1964 – 1975
With the sport of motorcycle trials originating around the turn of the 20th century, Great Britain as a country can quite proudly claim to be the home of the sport, but what about the world trials championship? It has been on my mind for quite a while now to delve into the start of the Trial World Championship as we know it today, but where did it all begin? After my recent trip to the Belgian world round at Complain Au Pont, I spoke with my good friend Charly Demathieu who is the premier custodian of all motorcycle trials statistics. It was the Belgian motorcycle enthusiast by the name of Henry Groutars who was behind the recognition of the sport of trials as we know it today in the world championship.
With the war years having a suppressive effect on the world of motorcycle sport it started to come back to life in the fifties, giving the working class a motorsport in which they could compete that was relatively inexpensive. Army surplus and road-going machines could be quickly, and cheaply, adapted into trials models and, as the saying goes, the rest is history. Looking at developing new markets the proud manufacturing industry of motorcycles in Great Britain looked further afield to open and expand new markets, and Europe in particular to increase sales.
Across the channel
Travel as we know it today was not as easy in the sixties as it all relied on cross-channel ferries into Europe. Many motocross, road race and speedway riders made regular trips to Europe, and soon the trials riders would follow. Start and prize money could be earned, and soon the public wanted to see the great trials rider they had all heard about, Sammy Miller, in action on his equally famous Ariel HT5. Miller was one of the pioneer trials riders to explore Europe, and soon others would follow. Great events had emerged such as the Belgian ‘Lamborelle Trial’ and in France the ‘Saint Cucufa’ and ‘Clamart’ events. Thousands of spectators, sometimes as many as 20,000, would turn out to watch the European trials competitions, such was the excitement.
Henry Groutars was a Belgian trials rider and quite a character by all accounts. Tales would come to life from his fellow friends and competitors of his exploits during the Second World War as he organised motorcycle trials. With the German occupation forces busy trying to win the war to no avail, he would find any motorcycle he could; as long as it had two wheels and would run, you had a trial on! He would speak with his friends and arrange to ‘borrow’ from the German military a BMW or Zundapp machine, and in turn, 10 to 15 of them would plot out a small course and take it in turns to negotiate it as fast as possible, one rider at a time! With so much enthusiasm for the sport Henry was elected as the FIM Vice-President, a position he would hold for many years.
On the 4th April 1961, Henry Groutars passed away, but he had planted the seed in the minds of the governing body, the FIM, that to progress the sport motorcycle trials needed a European Championship. It would bring riders from all over Europe to meet and compete against one another. For the manufacturers, it was an ideal export opportunity to give their products exposure and be able to prove them in the competitive world of motorcycle trials.
The first event
To encourage representation of a country, the FIM insisted that it should be run as a threeman team competition. They argued that it would encourage riders to travel together to keep the costs of travelling low. Manufacturers could enter a team of riders all mounted on the same make of machine.
The rule for marking the riders was the next problem. In many of the European competitions, the marking system was the opposite of what it is today. You would be awarded five marks for a clean so that the rider with the highest number of points would be the winner, not the one losing the least.
The RAC Namur Club in Belgium was to host the first round of the new European championship. It would be the seventh running of the ‘Trial DeLa Fotress’ competition which would formally open the fledgeling series. At its yearly meeting to formalise rules and regulations for motorsport, the FIM remained focussed on the ‘Team’ emphasis despite strong opposition from others, including the ACU, to make it an individual championship. The argument from the opposition was that they already had the International Six Days Trial which was a team event.
With the event ready to roll, all the sections marked out and the route marking in place, the RAC Namur Club members were having a beer in their clubhouse when they received a telegram message direct from the FIM. A large cheer went up as, at the very last minute, they’d had a change of mind; it would run as an individual rider competition and not as a team event.
The new European Championship would be contested over five rounds and, in recognition of his great efforts to get the series off the ground, the winner would take a new trophy, the ‘Challenge Henry Groutars’ Trophy.
A unification of trials
It was a cold, damp Sunday in Belgium on the 16th February 1964 when the start flag was dropped to send the first rider of the new championship in the Trial De La Fotress on his way. The Clerk of the Course, Alex Colin, had used all his experience as a winner of a Gold medal at the ISDT to plot out a good day’s sport for all to enjoy. The course would consist of a 66-mile course taking in 42 hazards!
Don Smith had persuaded Greeves to send him and Mary Driver, the only female competitor in the event, to compete, and maybe Smith did not take the opposition as seriously as he should have done, as was reported in the press at the time. Smith had first started to compete in European trials in the early 1960s and loved the ‘party’ atmosphere that surrounded them and used it as a good promotional opportunity for his employer, Greeves motorcycles. The result indeed threw up some surprises as he was pushed down to third position behind German Gustav Franke (250cc Zundapp) and a future world motocross champion Belgian Roger De Coster (125cc Gilera). Mary Driver had done herself proud by finishing in a very respectable 21st position from an entry of 70 riders with 20 retirements.
Results from the Trial DeLa Fotress Belgium
RESULTS: 1: Gustav Franke (250cc Zundapp-DEU) 14; 2: Roger De Coster (125cc Gilera-BEL) 16; 3: Don Smith (Greeves-GBR) 18; 4: Roger Vanderbecken (Triumph-BEL) 21; 5: Andreas Brandl (Zundapp-DEU) 29; 6: Jacky Ickx (Zundapp-BEL) 35.
The Challenge Henry Groutars Trophy
In the modern era where the trials series is now titled the Trial World Championship, the accolade of the first winner of this Championship title in 1964 was Don Smith on the Greeves. Winning two rounds in France and Germany, he outpointed Gustav Franke for the championship win.
German rider Franke took the title in 1965 as Smith dropped to eighth with his fellow Greeves team rider Bill Wilkinson the highest placed British rider in fifth position. Franke won again in 1966 before Smith turned the tables on his German rival in 1967 winning the Swiss and Belgian round, taking the last Challenge Henry Groutars Trophy.
1965: Challenge Henry Groutars Trophy
RESULTS: 1: Gustav Franke Zundapp-DEU) 50; 2: Andreas Brandl (Zundapp-DEU) 35; 3: Gunter Sengfelder (Zundapp-DEU) 32; 4: Jacky Ickx (ZundappBEL) 27; 5: Bill Wilkinson (Greeves-GBR) 23; 6: Ginger Siegfried (Zundapp-BEL) 22; 7: Alfred Lehner (Zundapp-DEU) 20; 8: Don Smith (Greeves-GBR) 19; 9: Claude Vanstenagen (Greeves-BEL) 18; 10: Donald
Hitchcock (Greeves-GBR) 17; 11: Roger Vanderbecken (Triumph-BEL) 17; 12: Jim Sandiford (Greeves-GBR) 14; 13: Ken Sedgley (DOT-GBR) 13; 14: Murray Brush (Greeves-GBR) 12; 15: John Roberts (Greeves-GBR) 12.
1966: Challenge Henry Groutars Trophy
RESULTS: 1: Gustav Franke Zundapp-DEU) 55; 2: Don Smith (Greeves-GBR) 47; 3: Sammy Miller (BultacoGBR) 45; 4: Jim Sandiford (Greeves-GBR) 27; 5: Victor Gigot (Greeves-BEL) 25; 6: Hans Cramer (Maico-DEU) 22; 7: Fritz Kopetski (Zundapp-DEU) 20; 8: Gordon Blakeway (Bultaco-GBR) 20; 9: Andreas Brandl (Zundapp-DEU) 19; 10: Tony Davis (Greeves-GBR)18; 11: Norman Eyre (Bultaco-GBR) 18; 12: Dave Thorpe (Triumph-GBR) 16; 13: Roland Bjork (Bultaco-SWE) 15; 14: Roy Peplow (Triumph-GBR) 14; 15: Claude Vanstenagen (Greeves-BEL) 14.
1967: Challenge Henry Groutars Trophy
RESULTS: 1: Don Smith (Greeves-GBR) 92; 2: Gustav Franke (Zundapp-DEU) 82; 3: Andreas Brandl (Zundapp-DEU) 70; 4: Gunter Sengfelder (Zundapp-DEU) 67; 5: Christian Rayer (Greeves/Montesa-FRA) 67; 6: H-Rudolph Wyss (Bultaco-CZR) 46; 7: Andre Simens (Bultaco-BEL) 44; 8: Gordon Farley (Triumph-GBR) 25; 9: Ginger Siegfried (Zundapp-BEL) 22; 10: Alain Chaligne (Greeves-FRA) 21; 11: Claude Vanstenagen (Greeves-BEL) 18; 12: Bob De Graaf (Bultaco-NED) 18; 13: Jean Crosset (Bultaco-BEL) 18; 14: Alain Martens (Zundapp-DEU) 16; 15: J-Pierre Barraud (Bultaco-FRA) 16.
The European Championship
With Bultaco, Montesa and Ossa now arriving on the trials scene to challenge such great manufacturers as Ariel, BSA, Greeves and Triumph to name but a few, the decision was made to upgrade from the Challenge Henry Groutars Trophy in 1968 to the new title of the European Championship, which took a broader group of countries. Sammy Miller on the new Bultaco was going through an unbeatable show of form and won the first of the new European championship titles.
Smith had moved from Greeves to Montesa and took the title in 1969 before Miller signed off from his fantastic professional career with a final championship win in 1970. The championship did not include all the rounds, with the riders having the opportunity to drop some of their worst scores.
The Spanish Ossa had now arrived on the trials scene with the Mick Andrews developed machine. In a fantastic show of brilliance, he dominated the championship in 1971 and 1972. With the big four Japanese manufacturers Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki and Yamaha now arriving on the trials scene, the prestige of the series was growing year on year. Riders from Great Britain were dominating the series with Martin Lampkin winning for Bultaco in 1973, followed by Malcolm Rathmell in 1974.
The success of the European series was rewarded in 1975 with the sport’s governing body finally granting the full title of the FIM World Trials Championship.
1968 European Championship
RESULTS: 1: Sammy Miller (Bultaco-GBR) 24; 2: Gustav Franke (Zundapp-DEU) 15; 3: Gordon Farley (GreevesGBR) 14; 4: Bill Wilkinson (Greeves-GBR) 14; 5: Peter Gaunt (Suzuki-GBR) 8; 6: Don Smith (Montesa-GBR) 7; 7: Christian Rayer (Montesa-FRA) 6; 8: K-Heinz Atzinger (Zundapp-DEU) 3; 9: Jean Crosset (Bultaco-BEL) 2; 10: Roland Bjork (Bultaco-SWE) 2; 11: Claude Wulfgruber (Zundapp-DEU) 1; 12: Jim Sandiford (Greeves-GBR) 1; 13: Jean Marie-Lejeune (Honda-BEL) 1.
1969 European Championship
RESULTS: 1: Don Smith (Montesa-GBR) 51; 2: Dennis Jones (Suzuki-GBR) 48; 3: Sammy Miller (BultacoGBR) 27; 4: Gustav Franke (Zundapp-DEU) 26; 5: Hans Bengtsson (Bultaco-SWE) 25; 6: Charlie Harris (MontesaGBR) 22; 7: Claude Vanstenagen (Greeves-BEL) 20; 8: Roland Bjork (Bultaco-SWE) 20; 9: Gordon Farley (Montesa-GBR) 20; 10: Erland Andersson (HusqvarnaSWE) 12; 11: Claude Wulfgruber (Zundapp-DEU) 11; 12: Claude Peugeot (Bultaco-FRA) 10; 13: Laurence Telling
(Montesa-GBR) 10; 14: Benny Sellman (Montesa-SWE) 10; 15: Tore Evertson (Bultaco-SWE) 9.
1970 European Championship
RESULTS: 1: Sammy Miller (Bultaco-GBR) 75; 2: Gordon Farley (Montesa-GBR) 62; 3: Laurence Telling (MontesaGBR) 45; 4: Benny Sellman (Montesa-SWE) 34; 5: Malcolm Rathmell (Bultaco-GBR) 29; 6: Tore Evertson (Ossa-SWE) 26; 7: Roland Bjork (Bultaco-SWE) 24; 8: Don Smith (Montesa-GBR) 24; 9: Pertti Luhtasuo (Montesa-FIN) 19; 10: Mick Andrews (Ossa-GBR) 15; 11: Geoff Chandler (Bultaco-GBR) 15; 12: Rob Edwards
(Montesa-GBR) 12; 13: Yrjo Vesterinen (Montesa-FIN) 9; 15: Stig Igelstrom (Bultaco-SWE) 9.
1971 European Championship
RESULTS: 1: Mick Andrews (Ossa-GBR) 75; 2: Malcolm Rathmell (Bultaco-GBR) 59; 3: Gordon Farley (MontesaGBR) 53; 4: Rob Edwards (Montesa-GBR) 52; 5: Dave Thorpe (Ossa-GBR) 45; 6: Benny Sellman (MontesaSWE) 29; 7: Yrjo Vesterinen (Montesa-FIN) 28; 8: Laurence Telling (Montesa-GBR) 19; 9: Gustav Franke (Zundapp-DEU) 17; 10: Alan Lampkin (Bultaco-GBR) 16; 11: Martin Lampkin (Bultaco-GBR) 16; 12: Jean MarieLejeune (Montesa-BEL) 14; 13: Erland Andersson (OssaSWE) 14; 14: Pedro Pi (Montesa-ESP) 11; 15: Reinhart Christel (Montesa-DEU) 10.
1972 European Championship
RESULTS: 1: Mick Andrews (Ossa-GBR) 87; 2: Malcolm Rathmell (Bultaco-GBR) 73; 3: Martin Lampkin (BultacoGBR) 72; 4: Gordon Farley (Montesa-GBR) 44; 5: Rob Edwards (Montesa-GBR) 29; 7: Yrjo Vesterinen (Montesa/ Bultaco-FIN) 25; 7: Dave Thorpe (Ossa-GBR) 25; 8: Gottfried Linder (Montesa-DEU) 21; 9: Tore Evertson (Ossa-SWE) 18; 10: Rob Shepherd (Montesa-GBR) 18; 11: Roger George (Montesa-BEL) 17; 12: Ignacio Bulto (Bultaco-ESP) 16; 13: Charles Coutard (Bultaco-FRA) 15; 14: Ulf Karlson (Montesa-SWE) 5; 15: Benny Sellman (Montesa-SWE) 15.
1973 European Championship
RESULTS: 1: Martin Lampkin (Bultaco-GBR) 87; 2: Mick Andrews (Yamaha-GBR) 70; 3: Malcolm Rathmell (Bultaco-GBR) 58; 4: Rob Edwards (Montesa-GBR) 56; 5: Benny Sellman (Montesa-SWE) 55; 6: Rob Shepherd (Montesa-GBR) 39; 7: Yrjo Vesterinen (Bultaco-FIN) 39; 8: Tore Evertson (Ossa-SWE) 33; 9: Charles Coutard (Bultaco-FRA) 27; 10: Gordon Farley (Montesa-GBR) 26; 11: Dave Thorpe (Ossa-GBR) 19; 12: Jean Marie-Lejeune (Montesa-BEL) 17; 13: Jack Galloway (Kawasaki-GBR) 17; 14: Walther Luft (Puch-AUS) 16; 15: Ignacio Bulto (Bultaco-ESP) 10.
1974 European Championship
RESULTS: 1: Malcolm Rathmell (Bultaco-GBR) 96; 2: Ulf Karlson (Montesa-SWE) 87; 3: Mick Andrews (YamahaGBR) 82; 4: Martin Lampkin (Bultaco-GBR) 73; 5: Yrjo Vesterinen (Bultaco-FIN) 62; 6: Tore Evertson (OssaSWE) 55; 7: Benny Sellman (Montesa-SWE) 46; 8: Rob Edwards (Montesa-GBR) 40; 9: Charles Coutard (BultacoFRA) 37; 10: Alan Lampkin (Bultaco-GBR) 29; 11: Dave Thorpe (Ossa-GBR) 18; 12: Rob Shepherd (Montesa-GBR) 15; 13: Jean Marie-Lejeune (Montesa-BEL) 13; 14: Richard Sunter (Kawasaki-GBR) 13; 15: Manuel Soler (Bultaco-ESP) 10.
1964 – 1974
WINNERS: Don Smith 3; Gustav Franke 2; Sammy Miller 2; Mick Andrews 2; Martin Lampkin 1; Malcolm Rathmell 1. MANUFACTURERS: Bultaco 4; Greeves 2; Zundapp 2; Ossa 2; Montesa 1. Researching and generating articles from years ago can sometimes be difficult. If we have used any pictures or work and not credited them correctly and you are the copyright works authors could you please contact Classic Trial Magazine.