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Trial Magazine - - TRIAL MAGAZINE - PICTURES: BARRY ROBIN­SON, ERIC KITCHEN, JOHN HULME AND JAMES STE­WART

Dan Thorpe Gas Gas TXTGP

As a young­ster, mo­tor­cy­cle tri­als al­most lost Dan Thorpe to foot­ball as this was his first love. The very first win­ner of an FIM World Cham­pi­onship trial was his father Dave in 1975, and it was ex­pected that he would fol­low in his foot­steps, but a pair of foot­ball boots would be on his feet long be­fore the tri­als va­ri­ety came along. With an iconic Yamaha TY80 pro­vided to play on it would be 1992 be­fore we wit­nessed Dan in his first ma­jor tri­als com­pe­ti­tion at the YMSA 6-Day Trial. He now spends his ‘9–5’ em­ploy­ment at the BUMPY fa­cil­ity near Leeds but re­mains very keen on com­pet­ing in tri­als rid­ing al­most ev­ery week­end. Armed with the lat­est Gas Gas 300cc Tri­alGP model from his long-term spon­sor John Shirt Jnr at the North­ern Ex­perts it was time to talk about tri­als... You look all new and shiny

Dan: It’s just like a Box­ing Day trial for me! With the new Mots Step-4 cloth­ing and a shiny pair of Styl­martins I def­i­nitely look like a spoilt brat. I have to be hon­est; when I re­ceived a text from Shirty ask­ing to ring him, I thought I was get­ting the boot. I was blown away when he said I could bor­row the new GP ma­chine. My only re­gret is that I waited un­til af­ter the Scott — I should have used it straight away, and I might have nicked the Ex­perts BTC.

How long have you been rid­ing for JST Gas Gas UK?

I used to go with my Dad to John Shirt Snr’s work­shop when he was rid­ing the mono-shock Yamaha. I loved to see John Shirt Jnr prac­tis­ing, I hero-wor­shipped him un­til Mr Col­ley came along. In my early adult tri­als, I rode with some sup­port from Hamil­ton Yamaha — Peter Ste­wart — on both the air- and wa­ter-cooled mono-shock ma­chines. I had tested other ma­chin­ery in­clud­ing the Gas Gas, but I re­mained faith­ful to Yamaha un­til the very end of 1998. I had other of­fers but there was only ever go­ing to be one choice for me, and I re­ceived my first Gas Gas in March 1999.

Do you re­mem­ber your first event on the Gas Gas?

It was my lo­cal na­tional, the Jack Wood. I only got the ‘Gasser’ a cou­ple of days be­fore, and I nar­rowly missed out on the fairy-tale win. It was the York­shire Cen­tre’s Jack El­lis Trial where I had my first Gas Gas vic­tory, and my first Na­tional win came at the Vic­tory Trial a few weeks later. I loved rid­ing my TYZ but rid­ing the ‘Gasser’ was like a bi­cy­cle in com­par­i­son.

Why tri­als and not foot­ball?

Foot­ball was al­ways eas­ier to play at school; boots and a ball, sim­ple, with friends and I re­ally en­joyed it. Play­ing for my lo­cal and school team, I got recog­nised by scouts from Derby County and Nott’s County, and I got in­vited to their School of Ex­cel­lence. I trained and played for both of these, but mainly shy­ness and a lack of con­fi­dence on my part meant that I was re­leased aged 14. I was gut­ted. I car­ried on play­ing foot­ball with it be­ing my num­ber one choice un­til I was 17. I rode in tri­als as of­ten as I could wear­ing ‘hand me downs’ and a BMX hel­met which I re­mem­ber had cost 50p at a bring-and-buy sale, on my beat up old Yamaha TY250. The 1992 YMSA 6-Day Trial was my first ma­jor event, and it was a real eye-opener to see many young rid­ers on brand new ma­chin­ery and with all the lat­est kit. I could hold my own in my lo­cal tri­als, but I was shell-shocked at how good lads my age were.

And so it was tri­als

I passed my driv­ing test on my sec­ond at­tempt — don’t ask – and com­peted in my first road based na­tional which was the 1995 Manx Two Day. I got my first spon­sored ride, a Yamaha TYZ, just be­fore the trial. It was a used ex-team Hamil­ton Yamaha and was a bit bat­tered, but I thought it was fan­tas­tic. This was the start of my full spon­sor­ship with Peter Ste­wart’s team. I re­alised how much I en­joyed rid­ing in these kinds of events, and tri­als like the White Rose, Travers, Lakes 2-Day and North­ern Ex­perts soon took pri­or­ity over foot­ball. It was al­most like dis­cov­er­ing a new sport. I had such a laugh rid­ing with the Hills­bor­ough crew, all trav­el­ling to­gether in one van. One of my big re­grets in tri­als is not rid­ing in the Scott Trial at this time though; I just thought it wasn’t for me. At 18 I got my first ever brand new mo­tor­cy­cle when Yamaha re­leased the lat­est TYZ model. I won my first Na­tional later that year, and seven more wins fol­lowed over the next few years. In Jan­uary 1999 I took my last Na­tional win on the Yamaha at the Vic Brit­tain. I am eter­nally grate­ful to Pete for giv­ing me my first big break in tri­als.

Where was your first na­tional win?

It was at the West of Eng­land Trial in 1996 at Ruby Rocks rid­ing the wa­ter-cooled TYZ. I had been rain­ing hard all week, so all the streams were in full flow, but I re­mem­ber lov­ing the trial and I still rel­ish con­di­tions like that to this day. I didn’t find out that I had won un­til the start of the trial the fol­low­ing day, at the Dick Far­quhar­son Na­tional.

And so you made the move to Gas Gas.

I made sure I tried the best ma­chin­ery avail­able at the time. I had ac­tu­ally tested the Gas Gas range the year be­fore for TMX. The Gas Gas was very good and we ‘gelled’ straight away. I couldn’t be­lieve how good it was and how much of a mis­take it had been, rid­ing the Yamaha for so long. Don’t get me wrong; the Yamaha was very re­li­able and was good, but it was out­dated. I wanted the 270 model, but Shirty in­sisted I rode the 250 to start with. I have to ad­mit that he was right and I rode the 250 for six months be­fore hav­ing a 270. We al­ways joke about how fa­mous Dad is, es­pe­cially in Europe. It soon be­came clear that he was telling the truth when I was in­tro­duced to Nar­cis Casas, one part of the Gas Gas part­ner­ship, at my first Euro­pean Cham­pi­onship trial. He re­called how he used to help dad when he was an ap­pren­tice at Bul­taco and that he thought he was bril­liant, I was in shock! Nar­cis en­sured that when­ever I rode out­side the UK, I had help from Gas Gas.

Have you ever con­sid­ered a change of ma­chin­ery?

Of course, but only to a Tri­umph Cub for the Pre65 Scot­tish! Se­ri­ously there’s been a few oc­ca­sions where I have had of­fers and gave them some con­sid­er­a­tion. But the only rea­son for me to change would be to try a new chal­lenge. When­ever you have a bad run of form, you ques­tion if a dif­fer­ent ma­chine would give you fresh mo­ti­va­tion. In truth, the ma­chin­ery is better than I will ever be so all I have to do is put more ef­fort in and the re­sults will come even­tu­ally. I work harder now at my fitness than I have ever done, I’m just miss­ing out on rid­ing time. Yes, I ride most week­ends, but I strug­gle to find time to prac­tise. I gen­er­ally be­lieve that I am on the best ma­chine around and the help from Shirty has al­lowed me to carry on rid­ing for as long as I have.

A mile­stone in your ca­reer was your 100th Na­tional win.

When I signed to ride for the JST Gas Gas UK team in 1999 Shirty asked me to keep track of all my re­sults. Well known tri­als jour­nal­ists Barry Robin­son and Mike Rap­ley started men­tion­ing that I must be ap­proach­ing the 100 mark. I checked and noted I was ap­proach­ing 90, hav­ing won around ten each year. From that point on­wards, maybe be­cause I was aware of it, I couldn’t buy a win. Then in 2010, I won a few Na­tion­als on the trot, and all of a sud­den peo­ple were telling me that I was just a cou­ple away. I even­tu­ally achieved it at the Alan Tro­phy Trial as I took win num­ber 100. Iron­i­cally it was one of my eas­ier wins.

That’s some achieve­ment.

I was de­lighted, not just for my­self but also my fam­ily and ev­ery­one who has sup­ported me. I have loved be­ing a part of the sport for so long and to have achieved the suc­cess I have is some­thing I am proud of. Trav­el­ling to most of the na­tion­als I al­ways look in the pro­grammes at past win­ners, and it was mostly Steve Saun­ders and Sammy Miller who would have won the most. To have my name as­so­ci­ated with these two le­gends is a huge ac­co­lade. It was such a good feel­ing to give some­thing back to the Shirt fam­ily for all their sup­port over the years.

You have rid­den in the Pre-65 Scot­tish with your father.

I had never been in­ter­ested in rid­ing in the Pre65. When Dad turned 70, I thought how good it would be to ride round with him. I had com­pletely un­der­es­ti­mated how dif­fi­cult it was to ride this trial on an older ma­chine! Ev­ery sec­tion was chal­leng­ing, and I showed my in­ex­pe­ri­ence on the Pre-65 ma­chine by mak­ing mis­takes that cost me the dream win. It was bril­liant rid­ing round with Dad again though. His clean on Pipe­line was sim­ply amaz­ing and is one of my hap­pi­est mo­ments in tri­als. His de­sire to ride and win far ex­ceeds mine. I cer­tainly don’t think I have it in me to win as many Clas­sic Bri­tish Cham­pi­onships (14) and Pre-65 Scot­tish’s (6).

How is life in 2018?

Busy! We have just re­turned from our be­lated hon­ey­moon with my wife Katy – six weeks off tri­als ex­plor­ing Aus­tralia and New Zealand. Now we need to get back into train­ing and back on two wheels. We both en­joy moun­tain bik­ing and have en­joyed com­pet­ing in a few MTB En­duros. BUMPY keeps me busy as we are quite a small op­er­a­tion, so it is a pre­req­ui­site that you are a ‘jack of all trades’. I plan on rid­ing in most of the Na­tion­als again, the SSDT and the BTC. There is also the small mat­ter of my 40th in Au­gust, where I will be cel­e­brat­ing at the ‘Ar­drock MTB En­duro with around 4,000 other com­peti­tors around the Scott course — should be fun!

In one word de­scribe the best ex­pe­ri­ence of com­pet­ing tri­als

Win­ning!

2017 North­ern Ex­perts: Dan used the full po­ten­tial of his new Gas Gas 300 TXTGP to take the run­ner-up po­si­tion.

1996 Alan Jef­feries: Dan on the Peter Ste­wart Hamil­ton Yamaha.

2010 Alan Tro­phy: On his way to his 100th na­tional trial win.

Sammy Miller holds on to Dan Thorpe in the eight­ies at the SSDT.

1999 and Dan moved to the JST Gas Gas UK team.

2010 Alan Tro­phy: The score­board says it all – win­ner!

2016 Pre-65 Scot­tish: Dan’s rid­ing style is very clean, calm and cal­cu­lated.

Dan is al­ways turned out im­mac­u­lately at any event. His sec­tion in­spec­tion is like a pho­to­graphic mem­ory.

2016 Pre-65 Scot­tish: Dan’s hero, his father Dave, on the left. They rode to­gether in the event which has been won six times by Dave.

In 2018 Dan mar­ried Katy Sunter, from that tri­als rid­ing fam­ily, in deep­est York­shire. Pic­ture Credit: James Ste­wart, Peter Ste­wart’s son.

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