Ten Times Scottish Trials Champion, Gary Macdonald from Kinlochleven has signed for Gas Gas UK for 2015.
“I’m super excited to be back with GasGasuk/Shirty for 2015. Having had great success in 2010/2011 with a British title, two Scottish titles and two top five places in Scottish six days trials it’s time to get back into trials after a few months away from it” said a delighted Macdonald.
Macdonald is the most successful Scottish trials rider of all time. He has amassed ten titles, the most title wins any trials rider has achieved in Scotland since the series began in 1955. He has been ACU British Expert A champion and has had two podium finishes at the SSDT, 2003 and 2013.
Apart from Bob MacGregor’s two wins in 1932 and 1935, no Scot has finished higher than Macdonald in the SSDT.
Photo: Copyright: Andy Hipwell, Buxton.
Copyright & report: Trials Guru / Moffat Racing, John Moffat 2014
Jack Williamson was Scottish Trials Champion in 1962, 1963 and 1964 and was a regular competitor in the annual Scottish Six Days Trial. In the 1958 event, Jack rode a 500cc Ariel HT5 registered OSG443, an Edinburgh BC registration. The photo appeared on facebook recently which sparked off an interest in the machines history. The bike had been undergoing some restoration work at Loch Ness Restorations at Dochfour just outside of Inverness. The next to current owner, Terry Fullarton contacted Jack as the current owner, Phil Marshall wanted to know more about the bike’s history.
The bike had at one time been the property of former Scottish Scrambles Champion, George Hodge of Abington, Lanarkshire and he used it regularly in the late 1960’s to check his flock of sheep on his hill farm for many years before selling the Ariel.
Williamson used the bike in the 1958 Scottish and at this year’s Pre-65 Scottish at Kinlochleven, Jack was re-united with the Ariel 56 years after he rode the SSDT on the machine.
Former Greeves works rider, Bill Wilkinson, the last British rider to win the SSDT on a British built bike (1969) was on hand to witness the re-union of bike and rider.
Jack was delighted to be acquainted once more with his old trials iron and took it for a short ride around the old Aluminium factory grounds. In the meantime, The Guru has suggested that George Hodge be contacted as he will be instrumental in filling in the gaps of the machines history.
More on Jack Williamson:
Jack was brought up in Newtongrange, Midlothian and worked in the family business as a TV and radio mechanic.
His first trials machine was a 350cc Matchless demobbed from the War department and converted for off road use. However young Williamson fettled the bike so well that he didn’t want to use it, so he sold it for a profit and purchased a genuine “comp” model in 1948, the year he started competing. His mentors were Tommy “Tuck” Robertson and Jimmy Hutchins, both respected trials and scrambles riders of the post-war era.
Jackie was a natural rider but he took competition seriously enough to practice every day, at lunchtime he would spend an hour on the “pit bing” of the Lady Victoria mine. As the years progressed, Jack became a local sporting personality in that mining town and occasionally a bus was hired to take his supporters to watch Jackie ride in a trial or scramble far a field.
By 1951, Jack had won the Scottish Experts Trial, which at that time was a qualifying event for the British Experts.
Jack’s successes were constantly reported in the Edinburgh Evening News and in 1964 the paper did a feature on him by then, had won most of Scotland’s national fixtures and was three times Scottish Trials Champion, 1962, 1963 and 1964.
The amassed collection of trophies accompanying the article was quite breathtaking, fortunately his awards are preserved and we can show Jack in a recent photograph with them laid out with a magnificent shot of him in the 1963 SSDT on ‘Grey Mare’s Ridge’ as a centre-piece.
1963, a good year!
In the 1963 season detailed below, Jack achieved the following results in that year’s events, 250cc Greeves mounted, it gives a fascinating insight into a rider’s year in trials competition. The events marked (TC) denote a championship round:
January 27, Dundee – (Trial cancelled because of Snow)
February 17, Stevenston – Runner-Up
February 24, Perth – (Trial cancelled)
March 3, Edinburgh Southern Coronation Trial (TC) – 1st Equal
March 10, Montrose (TC) – 5th
March 17, Falkirk John Bull (TC) – Runner-up
March 24, Dunfermline – 7th
March 31, Lanarkshire Valente Trial (TC) – 5th
April 7, Kirkcaldy – Runner-up
April 14, Lochaber Spring Trial (TC) – Winner
April 21, Dundee – 3rd
May 6 to 11, Scottish Six Days – 36th & Best Scot, Best E&D member
May 19, Kinross – 4th
May 25 & 26, Lion Two-Day Trial – 3rd
June 9, Edinburgh St. George, Colonial Trial – Winner
July 28 Edinburgh St. George News Trial – (Restricted to Non Experts & Novice riders only – no entry)
August 18, Mercury Trial – (On holiday, no entry)
August 25, Lion Trial – (On holiday, no entry)
August 31 – September 1, Highland MCC Two-Day – Runner-up
September 8, Edinburgh St. George Mirylees Trial – (Unwell, no entry)
September 15, Loch Lomond – (Unwell, no entry)
September 22, Edinburgh Southern Scottish Experts – (Trial cancelled)
September 29, Perth (TC) – 3rd
October 1, CSMA Trial – Winner
October 13, Stevenston Ayrshire Trial (TC) – Runner-up
October 20, Dunfermline Campbell Trial – Winner
November 3, Kirkcaldy George Scott Memorial trial (TC) – 4th
November 17, Edinburgh St. George Plaza Trial (TC) – 12th
November 24, Glasgow Lion Trial – Winner
Overall, Jack won that year’s 9 round Scottish Trials Championship.
Jack competed predominantly in Trials but also was a successful scrambler and grass tracker. He even had a go at road racing, encouraged by the late Davie Lamb, Jack changed the handlebars and gearing on his trials A.J.S and raced at the Kirkcaldy Club’s Beveridge Park.
It was Jackie’s rides in the Scottish Six Days that are probably most memorable for Scottish trials fans. He rode the SSDT 25 times over a period from 1948 to 1975 and only failed to finish once due to mechanical failure when riding a 350cc Matchless.
He was best Scotsman in the SSDT on no fewer than six occasions and best Edinburgh and District club member on more occasions than he cares to remember. Jackie rode a vast array of different machines in his career and always moved with the times.
He commenced on a string of AJS, then Matchless, Ariel and BSA four stroke machines. When two-stroke dominance came in he switched to Dot; DMW; Greeves on which he had his three championship titles; Bultaco, Montesa and Ossa. He never owned a Norton but borrowed one from his friend Bobby Neilson to ride in a couple of trials after setting his AJS on fire when it fell over at a Perth event!
By 1968, the SACU had laid plans to field the British Vase team for the 44th International Six Days Trial to be held at Garmisch Partenkirchen, Bavaria in the following year. Jack was selected as one of the Scottish squad by Team Manager, George Baird.
Jackie was 38 years of age but still a fast rider on the rough and had a great depth of experience. Unfortunately the Montesa Scorpion he used broke its gear change selector spring and that put an end to his efforts. His career as a sporting rider was refreshed in the form of what we now call enduros.
And In 1972 Jack, riding a 250cc Ossa finished with a bronze medal and was the sole surviving private British entrant and was awarded the Arthur Prince trophy by the ACU for his efforts.
Jack’s final attempt at the ISDT was in the 1974 event at Camerino, Italy in which he crashed at high speed on a tarmac section suffering concussion, a broken nose and other injuries that would eventually signal the finale to his active riding career, which spanned 27 years, effectively three generations of competitors. Jack had ridden with grandfathers, fathers and sons!
Finally, our article on Jack finishes with a song! Written by enthusiast Harry H. Cook and entitled “Song of the Edinburgh Southern Motor Club, to the tune of Feet Up performed by Guy Mitchell:
“Feet Up, Keep ’em on the footrest,
That’s how to win.
Feet Up, Keep ’em on the footrests,
When the front wheels in.
Ain’t seen a trial like this before,
So darned easy, gonna win some more,
Feet up, keep ’em on the footrests, That’s how to win.
Now I’ve been known to scramble,
And even win a Cup,
And there’s the time I had a spill,
And landed down side up.
And though my bike is not spring heeled,
Gonna beat them all without a fall,
‘Cos I want that shield.
Feet up, keep ’em on the footrests,
Take the section clean,
Feet up, keep ’em on the footrests at berdeen.
Williamson, Hutch and Neilson too,Go to it boys, it’s up to you.
As mentioned in the Jackie Williamson article above, the Scottish ACU had been granted Vase B team status by the ACU for the 1969 International Six Days Trial at Garmisch-Partenkirchen. The SACU is not directly recognised by the FIM as the ACU is their representative at council for the UK as a whole.
The SACU managed to negotiate some machinery from manufacturers, being Dalesman in Otley, Yorkshire for two 125cc Puch engine bikes and BSA for two 250cc Starfires.
The Daleman Puchs were funded by Jim Birrell of Markinch, Fife. Birrell was a haulage contractor and President of the SACU. These bikes were registered by Ernie Page of Page Motors Ltd, Polwarth Crescent, Edinburgh in August 1969 as PSG564H (ridden by Ian D.B. Miller) & PSG565H (ridden by Ernie Page – riding number 162).
The BSAs were supplied by the factory at Small Heath in Birmingham and had been used as marshal’s machines during the 1969 Milk Race which took place throughout the UK and funded by the Milk Marketing Board which was won by Dutchman, Fedor Den Hertog. The event is now known as the Tour of Britain.
SACU secretary & Treasurer, T. A. Moffat volunteered to collect the BSA Starfires from the factory, a round trip of some 600 miles from his home in Bathgate, West Lothian. Moffat had connections in the road haulage industry and British Road Services agreed to ship the Dalesman machines from Otley to their depot at Guildiehaugh, Bathgate for a nominal charge.
Miller and Page collected their machines from Moffat’s home and they set about preparing and running in their mounts for the September event, the machines proved to be too high-geared for the gruelling event. Page’s machine expired mid-week with clutch problems, caused by constantly slipping the clutch to maintain speed on the steep going. Miller also retired on day one with chain adjuster problems and a wayward back wheel.
The BSA B25 Starfires, registered by BSA Motorcycles Ltd on 12 March 1969 were to be ridden by Jimmy Ballantyne, a tax inspector from Newbridge who had ridden the 1968 ISDT at San Pellegrino in Italy, he was allocated POL541G and Jackie Williamson was allocated POL540G. However, Williamson was unhappy at having to convert a road machine into a Six Days trial machine in a short space of time. With a busy business to run in Newtongrange, Williamson went out and bought the Montesa King Scorpion as mentioned in his article. The BSA was subsequently returned to Moffat, unused.
Ballantyne persevered with the BSA and replaced the front forks and wheel with a complete Ceriani unit from his 250cc Greeves scrambler, and the fuel tank sourced from Edinburgh dealers, Edgar Brothers stock of AJS parts. He fitted an AJS Y4 motocross fibreglass unit which was lighter than the steel BSA component. He also had a compartment inserted into the rear of the twin-seat to carry tools and small spare parts.
Unfortunately his preparations were to be in vain, he suffered electrical problems in the event and the machine cut-out completely in a long forestry stage. It refused to start until, in a try-all effort, he switched the headlight on and the bike started. He tried to make up lost time, almost an hour when he was negotiating a long bend when he came face to face with a forestry forwarder machine which had been allowed into the forest thinking that all the riders had been through. Ballantyne threw the bike to the ground in an effort to avoid the huge machine, but suffered two broken legs in the process and the BSA went under the wheels, crushing it badly.
The only survivor from the Scottish squad was Derek Edgar (125cc Puch) who had ridden the 1968 event in Italy and having gained valuable experience, went on to win a silver medal for his efforts.
Post event, BSA insisted that the two machines were returned, POL541G was crated up with Ballantyne’s parts being removed and returned to him and the original front wheel, forks and fuel tank placed in the crate with the remains of the badly damaged Starfire. Williamson’s machine, POL540G was returned on the same lorry to Small Heath, arranged by Moffat.
Happily the ‘unused’ BSA was eventually sold by the factory and to our knowledge still exists as a letter was spotted some years ago in Old Bike mart magazine. The owner was seeking details of the BSA which of course had been registered by the factory and supplied to the Milk Race organisers and ‘Moffat of Bathgate’.
Williamson’s rejection was the effective saving of POL540G, the BSA Starfire, intact and the bike lives on to this day almost 50 years later!
J.Ian Bell was six times Scottish Scrambles Champion, he took up enduro riding in his sixties and enjoyed every minute of it! Trials Guru brings you the story of a truly remarkable character and highly respected motorcyclist who was picking up awards 50 years after his first win.
Charlie Mackenzie of Scottish Enduros website carried this story some years ago and said: “Ian Bell passed away while competing at the Melville MC Selkirk 2 day Enduro in 2005 . A fly past by the Red Arrows just before a minutes silence on the Sunday proved a fitting tribute to his skill and the affection and high regard in which he was held by his fellows”
So here is my original article which I wrote after riding with Ian in some Scottish Enduros in the early 2000’s and sat an afternoon with him, interviewing him for a magazine I used to write for. It was a privilege to have known him and an honour to be one of his friends
His grandsons, Liston and Lewis Bell may be known to some of the current riders.
Ageism is a growing problem in British industry and commerce, as employers seek younger people to run departments and even whole companies. Well, thankfully it doesn’t apply in motor cycle sport. Ian Bell, one of the sprightliest septenagarians you will ever meet, is living proof that you’re never too old to enjoy a Sunday’s racing!
James Ian Bell was born in the Baberton area of Edinburgh on 27th February 1927 and was brought up in the suburb of Corstorphine. He served his time as an Marine Engineer with Brown Brothers whose works were in Pilrig Street close to Leith docks.
Ian developed an early passion for motorbikes and whilst his Father never competed, he owned a road machine for a while thus encouraging Bell junior. Ian’s first bike was a 1932 250cc BSA Blue Star in 1945 which, having collected it from the vendor, pushed it home a distance of about 5 miles! The Beesa was followed by a 500cc Model 18 Norton, then a New Imperial. Trials were Ian’s first competition foray, kindled by spectating at an event staged in the Pentland Hills, south of Edinburgh.
He obtained a 1938 Levis and joined the Midlothian Motor Cycle Club. Machines were adaptable then, it was quite normal for switching between the sedate art of trialling to the cut and thrust of scrambling.
In 1948 a brand new 347cc AJS competition model was ordered from Rossleigh’s W.J. “Bill” Smith (who later became a Director of Associated Motor Cycles in Plumstead). Bill assured Ian the AJS would arrive in “good time” for his Scottish Six Days debut. In fact, Bell took delivery of the black and gold Ajay just two days before the start of the world’s hardest trial!
The AJS gave excellent service and was used for all manner of events as was the practice in those days, be it scrambles, grass track, hill climbs or trials. Many years later, whilst scrambling a jampot model AJS, the frame fractured below the headstock, Bill Smith refuted Ian’s claim, with the comment that: “…AJS frames don’t break”.
Having trained on marine engines, motorbikes were a doddle, so Ian went to work for local dealers, Edgar Brothers as a mechanic. After a while, Bell set up a dealership, selling Royal Enfield’s as sub agents of the mighty J. R. Alexander main dealership. His partner was the late Alec “Ackie” Small, a keen motorcyclist who was a clever handed enthusiast who worked in the Civil Service.
“Ackie was quite a good scrambler in his own right, his greatest talent was building special bikes such as Tribsa’s and he spent a lot of time converting rigid framed bikes to springers for our customers. His daughter is Viv Lumsden, now a well known newsreader/presenter with Scottish Television. Not just a business colleague, Ackie was a very dear friend” says Ian.
Bell & Small, as the firm was called, were based in premises at 2 Broughton Place, Edinburgh and the business grew by selling both road machines and of course competition bikes due to Ian’s sporting success. The Royal Enfield connection became more and more important with Ian racing 350 and 500cc Bullets in scrambles trim. He took Scottish championship honours first in 1953, winning both 350cc and unlimited titles in the same year on Reddich machinery. He went on to win 350 honours again in 1954 and 1957, taking the 500 title 1955 and 1957.
What’s not commonly known is that when Ian eventually terminated his business, it gave his then mechanic a unique business opportunity. That mechanic was none other than Ernie Page, one of Scotland’s best off road riders.
Foreign fields of fire…
Bell was one of a very few from Scotland who ventured overseas to race with annual visits to France where motocross was probably more popular than soccer. Ian recounts when racing in France, he literally destroyed his 350 Enfield during an evening practice session. On full cry the throttle jammed wide open prior to a big jump, he casually baled out and the bike flew out of sight behind some gorse bushes, catching alight on impact. The local fire service was summoned to extinguish the blaze, giving a grateful Ian plus what remained of the Enfield a lift back to the pub in the town of La Baule. Duty done, the fire team plus Fire Chief and Chief of Police proceeded to drink the night away!
On his trip home to Scotland, Ian called in at Enfields and politely enquired if he could borrow a bike to contest the Scottish championship round at Castle Douglas the following weekend. Charlie Rodgers arranged for Geoff Broadbent’s factory bike to be despatched north.
“Broadbent wasn’t too chuffed at his bike being lent out and contacted me, informing that I could ride it but don’t dare lay a spanner on it!” recalls Ian.
A friend in the factory…
“I formed a close friendship with Charlie Rodgers at the factory, he was a really nice chap and I went down at least once a year to obtain racing spares from the comp-shop. Many of the parts were taken off factory prepared scrambles and trials bikes. I remember spotting a pair of Electron motors sitting in a corner during a visit, which had reputedly been raced by the Rickmans, I always wondered what happened to those” smiles Ian.
“Once, in a batch of second hand parts we collected, there were a pair of rear dampers which would not compress. I assumed that they had seized, but once stripped down we found a piece of tubing inserted to prevent movement. The only logical explanation was that these were used to make a trials springer into a rigid.
When I first rode Enfields, they were very competitive, I enjoyed riding them very much, the problem was that they didn’t get any better throughout the years” .
Ian finally decided if he couldn’t beat them join them, switching to a brace of BSA Gold Stars, standard issue winning machines of the period.
The Mud Maestro…
Ian was well known for being a top performer when the conditions were very muddy, he had the knack of finding traction whilst others wallowed. This explains the reason why so many of Ian’s photos show him in mid air high above a heavily rutted backdrop. He also was famed for wearing pure white riding shirts and his friends could never understand how he kept so clean during a muddy meeting. The answer was quite simple and two fold, he was invariably out in front and took two shirts with him!
Ian reckons his finest hour, apart from his championship victories, was winning the 350 class on his self tuned Enfield at the Lancs Grand National on Holcombe Moor near Bury in 1953.
“I purposefully held back at the start as it was always a wet event and many riders got bogged down early on, I picked my way past the less fortunate caught in the energy sapping moorland” recounts Ian.
Hard man to beat….
The newspaper reports on the Monday morning following a scramble invariably read that the “Midlothian Ace” as he was referred to, had cleaned up again and again. The Bell legend grew and was sustained over a period of nearly ten years. He was the man they all set out to beat in Scotland in those golden years of four stoke scrambling. If you get the chance, just chat with any old worthy who was there at the time, rest assured you will find that the name Ian Bell will crop up somewhere in the conversation.
Ian has great respect for his racing rivals. “There was a strong entry, with perhaps a dozen or so who could win, given a fair start. Memories of my duels with George Hodge, Alan Weir, Bill Innes and the like are good to look back on. My most respected adversary is John Davies, he was so tidy on a bike, I could beat him in a race but I confess that I could never match his style” remarks Ian.
The Bells married in 1954, Margie and Ian have two sons, Mike and Gary and two grandsons, Lewis and Liston, Mike’s two sons. Mike Bell is Assistant Clerk of Course of the Scottish Six Days and races a pre-60 Tribsa, he followed Dad’s tyre tracks by taking up trials in 1977. Ian decided that it would be fun to ride as well and took up trials again. In 1987 at the age of 60, Ian turned his attention to enduros which were becoming popular in Scotland.
Margie doesn’t sit at home with the knitting and ironing, she has been happy to be involved and still makes the tea for Ian at the end of a long Welsh, Stang or Cardrona.
“Margie has been a tower of strength to the family and I ” remarks softly spoken Ian.
On any Sunday…
” I think that you get good value enduro riding because you spend more time in the saddle than riding scrambles or trials, you can be on the bike for anything up to seven hours, time flies when you’re enjoying yourself” enthuses Ian.
His performance in the trail bike class of the 1998 Welsh Two Day says it all, at 71 years of age his win is no mean achievement. Ian is in the winnings half a century after his first victory on a competition motorcycle. But perhaps the most fitting award Ian has won was at the 1998 Stang Enduro, the James Hill Trophy – for the rider having most fun at the event!
One thing that you discover during a discussion with Ian is that he is a shy individual who tends to hide his achievements, never guilty of bragging but super keen on talking motorbikes. He obviously enjoyed his years winning, but he is also a “died in the wool” motorcyclist, happy being able to compete now just as he did all those years ago. Bikes are very much in the blood of Ian Bell! His close comrades reckon he’s as enthusiastic about them as ever before.
While most seventy year olds are content watching others having fun, he likes nothing better than getting that mud flying skyward on a Sunday afternoon. Regularly disgracing enduro riders one quarter of his age, who have had enough after lap two, there’s Ian with a broad grin at the finish, maybe tired, but a happy man.
“I can’t understand why if the bike is still going well, riders drop out of an event, it’s a waste of good money and time” smiles the canny Scot whose been known to collect his pension money and promptly write a cheque for an entry fee.
Ian Bell has earned the respect of spectators and riders over a mighty long period of time which is very fitting indeed.
And just like that well known advertising slogan for a popular Scotch whisky, “he’s still going strong”.
Copyright: John Moffat 2001
Copyright: Trials Guru/ Moffat Racing, John Moffat 2014
The Scottish ACU Scottish Trials Championship, Presentation of Awards will take place on Saturday 6th December 2014 at the Territorial Army Centre, Beveridge Square, Livingston, West Lothian EH54 6QF. – Doors Open: 6.30pm, awards begin 7.00pm.
Guest of Honour will be Jack Williamson, the oldest surviving Scottish Trials Champion (1962-64).
The evening is open to all SACU trials licence holders and their guests.
Introducing the proceedings will be Trials Guru – John Moffat.
The adventure getting to Medellin still wasn’t over. I didn’t know that Medellin was situated in the bottom of what was probably a extinct volcano. It was only a short journey but I didn’t realise how short.
The plane a DC10, took off and immediately went into a very steep climb then I could hear it throttling back. I looked out of the window and we were definitely losing height. Suddenly we dropped like a stone everybody screamed but not as loud as me. The reason for the sudden decent was that there were two white lines on the runway and if the plane hadn’t touched down between them there was a possibility that the pilot might not get the plane stopped before the end of the runway. In which case, his only option would be to try to take off again but there wouldn’t be sufficient runway left.
I am pleased to say that this information was kept from me. I enjoyed doing the schools but its the sort of thing that’s easier to do than write about especially when you are a rider and not a journalist. This was without a doubt the first school I had done with six armed guards to keep us safe. Fortunately we didn’t need them!
Only the Venezuela school to go now and then I’m off home. The ride from the airport to Caracas was at night. It was very picturesque the hillsides were a mass of twinkling lights however in daylight it was a totally different picture.The hillsides were covered with people living in ramshackle wooden shacks and cardboard boxes. The flickering lights were their only form of light candles. Venezuela road racer Johnny Ceccoto had recently won the World 250cc Racing Championship, so the whole country was speed mad. Fortunately, the trials riders were keen to learn although sometimes it was difficult when the section became blocked with four or five motocross bikes whose riders thought they would have a go at the section for themselves. The top rider here was Amando Diaz who a few years later came over to ride the SSDT. Now I am off home and looking forward to some good old fashioned mud! – ROB
Vertigo Motors is delighted to announce the signing of James Dabill to ride their newly launched Combat Trial model with immediate effect from 1st December 2014 for a two-year period.
Dabill is the reigning British Champion – five times in total; ranked sixth in the 2014 FIM Trial World Championship and also finished fourth in the 2014 FIM X-Trial World Championship. Once again James will contest all three championships in 2015, plus other selected events including the Scottish Six Days Trial.
The new Vertigo rider will make his debut on the Spanish built bike at Sheffield Arena on Saturday 3rd January, which will mark the opening round of the 2015 FIM X-Trial World Championship. Vertigo Motors feel it is an important part of the on going development process, for their new Combat model to compete at the highest level in order to deliver the ultimate production version in due course. So aside from sporting success, the team will also be focused on further testing, evaluation and refinement of their prototype machines ahead of its general release.
Speaking about the signing, Vertigo Sports Team Manager Dougie Lampkin said. “We are extremely excited to have James (Dabill) joining us ready for next year. Obviously I know James very well and he is a rider who has a great level of talent. We will be looking to give him our full support to ensure that he achieves the results both he and Vertigo are looking for.”
Lampkin closed by saying. “Having James ride the Vertigo for the first time at Sheffield will be a special moment for us all who are involved in the project, and one we are all really looking forward to.” Dabill expressed his equal excitement about this new opportunity. “Firstly I would like to thank Beta for their support over the last four years. I have enjoyed my time with them, but felt now was the right moment for a change.”
‘To have the chance to work with Dougie (Lampkin) and the rest of the Vertigo team was not a chance I wanted to miss. It is a great project to be involved with and has already given me the fresh motivation I perhaps needed at this stage in my career.‘
“As a team we have got a lot of work to do, which is the same with any new bike, but the great news is that we have got a really experienced group of people who are ready to do what ever it takes to make sure we get to the level we are all looking for.”
“I can’t wait to get testing and I am really excited about my first proper outing on the Vertigo at Sheffield in a few weeks time.” Ended Dabill.
Special thanks to Trial Magazine UK, for their permission to use their article.
Mick Andrews is a name synonymous with the sport of trials since the early 1960’s. He has ridden for AJS; James; Bultaco (Rickman Brothers, 1966); Ossa and Yamaha, in a career that has taken him all over the world both as a competitor and a brand ambassador.
Andrews was twice European Trials Champion in 1971 and again in 1972 on Ossa, before the official World Championship commenced in 1975.
Nick-named ‘Magical Mick’ by the trials press many years ago and it stuck, he has won the famous Scottish Six Days Trial a total of 5 times, in fact he was only the second man in the events’ history to win it three times in succession, the first being B.H.M ‘Hugh’ Viney who was to become instrumental in Andrews riding for the AJS factory team in 1963, his AJS factory machine carried the index number 644BLB, registered as a 350 Matchless. Viney after retiring from active competition became AMC Competitions Manager.
Due to his SSDT successes, Mick was also dubbed ‘Monarch of the Glen’ after the famous oil painting by Sir Edwin Landseer by the motorcycle press of the day.
Journalist, Ralph Venables (see Trials Guru’s comments below) tipped Viney off about the young Andrews, whom he had been watching the progress of, closely. A phone call to Viney and that was good enough for Hugh!
Andrews began riding for AJS in 1963 and his first SSDT on the heavyweight four-stroke saw him bag a second place finish behind Arthur Lampkin on the factory BSA C15 (XON688). A feat he repeated in 1964, finishing runner-up to Sammy Miller on the 500cc Ariel. The next two years he finished third on the 250cc James (306AKV) and again on the Bultaco (DOT289D). In 1967 on the prototype Ossa Pennine (ORB222E), machine troubles forced him to retire, but he was back the next year and came home in third, and again in 1969, a second place.
His first win in 1970 was on his factory prototype (Barcelona registered: B775073) sporting a much neater tank/seat combination, modified frame and overall a much trimmer package. This particular machine formed the basis for the production ‘Mick Andrews Replica’ (MAR) launched in 1971.
Mick also kept his hand in motocross for the Spanish company, racing a 230cc machine when time allowed. Coupled to this his selection for the British ISDT team on several occasions. He rode a factory prepared Ossa in 1970 at El Escorial, Madrid, Spain. For the British team he rode AJS in 1968 in Italy and a 504cc Cheney Triumph in the Isle of Man in 1971.
Repeating his SSDT successes the next two years, Mick wondered if it was time for a change. The Ossa trials machine had been developed only because of the death of Ossa factory road racer Santiago Herrero in the 250cc Lightweight TT in 1970. This saw Ossa pulling out of racing. Ossa, which stands for ‘Orpheo Sincronic Sociedad Anonima’ switched its focus to off-road development and trials in particular and Mick had signed for them in 1967 with the help of UK importer Eric Housely.
Yamaha announced the defection from Ossa in 1973. Andrews was to further develop the trials Yamaha that had been kicked off by Frenchman Christian Rayer, but it was not to be the TY (Trial Yamaha) style that Mick would be given. Factory ‘pure racing’ Yamahas were designated ‘OW’ and it was the Yamaha OW series that Mick was to be given full reign of.
Yamaha’s European operation was called Yamaha Motor N.V., based in Amsterdam in the Netherlands where their race team was officially headquartered. Mick received full factory support and a contract which furnished him with Japanese technicians and a Ford Transit van, suitably liveried in Yamaha racing colours.
As confirmed by Ferry Brouwer, then Yamaha race technician to Phil Read and Tepi Lansivoiri, all factory contracted riders were supplied with Ford Transits, all Dutch registered and suitably sign-written with the riders’ name on the driver’s door. The enormity of Yamaha Motor Company was in stark comparison to the Spanish Ossa concern.
Surprisingly, all Andrew’s factory OW’s were all road registered in the UK, a must for many of the national trials Mick undertook in that time period.
Much of the development work was undertaken at Mick’s home near Buxton, Derbyshire with new prototypes built in Japan and freighted over to Amsterdam for test sessions.
In 1979 Andrews once again rode for Ossa in the Scottish Six Days much to the delight of spectators.
Andrews also took young riders under his wing, including the Oakley brothers Nick and Peter. He also started his own ‘Trials Academy’ with the help of Yamaha, the first of it’s type in the UK. Called the ‘Mick Andrews Trials Association’ or MATA for short.
Mick’s bikes were ahead of their time in so far as Yamaha experimented with cantilever/mono shock suspension; fuel injection and reed valve induction systems. Much of the Yamaha development work is described in his 1976 book, ‘Mick Andrews Book of Trials’*, which has become a collector’s item with good copies fetching around £100 per copy.
Trials Guru on Andrews: I asked Mick when we were together in Robregordo in Spain 2006; did he ever have a job? He replied with a broad smile: “What, you mean an ordinary or proper job? – yes, I did have an apprenticeship to become a motor mechanic when I was sixteen, but then I received the offer of the AJS works ride and I only really had two employers after that, Ossa and Yamaha”.
Trials Guru on Ralph Venables: Before he passed away on 4th February 2003, I spoke to Ralph (pronounced Rafe) at length about his unofficial ‘scouting’ for trials talent. “If I see a rider who has promise, I kept an eye on him for some time, not just results, but his approach and style of riding”. “If I thought a rider had the necessary qualities, I would have an idea which manufacturer was looking for riders and I would simply phone the competitions manager and give them details.”
Ralph Venables had the ‘ears’ of all the factory comp managers and his opinion was highly-valued; such was his stature in the sport.
Venables: “I didn’t quite like Sammy Miller’s riding style; he always appeared to crouching over the handlebars compared to other riders of his era, but there again he amassed quite a substantial amount of wins in his career. It just goes to show that one can be incorrect occasionally!”
Ralph was a blunt individual and was quite cutting with his comments at times. This earned him the reputation in Scotland of being ‘the poison pen’ at times such were his comments on certain Scottish-born riders!
He once told me that I, “…wrote too much” and asked if I was being paid by the word! “John, why use ten words when one will suffice?” he quipped. “Read your scripts over twice and cut them down, time is short!” he informed me. I took his advice, when Ralph spoke, people were wise to listen.
I had the utmost respect for Ralph Venables, his knowledge of the sport and the people in it was endless. It was a privilege to have known him. – Trials Guru.
(*) – Mick Andrews Book of Trials by Tom Beesley & Mick Andrews (ISBN: 9780917856006) Published by: Trippe, Cox. – Now out of print.