Forty years ago in the April the pres­ti­gious In­ter Cen­tre Team Trial made its way to the Lake District in the north of the coun­try. Many older rid­ers who read this ar­ti­cle will know that the haz­ards were lo­cated on the old Lakes Two­Day course as op­posed to what is rid­den to­day, but still based around Broughton in Fur­ness. The old course would take in haz­ards in the Dud­don Val­ley and its sur­round­ing area, Walna Scar and Ul­pha, which is sit­u­ated just over four miles from Broughton. A tough but fair sin­gle­lap course laid out by the late Bill Birkett, Nigel’s father, would take in forty-six haz­ards us­ing the vary­ing ter­rain found in the area which in­cludes rocks, rivers and steep wooded climbs, mak­ing it an ideal tri­als lo­ca­tion. With the York­shire Cen­tre team man­ager Tom El­lis chas­ing an eighth con­sec­u­tive win who would have bet­ted against the ‘Yorkies’ con­tin­u­ing with their win­ning streak. Tom El­lis was a very well-re­spected York­shire­man and ex-BSA works rider. He was very proud of the team’s achieve­ments and re­spected by all who knew him.

With the World and Bri­tish Tri­als Cham­pi­onships well un­der way, the main fo­cus of at­ten­tion was the forth­com­ing Scot­tish Six Days Trial in May. The na­tional Traders Trial was the day be­fore the In­ter-Cen­tre Team com­pe­ti­tion and it threw up some sur­prises for the en­try of just over ninety rid­ers, which might have af­fected an­other York­shire vic­tory.


The first ca­su­alty was Martin Lamp­kin and his Bul­taco. This was a brand new ma­chine he had prac­tised on and the one he would ride in the SSDT, his num­ber one ma­chine. The ma­chine, pre­pared by Reg May, was in ex­cel­lent shape but he had a new mod­i­fied air fil­ter box he had been try­ing that he had fit­ted in readi­ness for the six-day event to make sure in the heat of the com­pe­ti­tion it was okay. Un­known to Martin it had started to let a small amount of mud and wa­ter en­ter, caus­ing the car­bu­ret­tor slide to jam wide open, and he looped the ma­chine down a wa­ter­fall haz­ard break­ing many parts in the sub­se­quent crash. Af­ter some pretty handy span­ner work, he soon had the Bul­taco up and run­ning but was not happy with how it was performing. At a two-thirds dis­tance, he re­tired and rushed back to his York­shire base to af­fect some re­pairs for the In­ter-Cen­tre event the day af­ter.

Held at Pon­ti­las, Here­ford­shire, the Traders Trial turned into a four-way bat­tle be­tween cur­rent Bri­tish Cham­pion Rob Shep­herd (Honda), Mal­colm Rath­mell (Beamish Suzuki), Rob Ed­wards (Montesa) and even­tual win­ner Nigel Birkett (Montesa). Rid­ing a heav­ily mod­i­fied ma­chine as he tried to ad­just to the Beamish Suzuki af­ter many suc­cess­ful sea­sons on a Montesa, Rath­mell was in with a shout for the win un­til three haz­ards from home when a wooden branch hit him in his right eye, af­fect­ing his vi­sion as the dam­age around the eye swelled up. He fin­ished the event but had to take a three on the last haz­ard as he could not see clearly.

An on-form Nigel Birkett won on 48 with Rath­mell next on 49, Shep­herd on 50 and Ed­wards with 54 marks lost. Rath­mell trav­elled to the Lake District but pulled out of the event as the eye closed. A late-night phone call to Alan ‘Sid’ Lamp­kin had him pulled out of bed to com­pete with the team in place of Rath­mell!

Rob Shep­herd (Honda): This was one of the last out­ings for the three year old long-stroke 306 Honda that had taken ‘Shep’ to the 1977 Bri­tish Tri­als Cham­pi­onship. He was in­formed by Honda in Ja­pan that a new, even longer stroked, four-stroke model...

Allen Col­lier (Honda): This 200cc Honda that Allen is seen on here has a very in­ter­est­ing his­tory. His friend John Banks, of mo­tocross fame, was build­ing some spe­cial Mu­gen Honda pow­ered ma­chines. When the en­gines ar­rived in mid-1977 there were also...

Nor­man Shep­herd (Bul­taco): The younger of the two Pate­ley Bridge based farm­ers he was sup­ported in all na­tional tri­als by the UK Bul­taco im­porters Comer­fords where he scored some im­pres­sive re­sults.

Nigel Birkett (Montesa): Af­ter rid­ing the 325 Suzuki for a few sea­sons with some suc­cess, which in­cluded the high­est place world cham­pi­onship fin­ish ever for the Ja­panese man­u­fac­turer, in Switzerlan­d in 1975, Birkett moved to Montesa in 1978. He was a...

Martin Lamp­kin (Bul­taco): Af­ter a late night ‘fet­tling’ from the pre­vi­ous day’s Wye Val­ley Traders Trial Martin was back on form and look­ing good. The new ma­chine he had rid­den the pre­vi­ous day was parked up for the In­ter Cen­tre and he rode the...

Alan Lamp­kin (Bul­taco): With Mal­colm Rath­mell forced out of the event with his dam­aged eye, a late night phone call had ‘Sid’ dragged out of bed to re­place him. His Bul­taco was loaded up and he trav­elled to the event early on the Sun­day morn­ing.

John Reynolds (SWM): Priced at a wal­let-break­ing £1,048.00, the new SWM tri­als ma­chines from Italy had ar­rived in Fe­bru­ary for both Colin Bell and John Reynolds to ride. With Ro­tary Valve in­duc­tion they pro­duced a unique en­gine noise and ‘JR’ was...

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