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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
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.