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.

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