I came from a very modest environment, where both my parents worked very hard to bring me and my elder brother up in the world. My father, Ron, was a motorcycle enthusiast but, for me most importantly, he loved and competed in trials. Supported by my mother, Joyce, I started to compete way before the youth movement in the trials world. My father worked Sunday nights in a factory, and my mother in a local mill inbetween running the family, to financially support my trials riding. I achieved some success and with it some support from the industry, for which we were very grateful as a family. Wind the clock forward nearly 40 years on and I see this situation replicated time after time in motorcycle trials. Sport in general has moved on and I use just as an example the cycling profession. From having moderate success globally we are now a nation that stands very proud of its achievements, supported by funding from various organisations and the cycling federation. Motorcycle trials is, on the scale of many other sports, a minority one – fact. That does not mean it does not deserve support as we have demonstrated in the past and present that Great Britain can and does produce world champions in the various classes. This success is usually funded by the bank of mum and dad as their children pass through the youth trials before they dip their toes into the big sea of the world championship. The fortunate ones can often find some financial support off the back of mum and dad’s business friends, who are usually trials enthusiasts anyway. Spain has produced Toni Bou, the undisputed king of world trials, along with many other winners in the other motorcycle disciplines where they can compete. Here we take a look at the Spanish Federation’s trials team and how they support their world championship efforts, which in many cases are the envy of the rest of the trials world.
Jordi, you should be very proud of what you have achieved with the team.
Yes, I am very proud. I started in 1992 and it has changed a lot since then. If I make a list of all the riders who have passed through the National team you will soon realise that almost all the Spanish riders who have participated in the world championships have belonged to the team. At that time we were travelling with six riders in a van, but that did not matter. The riders just wanted to train and improve their level of riding every day and get the confidence of a manufacturer to support them. It was a case of practice and training for the world championship, but getting the support of a factory was the most important thing of all. At that time the factories helped the riders with machines and parts at a very good price. The goal was to have a contract that would bring free motorcycles and some financial support.
At present it is quite similar but the costs are much higher than before. The mentality of the riders is also very similar although it seems that the young people of today are not so accustomed to hard work! I can still remember Joan Pons travelling, crossing Europe with a small Renault Express van and a caravan at 70kph! This is not imaginable today but the youngsters still sacrifice themselves to get on the team and the times have changed. The support of the manufacturers is now somewhat minor, but generally when a rider is in the National Team everyone makes efforts so that he has the best we can offer.
This year you have six riders in the Trial World Championship: Arnau Farrer in TrialGP and Francesc Moret, Gabriel Marcelli, Marc Riba, Aniol Gelabert and Samuel Obrado in Trial2. How are the riders selected for the team?
Rider selection is a natural process. We have known all the riders since they started participating in the Spanish Championship from the ages of twelve and thirteen. From that moment we are observing the evolution of each rider and compare that evolution with the riders who have gone through it before. There is no magic formula, just step by step moves.
We do not have riders in the 125cc class, just because it is a cylinder capacity that we are not interested in. We think that being on 125cc for a long time is wasting time and slows your evolution as a rider. The 125cc has made us lose a generation of good riders like Dani Oliveras, Dani Gibert and — almost — Toni Bou! Fortunately Toni had already participated that year in the World Championship and knew what he wanted. Imagine what would have happened if Toni Bou had stayed two full seasons with a 125cc? As soon as you are ready you must move on to a motorcycle with higher engine capacity and start to practice on the bigger obstacles, and this should start no later than at fourteen or fifteen years old.
If the riders are so young do they still have to go through the education process or are allowances made for them?
Unfortunately the process is not perfect and we have many problems trying to combine the two things. The higher the level of riding you achieve the more time you need to train, and that takes up the school time. If you can go to a private school it may be easier but it is still the biggest problem. It takes time for a rider to decide whether to go to the trials career or stay in school until they are 18 years old. Some choose to stay with trials for a year and then decide whether to work or study. It is not easy and I want to emphasise that the riders make great efforts to combine the two things.
Do the riders get paid an allowance or wage?
Not from the RFME. If a rider has a contract with a factory he or she may receive a wage. Getting the support from the parents is the first goal. Making money is already much more complicated than it may appear. It is the parents who pay the expenses until they arrive at the National team. For the World Championship the RFME pays all expenses but everything related to the motorcycle is still dependent on the riders and in most cases means them receiving the help of the manufacturers.
How many personnel are in the team?
Apart from the six riders and six minders it is only Albert Sole and myself. We have to adapt ourselves to many situations. Albert takes care of the truck and the structure of the team but can also be a minder. It is his responsibility to make sure the riders have everything necessary during the competition, but also in the Spanish championship he is responsible for the results. It really is a great team spirit. I do the rest; minder if necessary, delegate to the jury etc. It is not a big structure but I think we are efficient. Whoever works in the RFME-SPEA has to know how to do everything!
Where does the funding come from for the team?
Part of the budget comes from Federation and another vital part is thanks to our friend and sponsor Luciano Bonaria, President of SPEA. The Federation’s budget comes basically from the Higher Council of Sports, The Spanish Government, and from the RFME’s own resources, such as licenses etc. A license for a Spanish rider can cost around €300 for the national license and between €500 and €1000 for the world championship. The insurance cover takes a significant part of this income as the law in Spain requires maximum coverage.
Luciano Bonaria is passionate about trials and we were lucky that he likes our project. The work we do with the young riders is consistent with his philosophy and we really have a great relationship. His support is fundamental to be able to continue competing at world level with a team with so many riders. With SPEA we have the necessary support for the National Team and also for the Spanish Championship. In addition we have a project called ‘La Primavera del Trial’ (Trial Spring) where we do a workshop with young riders doing well in the Spanish Championship. The National Team riders are their mentors.
Do the manufacturers support the team?
The support of the manufacturers to the National Team project is important. For a rider it is very difficult to do a full season if you do not have some help from the factory. The season is very long with so much testing and training, which plays its part in the wear and tear of the machines, but the manufacturers understand this and are very supportive. They understand that the team is a part of a much bigger picture. Without their help it is very difficult to do a full season. In fact, if a rider does not have the help of the manufacturer it is very likely that he is not part of the team. It is an association that comes from the beginning of the national team and has always been maintained, so that the help goes directly to the rider.
At what point is a rider released from the team if his career is not working out?
We usually make these decisions after each season. Riders are always aware of whether they are well-developed or not as they have the other team members to compare with. If they see that they are lagging behind in their evolution they know that they are losing possibilities for the future. It is a part of the process, not aggressive decisions, and usually the rider is very aware of the situation.
There is no established duration on the team. It depends on the possibilities of each rider, the help they receive and whether they really want to be part of it. Once this process is finished some continue as mechanics, minders or just continue studying or working.
What does a typical working week consist for the riders in-between the Trial World Championship?
The lives of the riders are pretty tough. Normally they all go to school so they already have an important part of the day occupied. As soon as they finish school they take advantage of the time they have to ride a motorcycle or go to the gym. Some may have a day or two on weekdays to train but that depends on the treatment they receive at school.
For those who do not go to school their life is spent between the workouts, gym and the workshop to repair the motorcycle. Professional life without professional money, but the beginnings are always hard in any sport. The team riders try to train with each other but usually prefer to ride with a higher standard of rider. They all get on with one another, which is a vital part of the team and also makes it more fun.
How do you see the World Championship with all the changes that are happening?
The arrival of a promoter opens a possibility for us to change if we really get the support we need. At the moment the introduction of the qualification and the new scoring system, with the app that allows you to follow the live results, are an example of which things seem to be changing in a positive way. A greater understanding of our sport is important for it to continue existing. Some say that we lose the purity of trials and that it is more of a circus. I completely disagree. Trials is just as pure now as it was in the ‘60s.
The Trial World Championship riders of 2017 were born in the 21st century around the year 2000, and like everything in life it has evolved. For them what they do is the same trial, exactly the same as it was for us in the ‘80s. Five years ago we were training in Italy with the first ‘SPEA’ trial spring project, with riders trying to do something similar to a guy called Toni Bou. Some of these riders have already arrived; Jaime Busto, Miquel Gelabert and Arnau Farre to name a few. They knew they were capable of joining the ‘circus’. The evolution of the motorcycles and training techniques has led to a level of perfection on the part of the riders, nothing less. It is important that the rules are adapted to these riding levels and do not force the riders to argue the judges’ decisions. The nostop rule does not seem to me to be a proper regulation suited to our times, but it remains, for the moment.
TRIAL MAGAZINE Jordi Prat Albert Sole The RFME team stands proud in the Trial World Championship paddock
SPEA play a very important part in the team The living quarters are in the trailer of the articulated truck for the riders and minders Workshop facilities can be used in the rear of the articulated trailer Lunch time with the team in Andorra
Team work is essential Everyone has to join in with the team and carry out many of their own tasks including machine preparation A happy team is a good team! Arnau Farre is in the TrialGP class, having moved up from Trial2
Gabriel Marcelli (Montesa) – Trial2 Class Francesc Moret (Montesa) – Trial2 Class Samuel Obrado (TRRS) – Trial2 Class Marc Riba (TRRS) – Trial2 Class
Aniol Gelabert (Scorpa) – Trial2 Class is the younger brother of the TrialGP rider Miquel Arnau stands proud in his yellow riding kit carrying the team SPEA logo with Toni Bou. Jordi Prat celebrates with Trial2 winner Gabriel Marcelli in France