Mac­don­ald TRI­UMPHS

Classic Trial - - TRADITIONAL - Re­port: Mike 'The Bike' Rap­ley • Pictures: Eric Kitchen, Yoomee, John Hird and Matt Betts

Sort­ing out a three-way tie to find the result of a trial when all three rid­ers have failed to lose any marks is al­ways go­ing to cause some level of con­tro­versy de­pend­ing upon your per­sonal view. Many clubs have no for­mal reg­u­la­tion to re­solve such a sit­u­a­tion, so when such a tie oc­curred in the Ed­in­burgh Club's Pre-65 Scot­tish Two-Day Trial be­tween pre­vi­ous win­ner Dan Clarke, Dan Thorpe and last year's vic­tor Gary Mac­don­ald, there was inevitably some dis­pute as to who would be de­clared the win­ner. Should it be the old­est rider, in this case, Clarke, as is the nor­mal way in many clas­sic trial or­gan­i­sa­tions? Should it be the rider of the largest ca­pac­ity ma­chine, as in this case Mac­don­ald? Or should it be de­clared a tie? How­ever, the Pre-65 Scot­tish or­gan­is­ers had catered for such an even­tu­al­ity, and the win was given to Gary Mac­don­ald as he was on the largest ca­pac­ity ma­chine, a 350 Tri­umph. And so, for the sec­ond suc­ces­sive year, the trial was for­mally won by the res­i­dent of the host town, Kin­lochleven, which nes­tles in the heart of Scot­tish tri­als ter­ri­tory.

With the sport of tri­als be­ing pop­u­lated en­tirely by ami­able, good-na­tured guys, all three rid­ers took the de­ci­sion in good heart; Mac­don­ald be­cause he is a lo­cal and it's ob­vi­ously good for the vil­lage. Thorpe, of course, would have loved to have been de­clared the win­ner to match his fa­ther Dave's pre­vi­ous suc­cess and, there­fore, be the first fa­ther and son win­ners. Clarke equally so be­cause he no longer rides fre­quently, and it proves that he re­tains so much of the tal­ent he demon­strated when rid­ing the ma­jor World and Bri­tish Cham­pi­onship events. Of course, the many hun­dreds of spec­ta­tors at the event will each have had a per­sonal opin­ion but when all is said and done, who would want to make such a de­ci­sion know­ing full well that what­ever was de­cided would not sat­isfy ev­ery­body?

Ev­ery­one wants to ride

Once again the trial en­try was mas­sively over-sub­scribed with a 25 strong wait­ing list. Come the start of the event on the Fri­day morn­ing, all 25 re­serves had been al­lo­cated a ride — the full-house en­try of 200 set off faced with two very full days of rid­ing, of 30 sec­tions with each day in two sep­a­rate loops; odd num­bers go­ing one way and even num­bers the other. Un­for­tu­nately, the pro­gramme didn't match the di­rec­tion the com­pet­ing rid­ers ac­tu­ally took, as we found out! The plethora of beau­ti­fully pre­pared ma­chines all burst into life at 9.30am, for now, tra­di­tional pa­rade around the vil­lage be­fore the first two men set off at 10.00am, Cnoc a Linnhe be­ing the first haz­ard for the odd num­bers and Loch Eilde Burn the first group for the even num­bers. Un­for­tu­nately, it was not long be­fore the first of what proved to be a very long list of re­tire­ments - 40 in to­tal - were back at the old alu­minium works car park, some me­chan­i­cal and some through fa­tigue. Both Cum­brian's Ed­ward Dob­son and An­drew Bin­g­ley on beau­ti­ful newly man­u­fac­tured 500 Ariels were out of the trial; Bin­g­ley with an in­ef­fec­tive clutch af­ter just two sec­tions and Dob­son with a health prob­lem that ne­ces­si­tated a visit to the hos­pi­tal. Bin­g­ley was able to re­pair his clutch, but his trav­el­ling com­pan­ion was ob­vi­ously not well, so he did the right thing and took his fel­low en­gi­neer to Fort Wil­liam for tests. The au­thor of this re­port faired a lit­tle bet­ter with a to­tally dead, spark­free, Tri­umph Tiger Cub af­ter just four sec­tions and although the Dray­ton framed ma­chine did even­tu­ally fire back into life some three and a half hours later with an en­tirely new ig­ni­tion thanks to Span­ish ge­nius Al­bert Ber­gada it was in all re­al­ity all too late. Out on the hill, the rid­ers were find­ing the first day's ac­tion was prov­ing par­tic­u­larly tough. Ex­pe­ri­enced Pre65 rid­ers in the trial reck­oned that the sec­tions had been tough­ened up con­sid­er­ably and the big loop round Black­wa­ter was in par­tic­u­larly vi­cious mood due to the in­cred­i­bly wet win­ter the area had ex­pe­ri­enced, and even the short stretches of moor on the eas­ier loch-side loop were dif­fi­cult, with deep ruts from pre­vi­ous events prov­ing quite test­ing.

The open­ing day of this fa­mous trial, now well into its fourth decade, is al­ways more dif­fi­cult than the sec­ond day and this year was no dif­fer­ent. For many rea­sons, re­tire­ments kept re­turn­ing to Kin­lochleven with var­i­ous tales of woe, whilst those hav­ing trou­ble free rides were of­ten find­ing the time sched­ule dif­fi­cult to meet, such as the tough go­ing across Black­wa­ter.

What's the story?

The first day's results de­clared only Dan Clarke as go­ing clean and Dan Thorpe as re­tired with Mac­don­ald on five marks lost but there were some dis­crep­an­cies in the results, for it was ac­tu­ally Dan's fa­ther Dave who had re­tired af­ter an ex­cur­sion to­gether with his ma­chine over the edge of Pipe­line, for­tu­nately with­out in­jury, whilst Mac­don­ald's five was wrongly tran­scribed. Pre­vi­ous win­ners Rob Bowyer and James Har­land, both rid­ing Tri­umphs, were on three and five marks re­spec­tively whilst Darren Wasley although ten down on time had only lost one mark in the sec­tions. Come the con­clu­sion of the first day there had been 27 re­tire­ments, with prob­a­bly the most sur­pris­ing be­ing Paul Ben­nett, who had fin­ished the day with a painful leg only to find af­ter vis­it­ing the hos­pi­tal that he had ac­tu­ally bro­ken his fibula, and was in a cast with in­struc­tions to visit his lo­cal hos­pi­tal where it would need plat­ing!

The day had been fairly in­clement with per­sis­tent driz­zle and low cloud on the hills mak­ing ev­ery­thing a lit­tle un­pleas­ant, though nowhere nearly as bad as can of­ten be ex­pe­ri­enced in the High­lands.

A bet­ter day

Satur­day was al­to­gether a much bet­ter day with mild, bright and dry con­di­tions and a much eas­ier route and, in­deed, sec­tions, with the result that Fri­day's higher than ex­pected scores were gen­er­ally much lower on Satur­day through the same num­ber of 30 sec­tions. With the overnight scores cor­rected and up­dated Thorpe, Mac­don­ald and Clarke were ob­vi­ously tied on clean sheets, so it was very much a case of who could keep their nerve. With all of them be­ing the ex­pe­ri­enced SSDT, na­tional and Bri­tish Cham­pi­onship con­tenders that they are, all three kept their feet firmly on the footrests with the result be­ing the tie that was even­tu­ally re­solved in Mac­don­ald's favour for his sec­ond win in this most pres­ti­gious of Pre-65 clas­sic tri­als. The rest of the en­try un­doubt­edly had less pres­sure upon them, and it was ob­vi­ous that ev­ery­body was thor­oughly en­joy­ing day two where many had found day one a sig­nif­i­cant test greater than they would have pre­vi­ously ex­pe­ri­enced in this event. With 200 starters, pick­ing out­stand­ing rides is not only dif­fi­cult but ar­guably un­fair to all the oth­ers who man­fully com­pleted what had ob­vi­ously been a test­ing two days, but the per­for­mance by Donna Fox mer­its men­tion for she fin­ished 20th over­all on 16 marks lost hav­ing been a mag­nif­i­cent 11th on day one; un­doubt­edly the best per­for­mance by a woman in this event's his­tory and a ride she should be very happy with.

Past, fu­ture and present

Those who are afi­ciona­dos of the Pre-65 Scot­tish inevitably had many and var­ied opin­ions about the trial, its past, its fu­ture and in­deed its present, but what­ever those views may have been there's no doubt it re­mains as popular as ever, though ar­guably whether it will at­tract as many en­trants next time re­mains to be seen as there's no doubt that this year's event, par­tic­u­larly on the first day, was un­ex­pect­edly dif­fi­cult and test­ing for many rid­ers, es­pe­cially of the older gen­er­a­tion at which it was aimed when first mooted back in the early eight­ies.

Mark Sunter (Ariel): An­other rider who en­joys Scot­land, he also rode in the six days on the slightly eas­ier to ride Gas Gas.

Darren Wasley: Mak­ing his de­but in the event, ‘Waz’ was rid­ing a ma­chine on loan from David Dench, of Kia car fame.

An­drew Pax­ton (BSA): It’s a brave man in the wet with no gloves as he goes for the clean!

Mark Har­ris (Ariel): A reg­u­lar win­ner of the Best For­eign Rider Award, Mark is based in South­ern Ire­land.

Neil Daw­son (Sprite): It’s one fin­ger on the clutch of the Frank Hip­kin man­u­fac­tured Sprite.

Stuart Blythe (Tri­umph): What is it with tri­als rid­ers and pulling tongues out, I ask?

Stephen Mur­phy (BSA): Rid­ing around with fel­low Irish rider David Cough­lan, Stephen won the award for the Best up to 200cc class award on his BSA.

Ian Pe­berdy (Tri­umph): The Tri­umph Twin housed in many dif­fer­ent frames re­mains a firm favourite for this clas­sic tri­als event. We won­der just how long it will be be­fore the ‘New’ Tri­umph man­u­fac­tur­ers ven­ture into the tri­als world once again.

Martyn Stanistreet (James): Win­ning the award for the Best Rider on a rigid up to 250 ma­chine.

Mick Grant (BSA): John Hulme: “It’s quite ironic that in later years I only re­ally started to ap­pre­ci­ate just how good a road racer Mick Grant was. It’s al­ways a plea­sure to spend time with him”. Mick once again won the award for the old­est fin­isher.

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