WHO IS DAVID RODGERS

Trial Magazine - - FRONT PAGE - WORDS: DAVID RODGERS WITH JOHN HULME • PIC­TURES: TRIAL MAG­A­ZINE

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.

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