An addiction in life usually needs a fix, something to make your life feel good. Motorcycle trials becomes an addiction for many people, be it young or old. They may need a new machine, maybe some new riding kit, who knows? In many cases the older you become the more the addiction takes hold as more time becomes available in your life. Many years ago a Spanish motorcycle trials rider by the name of Carlos Casas came to ride in the Scottish Six Days Trial. A foreign adventure to the ‘Highland’ trial. The pleasure and enjoyment of riding in this location became so strong that over thirty years on, this enthusiastic man returns every year to the ‘Scottish’ for his fix to feed his addiction for motorcycle trials.
John Moffat of Trials Guru was the SSDT secretary in 2002 and that year at the Highland Council reception in Fort William, Moffat introduced Carlos Casas to guests and councillors as “the Ambassador for Spain for the Scottish Six Days.
Words: John Hulme with Carlos Casas
Photos: Carlos Casas Collection – Trials Media – Eric Kitchen – Kim Ferguson/Kimages
Why the Scottish Six Days Trial?
Carlos: “For many reasons, it’s the biggest trial in the world, I love Scotland, the scenery, I love trials, good sections, friendly people as riders, observers, public, organisers and friends from all around the world…and all of this I can meet in the SSDT. This is my favourite event by far and my best holiday every year”.
How well do you remember your first trip to the ‘Scottish’?
Carlos: “My first trip to ride the SSDT was in 1979. I was the winner of a challenge/competition for the best private rider at the Santigosa Three Days and Cingles Three Days trial in Spain. We travelled with the Montesa factory riders who were Jaume Subira, Miquel Cirera, Pere Olle and Josep Jo. I remember that we travelled by car and van and it was a long trip from Spain”.
Was the week’s competition a tough one?
Carlos: “I rode a Montesa Cota 348 and the weather was horrible as each day the route was very long and it was extremely cold with rain and snow. At the end of the week I was happy about the experience and finished in the top fifty with a Special First Class award”.
When you returned home did many people ask you about the event?
Carlos: “Yes, all the trials riders and many people asked me about the SSDT – I was a minor celebrity – Carlos laughs at this! This event is very popular in Spain and for many trials riders it is like a dream. It’s incredibly expensive to travel and compete from Spain but at every event we are always talking about the ‘Scottish’. It’s an event that you’ll love or hate. I always say that every trials rider must ride this event at least once. The problem could be that if you then enjoy it, you’ll repeat the experience every year and that’s when the addiction begins or as I always say, an incredible experience”.
Did Montesa support you in the early days?
Carlos: “I have always had good support from Montesa. I have never been a good enough rider to make a wage from the sport but I won the Spanish Veterans class over twenty eight years ago, a championship I have won fourteen times. I have also had some other good results and based on this and my loyalty to the brand, they are always happy to loan me a machine. I think of Montesa as family”.
How good did it feel to win the Best Foreign rider award?
Carlos: “I can remember it like it was yesterday, the first time I won the Best Foreign rider award. I have won this award four times and my highlights from the event are two thirteenth place finishes. The last time I achieved this result I had tears of joy in my eyes on the last sections on Ben Nevis I was so happy”.
You continued to support the event even when it went back to full ‘No-Stop’ in the nineties.
Carlos: “Yes, I like the ‘No Stop’ rules at this event and I believe it was the correct decision”.
Carlos: “The last years of the event when they were using the ‘Stop’ rules the sections became tighter, difficult, dangerous and boring because of delays at the sections. Each year less competitors entered and I think the SSDT committee made a good job and the decision to go back to ‘No Stop’ was correct for the future of the event. Since then the SSDT is oversubscribed every year and it needs a ballot. One year I suggested to the committee that there should be two SSDT trials, one in May and one in October – Carlos laughs again as he explains he just loves the event!”
How important in Spain and to Montesa was the win of Amos Bilbao in 2002?
Carlos: “It was very important for Montesa/Honda to win the SSDT as it’s a very prestigious event, classed by many as nearly as important as the World Trials Championship. Montesa won the SSDT in 1979 (Rathmell), 1980 (Vesterinen), 1983 (Toni Gorgot) but for both Amos and Montesa/Honda the victory in 2002 was more important because it was a Montesa Honda machine and Dougie was contesting the World Trials Championship”.
Have you ridden all your Scottish Six Days on Montesa/Honda machines?
Carlos: “I have ridden the Montesa Cota 348, Cota 314, Cota 315 and Cota 4RT, twenty four times in total. I rode a Gas Gas one year because there was no support from Montesa. My good friend Manel Jane loaned me his Gas Gas. It’s very important for foreign competitors to know that the manufacturers, through the importers, have full facilities available”.
When did you first ride the Pre-65 Scottish?
Carlos: “My first year was 2004 and since then every year after”.
What machines have you ridden in the Pre-65 Scottish?
Carlos: “I have always ridden a Triumph Tiger Cub usually loaned from my good friend Walter Dalton, but one year I used a ‘Cub’ loaned from Peter Remington. I love all the machines and one year I’d like to ride in the event on a rigid”.
Many people think you can win the Pre-65 Scottish – Is this your dream?
Carlos: “Around twenty riders could win the Pre-65 Scottish. It’s one of my dreams to win it but the most important thing for me is to be there and enjoy every section and every minute of this fabulous event – you would not believe the smile on his face when we talk about the Pre-65 Scottish”.
We know you are very good friends with the Vertigo brand owner Manel Jane. How do the Spanish trials riders feel about Vertigo?
Carlos: “People in Spain waiting patiently for the Vertigo to arrive because they understand that it would be well made, good quality, lighter and perform well. They were not disappointed. Manel is a real trials enthusiast and his dream was to build his own machine and build a good strong team”.
Why the loyalty to Montesa?
Carlos: “Because the motorcycles produced are always superb quality, very reliable and nice to ride. The people from the Montesa factory are always very good, friendly and professional”.
How much longer will you come to Scotland and compete in the Six Days and Pre-65 events?
Carlos: “As long as my body allows me to! I love both events and every year the memories are with me forever. I am getting old but the addiction just gets stronger”.
Before we finish; the question that gets asked so many times – Stop or No-Stop?
Carlos: “For me as a rider, No-Stop, it is without doubt correct. But sections whatever the rules must be well thought out to make them challenging and interesting, you must try to always make the rider think about the challenge”.
This article was generated for Trial Magazine issue 50 in April/May 2015 and we at Trials Guru thank John Hulme for the use of his article on this website.
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TRS Motorcycles UK have released the following information 14th September 2015 –
“TRS Motorcycles UK are delighted with the news from the TRS Factory and Jordi Tarres that Adam Raga has signed a contract to join the team as their number 1 rider.
Adam needs no introduction as former multiple World Champion, and recently confirmed 2015 World number two, he is a brilliant rider and ambassador for trials and the brands he represents.
Adam’s first UK appearance on the TRS One is likely to be at Sheffield indoor on January 9th.
All of us at TRS Motorcycles UK wish the team a successful 2016 season”.
Trials Guru: This is exciting news as Adam Raga was the protege of Jordi Tarres back in the late 1990’s. The 33 year old six times World Champion from Ulldecona, Catalonia, Spain will be a force to reckon with given his performances in the 2015 world series on a private Gas Gas machine, finishing runner up to Montesa/Honda rider Toni Bou. The UK importer for TRS is 11 times British Trials Champion, Steve Saunders.
Trials Guru tells the story of a trials rider turned movie stunt performer …
Over the years there have been numerous female riders compete in the annual Scottish Six Days Trial, which had traditionally been a male dominated sport. Times have now changed with female competitors very much the norm.
Before the Second World War, there was Louie McLean, Edyth Foley and Marjorie Cottle. Post-war, the 1950’s had Mollie Briggs, Lesley Blackburn, Olga Kevelos and Gwen Wickham; the 1960’s had Jill Savage and Renee Bennett. They had one thing in common, they were all British, but in the late seventies a female rider emerged who inspired even more women to compete in trials and the ‘Scottish’ than ever before, and she was the first female rider from overseas to compete in the SSDT, an American called Debbie Evans.
Trials Guru was fortunate to catch up with Debbie, now Evans-Leavitt having married her trials riding boyfriend Lane Leavitt, during a hectic schedule in Glasgow city centre, Scotland in September 2012 when filming for ‘The Fast & the Furious 6’ an action-packed movie which was released in May 2013.
Debbie refuses to slow down in an amazingly tight schedule which took her to England, twice, Scotland and Tenerife for filming plus a short break to go home to the United States to see her first grandchild born. I still couldn’t believe that I was talking with a stunt-performing grand-mother!
Born in 1958, Debbie, originally from Lakewood, now resident in Santa Clarita, California has been in the movie business for just over thirty-three years. She has stunt-doubled for some of the world’s best known superstars including Carrie-Ann Moss in ‘Matrix Reloaded’ – 2003; Linda Hamilton in ‘The Terminator: Judgement Day’ – 1991 and many more. Have a look at the credits of some of the world’s most famous action-packed films and you will see the name ‘Debbie Evans’ appear in more than just a few. Her speciality is car and motorcycle stunt performance and she has appeared in over two-hundred movies and TV programmes which included ‘CHiPS’ & ‘The Dukes of Hazzard’.
The Scottish connection…
Having followed the history of the SSDT and watched Lane in action at the Six Days, I got to know Debbie and her three time AMA National Trials Champion husband back in 2007, when I put together an audio-visual presentation of the SSDT in the February of that year for the Fort William Mountain Film Festival.
Permission was sought to use material from Debbie’s website as part of the presentation, just for a bit of extra interest for the audience, which she willingly gave.
Debbie had entered the 1978 Scottish Six Days Trial on a TY175 Yamaha supplied by Gordon Farley Motorcycles, Aldershot, Hmpshire, England and her airline ticket was paid for by Yamaha USA. Lane had also competed in previous Scottish Six Days his first being 1973, as a supported rider for both the Spanish Bultaco and laterly Montesa factories.
Having discovered that she would be in the UK during filming for the forthcoming ‘Fast 6’ movie, Debbie sent me a message via Lane through facebook which read: “Hi John, I’m sending my wife to Scotland in a few days. Maybe you guys can get together? She may have some cool stuff for you!”
On making contact upon her arrival in England, she suggested that we meet up with her one Sunday afternoon, when she was between filming schedules in Glasgow. Part of the car chase footage was shot late at night in city-centre Glasgow, including the famous George Square area.
After a pleasant lunch in Glasgow’s Princes Square, we all go back to Debbie’s hotel and ‘Skype call’ Lane in the USA, who takes us a virtual tour around the couple’s home. Lane picks out their Scottish Six Days trophies and Debbie’s stunt trophies and awards; culminating in a quick tour of their impressive garage.
Debbie was an accomplished trials rider when she began motion picture stunt performing at the age of twenty. I asked her how she entered into the movie business.
She explained: “I wondered why so many stunts involving women were carried out by male performers dressed to look like females? I thought… hey, I could do that… I researched it further and eventually obtained the necessary regulatory permissions and began training for my new chosen career with established professional stunt performers.”
The rest is history, Evans-Leavitt is a multiple award winner obtaining seven Red Bull Stunt ‘Taurus awards’ and was inducted into the American Motorcycle Association – Motorcyclist Hall of Fame in 2003.
Debbie is probably the only competitor world-wide who can static balance a trials motorcycle upside down with her head on the seat, the bike is not supported in any way and the only extra piece of equipment is a rubber band on the front brake lever! Eric Kitchen was on hand in 1978 to photograph this very stunt, right in the middle of the traffic roundabout at the West End of Fort William, now an iconic SSDT photo.
In movies, she is best known for the 2001 award-winning scene where she doubled for actress Michelle Rodriguez in the Fast & the Furious. Debbie drove a tuned Honda Civic hatch-back under an artic semi-trailer at high speed, ending in a barrel-roll when emerging out the other side.
Debbie says: “I have to keep physically fit and in shape but the real neat part about being a stunt-woman is that you get to ride fast motorcycles and drive real cool cars!”
Back to that Scottish Six Days ride at Fort William in May 1978, it was for Debbie the event of her lifetime. Debbie takes up the story:
“I had harboured a secret wish to ride in the ‘Scottish’ when I was quite young. I got into trials at the age of six with the help of my father Dave Evans, who was already an established trials and enduro rider in the USA and it was he who taught me all I know about bike control. I then read all about the Scottish Six Days in the American motorcycle press. I never really thought it was possible until an Englishman called Bill Emmison of BERM Specialities, a UK company which imported US off-road products. Bill on a visit to source parts asked me what I really wanted to do and on hearing my crazy wish said he could arrange the trip to Scotland and make it all happen. I was overjoyed at the thought of actually competing in the Six Days, for me it was truly a real dream come true. I hadn’t told anyone previously, because I believed it to be too wild to ever come true!
I packed my heavy bags and took a pair of handlebars, grips, foot-pegs and my Bell helmet and spent a few days sight-seeing in London on my own, before heading north to Fort William.
Bill supplied me with some riding suits, my riding number was one-hundred and twelve and so I rode all week in the company of Mick Wilkinson and Rob Shepherd, two of the best riders in Britain at the time and guys who knew their way around Scotland. The whole experience for a nineteen year old girl was really awesome; the Scottish was a great adventure!”
She continued: “Riding over the tracks and moors with Mick as my guide was great fun, Lane told me to ‘stick to this guy like glue’, which I did! However, I probably stuck to him too well and one day when hauling across a moor, Mick suddenly pulled up, I sat and waited for a little while, then he turned around and said, ‘Debbie! Can you sort of disappear for a minute, the call of nature beckons’ – or words to that effect?”
Mick Wilkinson remembers all too well the 1978 event with Debbie Evans in tow!
Mick recounts: “Soon after the trial started, I said to Rob (Shepherd), come on Rob let’s have a bit of fun, let’s leave this American lass on’t moor. We took off at a cracking rate as we knew where we were going and after a few miles we looked round. To our surprise, there she was, slap bang on our back mudguards. We didn’t try to pull that trick again!”
After their marriage Lane and Debbie had planned to ride once more in the 1980 Scottish together, but when they discovered that she was expecting their first child, Steve, this put paid to that idea and she reluctantly but sensibly withdrew her entry. The couple had another son, Daniel born in 1994.
But by then, Evans had already unwittingly captivated a whole new generation of women trials riders, one of which was Lisa Bayley (then Lisa Jones) from Sutton, Surrey who herself was inspired by reading about Debbie’s 1978 ride to compete herself in the 1981 Scottish at the tender age of eighteen on a 200cc SWM modified from a 125cc by her Father, Derek Jones.
Having read and been inspired by Evans, Lisa never actually met Debbie in person, although she did get to know former US National and World Champion, Bernie Schreiber during his time at Comerfords, Thames Ditton in 1979 and later, when on trips to the US riding Fantic.
Fitness coach Lisa commented: “I was truly inspired by Debbie Evans’ 1978 ride at the Scottish which I did twice. For me it is the most brilliant event in the world. I have run in both the New York & London Marathons in 2005 and 2006; they were far easier by a long shot than the 600 miles and 180 Scottish sections of fantastic challenging and on some-days, impossible terrain. In my lifetime I have risen to the challenge of the hardest marathon and finished New York in three hours forty-eight minutes and London in three hours thirty-eight minutes, well within a veterans’ respectable timeframe, but still the SSDT was the hardest ever human achievement and the most enjoyable I have ever undertaken.”
Motorcycle observed trials is in Debbie’s blood, her father, Dave Evans is the guy who wheelies a Bultaco Sherpa for miles near the beginning of the Bruce Brown film ‘On Any Sunday’ the definitive bike-sport movie of all time. Her sister, Donna Evans is also a stunt performer, having worked with Debbie in a number of motion pictures.
Debbie: “Being a trials rider really helped me throughout my stunt career, because you walk the section and memorise in your head many things, like when to go up or down a gear, where to brake, where to make the turn or change direction, which part is slippery and so on. The same thing applies when performing a motion picture stunt; you walk the set and plan everything, very carefully. It’s technical, just like trials. However, I knew that I would never make a living from just riding trials, at that time there were very few who were professional riders world-wide, whereas I could at movie stunt-performing. I grew up with trials riding ‘no-stop’; stop-allowed was alien to me. We do stunts no-stop too!”
Debbie stayed fairly loyal to the Yamaha brand during her riding years, having gained support from the company via their USA importers and promoted the brand wherever she rode.
After a eighteen years away from the sport, Debbie made a brief return to competitive trials in 1998, when she rode in the Women’s World Trials Championships. She was now forty years of age, but came a creditable eighth place overall, riding a 250cc Gas Gas.
Lane, now a respected stunt technician in the US movie business still has a collection of interesting Bultaco trials machines and some modern road bikes to hand, as the area in which the Leavitts live is ‘canyon country’ and a Sunday afternoon ride out with the family is very much the order of the day.
Leavitt reckons Debbie would still be riding in trials competitively today had she not suffered a very serious accident when stunt doubling for the 2008 movie “Yes Man” starring Jim Carrey in which she was hit by a car when riding a bike during a sequence which went horribly wrong.
British actress Amanda Holden was trained by Debbie and Lane to do stunts for the UK TV series ‘Amanda Holden – Fantasy Lives’ in 2010 in which Debbie and Lane both appeared.
Debbie really enjoyed her film work in Glasgow; she even cultivated a Scots accent during her stay. Both she and Lane are planning a return trip to spectate at the SSDT in a few years time, once their youngest child, daughter Rebecca, graduates from high-school. It will be really nice to have the couple back at the SSDT where they have so many happy memories of competing many years ago.
Both Debbie and Lane felt honoured to be asked to write a few lines each for the one-hundred years celebration book on the SSDT that the Edinburgh Club produced in 2011. Only problem was they didn’t get a copy, as the limited edition book was quickly sold out! However, after a plea, Kinlochleven trials enthusiasts David & Lorna Dougan who had a pristine copy, came to the rescue and gifted their copy to Lane and Debbie. The photo of Debbie in the book was taken by Eric Kitchen on Grey Mare’s Ridge, only half a mile from the Dougan’s home.
Oh yes and finally, the ‘cool stuff’ she gave me as a memento of our Glasgow meeting? A commemorative tee-shirt and poster from the ‘On Any Sunday Re-union’, all signed by some of the all-time greats of USA bike-sport – now that’s what I call neat!
You may be forgiven if you haven’t realised that in May this year it will be fifty years since Samuel Hamilton Miller won the Scottish Six Days Open Reliability Trial on his 244cc Bultaco Sherpa registered as 669NHO.
Miller had left Ariels to ride for the Catalunian manufacturer based at San Adrien De Besos, part of Barcelona in late 1964 to develop the Bultaco Sherpa into a machine that was to change the face of motorcycle trials forever.
The defection to the lightweight Bultaco signalled the end of the big four-stroke single as the bike to win at trials.
There is a celebration of the marque in July this year at the Circuit De Barcelona.
Sammy went on to further develop the machine and many British born riders followed him to ride for the Spanish factory, riders such as Malcolm Rathmell and the first winner of the world championship, Martin Lampkin with Frenchman Charles Coutard and Finland’s Yrjo Vesterinen who was to win three world Championships for Bultaco.
The Bultaco Sherpa was a revelation as it weighed much less than its competitors with a 52 inch wheelbase it handled and steered much better than its rivals and pulled well from low revs. It turned novice riders into award winners.
Well restored examples of the four-speed Model 10 Sherpa still command high prices, if you can find one for sale as these are very much collector’s items.
Miller had written into his contract with Senor Bulto, that if he didn’t win more than 50% of all events he entered, then Bulto was not obliged to pay Miller’s salary! Of course, Sammy did win more than 50% of the events and was so confident of doing so.
Miller told Trials Guru: “If I didn’t win all those events on the Bultaco, it wasn’t worth my time competing in the first place”.
However, Sammy Miller wasn’t the first to compete in the famous Scottish Six Days Trial on a Barcelona-built Bultaco, it was a Lancastrian rider called Tommy Ollerton who rode a 200cc Bultaco Sherpa N in the 1962 event. Ollerton’s machine was registered in the UK as PDV700. Tommy Ollerton rode in company with Oriol Puig Bulto, nephew of Senor Bulto, having travelled all the way from the factory to Edinburgh in a Fiat 500 car with a two bike trailer attached, carrying two Sherpa N models, one for himself and the other for Ollerton, who was supported by Anellays of Blackburn, Lancashire.
Having said that, it was Miller who gave the factory it’s first Scottish Six Days win and that is a major part of both the event and motorcycle trial history.
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