It was that time of year again when everyone who had been fortunate enough to get a Pre-65 ‘Scottish’ entry headed Scotland — Kinlochleven, to be precise - for the three-day festival of classic trials. I say three days because Thursday is set aside for signing on and scrutineering, which for close on 200 motorcycles takes some time by the time all the greetings and meeting up with friends has taken place! Things start to happen early afternoon when it’s time to see who has turned up with what machine. It was common knowledge that last year’s winner Gary Macdonald was going to be out on a 350cc Triumph on loan from Martin Murphy, but to see Andy Abraham turn up with a 600cc Scott ‘Rigid’ was pretty special. One rider not entered on a rigid this year was Clive Dopson. He said that having turned the age of sixty recently it was time to have an easier machine to ride than the Norton, and it came in the form of a 250cc Francis Barnet. As it turned out the threeway festival of trials would turn into a three-way tie to find the winner, ultimately in the form of local rider Gary Macdonald..
Friday’s proceedings got underway with the parade of man and machine through the town, and with so many competitors the early riders were back very soon after the last competitors had started out. At 10am this year’s Guest of Honour Tim Britton waved away Martin Murphy and Bruce Metcalf off the starting ramp. The odd numbers went out on the road loop at Cnoc a Linnhe while the evens started at Loch Eilde Burn.
Cnoc a Linnhe starts easily enough by the roadside, but with the big climb out the end, the section was its usual tough proposition. Needless to say, Gary Macdonald cleaned it early on and Rob Bowyer, another Triumph Twin man, was good value here with a faultless climb. Further down the road, Caolasnacon had been reintroduced after having been rested. Just one section was included but after the uphill climb came the left-hand turn, which is always awkward.
The first clean of the day went to Mark Feather on his 500cc Ariel. It was a section that had plenty of cleans but also tested the grip on riders’ boots when they needed a final push out, as Andy Abrahams found out as he just managed to get the Scott out. Some spectacular crashes were also recorded as the nature of the hazard changed after every rider.
There was plenty of water running down at Lower Cameron Hill; introduced last year the two sections here saw plenty of cleans but don’t mention that to Craig Asbridge, who dropped his Tiger Cub twice in the rather cool river! By comparison, Donna Fox had a smile on her face with a double-clean on her BSA Bantam. The even numbers were making light work of Loch Eilde Burn, and many did likewise at Aluminium Works. The first of the two sections here caused more problems for the entry with its loose river-bound rocks.
The iconic Pipeline came next and, as always, it was the one section people liked to clean. Dan Clark, Ben Butterworth and Dan Thorpe were all textbook, but Dave Thorpe ran out of good fortune here with a nasty fall off the hazard and under the pipes. Thorpe senior managed to complete the day, but he was unable to ride on day two. By comparison, out in the wilds above Pipeline Sma Dam provided some more manageable sections for the riders to enjoy, which were followed by a new group at Meal Ruigh with three long water hazards that, while cleanable, took plenty of marks as riders kept the machines moving. It was out here that quite a few riders ended up with mechanical problems which caused many retirements with amongst them the likes of Chris Koch whose Noriel cried ‘enough!’ at Blackwater.
Other retirements from day one included ACU committee man Anthony Rew whose Triumph refused to run cleanly, Tim Hartshorne and previous winner Tony Calvert. By the close, it was Gary Macdonald, Dan Clark and Dan Thorpe all clean with Calum Murphy and Rob Bowyer both on three. Four Triumphs were in the top five for the Meriden marque.
Saturday started over at the school yard with number 101, Andy Minn, the first rider away to the sounds of the local pipe band. He was on the start ramp alone as 102 Edward Dobson had not made the finish on Friday. The odd numbers were heading for Lower Mamore and then up to the five groups of hazards high above Kinlochleven. The evens had the road trip, with Garbh Bhien starting their day. Garbh Bhien was in fairly gentle mood and did not cause too many problems, with the ride back to the road being as tricky as the section. From there it was a second visit to Cnoc a Linnhe minus the previous day’s easy opener, and then to Cameron Hill and a new loop over the hillside to Stac A’ Chlamhain.
Spectators going out to the ‘Pap of Glencoe’ on the loch side were able to see plenty of good rides and the two Paxton brothers looked very steady through the rocky stream. One rider who was very disappointed at the ‘Pap’ was Yrjo Vesterinen, who was to suffer a five for a stop as he took a dab on the early part of the hazard. No such problems for Dan Clarke though as he roared through Cnoc a Linnhe with the Triumph on full ‘song’. Although the final step up the bank was not part of section two Dan was all style here and even had time for a thumbs up as he strapped his rucksack on! Fellow Triumph Twin rider and the 2013 event winner James Harland was equally effective. He was heading for another good result and would take the John Draper trophy for his efforts.
Over on the far side of the town the odd numbers had gone through Lower Mamore. This is a section that rides much harder than it looks, with plenty of marks scattered including a number of fives. If you fancied a long walk then Upper Mamore was the place to go with terrific backdrops looking out over Kinlochleven. Unlucky here was Michael Irving, who remained feet up on his 500cc Ariel until six feet from the ends cards when it all came to a halt. Big-capacity machine riders Duncan Macdonald, Mark McComisky, Mick Flannagan and Rob Bowyer were all to have terrific rides here. Bowyer was on his way to the Best Over 350cc award. No mention as yet of Gary Macdonald; well, he was having great rides everywhere but so too was his main rivals ‘Clarky’ and Dan Thorpe over on the other side of the Loch.
Spectators were able to keep track of the action with some very accessible subs back on the road at Burnside, Man Na Gualain and Lower Caillich. These have proved to be a very welcome addition to the event. Gary Macdonald was by now out at Cnoc a Linnhe but keeping his feet firmly on the foot-pegs as last year’s winner was looking to make it two in a row as we got towards the end of another two classic days.
So it was all down to the presentation in the village hall late on Saturday evening. Three riders were all clean, having parted with no marks: Dan Thorpe, Dan Clark and Gary Macdonald. A triple tie was something new, which left the committee to consult the rule books. The decision declared Gary Macdonald was the winner as he was mounted on the larger capacity machine. Dan Clark was second — on age, as he was one month older than Dan Thorpe. These were some rides by all three, with the rule book, unfortunately, having to find the winner!
101 Yrjo Vesterinen (BSA-FIN) Phil Wiffen (Matchless) Paul Dennis (Triumph) Donna Fox (BSA)
Rob Bowyer (Triumph) Mark Sunter (Ariel) Callum Murphy (BSA) Dan Thorpe (Triumph) James Harland (Triumph)
Dan Clarke (Triumph) Gary Macdonald (Triumph)
TRIAL MAGAZINE Mick Grant (BSA) Martyn Stanistreet (James) Andy Abraham (Scott)