CATCH UP James Dabill
Following in the footsteps of your sporting hero is always going to be a difficult task, especially when it’s the trials legend that is Dougie Lampkin.Off the back of a very successful youth trials career with a Junior world title in 2005, Great Britain’s
Is it sort of a move back home to Beta?
JD: It feels a bit like that to be honest, yes. As you are aware Beta is a brand that I am very familiar with as I spent some years in my career with them, starting back in 2004 when the Top Trial Team first gave me my chance to become a professional rider and follow the dream that my parents and I had sacrificed so much for. The whole Bosi family and Beta were amazing to me from the start. They took me in as part of the family and helped to make my life on the way up so much easier. Without them, it probably would not have been possible. The Bosi family will always have a special place in my heart as we achieved so many great things together.
Let’s move right back to the Scorpa.
JD: As you can imagine, riding for the Crosswaites there was never much sympathy, and they could very easily bring you back down to earth very fast! But Neil and Martin were absolutely superb with me, and I learnt so much from them in such a short period of time, and it is a time in my career that I thoroughly enjoyed. When I explained to them both about the opportunity I had with the Top Trial Team they shook my hand, wished me the best of luck and said it was an opportunity that they could not match and I could not miss, and so for that I am very grateful.
Having won the Junior world title was it a big step up to the TrialGP class?
JD: A lot of people do not realise how big the gap is from Junior to the GP level of riding. We have seen in the past, so many good Junior riders just disappear as soon as they hit the GP class. But it’s the same for everybody and the only way you can do it is to drink a big old can of man-up, put on your big-boy pants and dive straight in! So to say I was happy in my first year to nail a top 10 finish would be an underestimation; I was ecstatic.
Why the move to the Future Montesa team?
JD: It was one of the hardest decisions of my career to leave the Top Trial Team family who had given me so much, but my manager at the time Jake Miller and I felt it was the next step in my career, not only in terms of direction but financially as well. This also allowed me to bring Jack Lee on board as my minder, who had just qualified as a Honda technician, and this became a very big piece of my puzzle to making the next step. He was a very fast learner, and we soon became a great team and very good friends which we remain to this day. I owe Jack and his family a hell of a lot of the time they gave to me through Jack coming with me around the world. It was always going to take a bit of time to adapt to the fourstroke, but with plenty of machine riding time, I soon got on top of it.
You re-wrote the history book with your four-stroke win.
JD: Yes! I was really happy with the win, and I had not realised until the finish that Alan ‘Sid’ Lampkin was the last four-stroke winner in 1966 on his BSA. It’s quite strange that no one else has won on a four-stroke since I did in 2007. When I won the 100th ‘Scottish’ in 2011 on the Beta, I also became only the second rider to win on a two- and four-stroke, alongside Sammy Miller who won on Ariel and Bultaco.
Why the move to Gas Gas in 2009?
JD: It was a no-brainer for me really. I had pretty much fallen out with the job in 2008 and needed a new motivation so when I had the chance to ride for ‘Shirty’ with factory Gas Gas support I jumped at the chance. I went and tried a machine with John, and straight away he showed a lot of interest for having me on the team, and it was not long before I was signed up and ready to give them a BTC title which he made very clear was their goal. Little did I know we would also become very good friends as well.
Your first British title came in 2009.
JD: It was a very successful year, especially in the UK as I took my first BTC. I managed to beat Dougie Lampkin in the first two rounds, which made it that little bit more special as the critics could not say anything, but once again it was with Jack Lee and Shirty kicking my ‘ass’ all the way. I could not have achieved it without their hard work and the 150% effort that Shirty puts into supporting his riders. It was a great first year and one I will never forget.
In 2010 your results continued to improve.
JD: I started to feel very comfortable and stable with where I was and what I was doing; I was very happy. And this showed in my results. I moved up to 6th in the world, and I managed to win every single round of the BTC to take my second championship. It was a very good year.
You moved to Beta in 2011 for the start of four years on the Italian machines.
JD: As I kid I had always dreamed of been a factory rider and I got that chance with Gas Gas in 2009/10, but in 2011 I was offered a ride with Beta as their number one factory rider, and with that comes a much better contract to which there was no way I could refuse. But I only accepted after I had tried the Italian machine, which I liked a lot, and it would set me up in good stead for the next four years.
More success came with the Beta.
JD: It took me quite a while to settle into the Beta role as being number one. It added quite a lot of pressure that I was not used to, but I dug deep and did the best I could, with great support from the Beta factory. We achieved a lot together once I had found my feet, with my 2nd SSDT win in the 100th edition of the event, and three more British titles followed.
In 2014 you won the 100th edition of the Scott Trial.
JD: This I still believe is one of the nicest memories I will keep with me forever. What makes it so special is nobody can do it again. To win both the 100th SSDT and the Scott was a very, very cool moment in my career.
How special was it to join Dougie Lampkin at Vertigo in 2015?
JD: To work with Dougie who was one of my idols was an amazing opportunity that once again I could not miss; also to be able to do something completely different with a brand new machine really appealed to me. I soon managed to build a great relationship with all the guys at Vertigo, and it made my two years with them a very comfortable and enjoyable time. I was delighted to achieve so much with them as a team as most people did not expect it, and even more so when we suffered the difficult passing of Martin Lampkin. The way Dougie rode that year in Scotland was sensational, and this was a moment that hit everyone hard. I was lucky enough to spend time with Martin and the Lampkin family, and I am happy I had that chance because he was a great man and a fantastic influence who touched so many people around the world. He will always remain in my thoughts.
Your best TWC results came in 2016.
JD: They sure did. The first one was a bit of a shock because the event did not suit me, so it was a pleasant surprise, and it was the first Vertigo podium as well which made it extra special. Then to do it again in Germany was brilliant for me as it gave me the confidence to think ‘actually I can get used to this’, and then my 2nd place at Tong was just the icing on the cake. An amazing feeling and an amazing day, especially at my home GP.
In 2017 you moved to Gas Gas as its number one rider
JD: Yes, a move back to Gas Gas for 2017 and along with that the number one factory spot again. It was the same situation as most of my career; really another opportunity not to be missed and again a chance to do something different. This time it was a full factory contract with no real ties to the UK and a chance to ride in the Spanish Championship which, I soon came to realise, is it’s where it’s all happening and it was definitely an eye-opener. The Spanish have got it sussed out, and that’s why their level is so high. It was a great thing for me especially when I got to the world championships. It would not have been anywhere near possible though or as enjoyable this season without the ‘turbo engine’ of my minder Jiri Svoboda. Over the year we have built up a great working relationship and also a fantastic friendship that will last forever, and I am forever grateful for his commitment, hard work and determination to achieve the goals we set. We win, and we lose together. I am very excited already for 2018, when Jiri and I are back together and ready to do battle. We are Team 22.
So 2018 sees a return to Beta.
JD: Yes it’s back to Beta for 2018/19 and the number one factory spot once again. A very easy decision for me as the offer that came through really appealed to me, not only for myself regarding riding and support but for what we have planned over the next couple of years as a brand. It’s great to see a brand constantly searching for new directions. I believe at this stage in my career it’s a great place to be in terms of stability and that’s a great thing for myself and my young family, and if you know me, you’ll know my family is my everything and very important to me. This is possibly the single best decision of my career. I had a great year at Gas Gas in 2017, and I would like to thank all the team at the factory in Girona for making my life very easy.
2016: Vertigo 7th TWC – 1st BTC – 1st Scott.
2013: Beta 6th TWC
2014: Beta 6th TWC – 1st BTC – 1st Scott
2015: Vertigo 8th TWC – 1st BTC.
2014: Beta testing with Trial Magazine.
2010: Gas Gas 6th TWC – 1st BTC.
2009: Gas Gas 7th TWC – 1st BTC.
2012: Beta 6th TWC – 1st BTC.
2008: Montesa 8th TWC
2011: Beta 8th TWC – 1st BTC – 1st SSDT.
2007: Montesa 8th TWC – 1st SSDT. 2006: Beta 9th TWC. 2005: Beta 17th TWC.
2007: Montesa Winning Team Scott Trial.
In RD 1 of the new FIM X-Trial competition at Vendee France.
2018: Beta: It’s a case of coming back home.
2017 Gas Gas 6th TWC.