1968 Cotswold Cup
With Christmas fast approaching, and Sammy Miller once again confirmed as the British Champion, the national trials season would close on Saturday the 16th December at the Cotswold Cup Trial in the Western Centre. The winter season’s cold had made for difficult driving conditions as the ice and fog had descended on the area around the start at Leighterton Garage near Nailsworth in Gloucestershire. The secretary of the meeting, Miss Grant Heelas at Baughan Engineers of Stroud, had received a disappointing entry of 53 solo riders and a mere four sidecars for its 28-mile road-based course. A good selection of terrain had been used in the 47 sections that had been plotted out, headed by the Clerk of the Course AF Wyatt with the speed special test situated just before the final group of sections at Withymore.
As the ever-present fog continued to keep the ground frozen the starter, John Childs assembled the riders at Leighterton Garage for the 10.30am start. At the final count, the entry was even further reduced to 50 solo starters and three sidecars. Exactly on time number one Tony Davis was flagged away into the freezing fog on the Villiers powered AJS for the cold six-mile ride to the first of the day’s action named Court with its ten hazards based around the Cotswolds scrambles track at Nymphsfield. Rock hard Noted usually for its very muddy hazards, at the Court this year the ground was rock hard as the ice had taken its hold on the area. Despite the hazards riding better than in the usual expected heavy mud only five riders would leave the ten hazards with clean sheets recorded.
Tony Davis led the way followed by the ever-smoking Don Smith on the new Montesa, Sammy Miller on the Bultaco with the new five-speed gearbox, and Gordon Farley on the Greeves. The final rider parting with no marks was Mick Bowers on the 175cc BSA Bantam. ‘Bonkey’ as he is known, was having a particularly good start to the event as he had a riding number well away from the front runners who all had early starting numbers — Bowers had started at number 36, towards the back of the entry of 50 starters.
For the eventual runner-up Lawrence ‘Sparkie’ Telling on the Montesa, his two marks lost in the opening hazards would cost him the victory.
It was a further three-mile ride in the cold to a trio of hazards at Ashmead’s where the water in the stream was still running despite the freezing conditions. Despite the difficult terrain with the almost sheer climb out of the last hazard, 15 clean rides were recorded.
Sammy Miller needed a hefty prod to keep forward motion as the Bultaco’s rear wheel spun on the ice. Both Tony Davis and East Midlands Trials Champion Barry Rodgers on the Cheetah fought for grip, but the closing of the throttle resulted in both of them being thrown from their machines and back down from the top of the steep climb into the gully below.
Wasp-mounted Geoff Chandler fell victim to the same scenario, but the observer had deemed the front wheel of the machine — with him still on board at this point — had cleared the sections end cards. It was then back onto the road for a further ride to the next group of hazards which contained ten in total.
Laycombe Ditch is a very natural hazard where the riders had, amongst other things, ice-covered slabs of rock to contend with. The hazards were very deceptive and very costly for both Don Smith and Gordon Farley, but the eventual first and second placed riders Miller and Telling both cleaned all ten sections.
Across the road from these hazards lay the largest group in the Binley valley with 18 in total. A wide variety of challenges were aptly named Twist, Gate, Drop, Dell and Climb. The first hazards were in a very foul mood and troubled the entire entry, but they then eased, and it was a lapse in concentration that took both Farley and Miller for a mark each, much to their annoyance.
The final hazard here was a severe test of man and machine as rider after rider was thwarted in their attempts to reach the section ends cards on the steep muddy climb. A few ‘paddling’ three-mark penalties were recorded, but Farley used all his power and aggression to become the only rider to summit the climb with both feet on the footrests. This sterling effort pulled him level on marks with Miller on 13 marks lost as Telling still held the lead on 11 with only one more group of hazards left at Withymore, which contained six hazards.
Miller’s tie decider
Withymore, with its twisting, rocky, mud-filled river, was the scene of controversy which would leave both Miller and Telling on 14 marks each! Sammy had gone through the six hazards just losing a single mark as Farley put himself out of contention losing two to finish on 15 in total.
It all went wrong for Telling when he was deemed to have put his feet down twice as he exited one hazard and entered the other in a double ‘sub’ hazard. These two marks left him on the same score as Miller. The decision would all go down to the special test, where the rider’s time was recorded between two marked points over a timed course adjudicated by an official timekeeper. It was the clock of the ACU keeper SJ Wragge who would declare that Miller was 2.5 seconds faster than Telling giving ‘Super Sam’ yet another victory in his illustrious career.
In the poorly supported sidecar class, the pairing of Roy Bradley and Christine Bull took their Ariel to a five-mark win over Des Kendall on his special home-built Kenmen.
The day’s action rounded off with a warm cup of tea in Leighterton Café as the 1968 trials season drew to a close.
Chris Leighfield (Taylor Suzuki): Riding a Suzuki that had been converted by motorcycle dealer John Taylor in Stoke, he achieved some notable results on the national trials scene. Many other Suzuki trials conversions would appear over the next few years from budding designers.
Derek Adsett (Greeves): Remaining loyal to the Greeves brand he continued with the British manufacturer until the Pathfinder model proved too uncompetitive at the end of the sixties.
Mick Bowers (BSA): One year earlier, after Dave Rowlands had finished second in the SSDT, ‘Bonkey’ had remained loyal to BSA in a distant hope that one day the Bantam trials model he was developing would make production.
Lawrence Telling (Montesa): Nicknamed ‘Sparkie’, the move to Montesa was intended to help promote the growing armada of Spanish machines, which were now starting to become established on the UK trials scene and recognised as a competitive machine.
Gordon Farley (Greeves): Tied into a Greeves factory contract, Farley had to wait to make the move to Montesa where he would eventually bring Sammy Miller’s British Championship domination to an end in 1970.
Mike Clarke (Bultaco): It’s two fingers on the clutch with concentration at 100%!
Jim Sandiford (Sprite): Looking for something new to sell in his expanding trials shop, Sandiford spent some time riding a 125cc Sprite. He would soon move to a Bultaco.
Geoff Chandler (Wasp): Geoff was a new young emerging talent in the Southern Centre.
Tony Davis (AJS): A well respected national winner, Tony tried in vain to make the Villiers engine AJS into a competitive model along with his brother Malcolm. The project ended abruptly when Villiers ceased production of trials engines.
Ian Haydon (Cotton): In later years Ian would admit he stayed loyal to the uncompetitive Cotton brand for too many years in the face of the growing domination of the Spanish machines.
Peter Valentine (Bultaco): Still riding the older radial cylinder-head four-speed Bultaco, this was a very good result for the privateer rider.
Barrie Rodgers (Cheetah): The East Midlands Trials Champion was one of the first riders to become involved with the new Cheetah brand outside of the Southern Centre where its manufacturer Bob Gollner was based.
Chris Watts (Wasp): The cottage industry of motorcycle manufacturers in Great Britain resulted in many specials appearing including the Villiers engined WASP.
Scott Ellis (BSA): Despite the disbanding of the works BSA team Scott would remain loyal to the once proud motorcycle manufacturer from Great Britain as four-stroke machines fell out of fashion.
Brian Fowler (Bultaco): It’s a very young ‘feet-up’ Fowler here! A successful rider himself, in the 70s he would become the team manager for the Beamish Suzuki trials team
Karl Rowbothan (Bultaco): Motorcycle trials shop owner Karl could be found riding in many events, accompanied by his wife.
Steve Abbott (Bultaco): With Sammy Miller winning everything on offer the Bultaco was becoming well established in trials in the UK.
Paul Dunkley (Cheetah): The pairing of Dunkley and the Cheetah was a winning combination in the Southern Centre.