We all used to love ‘Kickstart’ in the eighties, which gave us an early view of the man-made obstacles for the top trials riders to demonstrate their two-wheeled motorcycle skills on. In 1996 Martin Lampkin and Neil Crosswaite had the vision to bring it t
The Sheffield Arena opened its doors to the general public on the evening of Saturday 6th January for the 2018 Martin Lampkin Trial. They were about to witness the world’s best riders attempt the tough sections created by Dougie and Harry Lampkin and the hard-working team who help to make this event such a success year after year. And tough they certainly proved to be, with the big gaps and slippery going on the man-made sections causing even multi World Champion Toni Bou some problems during the night’s competition.
With Martin Crosswaite and Wayne Kershaw in charge of the commentary, the eight invited riders would contest the qualifying over six man-made hazards made from a selection of local natural materials including some Sheffield steel and a mixture of rocks, logs and an HGV to ride over. These same hazards would be ridden in the reverse direction in the final, where a duel-lane race would decide the starting positions. The qualifying is very much a lottery as to what will happen and, as is usual, it threw out a few surprises.
New TRRS Team rider Iwan Roberts would be making his debut under the Sheffield spotlights, joining the best riders in the world on his indoor debut. From the very start the new Gas Gas rider Jaime Busto, who was expected to challenge for the top positions, was in trouble as was Great Britain’s James Dabill and his fellow countryman Jack Price.
As the riders took it in turns to ride each hazard first, it soon became obvious once again that it would be a battle between the big two of trials, Toni Bou and Adam Raga. The difference of just a single mark, with Bou holding the upper hand over Raga, showed just how close the riding was at this early stage of the night’s proceedings.
Behind these three it was once again very close with only a small handful of marks separating them as the Spanish trio of Jorge Casales, Miquel Gelabert and Jaime Busto managed to push Great Britain’s James Dabill out of the final.
The two big losers were Busto, who missed the finishing gates on one of the hazards, and then Dabill, who suffered a puncture while trying his hardest to master the Sheffield steel hazard.
As is usual in the indoor trials held at this arena, in the final the six hazards are ridden in the reverse direction with the duel-lane race deciding the starting order. The crowd witnessed a rare mistake by Bou as he crashed out of the duel-lane race chasing down Jeroni Fajardo, fortunately without injury. He was immediately back on his feet and, with no damage to the fourstroke Cota 4RT, he returned to the job of winning.
Looking very good in the final was the young Miquel Gelabert. Many would argue he was the rider of the night, who eventually edged ahead of Casales. If the qualification hazards did not look difficult enough the reversed ones for the final added, with some of the undercut huge steps which led onto the slippery surfaces, were now looking impossible. As we are aware, impossible doesn’t seem to be a word in Toni Bou’s vocabulary and his throttle control, and brilliance on this type of going just has to be seen to be believed.
As is often the way it was left to his arch-rival Adam Raga to lead the challenge, and he pushed Toni to his very best, but the Repsol Honda man eventually forged a lead that even allowed him the luxury of a relatively easy failure on the Mercedes Mertrux section. This soft five only encouraged Bou to have another ‘off-the-record’ attempt, in doing the whole section on the rear wheel only; it was a feat he didn’t manage, but the crowd certainly got into the spirit. Showing his skills to the appreciative crowd and the full potential of his abilities Bou took a clear victory over Adam Raga and with it retained his ‘King of Sheffield’ trials crown.
Toni Bou (Repsol Honda-ESP): A true World Champion, he put on a truly masterful display at Sheffield. When he jumped across the huge gap in section one the crowd loved it, and that’s why he enjoys his annual New Year trip to the event and the fact is that he, along with Raga, always keeps the crowd on their toes right to the end of the evening.
James Dabill (Beta-GBR): Always wanting to put on a good show for his home crowd, ‘Dibsta’ will have been disappointed with his result. Miquel Gelabert (Sherco-ESP): Looking very solid and in control of his riding, if there was an award for the ‘Best Rider on the Night’ away from the top two it would have to be the young Spaniard. Could he be the new man to challenge at the top in 2018? We will have to wait and see.Adam Raga (TRRS-ESP): What a rider! Always on the case of Bou, Adam once again pushed Toni all evening. The level of riding between these two just has to be seen to be believed. With Bou on the four-stroke and Adam on the two-stroke it certainly adds another element to their riding abilities. Bou has had all his success on the Cota 4RT, and Raga has always been a two-stroke man from day one.
Jaime Busto (Gas Gas-ESP): The biggest disappointment of the evening. Whatever he tried went wrong, and it showed in his finishing position. The ability is in there, and it will shine through at some point, no doubt.Jorge Casales (Vertigo-ESP): Now trying to establish his career after a couple of tough years, he certainly looked very good on the night in Sheffield.