With the once dominating force of Spanish trials motorcycles in turmoil with Bultaco and Ossa removed from the equation, a new breed of cottage industry motorcycle manufacturers was beginning to emerge to join Montesa in Spain. The ‘Shock’ of the new single shock, or mono-shock, Yamaha from Japan had forced many problems for anyone left with all their development budget spent on twin-shock machinery. Yamaha had changed the direction of the trials motorcycle and, as we will see, the evolution of the machine would start to change a trend which in the mid-eighties witnessed the closure of, amongst others, the SWM factory. Yamaha would still lead the way in the terms of sales figures but the European manufacturers were far from finished.
Whether people like it or not, when a top rider on a certain brand of machine hits the headlines the buying public takes notice. Off the back of this publicity market trends can be determined. Regarding sales, manufacturers are proud to advertise the fact that they are winners and, as everyone is aware, we like winners. Yamaha would probably disagree with this, as they sold thousands of the mono-shock Yamahas but only had one World round winner, a French rider in a French World round when in 1988 Thierry Girard made his claim to fame.
Fantic had survived the move to single-shock machinery, despite a very close call in the mid-eighties which nearly forced them to close the door as sales of the 300cc twin-shock model virtually disappeared overnight. Montesa was also struggling with machines that did not attract the buying public like they used to. In truth the ‘pie’ they all wanted a piece of was getting smaller with more manufacturers entering the trials market.
Yamaha was dominating sales but was not putting their money back into the sport to support riders in the World Trials Championship, and Tony Scarlett for one made a very brave move from the Japanese’s manufacturer to JCM in France to help develop a new trials machine. Despite a very hefty price tag of £5,329, Honda was still importing and selling a small batch of the RTL 250 Hondas off the back of the glory days with Belgium’s Eddy Lejeune and Steve Saunders.
The Italian manufacturers had seen SWM in 1984 go into liquidation but were not put off by this, and Aprilia, Beta and Garelli were pushing hard with the sales of their new machines.
In the UK Steve Saunders had moved to Fantic in a move which went a long way to the restoration of the brand’s faith in the buying public. Fantic had moved from the heavy twinshock 300 and introduced the 301 mono-shock model, which had proved very popular. With Saunders mounted on the new 303 model, sales would once again return to the Italian brand that would enjoy the popularity it had enjoyed before in the earlier part of the eighties.
Tubeless tyres were starting to be developed to their full potential with Michelin, the market leaders. Off the back of this new period of tubeless tyre, Dunlop came out fighting with a new compound model code named the K320. Pirelli joined the trend with a further development with the MT43 on the factory supported Aprilia.
The rear suspension evolution continued with the arrival of remote cooling and adjustment cylinders placed on the machine in a multitude of strange areas away from the suspension unit itself and connected by a high-pressure hose. Disc brakes front and rear had replaced the hopelessly outdated drum arrangement and proved their worth as the power outputs from the machines increased. The air-cooled single cylinder engine remained deemed the best for trials competition use, but around the corner, the liquid-cooled engines were on their way.
John Hulme: “On a very early visit to the workshop of Spain’s ace trials-tuning wizard Joseph Paxau in 1988 I witnessed the very early Gas Gas engine on the milling machine waiting for its adaptation to water-cooling”.
Developments would change the face of the trials machine for ever at the end of the very turbulent eighties for the trials manufacturers.
At world championship level the opening rounds of the series threw out some big surprises. After problems with the time allowance for the top riders at the opening round in Spain, where many were excluded for going over the allowance, Lluis Gallach gave the Mecatecno machine its only win, making it a massive day for Spain. A week later in Belgium, it was the turn of another Spanish rider and manufacturer combination that took the win with Gabino Renales and Gas Gas.
In a year dominated by Jordi Tarres on the Beta on the way to his first of seven world titles only two other riders won World rounds: Steve Saunders on the Fantic in France and Italian Aprilia rider Diego Bosis in America. The 1986 world champion from France Thierry Michaud didn’t win a round at all.
In the UK Steve Saunders on the Fantic and Tony Scarlett dominated the series with only Gerald Richardson on the Yamaha taking a single win as Saunders took the title once again.
68 Jordi Tarres (Beta-ESP) World Trials Champion 1987.
In a very emotional day for Spain rider Lluis Gallach won on a Spanish built machine, the Mecatecno at the opening World round.
Despite little success the Mono-Shock Yamaha TY 250 remained the best-selling trials machine of 1987.
Joel Corroy had Tony Scarlett mounted on the JCM Vega.