at the Travers Cup held the day after the Scott Trial. Words: John Hulme, Morton’s Archives, Motor Cycle • Pictures: Alan Vines
What came to light when we were generating the article by first looking at the results was the number of different manufacturers in the results: BSA, Bultaco, Cotton, Dalesman, Greeves, Montesa, Ossa, Saracen, Sprite, Suzuki, Triumph and the Gaunt Ducati special — 12 in total. European power would provide the engines for Cotton with Minarelli from Italy, Dalesman and Greeves with Puch from Austria as Saracen and Sprite used Sachs engines from Germany.
Over the next few years this cottage industry of machine builders would fall to the might of both the Spanish and Japanese manufacturers. Notable riders missing from the event, as they were contesting the European Championship round in France, were the winner and eventual champion Mick Andrews (Ossa), Rob Edwards (Montesa), Malcolm Rathmell (Bultaco), Dave Thorpe (Ossa) and the Montesa pair of Lawrence Telling and Charlie Harris.
A Full House
National motorcycle trials were very well supported both with riders and Works supported machinery. It’s no surprise, when you consider that they had a single lap, thirty-one mile course taking in fifty hazards based around the Knighton, Radnorshire area of Wales, that it attracted a full house of one-hundred-and-twenty-two riders. More hazards had been planned but a shortage of observers had meant these could not be used. The event had been laid out by the club’s enthusiastic team of helpers in dry conditions, and some of the more ambitious hazards soon became impossible in the very wet conditions.
The solo riders started their day on the rocks at Dolyfelin one where local motocross rider, Andy Roberton on his Bultaco, recorded the first clean ride — much to the applause of his local Central Wales club who were observing the hazard. Other clean rides would be recorded by Bultaco team riders Alan and Martin Lampkin and eighteen-year-old Rob Shepherd (Bultaco).
On the other hazards at Dolyfelin Two, which was a steep incline over exposed tree roots, Alan Lampkin and Shepherd both went clean along with Jack Galloway (Saracen) and similar mounted Jon Bliss, who was looking very dainty in his fur hat and gold coloured riding suit, and Ross Winwood on his home-built BSA engined Walwin.
Cautious Adsett Using his depth of knowledge and experience eventual winner Derek Adsett had only parted with single marks in the first four groups of hazards and was an early leader at the half distance mark after his closest challenger Alan Lampkin had conceded a five on the rocks at the Lugg hazards. The persistent rain and windy weather was now making the hazards very difficult and at the remote and exposed moorland hazards clean rides were very much at a premium with only Adsett, Jim Sandiford (Bultaco), Ian Haydon (Montesa) and ex-Greeves works rider Bill Wilkinson on the Ossa recording a clean sheet.
With the event now approaching the end the steep cambered climb containing two hazards at Tansomalia proved virtually impossible. Most of the leading riders settled for a five-mark penalty on the opening hazard to gain a better entry into the second one. Three-mark penalties were recorded by Alan Lampkin, Norman Eyre (Ossa) and the Mid-Wales champion Bernard Gore on his Bultaco, who were the only ones who passed the ends card.
The very last hazard of the day at Wernygeufron would decide the winner though as Adsett, Lampkin and Farley were all on the same number of marks lost. An overhanging tree branch stopped a clear attack at the tight hairpin bend, and as both Farley and Lampkin stopped Adsett parted with a well-placed single dab to take the Victory Trial win. Sidecars We are sorry to say that the results we have are very vague, and sourcing photographs from the event proved impossible. What we do know is that Ray Round (BSA) took the honours in front of Bob Colein (Metisse) for the third time this year. The early leader had been Jack Mathews (BSA) but Round look a grasp on the event winning by an eleven mark margin as only eight of the original 12 riders who had started finished.
(125 Sprite): After successfully competing on the Villiers engined Sprite machines Brian made a successful switch to the Sachs power that manufacturer Frank Hipkins had moved to. 16: Roy Peplow (250 Bultaco): Earlier in the year Roy passed away but will always be remembered as a very competitive rider during a successful career on British machinery. As with everybody else he made the move to the all-conquering Spanish brands in the early seventies.
John Hemingway (125 Suzuki): This is one of the very first pictures of the soon-to-be-released Suzuki 120cc trials machines. Using the TC 120cc six-speed Suzuki engine suspended beneath the light aluminium sheet pop-riveted frame the monocoque has a cast magnesium steering head using needle roller bearings. The machines with a claimed weight of 140lb were built by Suzuki at their factory in Croydon.
Jim Sandiford (250
Bultaco): Always with a keen eye for business, Jim would take over the northern distribution of Montesa trials machines in 1972 as John Brise looked after the south of the country. At the close of 1972 Montesa had sold 27,000 motorcycles worldwide and, with Brise suffering health problems, on the 1st January 1973 Sandiford became the sole UK importer for Montesa. Seen here on a Bultaco his move to Montesa secured the future success of the brand not only in the UK but also worldwide.
Brian Higgins (250
Bultaco): Taking the Best Under 18 award was no mean achievement by the young Higgins. He had gained support from the UK Bultaco importers Comerfords before moving to the Sammy Miller team riding the Bultaco powered Hi-Boy machine. In 1975 he would become involved with the fourstroke Honda trials project with Miller. Brian can now be found still involved in trials at the highest level with Sport7 at the Trial World Championships.
Rob Shepherd (250
Bultaco): Competing on his Norman Crooks sponsored Bultaco, eighteen-year-old farmer’s son Shepherd was running riot in the Yorkshire Centre trials. Having started out on a Greeves Scottish before progressing to a Cotton and then a Montesa he would take a win the day after the Victory Trial, taking once again the scalps of many more established stars.
Arthur Browning (175 Greeves): Another good all round off-road rider, Browning was one of many riders who successfully mixed the different off-road sports disciplines over a long sporting career.
Roy Peplow (250 Bultaco):
Earlier in the year Roy passed away but will always be remembered as a very competitive rider during a successful career on British machinery. As with everybody else he made the move to the all-conquering Spanish brands in the early seventies.
Mick Bowers (175 BSA):
Despite the fact that BSA had withdrawn all factory rider support Mick had continued to ride and develop this Bantam trials model. How many times has the question been asked as to why the stubborn management at BSA let this gem of a motorcycle pass through their hands? A few years later Yamaha introduced the TY 175cc model and, as they say, the rest is history.
Norman Eyre (250 Ossa):
In 1961 riding a Triumph Tiger Cub this Derbyshire based rider had beaten the world’s best riders to win the Victory Trial.