RATHMELL’S ‘VIVA’ MONTESA
Round five the of the 1980 ACU British Trials Championship would be the Mitchell Trial held on Saturday 12th April under clear blue skies in the Welsh valleys. It was organised and run by the Merthyr Motor Club and the BSSA on behalf of the East South Wales Centre ACU for the 49th time.
The start, located at Thorn Lighting Limited, Swansea Road, Merthyr Tydfil in South Wales, would see off the 115 solo riders at 10.00am followed by the 18 sidecars at 11.00am. Sponsorship for the event came from Duckhams Oils, providing financial support and riding bibs, and local trials dealership Bob Wilding Motorcycles.
Many officials, observers and riders arrived early to make use of the excellent restaurant facilities of Thorn Lighting before the action commenced. The trials world was alive with action, with one of the main talking points relating to the financial and production problems of the ailing Spanish factory, Bultaco.
The tyre to use was the Pirelli, but Michelin was making inroads to the market, and there was talk of the new French rubber being available at the Scottish Six Days Trial. It was rapidly approaching, and many riders were giving their machines a last ‘Shake Down’ before the event.
Ossa had a good presence with their riders on their green machines awaiting the arrival of the new ‘Yellow Gripper’ model; would it arrive in time for the SSDT?
The man on form at the Mitchell though was eventual winner Malcolm Rathmell, who would take a clear 11-mark win from Martin Lampkin. As he left the event, the youngest of the three Lampkin brothers was about to shock the trials world as he would make a move from Bultaco to the Italian SWM for the Scottish Six Days Trial in just two weeks.
A very traditional trial with very natural terrain, it was contested over a 35-mile course consisting of 36 sections over two loops; a north and south. The odd numbers would ride the north loop first, and the even numbers would ride the south. The time limit was six hours. The non-championship sidecar event would cover two laps of 42 sections, with a five-hour time limit.
As we had seen in the earlier rounds of the 1980 ACU British Trials Championship, the contest for the wins would be very close with ten riders all capable of winning if they had a good day’s riding. It was very much a case of the old guard of Malcolm Rathmell (Montesa), Martin Lampkin (Bultaco) and Rob Shepherd (Honda) who held the top three championship positions, fighting off the young riders for the maximum haul of championship points. John Reynolds (Beamish Suzuki) had proved his point at the Colmore that they were not unbeatable. Still, it was the consistency of this old guard who had all previously won ACU British Championship titles between them: Malcolm Rathmell, 1972, 1974–1976 and 1979 holding the most wins; Martin Lampkin, winning in 1973 and 1978; and Rob Shepherd taking the first four-stroke win in 1977 since Sammy Miller on the Ariel in 1964. These three had pulled themselves clear at the head of the points table, with Shepherd holding a 22-point advantage over Reynolds. The ACU British Trials Championship points were awarded to the top ten positions, making the fight for them very intense.
After the first four rounds of the 1980 FIM World Trials Championship, it’s quite ironic that it was Rathmell who was the best British rider in fourth position. He was carrying that form into the ‘home’ championship as he had one other thing on his mind. He wanted to repeat his double-header of the win at the Scottish Six Days Trial, the first for Montesa, and the British title in 1979.
Under the eyes of the ACU Steward, Les Davis, and the official starter, John Roberts, he started out on the Montesa with one thing on his mind after losing out on the tie-break decider for the victory at the previous championship round the Lomax Trial – and that was winning!
The Clerk of the Course for the solo riders was Dave Lewis assisted by Terry Price, and they had made some changes to the previous year’s events to make the hazards more ‘nagdery’ and tight in order to extract more marks from the entry.
With the sun shining down, Rathmell started confidently and, step by step as the day progressed, he managed to open up an early lead using single marks to his advantage to avoid the five-mark penalties for a stop in the tighter hazards. The advantage over second-placed Martin Lampkin at the close of the day was a clear 11 marks and, as we have seen in the past, when a top rider is on top form he is very hard to beat and in South Wales that man was Rathmell.
A CLOSE SECOND
As in any competition, every mark counts, and the battle for second position was a very close affair. No one knew at the time, as it was to be revealed over the next couple of weeks, but this would be Martin Lampkin’s last British Championship outing on a Bultaco. He loved his 370cc model for its torque and brute power, and he used it to his advantage up the steep Welsh hillside to hold off Nigel Birkett by a single mark. At last, Birkett had shown the form he knew was still there, and he was happy to be back in the top three championship positions once again. In truth, Nigel had not taken to the new Montesa Cota 349 and his championship year had, by his admission, it had not gone to plan; it reflected in his results.
The Cota 349 was a longer machine than the Montesa Cota 348, and this did not suit his style of riding.
After the elation of his surprise win in February at round two of the FIM World Trials Championship in Great Britain, Mick Andrews was soon brought down to earth the following week when he had his machine stolen the night before round three in Belgium! Majesty man John E Shirt had interrupted his busy production schedule to build Andrews a new machine. He was very happy with fourth place, proving his competitiveness in front of the younger riders.
JAPAN’S RISING SON
When Honda had arrived on the trials scene in 1974 with trials legend Sammy Miller, the rebirth of the four-stroke trials machine materialised, much to the delight of many proud traditional motorcycle enthusiasts. His developmental skills were rewarded in 1977 when Rob Shepherd, riding the Honda, won the ACU British Trials Championship as Miller moved to Italian manufacturer SWM in 1978. Shepherd continued with Honda, and in 1980 a new name appeared for the first time in the championship points at the Mitchel Trial. It was Japan’s Kiyoteru Hattori who finished in fifth position riding the Seeley Honda, just one place in front of Shepherd who was on the HRC-supplied 360 four-stroke. Now based in the UK and ranked fourth in the Japanese National Championship in 1979, he was delighted with his result.
Mike Skinner remained a consistent points scorer as did Peter Cartwright. In ninth position, Chris Myers was much happier with his Bultaco’s performance after the engine problems at the Lomax Trial. Rounding off the top ten was a disappointed John Reynolds who we had not seen the best of in South Wales on the Beamish Suzuki as he took the last championship point.
With the Scottish Six Days Trial, the next big event in the calendar the British riders were about to get a big wake-up call as it witnessed the first foreign winner with Finland’s Yrjo Vesterinen.
1980 MITCHELL TRIAL RESULTS ROUND 5 ACU BRITISH TRIALS CHAMPIONSHIP
RESULTS: 1: Malcolm Rathmell (Montesa) 21; 2: Martin Lampkin (Bultaco) 32; 3: Nigel Birkett (Montesa) 33; 4: Mick Andrews (Majesty Yamaha) 35; 5: Kiyoteru Hattori (Honda-JPN) 39; 6: Rob Shepherd (Honda) 41; 7: Mike Skinner (Montesa) 43; 8: Peter Cartwright (Bultaco) 43; 9: Chris Myers (Bultaco) 46; 10: John Reynolds (Beamish Suzuki) 47. (The placings above scored ACU British Championship Points). 11: Chris Griffin (Ossa) 49; 12: Chris Clarke (Montesa) 53; 13: Nick Jefferies (Montesa) 54; 14: Chris Sutton (Montesa) 55; 15: Tony Calvert (Ossa) 56; 16: Colin Boniface (Bultaco) 57; 17: Norman Shepherd (Ossa) 57; 18: Rob Edwards (Ossa) 61; 19: Dave Thorpe (Bultaco) 61; 20: Peter Oakley (Majesty Yamaha) 68; 21: Ady Morrison (Fantic) 74; 22: John Metcalfe (Miller) 75; 23: Mike Leddy (Beamish Suzuki) 76; 24: Tim Ashton (Ossa) 82; 25: Glen Scholey (Bultaco) 86.
1980 ACU BRITISH CHAMPIONSHIP POSITIONS FIVE ROUNDS COMPLETED
RESULTS: 1: Malcolm Rathmell (Montesa) 59; 2: Martin Lampkin (Bultaco) 54; 3: Rob Shepherd (Honda) 51; 4: John Reynolds (Beamish Suzuki) 29; 5: Nigel Birkett (Montesa) 20; 6: Mike Skinner (Montesa) 19; 7: Mick Andrews (Majesty Yamaha) 19; 8: Peter Cartwright (Bultaco) 12; 9: Chris Sutton (Montesa) 10; 10: Alan Wright (Bultaco) 8; 11: Chris Clarke (Montesa) 8; 12: Dave Thorpe (Bultaco) 6; 13: Chris Myers (Bultaco) 6; 14: Tony Calvert (Ossa) 6; 15: Kiyoteru Hattori (Honda-JPN) 6; 16: Steve Wilson (SWM) 5; 17: Bernie Schreiber (Bultaco-USA) 5; 18: Norman Shepherd (Ossa) 3; 19: Nick Jefferies (Montesa) 1. MACHINES: Bultaco: 7; Montesa: 6; Honda: 2; Ossa: 2; Beamish Suzuki: 1; Majesty Yamaha: 1.