Dutch Riders at the SSDT
With over 100 years of history, this legendary trials event stands on its own in the world of motorcycling. Six days of pitching man and machine against the elements in the Highlands of Scotland. Sections in small streams, which can change into deep river
The Scottish is incomparable; it grabs you by the throat, you are addicted to it, love it or hate it. The real fans go time and time again, returning to this rugged place on the earth. Perhaps first as a participant, later as a spectator or supporter, but in the first full week of May, you always remember the Scottish if you have ever been at this event. You’re touched by the first notes out of a bagpipe played by a Scotsman, and you recognise the tune Amazing Grace, you are in love with this event. For those who hate the Scottish bagpipe music it is nothing more than ‘cats whine’, but in reality, it is a song written by John Newton in 1725 when in London who later became a slave trader and fantastic music for the bagpipes to make!
You need to be lucky to get to the start because only 275/280 riders can ride, and every year the trial is oversubscribed by at least 150-200 riders. So the ballot has to decide if you are in or out. When you are ‘elected’ and receive an entry, empty your money-box, find some sponsors or get some overtime at work because it takes a lot of time and money to arrive at a well-prepared machine. Then, as a foreign competitor coming from the mainland, you need extra money for the ferry crossing, your entry fee, accommodation and travel expenses. Also, start to budget for tyres and parts during the week. Read books about the Scottish, of which there are many, and have a look at films on YouTube. You will then be better prepared before you sign on to this unique trial.
The SSDT is completely different to the World Trials and National Championships. For example, in the Dutch Open Championship, there are multiple classes guided using coloured arrows in the sections. The colours indicate the level of difficulty, which is complicated for the participants and also for the spectators because they have to know the rules very well. The World Championships is very selective and open to a small group of riders to show off their skills. The hazards are quite dangerous, and the riders need a constant ‘minder’ to help the Acrobat or catch him when he falls off the machine. The factory riders — such as World Champion Toni Bou — have formed a whole team that helps them in the case of a mechanical breakdown or other inconveniences. A World Championship round can take up to two days per event and spectators often have to pay an entrance fee.
What’s the difference with the SSDT, you may ask? The manufacturers use it to prove the reliability of their machines and the rider must do everything himself, such as riding and the ‘spanners’ work on the machine which proves the quality of the brand of his machine. No outside help is allowed. It can happen in secret and, if caught, the penalty is exclusion.
YES, IT IS SIX DAYS
Six days of continuous riding, with around 30 sections per day in a single lap. Each daily route is between 120-190 kilometres (75-120 miles) long, which takes anything from six to eight hours on a motorcycle with no seat. Every rider attempts the same route and the same sections. No different arrows, as the obstacles are the same for everyone. That means big differences in the results, for example.
Dougie Lampkin, a many-times winner, never parted with any marks on the Tuesday in 2016 but in comparison, the only Dutch rider, Peter Miltenburg, parted with 113 marks on his way to finishing 179th on 586 marks lost. It’s just like the Olympic Games in some ways.
To compete and finish means so much to the participants, like you can never imagine; you become part of an exclusive club. But it’s not just riding your machine under terribly difficult circumstances, no there is more to it. For example, there is a rotating start system. On the first day (Monday) number one starts first. The organisation makes up groups of more or less 50 riders; the first group starts the next day at the back of the field and the first rider of the second group goes in front of the pack, and so on, just to make sure that every rider has the same opportunity. Then you get a time card with all the observed sections on it with your start and finishing time. That’s no punch card for penalties.
As you ride each section, the observer records your score manually in his book. You will never know until you receive the results each night how many marks you have lost. You can ask them, but nine out of ten times the answer will be ‘carry on’. You cannot question the observer’s decision. Complicated but fair is how the delay time is added to your time card if there are problems such as queuing at the hazards, arriving at a section where other riders stay in a queue waiting to ride the sections. A marshal will write down on the card your arriving time when you enter the section, and he will give it back with the entering time on it as well. At the end of the day, you can count the differences in time, comparing with your total riding time. Difficult but honest, and you get used to it.
It’s essential that each day you plan and check your route and where you are going. For the spectators, it’s free to watch, but you will need a detailed map and a programme, so you know where the best vantage points are. Even as a spectator you will need all the correct walking gear, and waterproofs are essential. You will also need to be reasonably fit as the walks to the hazards are not always easy. This Scottish Six Days Trial is certainly for genuine lovers of the sport of motorcycle trials.
For the Lampkins it’s become a family affair, such is the success they have had in the event. They can boast wins from the three brothers; Arthur, Alan and the late great Martin who passed away in 2016. His legacy lives on though, with his two sons Harry and Dougie, who is also a many-times winner.
I competed once; it’s every rider’s dream to compete and for some to win; for myself it was a survival test! Montesa rider Eddy Moerman did win a coveted Special First Class award in 1984 and, together with two Belgian riders Eddy Lejeune (Honda) and Bernard Cordonnier (SWM), they also won the Club Award. Two other Special First Class awards were won, by René Opstals in 1990 and ten-times Dutch Champion Alex van Den Broek. Rene Opstals’s first attempt in the Scottish was in 1988. He rode under the name of Rinie Nijssen and finished in 85th at just seventeen years old. When he returned two years later, he finished 20th in the final results, and he became a mentor for Marco Reit, another Dutch Champion. Marco Reit did not understand the ‘Scottish’, and he was practising beside the sections when delay time was awarded, and he ran out of petrol later that day… Alex van den Broek rode to a Special First Class award in 2000, but he did not have the real Scottish feeling.
That real Scottish feeling was found by the late entertainer/motorsport journalist Cor Termaat. He brought his friend and also Dutch Champ Hans van Marwijk, who is now a famous trials bike builder, to Scotland for a holiday in 1976. Van Marwijk hated the rain and cold, and after a couple of bad days, he missed Town Hall Brae in a hurry to finish. His machine was already in the Parc Ferme when he found out. He borrowed a machine from a Dutch spectator, improvised his riding number on the front, and did Town Hall Brae. If he had been caught he would have been excluded but he wasn’t, and he finished!
Mart Buuron, another Dutch SSDT fan, did not even finish the first group of hazards at Callart Falls on day one in 1977. He dropped his Montesa 348 and his petrol tank split, and the machine was on fire. Plenty of water and mud stopped the fire, but the whole electrical system was wrecked. He came back as a trials character with a special, painted petrol tank later 1978 — they called him the ‘Frying Dutchman’. 1978 has recorded on the list of participants, the name of ‘Toon van de Vliet’ — that’s me riding number 207 on a Montesa Cota 348.
Just two weeks before the Scottish an Italian SWM 320TL arrived and my sponsor Vos-Oss, a motorcycle business, decided I had to ride it for the publicity in the SSDT. Next, to my riding skills as a top-ten finisher in the Dutch Championships, I was a freelance journalist. It was a good opportunity, but I had no time to practice on the SWM, and then I had to change the rear shocks to Dutch Koni’s, and a Twin air filter had to be fitted because at that time I was involved as a development rider to those brands. Then, I had to visit the famous Belgian doctor Johan DerWeduwen. I had ‘Tennis Elbow’, which he helped me with, and I had to ride, no excuses. A ‘magic spray’ from the world of football helped a bit. I could open the throttle but not shut it!
I have many fond memories from the week’s riding, such as SWM Team Manager Sammy Miller refuelling my machine as I was in a small group of riders using the new Italian machines. One of them was a young John Hulme, with his dad Ron helping him. He was seventeen years old, against me at thirty-four. The difference in age never disappears of course, but we became close friends over the years. Both addicted to trials and the SSDT written in capitals. And Mick and Jill Andrews were staying next door in the Mercury Motor Inn. Mick Andrews was suffering from a back injury, and he had heard of the ‘magic spray’ I had. When he saw my wife with the camera and the spray he dropped his pants immediately. Friends for life!
At the end of the week, I finished somewhere in the middle of the results. And yes I was pissed off; I got a Second Class Award, but the other finishing Dutchmen, Mart Buuron and Johnny van Delft, did win First Class Awards. I got over thirty-time penalties by finishing more than half an hour too late at a lunch stop. I got a small silver medal, not bigger than a penny. They went home with a beautiful tankard but never returned. I did on more than twenty occasions, not as a rider but as a journalist, until the year 2000.
We had booked for 2001, but the Foot and Mouth disease meant the event was cancelled. By then we were quite busy with the publishing of our off-road magazine 2x2 Noppennieuws.
As I already said, we went back many times as reporters, supporters and coaching young riders. In our area lived many Dutch champions, and one of them was Peter van Enckevort. He became seven times Dutch Champion, and I can’t count how many times he rode the Scottish, riding several machines including Ossa, Fantic, Honda, and JCM.
The first time, at the beginning of the eighties, we were preparing him for his first ‘Scottish’. We made a plan after we’d had a good look at the list of riders, and seen that just in front of him was Ted Breffit. I told Peter to stay with him during the week; such was his vast experience in the event. On the first day Peter arrived well in front of Ted, I asked ‘Where is Ted on the yellow Ossa?’ Peter replied ‘That man is too slow for me. I passed him’. The newcomer had missed a complete hill — three sections — on his first day ever in the SSDT. It took me two hours and a bottle of Dutch Gin to persuade Jim McColm, the secretary — well before Mieke Vos, a Dutch woman married to a Scotsman became the secretary in more recent times. With a laugh and a tear in his eyes, the Dutch champion could finish his first Scottish. No Award though, no chance with his extra 150 penalties for missing the three hazards — 50 marks per hazard. Van Enckevort became a regular competitor in Scotland, most of the time together with his friend Hugh Meierdres.
Also, Mart Buuron took his friend Ruud Walrave to Fort William many times, and on different machines. Most of the time the whole Dutch crew stayed in a B&B run by a Turkish woman, Lady Kissmet. She had a special room reserved for cleaning close to the central heater for the building where riding boots were also dried. Walrave took the dry, spare boots of Van Enckevort by mistake for an early start as Van Enckevort had a late start and was still in bed. Peter van Enckevort had size 47 boots that would fit everybody. They didn’t have dinner together that week anymore!
Peter van Enckevort had a good ride on a Honda RTL250, finishing the first day in the top ten on his way to finishing 31st. His best ride was in 1987 on a Fantic finishing 23rd. Meierdres became the importer of the French JCM brand and Hugh Meierdres, Peter van Enckevort and Mark van der Linden together made a JCM team — but not a very successful one. The linkage system broke on Van der Linden’s machine, and he had to retire.
A lot of Dutch clubmen from Holland rode the event just once, club riders from the Baarlose Trial Club (BTC) from nearby Venlo. This club is an organiser of Classic European Championship rounds assisted by Tjeu Schreurs, who became the Classic Champion a couple of years ago on a BSA B40. Other Dutch Champions such as Peter van der Sluis, who had a sponsored ride on a new Greeves, and Ewoud Lalkens have ridden the event more recently.
In Holland, trials competitions are more or less indoor trials in the countryside. These are very different from the reliability trials from yesteryear, which is a shame. The real champions like past SSDT winners Thierry Michaud and Gilles Burgat are still coming to Scotland. Yrjo Vesterinen rides in the fantastic Pre-65 event and doesn’t say Jordi Tarres was the last World Champion who won the Scottish, as Dougie Lampkin is a twelve-time World Champion as well as a many-times SSDT winner!
Will my wife and I ever go to Fort William, with a bag full of cameras, walking for hours through the Moors? I don’t think so but never say never again. Two years ago we met, on the top of Mont Ventoux, two British tourists on motorcycles. One of them asked: ‘Sorry Sir, but is it possible that I know you from the Scottish?’. Goosebumps of course, but on top of that mountain? It is very cold.
Six Days of gruelling riding and fighting helped Toon to bring the SWM to the finish of his one and only ride in the SSDT. Toon helps to promote Holland and the famous Clog shoes with Jill Andrews. Sammy Miller, on the right, was the SWM team manager in 1978. It was a privilege to have his help with the support at the event. The best ever Dutch rider at the SSDT was Eddy Moerman (Montesa) in 1984.
Mart Buuron is better known as the ‘Frying Dutchman’ after his Montesa caught fire at Callart Falls in the 1977 SSDT. Ted Breffitt on the left, with Dutch Champion Peter van Enckevort. John Weijers on an Orange Ossa 250. A young John Hulme in his first SSDT on his SWM. Yes, you meet your best friends in Scotland. John and Toon remain friends to this very day, with Toon a regular contributor to both TrialMagazine and its sister publication ClassicTrialMagazine. Living in the same village in Holland as Toon, Tjeu Schreurs, seen here in the SSDT on his Ossa, is still riding in trials on his BSA.
Rob Snelder from Arnhem in this beautiful landscape. Shake a leg, Marco Reit – 12 times Dutch Champion – not in love with the SSDT. Peter van Enckevort, the best man of the Van Nunen JCM Team. Another Dutch Champion, Frans Kooiman, finds out just how different the SSDT is. Ruud Walrave, Dutch Brabo Team, in the ’stolen boots’ of Van Enckevort.
Hugh Meierdres rode many times in the Scottish; here he is on the JCM. His father was the importer for JCM in Holland. The third member of the JCM team did not finish his one and only SSDT. He had to stop with a broken linkage system. Another Dutchman Eric Buursema (Fantic) on Town Hall Brae. The Van Drunen JCM team at work changing tyres. The blond guy is Rene Opstals, alias Rinie Nijssen. Alex van den Broek – 10 times Dutch Champion and trick-trial-rider – could not make any money in the SSDT, but shows off his riding style. The Fersit sections are fantastic but for supporters and press people ‘A long but Fair Walk’ as you can see…