Links Between Racing And Trialing

Whilst there haven’t been many posts following last week’s column about the postponement of the Superbike TT race from Saturday to Monday, the official declaration that it was not run on the Sunday because the organisers wanted to let the roads dry out completely, proved totally false later in the week when the second Supersport race was held on Wednesday late afternoon on a track that was exceedingly wet in many places.

However, let grudges be bygones as with the exception of a tragic incident on the last lap of the last race, the TT races again ran very successfully, and I’m well aware that this is a trials website and not a road racing site, so I shall move on.

However, one can’t help but remark on the connections between road racing and trials. We all know that Mick Grant, a seven time TT race winner, is now a very successful Pre 65 trials rider, and I had quite a long chat with him on the final Friday of practice week, behind the grandstand.

We know each other well and my main question to him was not about the racing, but rather to ask him how he was recovering from the unfortunate accident he suffered when a bramble thorn went in his eye back in April whilst riding a trial.

It was a very unlucky incident, and Mick has suffered considerably since, but following a successful operation to replace the lens in his eye, he is back up, fit and well. He was to have ridden in the TTXGP race, a one lap race for zero emission machines (electric bikes) and his comeback ride in a TT race was well publicised before the event.

However, Mick no longer holds a road race licence which would qualify him to take part in the electric bike race and no amount of behind the scenes persuasion could get him a licence to ride at short notice. Our discussion was a LOT deeper than that, suffice to say Mick understood the logic behind it all but still felt that some tolerance could have been made to allow him to take part.

Incidentally, if you have been watching the TT coverage on ITV4 this past week, you’ll know that the average race speed of the winning zero emission bike was an incredible 87 mph.

Of course, electric bikes have already begun to make their mark in trials with the Osset kids trials bike, and though I have no first hand knowledge of how well these perform, I rather gather that from the number that are around, they are successful at the level at which they are aimed. So will we ever see a truly competitive trials bike? Probably not in my trials life, but who knows what the state of play will be in 40 years time?

Relating to what happens over several decades, when I left Devon in 1978 to move to the north to work for Trials and Motocross News, Jim Courtney, then an ACU delegate from the South Western Centre and also President of the SW at the time, cautioned me about moving, by saying that he thought trials riding as we knew it then was in a parlous state, and there were very few years left for trials as we knew them.

The trial at which we spoke was a Moretonhampstead trial run over four laps of a 10 section course at The Old Scramble Course, Lettaford near Bovey Tracey, but occasionally we ventured out onto the roads to ride a one lap, 40 section event.

So what has changed? The bikes, certainly, but not much else and whilst I appreciated Jim’s concern for my well-being at the time, I’m glad he has been proved totally wrong. Jim was a great guy and his passing a couple of years ago was very much the end of an era for the south west.

Just getting back to the TT and its connection with trials, trials rider Kiaran Hankin was racing there this past week on a Fireblade and a 675 Triumph. He finished all five races with a best result of 20th in the Senior race and a fastest lap time of 120.532 mph. Pretty good eh!