1987 World Trials Championship
This Retro looks back at the opening rounds of the 1987 FIM World Trials Championship which presented its own changes and challenges, as does the new format for the 2017 series. In Spain it was the time limit which caused the riders problems but in Belgiu
Times were changing the FIM World Trials Championship, as machine development started to rise to another level aided by the development of the tubeless tyres. The air-cooled era was coming to a close as a new breed of cottage industry machines, from Spain in particular, started to break into the results. Liquid-cooled machines were just around the corner.
The machines from the new breed of manufacturer and in particular Mecatecno and Gas Gas made the headlines, but nowhere near as much as the exclusion of some of the world’s best riders who exceeded the time limit in round one of the 1987 series. Taking an obvious amount of time to complete their opening lap it soon became clear that the total time limit for the trial was going to be difficult to adhere to. The riders, including Great Britain’s runner up in 1986 Steve Saunders who was making his maiden WTC voyage on the Fantic and his previous year’s team-mate on the Rothmans Honda Eddy Lejeune, along with Jordi Tarres on the Beta and other riders were excluded at the close of play, having realised their mistakes too late. For Spain’s Lluis Gallach on the Mecatecno it would turn into a very emotional event, as he made the trial his own with a clear victory in front of a very patriotic crowd, followed home by the 1986 world champion Thierry Michaud from France.
The new tubeless X1 tyres from Michelin were the ones to have fitted, with the biggest problem being to keep the air from escaping through the spoke nipples. The Mecatecno and Merlin machines from Spain had the answer with the Comstar: three solid spoke-type wheels fitted. To eradicate this problem Fantic had a standard rim fitted with a recess for the sealing rubber band as Beta opted for the standard type rim but with a central flange fitted. One rider was about to change the face of trials forever; that man would be Spain’s Jordi Tarres.
Known as the home of trials for the Belgian World Trials Champion from 1982–1984, for Eddy Lejeune on the four-stroke Honda 1987 would be a year for change. Eddy had won his home round since 1980 on the twin-shock RTL 360 before moving to the single-shock RTL in 1985. As was the norm, with three laps of eighteen sections to ride the majority of the riders hung around waiting for them to ride better. With sub-zero temperatures all that was going to happen was that they were going to get worse!
Riding the new Fantic 303 Great Britain’s Steve Saunders suffered a massive crash on the famous Bilstain step, totalling the new machine. The fact he recovered to eventually finish fifth was a credit to him as he rode a very secondhand machine for the rest of the trial, despite the best efforts of the Fantic pit crew.
Another rider to suffer in the icy conditions was young Aprilia factory rider Diego Bosis who took a very hard fall on the famous step, but he avoided any machine damage. With very sore ribs he struggled on to take an impressive runner-up position.
Eventual winner Gabino Renales rode very much using his young head, and was an early finisher as he knew the hazards would get worse. This was the first ever win for the new Spanish manufacturer Gas Gas in the FIM World Trials Championship.
At the end of the year the sport of trials would have both a new world champion in Jordi Tarres, and a new manufacturer taking the first of many world titles: Beta from Italy. The tide was changing in the world of trials.
Spanish world round winner Lluis Gallach (Mecatecno-ESP)
Spain: Riders seen here include Jordi Tarres, Eddy Lejeune and Diego Bosis who were all excluded. Spain: One of a new breed of young riders, Diego Bosis from Italy was looked on as a future world champion riding for Aprillia; he was also excluded for exceeding the time allowance. Spain: Steve Saunders, seen here in deep concentration, is watched by Eddy Lejeune who were both excluded. They had been team-mates at Rothmans Honda, where Saunders had finished second and Lejeune third in the 1986 WTC before Saunders moved to Fantic in 1987. The Fantic seen here is the new 303 model. Spain: Having a steady, quiet ride into third position was Gabino Renales on the Gas Gas.
Spain: The headquarters for the trial were in the school buildings near the start area. The club was quite adamant that it was totally the riders’ fault for exceeding the time allowance by hanging around too much on the opening lap. Michelin were very involved with the tyre development in the world series. Michelin tyre technicians are seen here checking the ground temperature. Belgium: Gabino Renales (Gas Gas-ESP) gave the new Spanish trials manufacturer its first world round win. Belgium: Diego Bosis (Aprilia-ITA) proved his potential for world championship success with an excellent second position. Jordi Tarres (Beta-ESP): Having finished fourth in the world championship the previous year the young Spanish rider would take his first world title in 1987.