Classic Trial - - CONTENTS - Re­port: Andy Withers • Pic­tures: awsport­sphoto

Tal­mag Trial

Ralph Ven­ables wrote in the pro­gramme notes in the early 1980s that The Tal­mag Tro­phy Trial was “the world’s most nos­tal­gic get-to­gether of real en­thu­si­asts”. I’m a Tal­mag rookie of a few years but, from my experience, forty years on it still has that claim. My en­thu­si­asm for this event is so great; I ar­rived too early for­get­ting it was still dark at 7.00am! How­ever, while walk­ing back from sec­tion 15 at 7.45am sat­is­fied that I knew where all the sec­tions were, I wasn't alone. From the bushes, a fa­mil­iar fig­ure strolled out in front of me, and I said ‘morn­ing’ which fright­ened a friend, Neil Rober­ton, half to death! A warm hand­shake fol­lowed, and ban­ter about ‘where is sec­tion 4’; Neil is not a rookie, and now in his sev­en­ties, he trav­els from mid-Wales ob­serv­ing, mar­shalling and spec­tat­ing all over the coun­try, but he doesn’t like to miss a Tal­mag. Great minds think alike; the aim was to have a good look at the sec­tions and then have as much time as pos­si­ble to so­cialise and pho­to­graph be­fore the ‘off’ at 9.30am.

Atrial has been held on the sandy slopes of Hun­gry Hill near Alder­shot since the early 1950s but the ‘Four-Stroke Only’ pure ver­sion be­gan in 1977. It is al­ways over­sub­scribed, with only 180 places avail­able this year, so a few were dis­ap­pointed. It is a big so­cial event, usu­ally on the last Sun­day in Jan­uary launch­ing an­other fan­tas­tic sea­son of clas­sic bik­ing, but it is much more. It brings to­gether some of the most beau­ti­ful pris­tine tri­als ma­chin­ery you will ever see, cel­e­brat­ing the golden era of Bri­tish mo­tor­cy­cling with bikes from 1929 to 1964, a sprin­kling of Euro­pean ma­chines and an oc­ca­sional ‘Red In­dian’. Rid­ers come from all over the UK and Europe to cross the Tal­mag off their ‘bucket list’ or get hooked and come back year af­ter year. It is a se­ri­ous trial, with ev­ery rider be­grudg­ing any marks lost and rac­ing against the time tick­ing away on the spe­cial test, want­ing to fol­low in the foot­steps of some of the tri­als greats in­clud­ing Gor­don Jack­son and Sammy Miller. Pol­i­tics and tri­als Un­for­tu­nately, the Tal­mag Tro­phy Trial has turned into some­what of a bat­tle­ground! The Tal­mag MCC orig­i­nates from the Ter­ri­to­rial Army Lon­don

Mag­a­zine — a mag­a­zine for mo­tor­cy­clists in the T.A. As you can imag­ine, the Army is used to tak­ing on all com­ers, but stag­ing this pres­tige event has be­come a com­plex bal­anc­ing act be­tween the club, its rid­ers, the M.O.D. (Min­istry of De­fence) and Nat­u­ral Eng­land, the pub­lic body pro­tect­ing the nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment.

In May 2017, Ian All­away and the Tal­mag MCC team ap­plied to the M.O.D. for per­mis­sion to run the trial in Jan­uary 2018. Noth­ing came back from the M.O.D. un­til they were chased up in Oc­to­ber 2017. The re­sponse was the ‘land was not avail­able,’ as part of the site is an S.S.S.I (Site of Sig­nif­i­cant Sci­en­tific In­ter­est) des­ig­nated by Nat­u­ral Eng­land.

The club was dis­ap­pointed at not be­ing able to run at the tra­di­tional venue, but an al­ter­na­tive was of­fered. How­ever, af­ter in­ves­ti­ga­tion, it was found that the new land was not suit­able. Fight­ing the case, the club wrote to the lo­cal MP and went back to Land Marc, the book­ing or­gan­i­sa­tion for the M.O.D. They sug­gested con­tact­ing Nat­u­ral Eng­land di­rectly. Ian, Neil But­tery and Neil Sin­claire pre­sented de­tailed maps and pho­to­graphs to Nat­u­ral Eng­land. The re­sult from them was that pro­vided the com­peti­tors and spectators stay within the bound­aries of the map that is in­cluded in the Tro­phy Trial pro­gramme, the trial should be safe for the next five years. How­ever, de­spite the per­sis­tence of the club, the M.O.D. still did not sign off the trial un­til the week be­fore the event! It is hoped that next year’s per­mis­sions to run this superb event will be less trou­ble­some.

So­cial Event

Who was there? Mul­ti­ple Tal­mag win­ner Sammy Miller, in his 84th year, came to spec­tate, and you could see rid­ers try­ing to raise their game as they saw him look­ing on. With two new knees, tak­ing part is not an op­tion for Sammy, but his aura still im­pacts the ac­tion.

Ge­orge Greenland, rid­ing Sammy’s ‘weapon of choice’ a 500cc Ariel, took a dab af­ter the climb on Sec­tion 12, paused in front of the master and said “sorry Sammy” be­fore plung­ing down a steep gul­ley. Ge­orge him­self is mo­tor­cy­cling roy­alty, with five Bri­tish Side­car En­duro cham­pi­onships to his name and, at 85, is prob­a­bly the old­est com­peti­tor, while daugh­ter Karen fin­ished with the Best Lady re­sult and grand­son Dean was tak­ing on his first Tal­mag on a BSA C15 Wasp.

Be­fore the start, Ge­orge couldn’t re­sist a ‘test ride’ on Vic Al­lan’s 144cc MV Agusta which is mounted in a road frame. Ex-Bri­tish Mo­tocross Cham­pion Vic has be­come a Tal­mag reg­u­lar on the MV.

Thrills and Spills

The thrills: the premier Over 300cc Sprung class pro­duced a tied fin­ish on points for three Tal­mag spe­cial­ists. 2017 win­ner, Phil Gray, and 2016 win­ner, Roger Higgs, both on 500cc Ariel HT5s, and Tim Hartshorne on his 500cc AJS 18CS, all go­ing clean. It brought into play the times from the spe­cial test held be­tween the two laps of fif­teen sec­tions. Higgs took the vic­tory with the fastest time ahead of Gray and Hartshorne. Hartshorne has been clean for three years running but doesn’t seem to have the pace in the spe­cial test. Ja­son North also pro­duced a clean in the Un­der 300cc class to win the class on his 200cc Tri­umph Tiger Cub.

The spills: the ‘Rigids’ and Girder Fork ma­chines are per­sonal favourites, and in the Rigid Over 300cc Clive Dop­son has been a top rider on his 1951 500T Norton for over thirty years and re­mains so. How­ever, this year he found too much grip on a chal­leng­ing sec­tion 12 caus­ing the ma­chine to wheelie; he hung on think­ing that grav­ity might pre­vail, but the bike be­came ver­ti­cal with the front mud­guard against a tree and Clive ex­pe­ri­enced the ef­fects of grav­ity go­ing back­wards. The ex­pres­sion on his face see­ing the Norton ver­ti­cal was a sight to see! He cleaned the sec­tion on the next lap but lost out to Steve Scott on his 1952 500cc TRW Tri­umph over­all by four.

The Gird­ers bring out the old­est ma­chin­ery, the 1929 250cc Ariel Colt of Paul Bal­main tak­ing that hon­our this year. How­ever, it was the younger Le­vis 500D ma­chines of Kieron and Andy Abra­ham that led the class. We say younger, but Kieron’s is from 1937 and Andy’s is from 1930. See­ing th­ese ma­chines with min­i­mum brakes and sus­pen­sion be­ing used in anger is price­less. Rumour has it that Pete Pester­field has con­tested all of the four-stroke Tal­mags in side­cars, and his 100% com­mit­ment still shows. In 2017, a stall in the last sec­tion cost him the vic­tory. This year he pro­vided a spec­tac­u­lar spill loop­ing the out­fit on Hun­gry Hill to dent his chal­lenge.

This year’s first-time win­ners were Bernie and Char­lie Cham­bers on a beau­ti­ful Ariel en­gined ma­chine, en­gi­neered by Adrian Moss, with a mix­ture of power and superb bal­ance. The fa­ther and son team held off the chal­lenge of mul­ti­ple win­ners Paul Fishlock and Deb­bie Mer­rell on their Ariel out­fit, whose un­char­ac­ter­is­tic five on the last lap cost them dear.

The fu­ture

Five years seems se­cure with the very wel­come co­op­er­a­tion from Nat­u­ral Eng­land, and there is hope that with this new-found sup­port the M.O.D. will give per­mis­sion more read­ily for fu­ture events. Now is the time to put this on your ‘bucket list’ for the next five years and ap­ply to ride next year. Next, to the Pre-65 Scot­tish this is THE clas­sic tri­als event, and long may it con­tinue.

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