An English­man who moved to Amer­ica and was in­stru­men­tal in the cre­ation of the Transat­lantic Tro­phy as well as other world-fa­mous race se­ries


Re­mem­ber­ing the man be­hind the Match Races

The name of Gavin Trippe – who sadly died in a Cal­i­for­nia car ac­ci­dent on July 2 – may not be that fa­mil­iar to UK mo­tor­cy­cle rac­ing fans at first hear­ing. How­ever, link it with the words Transat­lantic Tro­phy and the lights of recog­ni­tion will surely switch on.

For a more than a dozen years be­tween 1971-83, Gavin (although an English­man) was the man who brought the Amer­i­can team to Eng­land for what is still one of the best-re­mem­bered race se­ries in both UK and USA mo­tor­cy­cling his­tory. He was also my busi­ness part­ner for 15 years, join­ing me in 1969 in my start-up ven­ture for the Cal­i­for­nia news­pa­per Mo­tor­cy­cle Weekly. I will al­ways re­mem­ber him with re­spect and af­fec­tion as the man who gave up his hith­erto ‘dream job’ as the mo­tocross ed­i­tor at MCN and moved half­way across the world sim­ply be­cause he had faith in my idea. Thank­fully, it was an idea that worked out well for both of us. Backed up by the suc­cess of MCW, we also started a linked busi­ness that be­came one of the top race pro­mo­tions com­pa­nies in Amer­ica dur­ing the 1970s. Through­out that decade and into the next, Trippe, Cox Inc staged the World Cham­pi­onship USGP of Mo­tocross at Carls­bad, Cal­i­for­nia and both Na­tional and World F750 Cham­pi­onship road races at La­guna Seca (which in­cluded the very first races in what later be­came the Su­per­bike class).

Then there was a spe­cial event for the ABC-TV net­work that we called The Su­per­bik­ers. This was essen­tially a ral­ly­cross for mo­tor­cy­cles that matched the top riders from all dis­ci­plines of the sport and be­came the blue­print for su­per­moto rac­ing in later years.

In 2005, Gavin had the hon­our of elec­tion to the Amer­i­can Mo­tor­cy­cle As­so­ci­a­tion’s Hall of Fame for what he had achieved at the helm of our pro­mo­tions com­pany. By then, our paths had di­verged in the mid-1980s when I moved back to Europe to pur­sue other pub­lish­ing and TV pro­duc­tion op­por­tu­ni­ties while Gavin moved out of the race pro­mo­tions busi­ness.

We re­mained friends, how­ever, and only two days be­fore his death he wished me all the best for my birth­day and we ar­ranged to meet again on my next trip to Cal­i­for­nia. Which is some­thing that now means so much to me and sums up our forty years of friend­ship.


My first bike, 1964

1 HMW ‘Conny’ 50cc Scooter (1958) An ob­scure Aus­trian scooter bought (very) sec­ond­hand from a dealer in Kil­burn, West Lon­don, for £20. I was 17 and liv­ing at home in Chelsea. I rode to my board­ing school (posh fam­ily) in Ox­ford at a stately 35mph (it seemed fast to me then), and kept it in the bike sheds. No one in au­thor­ity re­alised it wasn’t ac­tu­ally a bi­cy­cle. Not much ‘bik­ing’ plea­sure, but it gave me free­dom – from what I am still not quite sure, but that seemed very im­por­tant at 17.

Univer­sity Rides: the 1960s

2 Ex­cel­sior Tal­is­man Twin 250cc (1958) I needed some­thing to get to univer­sity, so bought it for £22 in Hor­sham, Sus­sex and rode it all the way to UEA in Nor­wich. It seized solid on the A11 near Snet­ter­ton, and I had to hitch the rest of the way. A hor­ri­ble ‘grey por­ridge’ bike in ev­ery re­spect: ugly, gut­less, two-stroke smoky and very un­re­li­able. Ba­sic trans­port at its worst. Ended up leav­ing it in a Nor­wich pub car park with the key left in it. (They sell for £4k-5k these days...)

3 BSA A10 650cc com­bi­na­tion (1954)

The early plunger rear sus­pen­sion va­ri­ety. Cost me £15 and I was over­charged. Ugly, filthy, un­main­tained, but hideously ef­fec­tive. The oil tank looked like it was full of dirty black trea­cle. I said “Ug­ghh” and put the cap back on, and de­cided never to check it again. Too de­press­ing. The side­car’s steer­ing ge­om­e­try was so bad you had to rest your left foot on the han­dle­bar on a long run, to ease your aching arm! I once col­lided with (ac­tu­ally de­mol­ished)a blue dis­abil­ity ve­hi­cle while I had three friends in the side­car, fir­ing wa­ter pis­tols at a bus queue. Amaz­ingly re­li­able, de­spite be­ing abused hor­ri­bly. Fond mem­o­ries.

4 Vespa 125cc (1960) 5 Lam­bretta 150cc (1959) Back-to-back scoot­ers in my ‘Mod Italia’ pe­riod, with a Bea­t­les hair­cut, Chelsea boots and black polo-neck. They cost me £20 each. The pretty blue Vespa’s gear­box ex­ploded all over the Nor­wich Ring Road when I changed into first by mis­take while flat out in third. The sil­ver Lam­bretta was not as pretty as the Vespa it re­placed, but more re­li­able. I reg­u­larly used to do the 220-mile re­turn trip to Lon­don on it. It met its death when I skid­ded on an icy road in Ham­mer­smith one win­try morn­ing.

6 BSA C10 250cc side-valve (1946)

I was given this essen­tially pre-war bike by my friend, Chris­tian. The ex­haust valve

was chipped and on cold night rides the ex­haust pipe glowed bright cherry red. I left it in a pub car park near the univer­sity res­i­dences, af­ter be­ing over-re­freshed one night, and for­got it. I re­mem­bered it three months later, but it was gone. (Ex­cel­sior Tal­is­man Twin was still there, though!) 7 BSA C11G 250cc (1955) 8 BSA C15 250cc (1962) Two ut­terly bor­ing BSA 250s used only for cheap trans­port. I rode to Corn­wall on the C15 in the rain, and hated it so much I tried to set fire to it at a garage on Bod­min Moor. But the rain made the matches damp, so I re­luc­tantly fin­ished the jour­ney to St Ives, then gave it away and hitched home.

9 Du­cati Elite 204cc (1959)

My last univer­sity bike. At £45 quite an ex­pen­sive bike for me! A rev­e­la­tion – as fast as a British 500cc of the time and a com­plete jewel. Its brakes and sus­pen­sion were sub­lime, and it looked and sounded gor­geous. Not that re­li­able, it broke down re­turn­ing from an Easter mo­tor­cy­cle race meet­ing at Brands Hatch. Stand­ing by the road­side – in the fall­ing snow – the works Du­cati team van ap­proached and I thought: ‘Thank god, they will help me’. But they hooted their horn and flicked V-signs at me and roared past, laugh­ing!

Early Ca­reer: the 1970s

10 Royal En­field Con­stel­la­tion (1962) Leaked Cas­trol R from ev­ery en­gine seam. Smelled great, looked aw­ful. Moth­ers shielded their chil­dren as I thun­dered by, smoke pour­ing off, me hang­ing cru­ci­fied by stupid ‘ape-hanger’ han­dle­bars. Ac­cel­er­at­ing down the Cromwell Road one day the ape-hang­ers slowly ro­tated back so I was hang­ing off the back of the bike, do­ing a wheelie, un­able to crawl back up to dump the throt­tle. Ter­ri­fy­ing. 11 BSA A10 Golden Flash (1959) A lovely, un­re­mark­able but re­li­able bike and my main form of trans­port for years. Aw­ful front brake which I re­placed with an af­ter­mar­ket twin lead­ing-shoe which had the ef­fect of twist­ing the fee­ble forks un­der heavy break­ing. I trav­elled through­out the UK, France, Bel­gium and Hol­land on this bike, and it never let me down. I re­mem­ber thun­der­ing through the Scheldt Tun­nel, An­twerp on it at 2am on the way to Am­s­ter­dam. I sold it through Ex­change & Mart, hav­ing dis­cov­ered ter­mi­nal big-end wear in the en­gine.

12 BMW R50 500cc (1960)

Af­ter the BSA I wanted to find out what all the fuss about BMWS was about. This was the Ear­les fork model. Quirky, quiet, tur­bine smooth and ut­terly gut­less. Not re­ally my style, you could cruise at 85mph on mo­tor­ways for hours on end, so no real chal­lenge. I sold it on quite quickly...

13 Nor­ton Com­mando 750cc Roadster (new, 1972) Much more my style. Bought brand new in 1972, from Comer­ford’s, Thames Dit­ton for £512 (inc pur­chase tax). Mag­nif­i­cent bike to ride, pow­er­ful and smooth, and very good look­ing, but stag­ger­ingly un­re­li­able. Even in war­ranty I dis­cov­ered it had por­ous bar­rels – the oil just poured through the metal! I fi­nally lost con­fi­dence in it when the glass­fi­bre petrol tank split in half rid­ing at 100mph on Sal­is­bury Plain, dous­ing the en­gine with petrol. Mer­ci­fully, it was stolen shortly af­ter­wards.

14 Honda 50cc step-thru (1962)

I used this to get to work on, then one day I lent it to univer­sity friend Hilary to take her hus­band out for din­ner. On the re­turn, ex­tremely drunk, she clipped a kerb and som­er­saulted the bike at Hyde Park Cor­ner. Even with her front teeth knocked out, frac­tured cheek­bone and two square wheels, she (im­pres­sively) man­aged to com­plete the jour­ney to Bat­tersea! The Honda was a write off. It was such a re­li­able lit­tle thing, I was a bit ir­ri­tated. 15 Har­ley-dav­i­son WLA side-valve 750cc (1944) Af­ter the Nor­ton was stolen, I de­cide to buy some­thing quirky (big mis­take) and noth­ing is as quirky as a WLA, with its foot clutch, hand gearchange, man­ual/ ad­vance re­tard on the left han­dle­bar, and buddy seat. Slow, pon­der­ous and crashed into Lon­don pot­holes. I re­mem­ber tak­ing the carb to (not many) bits and mar­vel­ling at its ut­ter crude­ness. So un­re­li­able, I sold it at auc­tion for dou­ble what I paid for it.

16 Du­cati 750 GT (new 1975)

The last round-case bevel Du­cati im­ported into the UK in 1974. I bought it brand new from Tony Rut­ter Mo­tor­cy­cles in Hale­sowen, in Septem­ber 1975 for £999. My best bike of all time. I even took it to New York and brought it back with me. I quickly sorted out the bad bits and still ride it to­day. Thank god I never sold it.

Mid­dle Ca­reer: ’80s & ’90s

The Du­cati was my only bike un­til 1989 when I semi-re­tired it and bought mod­ern.

17 Honda VFR750 (new, 1989)

Fast, busy, frag­ile, ner­vous – the screen di­rected the gale onto your hel­met, so your head bobbed about at 70mph-plus. It had ab­so­lutely no char­ac­ter, and I just didn’t like rid­ing it, so I sold it quite quickly. 18 Har­ley-david­son 1200 Sport­ster (new, 1992) I don’t know why I bought this. Pon­der­ous, slow, aw­ful brakes, no range, hideous han­dling and ghastly vi­bra­tion (which my then wife ac­tu­ally liked and was al­ways of­fer­ing to pil­lion). I part ex­changed it on very fast, and lost about a third of the £6500 pur­chase price in a three-month own­er­ship. Ouch! I would call a Har­ley a ‘non-mo­tor­bike’, re­ally. You are buy­ing an ex­haust note.


19 Vespa 125 PX (new, 1993)

Af­ter the demise of the Honda, I bought this as a ‘get you to work’ ma­chine. It didn’t last long. I hated its hor­ri­bly quick steer­ing, and planned to sell it to my work col­league Lisa, who rather fan­cied her­self in a black leather jacket on a cool black Vespa. So I took her to a Chelsea mul­ti­storey car park to learn how to ride it. On the first at­tempt, she yanked the throt­tle wide open and, do­ing an im­pres­sive wheelie, slammed into a wall. Hor­ri­ble noises, prone col­league... I asked her: “Pub for a drink, then the doc­tors – or the other way round?” She chose the ‘drink first’ op­tion. On the way to the pub, bleed­ing col­league on the back, I no­ticed the scooter didn’t turn right. Turned out the

Vespa’s frame was bent to the left and was a write-off. The £800 stayed in my col­league’s pocket. I was un­der­in­sured. Her blood­ied knees re­cov­ered be­fore my bank bal­ance did.

20 BMW K75 750cc triple (new, 1993)

Ev­ery­thing the Har­ley wasn’t – a well­made, re­li­able hack, but not a lot of joy. A bit an­o­dyne re­ally, and I can’t re­mem­ber it much. A good ex­am­ple of a bike that ticks ev­ery box but doesn’t make you fall in love with it.

21 Tri­umph Tri­dent 900 (new, 1993)

I part-ex­changed the BMW for this Hinck­ley Tri­umph. My step-daugh­ter (aged 12 in the photo, below left, now 33) loved it. Af­ter the Du­cati, this was my sec­ond-best bike of all time. Fab­u­lous power with 100bhp – it would pull a wheelie by just twist­ing the throt­tle. And com­pletely re­li­able – a rev­e­la­tion for a British bike. I can only fault its topheav­i­ness at park­ing speeds. It once fell on me when park­ing, and I was like a crushed bee­tle un­der­neath it, arms and legs pa­thet­i­cally wav­ing, till a bunch of tourist French school­girls pulled it off me. I kept this bike for 12 years, which says a lot.

Late Ca­reer: early 2000s

22 Peu­geot 100cc scooter 23 Vespa GT 200cc scooter Af­ter I sold the Tri­umph, I bought two brand new bor­ing scoot­ers – one af­ter the other – in 2003 just to get around Lon­don. For proper bik­ing I re­lied on the old Du­cati. Not a great suc­cess; be­cause you sit vir­tu­ally over the rear wheel on scoot­ers and they have crappy sus­pen­sion, the Lon­don pot­holes re­ally did my back in. The four-stroke Vespa was sur­pris­ingly pow­er­ful and quite a user-friendly thing. A use­ful shop­ping bag hook by your knees. But my aching back put a stop to that.

24 Mon­tesa Cota 350 (circa 1978)

Bought as a lo­cal ride for my hol­i­day flat in Ibiza old town. Cheap as chips, as all the lo­cal kids wanted Ja­pa­nese dirt bikes and the deal­ers were giv­ing away the old part-ex’d Bul­ta­cos and Mon­te­sas. Ac­tu­ally, gut­less, no brakes and un­re­li­able. So not a great road bike. I re­mem­ber be­ing pur­sued by a pack of howl­ing dogs rid­ing down a hill in ru­ral Ibiza, on one of the few times I ac­tu­ally took it off-road, think­ing: ‘For god’s sake don’t fall off!” Not want­ing to die so in­glo­ri­ously – by ei­ther dogs or other means – I gave it to my Span­ish neigh­bour. He was as­ton­ished and de­lighted.

My dotage: mid-2000s on

25 Aprilia Pe­gaso 650 (new, 2007) My last new bike, given to my­self for my 60th birth­day in 2007. This is the Fac­tory model, cov­ered in car­bon-fi­bre. Good looks, re­li­able (apart from the fuel pump), pow­er­ful enough, great sus­pen­sion and brakes. An ideal ride for the twisty lanes round my farm­house in the hills of north Ibiza – and ideal for the one-kilo­me­tre dirt road to the prop­erty. When I col­lected the bike, the Ibiza town dealer started to ex­plain it to me; I said, in my ter­ri­ble Span­ish, that hav­ing owned over 20 bikes I didn’t re­ally need the ex­pla­na­tion. He asked my age and I said 60. He mur­mured: “Je­sus Chris­tus...” So I just had to do a wheelie away from the fore­court. My glee didn’t last long – he’d only put in a teacup full of petrol in a £6k sale! So, aged 70, I now ride the vin­tage Du­cati in Lon­don and the Aprilia in Ibiza. I have ended up with two high-main­te­nance age­ing Ital­ian beau­ties. More pol­ish­ing than rid­ing now, but quite a bik­ing life to re­flect on.

Cal Ray­born heads Peter Wil­liams in the Transat­lantic Tro­phy, 1972

ABOVE: Gavin Trippe in the days of the Transat­lantic Tro­phy

[9] Du­cati Elite: a gem, sold for £60, they now go for £12,000

[12] BMW R50 guar­an­teed con­ver­sa­tions with pipe-smok­ing own­ers, but vir­tu­ally a thrill-free zone

[11] BSA Golden Flash took Paul abroad on Euro­pean ad­ven­tures

[3] A10 com­bi­na­tion: ‘ugly, un­main­tained, but hideously ef­fec­tive’

[16] Just the gear for rid­ing a 750GT Du­cati...

[15] Crude Har­ley WLA proved a night­mare to ride in Lon­don – or even to just get started

[13] Com­mando 750 looked cool in Chrome Yel­low, but a black mark for re­li­a­bil­ity

[24] Paul works up a sweat try­ing to start his Mon­tesa

[21] Paul’s beloved Tri­umph Tri­dent and step-daugh­ter

[20] BMW K75 was ef­fi­cient but to­tally for­get­table

[19] Vespa PX: un­for­tu­nate in­ci­dent with a brick wall

[18] Har­ley Sport­ster: ‘a non-mo­tor­bike’ says Paul

[17] Honda VFR750 proved too dull to keep for very long

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