1999 European Championship
The ‘Feeder’ route to the FIM Trial World Championship remains the same now as it was in this ‘Flashback’ look at the FIM European Trial Championship in 1999. When the late Peter Beardmore opened up his collection of pictures from his time spent attending the world and European rounds it brought back to me so many fond memories of watching young lads I know grow up in the trials world. Many have become good friends: Joe Baker supports the magazine with advert generation, the Crosswaite family remains good friends and I constantly see Ben Hemingway the world rounds in his capacity with the FIM. The Connor family are strong supporters of what we do, and I for one was very pleased when Jonny Starmer returned to trials. The Scott Trial wins from Michael Philipson and Ian Austermuhle were special moments and Dan Thorpe continues to win, all good people from the trials family. On the international front I have been friends with Adam Raga and his family for more than 20 years. My only regret – and I do not have many — is the fact that we were not producing Trial Magazine when these lot were all young kids; I know how much exposure and support we could have given them on the trials adventures in Europe.
The 1999 European Trials Championship consisted of six rounds, starting in Spain in July and finishing in Poland at the end of August. When you look at the results and championship positions you will see one name that still very much plays a part of the 2019 FIM Trial World Championship: Adam Raga. He committed a lifetime to challenging for world honours, which was rewarded with two FIM Trial World Championship titles in 2005 & 2006, and four FIM X-Trial World Championship titles in 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2007, a true testament to his dedication to the sport.
Both Sam Connor and Martin Crosswaite had successful careers and are still riding in the UK, as are the other points scorers from Great Britain Ben Hemingway and Jonny Starmer. It’s also interesting to note that the Spanish rider Santiago Navarros went on to spend some time as the trials competition manager at Gas Gas, and you will also have seen the name Andreas Lettenbichler from Germany appear in Extreme Enduro.
Round 1: 11/07/1999 – Spain Alto Campo – 2 Laps x 18 Sections – Entry: 65
In a low-scoring round it was very much a test of nerves so Martin Crosswaite was delighted to take the top step of the podium and in doing so pushed the much-fancied home rider Manuel Alcaraz into second position after a tie break, with Adam Raga one mark behind in third. This was a very traditional event played out in the usual baking heat of Spain in the Cantabrian Mountains of northern Spain.
A winter ski resort, it attracted 65 riders and the two laps of the 18 hazards were well laid out in this mountainous area. With four British riders in the top this was a very good start to the season. The ‘new’ Bultaco machines were now available and were being ridden successfully by both Sam Connor and Joe Baker. Results: 1: Martin Crosswaite (Gas Gas-GBR) 2; 2: Manuel Alcaraz (Montesa-ESP) 2; 3: Adam Raga (Gas Gas-ESP) 3; 4: Sergio Leon (Montesa-ESP) 5; 5: Gregory Eyries (Gas Gas-FRA) 7; 6: Ben Hemingway (Beta-GBR) 7; 7: Frederic Crosset (Gas Gas-BEL) 8; 8: Stefano Dellio (Montesa-ITA) 9; Andreas Lettenbichler (Montesa-GER) 11; 10: Sam Connor (Bultaco-GBR) 16. GREAT BRITAIN: 11: Jonny Starmer (Montesa) 16; 17: Joe Baker (Bultaco) 26; 19: Michael Philipson (Beta) 30; 21: Ian Austermuhle (Beta) 31; 25: Dan Thorpe (Gas Gas) 36;
Round 2: 18/07/1999 – Italy Campodolcino – 3 Laps x 14 Sections – Entry: 64
One week later, after the long 15-hour drive clocking up close-on 750 kilometres from Spain to get to the Italian round just north of Milan and close to the border with Switzerland, it was the turn of Adam Raga to take revenge from his defeat in Spain with a clear victory. Continuing his quest for the championship title Manuel Alcaraz came second as Belgium’s Frederic Crosset rounded off the podium.
At this high-altitude event the biggest loser was Martin Crosswaite who came home 11th, making it just three British riders in the top 15. Raga was obviously the man on form, but what’s interesting if you look at the results is how quickly the scores creep up into the early 20s in the top ten; yes, the fight for championship points was very close.
RESULTS: 1: Adam Raga (Gas Gas-ESP) 2; 2: Manuel Alcaraz (Montesa-ESP) 8; 3: Frederic Crosset (Gas Gas-BEL) 8; 4: Stefano Dellio (Montesa-ITA) 12; 5: Dario Re Delle Gandine (Montesa-ITA) 13; 6: Santiago Navarros (Montesa-ESP) 16; 7: Sergio Leon (Montesa-ESP) 19; 8: Anders Nilsson (Gas Gas-SWE) 20; 9: Sam Connor (Bultaco-GBR) 21; 10: Fabio Lenzi (Beta-ITA) 22.
GREAT BRITAIN: 11: Martin Crosswaite (Gas Gas-GBR) 22; 17: Ben Hemingway (Beta) 37; 19: Michael Philipson (Beta) 39; 28: Jonny Starmer (Montesa) 51; 34: Ian Austermuhle (Beta) 58; 35: Joe Baker (Bultaco) 58; 39: Dan Thorpe (Gas Gas) 66.
Round 3: 01/08/1999 – France Valdeblore – 3 Laps x 14 Sections – Entry: 58
At this very rocky venue found in the Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur region in south-eastern France it was that man Martin Crosswaite who would become engaged in a battle for supremacy once again with Adam Raga. This time it was the Spanish rider who had the upper hand by a mere two marks to take the victory.
On a very competitive day, with the top six separated by just six marks, Manuel Alcaraz kept his championship hopes alive with another consistent finish in third position. Sam Connor was well in the mix with a very strong sixth position where every mark counted with the marks being so close. Ben Hemingway took ninth and it was good news for Jonny Starmer as he once again scored championship points in 14th position. As Dan Thorpe returned home Ian Austermuhle, Michael Philipson and Joe Baker all remained focussed on that top-15 finish.
RESULTS: 1: Adam Raga (Gas Gas-ESP) 29; 2: Martin Crosswaite (Gas Gas-GBR) 31; 3: Manuel Alcaraz (Montesa-ESP) 32; 4: Frederic Crosset (Gas Gas-BEL) 34; 5: Dario Re Delle Gandine (Montesa-ITA) 35; 6: Sam Connor (Bultaco-GBR) 35; 7: Stefano Dellio (Montesa-ITA) 41; 8: Gregory Eyries (Gas Gas-FRA) 48; 9: Ben Hemingway (Beta-GBR) 48; 10: Fabio Lenzi (Beta-ITA) 50.
GREAT BRITAIN: 14: Jonny Starmer (Montesa) 61; 19: Ian Austermuhle (Beta) 71; 20: Michael Philipson (Beta) 74; 24: Joe Baker (Bultaco) 85.
Round 4: 08/08/1999 – Germany Thalheim – 3 Laps x 14 Sections – Entry: 55
This typically German industrial town stands close to the Ore Mountains and welcomed the 55 riders to round four of the championship. Once again the battle for supremacy would be between Spain’s Manuel Alcaraz and Adam Raga. After three close-scoring laps it was Alcaraz who held the upper hand as these two finished clear of third-placed Gregory Eyries. The battle for the final step on the podium had included seven riders, with the biggest loser Martin Crosswaite who finished seventh.
Raga still headed the championship but Alcaraz was closing in on him. Ben Hemingway took a single point in 15th as Jonny Starmer just missed out. As you can see, the battle for the points in the top 15 positions was very intense; marks lost wise, every single one counts. With six British riders in the top 20 round five could not come quick enough.
RESULTS: 1: Manuel Alcaraz (Montesa-ESP) 9; 2: Adam Raga (Gas Gas-ESP) 12; 3: Gregory Eyries (Gas Gas-FRA) 20; 4: Fabio Lenzi (Beta-ITA) 20; 5: Dario Re Delle Gandine (Montesa-ITA) 22; 6: Sam Connor (Bultaco-GBR) 22; 7: Martin Crosswaite (Gas Gas-GBR) 24; 8: Sergio Leon (Montesa-ESP) 24; 9: Andreas Lettenbichler (Montesa-GER) 25; 10: Stefano Dellio (Montesa-ITA) 29.
GREAT BRITAIN: 15: Ben Hemingway (Beta) 48; 16: Jonny Starmer (Montesa) 55; 18: Joe Baker (Bultaco) 57; 19: Ian Austermuhle (Beta) 58; 22: Michael Philipson (Beta) 65.
Round 5: 22/08/1999 – Czech Rep Kramolin – 3 Laps x 14 Sections – Entry: 39
It was now time for the gloves to come off as the fight for the championship headed into the home stretch; Raga knew he needed to win. As it happened it was it arch rival Manuel Alcaraz who once again took a very hard-fought victory, pushing Raga into second position.
For Sam Connor it was a fantastic day as he gave the ‘new’ Bultaco its maiden trip to the podium with a strong third position; he was a very happy man. On the other side of the fence it was a disaster for Martin Crosswaite, who saw any chance of the championship disappear with a slump in form dropping him to 18th. Jonny Starmer once again showed the form that had taken him to the Youth A Class championship earlier in his young career with a superb 11th position, just one mark in front of Ben Hemingway.
RESULTS: 1: Manuel Alcaraz (Montesa-ESP) 24; 2: Adam Raga (Gas Gas-ESP) 27; 3: Sam Connor (Bultaco-GBR) 29; 4: Dario Re Delle Gandine (Montesa-ITA) 33; 5: Frederic Crosset (Gas Gas-BEL) 39; 6: Sergio Leon (Montesa-ESP) 41; 7: Paval Belas (Gas Gas-CZE) 47; 8: Stefano Dellio (Montesa-ITA) 55; 9: Gregory Eyries (Gas Gas-FRA) 56; 10: Alex Van Den Broek (Montesa-NED) 58.
GREAT BRITAIN: 11: Jonny Starmer (Montesa) 63; 13: Ben Hemingway (Beta) 64; 16: Michael Philipson (Beta) 68; 18: Martin Crosswaite (Gas Gas) 75; 21: Joe Baker (Bultaco) 89; 22: Ian Austermuhle (Beta) 95.
Round 6: 29/08/1999 – Poland Krakow – 2 Laps x 18 Sections – Entry: 38
Who would have believed that after six hard-fought rounds Manuel Alcaraz and Adam Raga would finish losing the same amount of marks in Poland. On the tie-break decider Alcaraz was the winner of the trial and with it took the 1999 European Trials Championship title with it. After very much looking like a championship title contender, Martin Crosswaite eventually finished sixth overall as Sam Connor, in fourth position overall, took the award for the best rider from Great Britain.
Ben Hemingway would finish 13th with Jonny Starmer in 15th. The other Brits had gained invaluable experience, which would no doubt make them better riders. This six-round championship worked very well and as you can see from the scores some of the rounds saw quite high-scoring winning rides. Many of these riders remain the best of friends, having spent the time ‘roughing’ it living in the backs of vans — it’s what we call ‘The Trials Family’.
RESULTS: 1: Manuel Alcaraz (Montesa-ESP) 37; 2: Adam Raga (Gas Gas-ESP) 37; 3: Fabio Lenzi (Beta-ITA) 40; 4: Frederic Crosset (Gas Gas-BEL) 45; 5: Sam Connor (Bultaco-GBR) 50; 6: Dario Re Delle Gandine (Montesa-ITA) 51; 7: Santiago Navarros (Montesa-ESP) 54; 8: Andreas Lettenbichler (Montesa-GER) 55; 9: Gregory Eyries (Gas Gas-FRA) 55; 10: Sergio Leon (MontesaESP) 57;
GREAT BRITAIN: 12: Jonny Starmer (Montesa) 60; 14: Martin Crosswaite (Gas Gas) 65; 17: Ben Hemingway (Beta) 71; 18: Michael Philipson (Beta) 71; 21: Joe Baker (Bultaco) 80; 23: Ian Austermuhle (Beta) 103.
1999 European Trials Championship
RESULTS: 1: Manuel Alcaraz (Montesa-ESP) 109; 2: Adam Raga (Gas Gas-ESP) 106; 3: Frederic Crosset (Gas Gas-BEL) 64; 4: Sam Connor (Bultaco-GBR) 59; 5: Dario Re Delle Gandine (Montesa-ITA) 59; 6: Martin Crosswaite (Gas Gas-GBR) 53; 7: Gregory Eyries (Gas Gas-FRA) 52; 8: Sergio Leon (MontesaESP) 50; 9: Stefano Dellio (Montesa-ITA) 47; 10: Fabio Lenzi (Beta-ITA) 41; 11: Andreas Lettenbichler (Montesa-GER) 30; 12: Santiago Navarros (MontesaESP) 28; 13: Ben Hemingway (Beta-GBR) 21; 14: Alex Van Den Broek (Montesa-NED) 18; 15: Jonny Starmer (Montesa-GBR) 16; 16: Anders Nilsson (Gas Gas-SWE) 12; 17: Paval Belas (Gas Gas-CZE) 11; 18: Marco Reit (Beta-NED) 5; 19: Xavier Vilaseca (Montesa-ESP) 2; 20: Martin Kroustek (Gas Gas-CZE) 2; 21: Jerome Delair (Beta-FRA) 1.
The title was well deserved for Manuel Alcaraz as he took the most round wins; as we have already stated Adam Raga still competes, now in the 2019 Trial World Championship, Martin Crosswaite remains a very popular and successful rider in Yorkshire Centre trials, and, as for Manuel Alcaraz, we have no idea where he is? MANUEL ALCARAZ (MONTESA-ESP): 3 Germany, Czechoslovakia and Poland ADAM RAGA (GAS GAS-ESP): 2 Italy and France MARTIN CROSSWAITE (GAS GAS-GBR): 1 Spain
MONTESA: 9; Gas Gas: 7; Beta: 4; Bultaco: 1 The event was very well supported by the manufacturers. Of the points-scoring riders the Montesa was the most popular machine, with the Cota 315R next followed by the Gas Gas. Dougie Lampkin was the FIM World Trials Champion on Beta. With one Bultaco in the points in the European championship the name would move to Sherco for 2000 and the start of a new era for motorcycle trials.
Trial Magazine would like to thank the ‘Guardian’ of trials Charly Demathieu and his website: www. trialonline.org for his help in the generation of this article, and the late Peter J Beardmore for the superb pictures.
Martin Crosswaite (Gas Gas-GBR) on his way to winning the opening round in Spain.
The Spanish Podium: 2: Manuel Alcaraz (Montesa-ESP), 1: Martin Crosswaite (Gas Gas-GBR), 3: Adam Raga (Gas Gas-ESP)
The paddock at the French round at Valdeblore on 1st August 1999.
The opening round in Spain was in the Cantabrian Mountains of northern Spain.
One very happy Martin Crosswaite with the winner’s spoils.
One man and a van: Joe Baker in Spain.
Total control and feet-up from Jonny Starmer on the Montesa. He collected two points in France, finishing in 14th.
It’s ‘Tongue Out’ time for Dan Thorpe on the Gas Gas in Spain. Dan contested the first few rounds of the European Championship.
It’s full concentration for Ian Austermuhle as he holds the Beta on-line in Spain.
Enthusiasm from friends and sponsors helps so much for the riders who have travelled abroad over the years. In 1998 Joe Baker was riding a Montesa with support from a small trials dealership, Trialsport South West, owned and run by Anthony ‘Ant’ Tennet and his wife Tracy. In 1999, at their own expense, they flew out to all the European rounds to help and support Joe. They continued the support for many years after. Joe is externally grateful for this support and remembers these years as very good times in his life.
Friends become ‘minders’: Mark Harrison is the man in Spain on the spare Beta looking after Ian Austermuhle.
After a good start to the season in Spain Ben Hemingway (Beta) was back in the points in France.
The win from Manuel Alcaraz over Adam Raga in the Czech Republic set the scene for the title decider in Poland one week later which went in Alcaraz’s favour. Third place in the Czech Republic went to Sam Connor.
Sam Connor (Bultaco) started to show good form in France having scored points in the opening two rounds with a strong sixth position.
Looking very confident – and with good reason; Martin Crosswaite finished second in France after a poor result in Italy a few weeks earlier.
Standing proud in front of the scoreboard in the Czech Republic, Sam Connor’s form had come too late in the six-round championship.
Michael Philipson (Beta) waits to start in France.
Ian Austermuhle using another friend as a minder: Ben Ludgate in the Czech Republic.
Sam Connor (Bultaco) did not need the ambulance, he was showing good consistent riding which was rewarded with a third in the Czech Republic and fifth in Poland one week later.
Michael Philipson (Beta) came so close to his first point in the Czech Republic finishing in 16th position.
Joe Baker (Sherco) – the smile says it all as he waits to start in the Czech Republic.