Papers Released Under The 30 Year Rule

“It’s well engineered, but at £1000 for an unproven machine it’s too much…………however, I’m sure it will sell and prove to be an interesting addition to the colourful trials scene………..SWM – a Latin lovely with a classy touch.”

“It’s high time the sidecars were put back in the SSDT…..there is a tremendous interest in sidecars and there would be few snags in finding the necessary helpers. (The Chairman’s Report)”

“John Dickinson used his long legs to best advantage on his 310 Montesa to take a First Class award ahead of Mike Rapley (250 Suzuki)”

“Alan Baker beat his brother Graham by four marks to win the Exmoor Club’s Treborough Trophy Trial”.

“Making his first competitive appearance on a solo since last year’s Scottish, Kettlewell’s favourite character Mick Wilkinson romped home the winner of the Ilkley Grand National”.

“Kickham Trophy Trial, report Alan Wright, pictures Eric Kitchen, solo winner Martin Lampkin 64 marks lost, sidecar winner Colin Dommett/Eric Chamberlain 61 marks lost.

It’s the time of year when governments release secret papers under the 30 year rule, but there are no secrets in trials (or at least very few!) and under the 30 year rule, I have recalled in the above, significant happenings from a Trials and Motocross News dated March 24, 1978. OK, so I know it’s not quite 30 years ago, but it’s the best I can do at such short notice, and anyway, of the few old TMXs that somebody kindly gave me a couple of weeks back, this edition was the earliest.

As it happens, much of the six references above are all very relevant today for numerous reasons. Let me explain.

First of all, the SWM test that I carried out at Sammy Miller’s private land in New Milton was a eye-opener, for the SWM ( a red tanked version) was VERY new at the time. The Italian made machine never really succeeded like Bultacos and Montesas, but it was still a different offering and even now, some are in regular use. In fact I saw one in action last Sunday at Wetherby’s Bottle trial, though to be fair it was a slightly later version with a yellow tank.

The second reference about sidecars unfortunately never came about, sidecars never returned to the Scottish, but the Scottish did enjoy added interest with the introduction of the Pre 65 trial which celebrates its Silver anniversary this year – and fortunate riders who made it through the ballot will have received their notifications this past week. The Chairman’s Report incidentally, was very well written by Colin Dommett, then one of the top sidecar stars and a British Champion and he makes the introductions at the Pre 65 Scottish evening presentation.

Talking about John Dickinson and yours truly was simply a way of recognising that both of us have much history in the sport and of journalism, for though JD was at that time a mechanic at Eddie Crooks Motorcycles, he was to soon join TMX where he is now of course Editor, and we were chatting only yesterday at the Sheffield Indoor Trial. JD no longer rides regularly, but the odd time he has been out on a bike shows that he could still ride a bit if he chose to do so.

Alan Baker and brother Graham (as well as a third brother Ian), were always a force to be reckoned with in South West Centre trials, and I believe that Alan and Ian still ride a bit, whilst Graham of course is always with Joe, his son, the current British Expert Champion.

Mick Wilkinson is still Kettlewell’s favourite character, and strangely enough, he put in a fleeting appearance at Sunday’s Wetherby Trial (spectating) and I was very glad to see that he is now much more mobile having had his hips replaced, for he had got into a very bad way and was on sticks until just a few months ago. He’s lost none of his character, and if you want a garage, the Wilk’s Emporium is still up for sale!

Which brings us to the report of the Kickham Trial. Martin Lampkin needs no reminding that he’s still very much part of the sport and of course was the section designer at last night’s fantastic opening world indoor round at Sheffield. Colin Dommett we’ve already mentioned, whilst Eric Chamberlain his passenger is still about on the motocross scene, driving the race truck for the MVD Suzuki race team that his youngest son Justin manages.

Which brings us to Alan Wright and Eric Kitchen. Neither need any introduction, nor reminder as to what they do now, but just in case you’ve been on Mars for a few years, Wrighty organises his own Classic Bike Show (January 24/25 at Telford this year, 09) as well as supplying his bargain basement goodies at events like the Scottish, and of course, Eric must be the best known trials photographer in the world.

Knowing Eric personally, I know that his enthusiasm for the sport knows no bounds, and he’s out virtually every weekend. It matters not the status of the event, whether it be a world round in Japan, or a Lancs County club trial in December, he covers both with equal enthusiasm. Eric enjoys another birthday in a couple of days, but I’ll not embarrass him further, suffice to say that I expect him to be crouched in a nook or cranny, capturing the stars and sproggers of our sport in his own inimitable way for a good many years yet.

You will have noted that I gave myself a week’s holiday from the column over Christmas, so apologies if you were expecting a missive from me. And thanks to Andrew Scott for the TMX copies that have provided me with a bit of reading over the past few days.

And I was sorry to learn of the passing of Gordon Francis, another fantastic photo/journalist. Though I didn’t know him well, I first met him at the 1964 Scottish when he stayed in the same accommodation as my dad and I. Right up until the end he was freelancing so at least he managed to keep being involved with the sport until the last.