WHO IS DAVID RODGERS
As the sport of motorcycle trials goes into a new era in 2017, with the introduction of Sport7 as the new promoter of the FIM Trial World Championship, it relies heavily on the knowledge and input of some key figures already involved in the sport. One of the most responsible jobs is that of Race Director. The guy when the old mire hits the fan, he has to be the one to respond in a very professional way. Coming from a motorcycling family, and being involved from a very early age as a motorcycle enthusiast competing in trials, Irishman David Rodgers moved into the world of minding with his fellow countryman Robert Crawford in the nineties. Working with a team that has organised World Championship events in Ireland opened the door for David to move into a more professional role with the FIM, which is were he now finds himself as the Trial Race Director for the FIM Trial World Championship.
TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOUR INTRODUCTION TO MOTORCYCLING
I can never really remember a time when motorcycles were not in my life. My father was involved from a young age, so I guess it was inevitable I would end up on one as soon as possible. My father — aka ‘Billy’ to most who know him — has been a huge influence not only in my life but to trials in Ireland. His passion when growing up was Scrambles and Grass-tracks. He won two Irish Grasstrack championships ten years apart in the fifties and sixties, although by the time I was old enough to compete in trials aged 11 he was already a trials-convert and has been ever since.
As a 16-year-old, I went to my first committee meeting of the Lightweight MCC. This was the early beginnings of how my journey would evolve. I was twice Chairman of the club; I remember aged 19 nervously trying to take the meeting and thinking, “was I doing it ok?” It’s strange how some things never change, except with the stakes a little higher these days.
The club has always had a rich past of organising British and World Trial Championship events through the efforts of a dedicated band of volunteers — there are too many to name — however, to pick a few the President Drew Armstrong and the Secretary Marjorie Vann. These are two people who supported me personally and for whom I will always have the utmost respect.
My father was Clerk of the Course in those early days and had a brief term on the CTR. I guess somewhere the official seed was planted in my head. It would be remiss of me not to mention that my father still competes, aged eighty, and enthuses over analysing his performances like a teenager on the way back from his first Irish Championship Trial. I think it goes way beyond the ‘in the blood’ cliché!
DID YOU HAVE ANY SUCCESS IN TRIALS?
I have had a few moments which I am proud of, namely winning two Irish Trial Championship medals. To better clarify: they were not Grade A medals, reserved for people in Ireland — back then predominantly called Crawford (Benny, Robert and Harold) — but back to back 1983 Grade C and 1984 Grade B Irish titles, which still meant a lot to me; four SSDT finishes (also in the eighties) is up there, with at least one top 100 finish; and the TDN is special for many reasons, but it is an event I had the good fortune to compete in for the MCUI in Team Ireland, for one day only in 1989 at Bilstain, Belgium.
The list of achievements goes on, like the time I won the Ulster Championship round Bann Cup Trial, beating Philip Hanlon (better known these days as Josh’s dad) but that might sound like bragging? Plus he might bring up about the other 300 + times he only just pipped me for the win!
AFTER YOUR SCHOOLING DAYS, WHERE DID LIFE TAKE YOU?
I was a trials rider — or so I thought — and how wrong I was. In recent years I have addressed that, and despite my early reluctance to the classroom, I now actually enjoy testing myself outside my comfort zone. I have managed to attend several years of weekly three-hour night classes, on many occasions stepping out of the overalls or just off the plane from an X-Trial to make it back up the road in time on a Monday night.
I quickly went into the family painting and decorating business, and to this day I continue to trade under my grandfather’s business name ‘David Rodgers & Son established 1932’. I could never do all I do if I weren’t self-employed, I have a good team of people who work hard when I’m away, plus an amazing wife and two-year-old daughter who keep my feet firmly planted on the ground!
HOW DID THE ASSOCIATION WITH ROBERT CRAWFORD AS A MINDER COME ABOUT?
This was a family connection, as both our fathers were life-long friends from their school days. Back in the day, pre-Screenart Beta as he was a few years younger, I would take him out practising before he was old enough to drive himself. The talent was obvious, and from quite a young age Robert had created among Irish trial fans a sense of anticipation that this guy just might be special outside of Ireland. As the joint youngest ever point scorer in 15th, aged 16, this was a day I shared with Robert, carrying the bag in the famous Clandeboye Estate.
The minder element was always kind of there unofficially. Then in 1991, the opportunity arose to ‘mind’ for Robert on the prototype Montesa. His team-mate then was a very young Marc Colomer. It was an interesting experience for both of us, let’s say this was a great learning curve and as the saying goes ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’. One vivid fond memory of a later spell we had together on the Hamilton Yamaha, which epitomises Robert’s shear stubborn determination to succeed, is this: at a National, following a mechanical failure and after several groups of sections, Robert without support and stranded, waves a Morris Minor car down complete with parents, kids in the back and out on their leisurely Sunday drive. Robert quickly talked himself into the car complete with Arai on, explained that he needed to get to a service area, get tools and return to the stricken motorcycle. He was spotted by several rivals that day who reported to me that he was out of the trial as they had spotted him in a car as they rode along the field. He got the Yamaha fixed, made it to the finish on time and yes, of course, he won!
HOW DID YOU BECOME INVOLVED WITH THE FIM?
When my name was submitted to be Clerk of the Course for Bangor in 2008 by the M.C.U.I, I needed a licence so I had to attend a seminar in Krakow, Poland. I didn’t know much about the FIM or how it all worked. Drew Armstrong helped by introducing me to a few people when I started to attend the annual Conference of Commissions held each year during February in Geneva. It was so different to the club meetings; these were people who ran the sport globally, so it seemed strange being there; CTR director at the time was Jean-Marc Crumiere. Back then you had to have held a licence for three years before you could apply to be a commission member. I was elected onto the Trial Commission in 2010 and, in 2014, was appointed as a CTR Bureau member.
It’s hard to summarise my FIM journey to date, but I can say I have been fortunate to have met many great people, been to a lot of events, had many great — and a few not so great — experiences. I am fortunate to have a good working relationship with the current Trial Director, Thierry Michaud, which is especially beneficial for me to function efficiently within my role as Race Director.
AS THE RACE DIRECTOR, WHAT ARE YOUR MAIN RESPONSIBILITIES?
All the sporting aspects of the event come under the control of the Race Direction, made up of three persons: the Clerk of the Course, Section Adviser and myself as Race Director. Every event is different, which comes with experience and having been now to most countries it gets a little easier as you forge working relationships with the various organisers and officials. I try to approach the job of Race Director with the same integrity and positive attitude as I have in my normal working life. It is first and foremost a job, albeit an appointed FIM role each year, so you must treat it in this way.
My main duties during a typical event are to ensure that all decisions by the Race Direction are in conformity with the FIM rules, especially the right running of the course and sections. Then there are the TrialGP meetings, which are jointly chaired by the FIM Chief Steward and Race Director. It is a privileged position of mutual trust and respect to all other parties. I work hard at maintaining an ‘open door’ policy to speak with the riders, listen to their concerns and endeavour to be fair but firm when it comes to upholding the sporting rules.
It can be a lonely place at times when Race Direction has made a decision, as delivering the outcome to the person rests with myself as Race Director.
HOW DO YOU SEE THE EVOLUTION OF MOTORCYCLE TRIALS AS MANAGED UNDER SPORT7?
With the new promoter in Trials for 2017, there has been a lot of hard work happening for the best part of a year by a lot of people, with many emails and meetings, to finally reach the point where we are today with five rounds already been and gone.
It is, without a doubt, a new place living and working together in the Paddock, but I think from the opening events the relationship between all parties is working well. Human nature is to be sceptical at times and afraid of change, but without sidestepping the facts, it was a new beginning in Spain.
With the introduction of the Qualification round for the riders’ starting order in the competition, we all had to wait and see how this would work out. My personal opinion is that it has created a dynamic hour (approximately) of entertaining action over one specially designed section for the public to enjoy. The experience gained as Referee in X-Trial has been useful in developing the role of Race Direction and in particular Race Director in the fast-paced qualification. We all learnt a lot in Spain and again in Japan; despite heavy rain trying to play its part the new elements such as the twenty-minute break between the two laps was well received.
Throughout the event, I have a continual flow of information between the key FIM officials, Sport7 personnel and in particular updating the Promoter and Trial Director. The will to succeed is evident and the professionalism injected into the paddock with a TrialGP headquarters is, without a doubt, a positive addition. The introduction of a ‘live’ qualification stream puts a little extra pressure on all of us, not just the riders but also onto the officials. I know the challenges ahead, and as Race Director I will continue striving to uphold the sporting elements of FIM TrialGP and hope we can collectively encourage as many people as possible to see and try our sport.
Communication is a key factor on race day.
It’s important to have an ‘Open door policy’ with the riders.
TRIAL MAGAZINE “I have a continual flow of information between the key FIM officials, Sport7 personnel and, in particular, updating the Promoter and Trial Director.”
I am fortunate to have a good working relationship with the current Trial Director Thierry Michaud on the left, which is especially beneficial for me to function efficiently within my role as Race Director.
TRIAL MAGAZINE With Brian Higgins on the left and Steve Hole on the right preparing for the qualification to start.