It’s Thursday night, October 20th, 1977. Solo Moto is working on the magazine, it’s 22:35pm, and the autumn air is still warm. The office is full of atmosphere, many are working, and the strong smell of smoke is in the air. The international trials season
In 1977 Juan Garcia Luque suggested to Jaime Alguersuari, both founders of the magazine in 1975, his idea for the creation of the Rider of the Year Solo Moto prizes, following the initiative of other European magazines that were already doing it. Jaime likes the idea, and at the end of 1976, the awards are presented, in a location provided for the occasion by Coca-Cola.
The enclosure is small, and as a result, Alguersuari begins to think of a new location, more suitable and larger. In a moment he thinks why not do it in the Palace of Sports of Barcelona, normally used for Basketball? But he also automatically thinks he will need something to fill the Palace to the limit. The mind of Alguersuari lights up, and they decide that they can organise an indoor trial as a complement to the Solo Moto Rider of the Year Awards. It will showcase the ‘dynamic balance’ of trials.
Timeline: Friday, October 21, 1977. Juan Garcia-Luque arrives in the newsroom and is a bit absorbed in his world. He asks some questions about the indoor, quite puzzled: “Which riders do you invite, who will handle the permits, who will build the hazards, what dates…”. The months of November and December will see frenzied activity, and little by little they are clearing any doubts. The date is finally chosen as Thursday, January 24, 1978, in the evening, starting at 8pm.
The indoor Solo Moto trials will become the test of the more prestigious riders but what many do not know is that the indoor Solo Moto was not the first to exist. Leaving aside some exhibitions by the master, Sammy Miller, such as when he rode over an old Studebaker car in Charlottesville, North Carolina, USA with his Honda TL 250, there were a couple of events that were previously contested indoors unlike the American exhibition. Based in Holland Mick Andrews, in association with Yamaha Europe, organised a local event. The riding standard was modest and had it not been for the presence of Andrews it would have gone unnoticed.
Moving a little further north to Helsinki, during the summer of 1977 Esboo Motor Club organised an indoor trial and invited a few well-known riders including World Champion Yrjo Vesterinen. Other riders were expected to participate, but injuries and other commitments kept them away from the Finnish capital. The result was 1: Vesterinen 27; 2: Soler 29; 3: Ryssy 30; 4: Erakare 36; 5: Lampkin 40.
There was an open-air ‘indoor’ event in Spain at Mollet del Valles a mere 30km from Barcelona with typical artificial obstacles of the time: logs, tyres, cars, drums, with a victory for Jaime Subira ahead of an unknown junior rider by the name of Toni Gorgot. Working in Solo Moto, Juan Garcia-Luque made the statement: “In general I think that most riders should be financially rewarded as the indoor trials could be very profitable”.
Solo Moto Indoor
The site is confirmed to be the Palace of Sports of Barcelona. Jaime Alguersuari made excellent efforts with the city council, and they have given him the support to create the indoor very much with an open mind.
For the first event, it’s worth noting that the riders never received any start or prize money, some help was given to foreign riders with expenses. Juan starts to contact the Spanish riders through the manufacturers, who see an excellent opportunity to promote their motorcycles. For this first event, he does not think about inviting any foreign riders, preferring to keep it as a national event with the best riders invited. However, the current World Champion Yrjo Vesterinen is among the participants. The reason? Bultaco wanted their Spanish ‘Star’ Manuel Soler, but he was carrying out his military service; so Bultaco played their ‘Ace’ card and invited Vesterinen. In the end, a total of 17 riders would participate in this first event.
The creation of the trial is a triangle: Pilots, motorcycles and hazards. The first two are easy, and the third is given to Juan Garcia-Luque with a theme that the hazards should be as natural as possible. He is an outspoken defender of the traditional British trial and, in spite of it going against his principles, decides to try it. He will be assisted for many years by Pedro Pi and Juan Bordas. Pedro Pi does not need any introduction: the first Spanish trials champion, a Montesa test rider and father figure of the ‘Cota’. Juan Bordas is also a Montesa test rider and has a gardening company, which is ideal for the supply of components for the construction of the hazards. The Moto Club Mollet will be in charge of the organisation, headed by Josep Isern.
The event is promoted at all levels, thinking that it would need good publicity to fill the 8,000 seats of the venue. To attend the event the spectator does not need to pay, simply show the weekly issue of Solo Moto.
On January 24 the Palace will fill up to the limit. In fact much more, with people occupying all the corridors and any corner they can find. The response of the public is much higher than expected, testing the stadium facilities to the limit.
The trial is a total success with a fierce fight for victory. The big favourite is Vesterinen who leads Subira by only two marks in the first round, 12–14 but ‘Subi’ turns it around in the second round 7–10 by not parting with a five mark penalty. The third rider on the podium is Ossa rider Quico Paya. For Subira it is a very important victory, which he acknowledged a few years ago: “I have got something that nobody can take away, the rider who won the first Indoor Solo Moto. The hazards at that indoor were not like the ones of today. The elements that made them — sleepers, logs, tyres, etc. were not fixed properly, and during the event, they came loose, until Joan Bordas and his ‘Bobcat’ secured them, much to the appreciation of the crowd”.
The brains of the organisers, Alguersuari and Garcia-Luque, are set in motion the day after the trial to prepare for the second event in 1979, which will obviously introduce some changes. The first change is that the trial will be run on Sunday in order to be able to reconcile the broadcast by Spanish Television. The entrance remains free even though the budget of the event already amounts to 600,000 pesetas at the time. They also wanted more international riders, and here the hand of Juan Garcia-Luque is played. He shares many weekends with the elite riders of trials and agrees to bring Bernie Schreiber, Yrjo Vesterinen, Felix Kranstover and the American Marland Whaley to the event. This will establish what will traditionally become a ‘Spain versus the Rest of the World’.
One of the novelties of the ‘79 trial is the installation of an immense pool of more than 50,000 litres of water in the Palace to contain the wet hazards. Continuous innovation in the layout of the hazards also convinces the council that no damage will be done to the stadium. American ace Bernie Schreiber dominates the 1979 event despite the strong challenge by an inspired Manuel Soler. But the remarkable thing is not the victory but the way in which he did it. Solo Moto commented in the magazine: “Bernie Schreiber is a revolution and challenges the traditions of the classic trial as he makes turns in the air with ease, drives the motorcycle on the rear wheel and jumps everything. Those present there sees that this ‘hurricane’ will change the sport forever”.
The winner is 1: Schreiber 30; 2: Soler 38; 3: Krahnstover 44. For the first time an Italian machine, an SWM, appears in the hands of Kiku Paya. Coinciding with the Indoor and the Solo Moto Rider of the Year a lottery of motorcycles and equipment was held. That year a boy from Santa Cecilia de Voltrega was grateful for a motorcycle he won. His name: Lluis Gallach. Four years later he will be on the podium with his Montesa.
The Italians Arrive
With two events already behind it, the indoor Solo Moto event has established itself as an indispensable event, and the organisers work to make it even more enjoyable in 1980. In this event, the participation is a luxury, not only for the level of riders but also at the level of brands. The monopoly of the Spanish manufacturers has nearly ended and two new models debuted at the Palace with Jaime Subira and the Fanatic 200 and Charles Courtyard with the SWM. The level of foreign riders is higher, with American Marland Whaley (Montesa) and Frenchman Fred Michaud, who makes his debut next to Toni Gorgot on the yellow Ossa. Schreiber and the Spanish revolution Gorgot have a great fight for victory as the Spanish rider takes an early lead. Schreiber applies more pressure with some superb ‘trick’ riding, and despite holding the lead into the final Gorgot parts with two five-mark penalties to be denied victory, as Subira puts the Fantic on the podium in third place. The situation at Bultaco was very critical at that time, with continuous strikes and partial closings of the factory as Manuel Soler and Bernie Schreiber remained the only official works riders. Their Bultacos were prepared in the well-known Taule motorcycle shop on Diagonal Avenue in Barcelona, thanks to the facilities offered by its charismatic owner Pere Taule.
In 1981 they decided to hold the event before the Spanish World round to encourage more riders to compete. This encourages the young, talented Eddy Lejeune from Belgium on the four-stroke Honda. This would be Schreiber’s first event with the new Italjet and also the debut of Manuel Soler with a Montesa. The first disappointment for the public is when Schreiber’s chain breaks, damaging the Italjet in the ninth hazard, and he cannot continue. In a battle between Gorgot and Lejeune the Belgian takes the victory by three tenths with Italian Danilo Galeazzi (SWM) completing the podium. A boy named Andreu Codina debuted in the Palace performing a spectacular demonstration in the interval with a bicycle, the newly created Montesita de Trialsin.
Four years later the Palace would witness him win on a Montesa Cota 330. All is not well with the event behind the scenes though. World Champion Ulf Karlson would not ride as he was adverse to indoor competitions, and the second Italjet of Ettore Baldini breaks in training so he cannot ride. The last resort is Xavier Miquel, the second Fantic rider, who is in the Palace as a spectator. He is invited to ride; he goes in the car to his residence outside of Barcelona, gets his machine and riding kit. He arrives at the Palace with the competition already started but still competes, much to the appreciation of the crowd.
Three World Champions
In 1982 Ignacio Bulto — creator of the Merlin — decides to present the new model coinciding with the ‘Indoor Solo Moto’ and its rider Joan Freixas will also compete. In addition to the new Merlin, there is also the participation of the new Beta trials machine for the first time, in the hands of newly signed Pere Olle. The trial is a battle between three world champions: Gilles Burgat, Eddy Lejeune and Bernie Schreiber. In the first round Lejeune leads Burgat by a single mark, and in the second Burgat makes a splendid tour parting with just four marks. The public already thinks Burgat has won when Lejeune does the impossible and parts with only three marks to take the win with Schreiber third.
In 1983 the new Spanish brand Derbi, following the example of Merlin in the previous event, decides to present and debut its motorcycle in the Indoor with Marcelino Corchs its rider. If this is the positive note, the sad note is associated with Bultaco. For the first time, there is no Sherpa model in the Indoor. The trial is an intense battle between Eddy Lejeune and Bernie Schreiber, with Lluis Gallach very happy in third. At the end Lejeune leads by 19 to 21, but everything is played out in the last hazard consisting of the passage between containers, as in the previous year. Schreiber goes clean, and Lejeune has two marks in hand, but then he also jumps the two containers, to the subsequent ovation from the crowd. Some riders and manufacturers, seeing the increased risk in this type of event, decide not to participate and to reserve the riders for the World Championship. This was the case of Gorgot (Montesa) and Burgat (Fantic), but Lejeune reappears after four weeks of inactivity due to injury and Galeazzi has the cast removed from his fractured leg two days before the Indoor.
The success of the trial begins to become evident, and more manufacturers appeared in 1984; both Mecatecno with Salvador Garcia and the revolutionary JJ-Cobas machine with Toni Gorgot and Gabino Renales as riders. All the leading riders are in Barcelona led by Lejeune, Schreiber, Burgat and Thierry Michaud. For the first time, a third round is introduced for the three finalists, who will ride each hazard together giving, even more, excitement to the final. The winner is again Eddy Lejeune although during the first two laps he had Gallach and Schreiber glued to his heels. On the third lap, he literally blew them away with the final scores at 1: Lejeune 5; 2: Gallach 22; 3: Schreiber 28.
The job of observing is becoming more difficult despite the good work of the organisers of the outdoor world championship at Sant Llorenc. The pressure begins as you are observing in front of 10,000 spectators. Even a small error makes the crowd erupt into shouting and whistling.
Spain is looking for a new hero, and that comes along in 1985 with the headline of the front cover of Solo Moto which reads: ‘Codina Maravillas’. This event is marked by the great victory of Andreu Codina riding a Montesa Cota 330. After several years of foreign triumphs, Andreu wins from two French riders, Pascal Couturier (Beta) and Gilles Burgat (Yamaha). This event also marks the debut of two young futures stars of trials Jordi Tarres (Beta) from Spain and Italian Diego Bosis (Montesa).
The Italian offensive on the trials market continues with Aprilia and French rider Philippe Berlatier and the debut of Garelli with Bernie Schreiber. Valenti recalls 1985: “The day before the indoor, Andreu Codina was making the last adjustments to his Cota 330. I knew him from school, and he encouraged me to try the new Montesa. I said no but Andreu insisted, and in the end, I accepted. It really was a toy compared to my Montesa Cota 200. Encouraged by Andreu I tried more difficult hazards until eventually I failed and crashed his pride and joy with the result being broken handlebars, levers, mudguards, and the fuel tank took a heavy blow, Andreu went very quiet. ‘Do not worry’ he said ‘tomorrow morning I will go to the factory and repair it’ and he kept laughing about the crash”. The next day Andreu gets the most important victory of his life. Perhaps the Cota 330 had decided not to betray its rider like the previous day and thus avoid greater damages. “When we meet up we still laugh at this incident,” says Valenti.
Wednesday, January 15, 1986. 8:05pm and Juan Garcia-Luque is thoughtful in his office, working on the next edition of the indoor Solo Moto with some worry in his mind. The Indoor is less than a month away, and the arrival of the mono-shock trials machines has pushed the level of riding up to a very high standard. He is quite aware that the event must deliver to the crowd. 1986 will represent the first victory of a motorcycle equipped with a single rear shock absorber, the Beta TR 32 ridden by a young Jordi Tarres. Welcome to a new era of motorcycle trials…
1984: Bernie Schreiber (SWM-USA) – The job of observing was becoming more difficult, despite the good work of the organisers of the outdoor world championship at Sant Llorenc. The pressure begins as you are observing in front of 10,000 spectators....
Toni Gorgot (Ossa-ESP) – The home crowd was looking for a Spanish winner on a Spanish machine and Gorgot took a fighting second position. 1980: Eddy Lejeune (Honda-BEL) – After finishing as runner-up in 1981 Belgium’s Eddy Lejeune gave the four-stroke...
1979: Joaquin Abad (Ossa-ESP) – Ossa along with the other Spanish manufacturers looked on the event as an ideal shop window for their machines. 1980: The Solo Moto magazine front cover with Manuel Soler in action on the Bultaco. 1979: Miquel Cirera...
1978: 1978: A very young Toni Gorgot (Bultaco-ESP) Team Pere Pi and Joan Borda’s on the ‘Bobcat’. 1979: Jaime Alguersuari addresses the packed stadium. 1979: Bernie Schreiber (Bultaco-USA) – The new style of ‘back wheel’ riding came with the American...
Jaime Subira (Montesa-ESP) – “I have got something that nobody can take away: the rider who won the first Indoor Solo Moto”. 1978: 1978: Yrjo Vesterinen (Bultaco-FIN) – The hot favourite to win, and world trials champion was pushed into second.
1985: Lluis Gallach (Merlin-ESP) – This picture shows just how steep the hazards were becoming. 1985: Gilles Burgat (YamahaFRA) – Yamaha had changed the face of trials motorcycles forever with the introduction of the Mono-Shock model in 1983. 1985:...