Clas­sic Event

Classic Trial - - CONTENTS - Words: John Mof­fat • Pho­to­graphs: John Hulme, Mike Rap­ley, Eric Kitchen, Mauri/Fontsere Col­lec­tion and the Gi­ulio Mauri Copy­right

Highland Two Day

Over the past five years, the clas­sic tri­als world’s at­ten­tion has been awak­ened to the Highland Clas­sic Two-Day Trial in Scot­land but up un­til now very lit­tle has been known of its ori­gins or his­tory. Tri­als Guru’s mine of in­for­ma­tion John Mof­fat has been at the sharp end of the event’s pro­mo­tion from its in­cep­tion, and now he re­veals how it came about, and how the suc­cess­ful mix­ture of theme and cel­e­bra­tion have in­creased the trial’s pro­file and stand­ing on the In­ter­na­tional Clas­sic Trial stage.

The cur­rent Highland Clas­sic Two-Day can trace its ori­gins back to the year 1950 with the Highland Two-Day Trial or­gan­ised by the Highland Car & Mo­tor Cy­cle Club of In­ver­ness, which had been formed the pre­vi­ous year in 1949. It was a Scot­tish na­tional event run un­der a per­mit is­sued by the Scot­tish ACU, and it at­tracted many south­ern stars of the day, such as BSA sup­ported rider Tom El­lis and Bill Wilkin­son, to travel north to com­pete. His­tory did, how­ever, record that Fort Wil­liam’s Al­lie Cameron won the event in 1962 on a Tri­umph Cub be­fore he went to work for Greeves at Thun­der­s­ley as a fac­tory mechanic.

A new club

Thanks to mo­tor­sport en­thu­si­ast John Macken­zie, from Fortrose, he re­cently dis­cov­ered the fol­low­ing in­for­ma­tion about the Highland Club. It was an ex­tract from the Scot­tish Club­man mag­a­zine of Jan­uary 1960: “A new Highland Mo­tor Cy­cle Club has been formed in the In­ver­ness area and, fol­low­ing the An­nual Gen­eral Meet­ing in Novem­ber of the Highland Car and M.C.C., it is ex­pected that a new Highland Car Club will emerge. We un­der­stand that it was mu­tu­ally agreed in Septem­ber that the car and mo­tor­cy­cle in­ter­ests in the eleven-year-old orig­i­nal club should go their sep­a­rate ways but at the same time re­tain a friendly as­so­ci­a­tion. The for­ma­tion of the Highland M.C.C. was fos­tered greatly by some of the ‘old hands’, and Chair­man at the in­au­gu­ral meet­ing at­tended by about thirty was Mr Jack Gre­gory, founder sec­re­tary of the old club”.

Much of the his­tory of this event has been lost, due in part to the sep­a­ra­tion of the club into two when the then com­mit­tee felt that car en­thu­si­asts and mo­tor­cy­cle en­thu­si­asts were po­lar­is­ing when it came to their passion as they be­came very dis­tinct and spe­cialised sports. Two sep­a­rate clubs were spawned, and the Highland Car Club ex­ists to this day. How­ever, the Highland Mo­tor Cy­cle Club fal­tered in the mid-1960s, with the Lochaber & Dis­trict Club tak­ing up the slack in the west of the re­gion which led to the cre­ation of the In­ver­ness and Dis­trict MCC formed in the mid-1970s.

The In­ver­ness club was founded out of the Grampian MCC when like-minded tri­als rid­ers de­manded more events whereas the Grampian club was pre­dom­i­nately mo­tocross based. One of the found­ing In­ver­ness members is Mal­colm Smith, a keen tri­als rider who had moved north from his home at Dunsfold in Sur­rey to Arder­sier in the early 1970s. He was a spe­cial­ist gun-dog trainer and shoot­ing con­sul­tant who worked for Caw­dor Es­tates and had set up his con­sul­tancy and liv­ery busi­ness.

Alvie Es­tate

It was Smith who, in 2003, brought the idea of a Pre-65 trial to the In­ver­ness & Dis­trict com­mit­tee. The main rea­son be­ing that the Pre-65 Scot­tish Trial had that year re­stricted Scot­tish ACU li­cence holder en­tries to their Kin­lochleven event due to its pop­u­lar­ity and over-sub­scrip­tion. This event would go some way to giv­ing Scot­tish rid­ers the op­por­tu­nity to ride other than at Kin­lochleven. And so an event, at that time un-named, was pro­moted at the Alvie Es­tate in Kin­craig in 2004. One of the first com­peti­tors was Jock McComisky, who en­joyed the event so much that he sug­gested that it be made into a two-day event to en­cour­age more English rid­ers to take part.

In 2006, the event was ex­tended over two days and was given a name, the Highland Clas­sic TwoDay, which hinted at the orig­i­nal Highland Two-Day event some 30 years pre­vi­ously. Af­ter the first twoday event was run the num­bers cer­tainly in­creased as word spread of the flow­ing nat­u­ral sec­tions on what is fun­da­men­tally a ‘shoot­ing es­tate’.

The com­mit­tee was once again to de­lib­er­ate on al­low­ing twin-shock ma­chines to take part as they were by now gain­ing in pop­u­lar­ity, par­tic­u­larly with rid­ers who were now in their fifties. Again the num­bers in­creased and so did the sta­tus of the event, which pleased the es­tate own­ers who en­cour­aged the club to make use of new ar­eas of their land al­low­ing a longer lap dis­tance.

The crit­i­cal mass fac­tor was about to take ef­fect when John Mof­fat and, tri­als jour­nal­ist, Tim Brit­ton were chat­ting af­ter fin­ish­ing the 2012 event. The con­ver­sa­tion drifted onto the Span­ish ‘Ro­bre­gordo’ event near Madrid where both th­ese en­thu­si­asts had com­peted a few years be­fore. Both agreed that the So­to­bike Club event was quite spe­cial in that it sported a ‘guest of hon­our’ from the sport of tri­als. They also agreed that the Highland Clas­sic would sim­i­larly ben­e­fit from such a guest but who would be a good starter guest? Si­mul­ta­ne­ously the name Yrjo Ves­ter­i­nen was on both men’s lips.

The Bul­taco Edi­tion

‘Vesty’ had taken part in the 2008 Ro­bre­gordo event and the Span­ish en­joyed watching the for­mer three­time world cham­pion make a ten­ta­tive come­back to the sport af­ter an 18-year sab­bat­i­cal. The plan was cre­ated, and the In­ver­ness com­mit­tee was once again pe­ti­tioned to push the boat out and ask Ves­ter­i­nen if he would oblige the club by be­ing their guest. John Mof­fat was to make the ap­proach as he had got to know Yrjo at the Ro­bre­gordo event in 2008, and he wasn’t dis­ap­pointed: “It will be an hon­our to at­tend your event” said Vesty.

A cou­ple of months went by with Mof­fat and Ves­ter­i­nen dis­cussing the ar­range­ments by tele­phone when Vesty sud­denly said: “John we could make this event re­ally spe­cial if you would let me make some phone calls, I have a good idea that I wish to de­velop”. What Ves­ter­i­nen did next was to knock the socks off the Scot­tish tri­als scene.

Us­ing his old Bul­taco connections, Vesty en­listed the co-op­er­a­tion and sup­port of Oriol Puig Bulto (for­mer Bul­taco Team Man­ager and nephew of Bul­taco founder F.X. Bulto), Ig­na­cio Bulto (F.X. Bulto’s son), Manuel Soler (Bul­taco devel­op­ment rider), Javier Cuc­curella (for­mer Bul­taco works rider from Spain), Charles Coutard (for­mer French na­tional cham­pion and Bul­taco fac­tory rider), Dave Thorpe and Jaime Puig (nephew of Oriol and Bul­taco sup­ported rider through Barcelona deal­er­ship Zona 3). It cre­ated the ‘Bul­taco Clas­sic Tri­als Team’ for the 2013 Highland Clas­sic. Ves­ter­i­nen had recre­ated the old Bul­taco works team; the only mem­ber miss­ing would be Martin Lamp­kin who still had world cham­pi­onship com­mit­ments at that time.

John Mof­fat sug­gested to the In­ver­ness Club com­mit­tee that the event is given a theme, and it should be ‘The Bul­taco Edi­tion’ in hon­our of Yrjo Ves­ter­i­nen and his team-mates that year. It was unan­i­mously agreed. It was a recipe for suc­cess as this had never be­fore hap­pened in any Scot­tish event. It was to set the scene for sub­se­quent Highland Clas­sics, and it also in­creased the event’s pro­file and stand­ing from that year on­wards. The suc­cess brought with it the chal­lenges of over­sub­scrip­tion, but the In­ver­ness com­mit­tee stood firm and re­sisted a bal­loted en­try sys­tem pre­fer­ring the ‘first-come, first-served’ ap­proach. The event on the ground was to be very care­fully man­aged by the clerk of the course, first Mal­colm Smith and sub­se­quently Gor­don Mur­ray, an ex­pe­ri­enced SSDT rider, and Stewart An­der­son. The sec­tions were to be chal­leng­ing but sen­si­ble and not aimed at tak­ing very many marks from the bet­ter rid­ers.

The friendli­est Clas­sic Trial in Scot­land The phrase ‘The friendli­est Clas­sic Trial in Scot­land’ was coined in 2015 and the club has strived to re­tain that feel to the event ever since.

Mick An­drews, a guest in 2016, was quoted as say­ing: “I like this trial; it has a con­ti­nen­tal feel to it. It’s just like rid­ing in Europe, but you have the bonus of the splen­dour of the Scot­tish High­lands”.

Since 2013, the fol­low­ing in­di­vid­u­als have been guests of hon­our: Yrjo Ves­ter­i­nen; Dave Thorpe; Bill Wilkin­son; Mick An­drews and Rob Shep­herd, with Nick Jef­feries a spe­cial guest and 1968 Scot­tish Tri­als Cham­pion Dou­glas Bald in 2018. The edi­tions have been Bul­taco, Thorpe, The Tenth, Yam­scot, Honda and Mon­tesa Cota.

The es­tate man­age­ment team, led by David Kin­n­ear, were happy with 150 com­peti­tors, and the Laird, Jamie Wil­liamson, was asked to de­liver a pre-trial speech, in which he wel­comed all the rid­ers to his es­tate. The In­ver­ness Club’s first ap­proach to Alvie Es­tate was made by lo­cal Aviemore en­thu­si­ast Ray Sang­ster around 1975.

In 2016, it was de­cided to set aside en­try places for ‘guest rid­ers’ which were ad­di­tional to the 150 max­i­mum. Th­ese en­tries were spe­cially re­served for com­peti­tors who were put for­ward by the event spon­sors, called ‘Trial Part­ners’ and for for­mer com­peti­tors of merit. Mof­fat re­mem­bered that the Span­ish Ro­bre­gordo trial had a ‘wine sec­tion’ mid­way through the day. The highland weather can be change­able, so the or­gan­is­ers of the Highland Clas­sic set up a ‘sec­tion 19’ at the trial HQ un­der cover where cheese, wine and a lo­cally sourced ale called ‘Happy Chappy’ is made avail­able to all rid­ers and ob­servers, which makes for a so­cial and friendly at­mos­phere. 2019 It is with­out a doubt that the Highland Clas­sic has evolved, but this has been done in a planned way. The an­nual theme will most cer­tainly con­tinue as it keeps the in­ter­est lev­els high and the 2019 SWM Edi­tion is no ex­cep­tion. The guest of hon­our will be 1979 World Tri­als Cham­pion Bernie Schreiber who will cel­e­brate 40 years since he won the world ti­tle on a Bul­taco, and of course, he was vic­to­ri­ous in the 1982 SSDT on the Ital­ian SWM ma­chine. Rest as­sured there will also be a few in­ter­est­ing sur­prises in the run-up to the event, which will be held on the week­end of 8-9th June.

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