A Great Six Days Week

It’s been another fabulous week in Scotland especially since it was dry all week, so different from last year.

Obviously this week’s column is all about the best trial in the world and of course there are plus points and minus points about the week. Fortunately, there are very few minus points, so let’s get those out of the way first.

After the opening weekend which was for the Pre 65 trial, the weigh-in and the opening day of action, the spectators who were in attendance simply disappeared off home. There’s nothing unusual in that as it happens every year, but this time there seemed to be more folk about for the first weekend than there is normally, but for the rest of the week, there didn’t seem to be many folks around at all. Certainly, by the time the last two days arrived, at the groups I visited, Pipers Burn, WD, Meall Nam Each, Ben Nevis and Nevis Forest, the attendance was really very small.

I suppose much of it can be put down to the general state of the nation, particularly as we had a General Election during the trial. People are being more careful with their money, so they can’t be blamed for treading carefully when it comes to spending their hard earned.

And for those unable to stay all week, there was a real bonus for everybody interested in the trial with the superb, almost instant press releases that came out of Fort William via Jake Miller of G2F, the media company contracted to promote the Scottish. Public Relations improvement was one of the key requests from the new sponsors to the organising Edinburgh Club, and whilst this is not a criticism of the organisers, in the past the folks behind the scenes have simply been too busy organising a major event, and quite naturally, PR work was someway down the list of important things to do.

So having a top PR company at the helm has been a major improvement and one to be applauded.

A few years ago I was very critical in this column about the severity of the trial. I felt that whilst the Scottish is always going to be a testing event, he section plotters had perhaps gone over the top. Ignoring last year’s problems caused by bad weather, in 2008 they eased the trial severity and this year it was again very rideable. Nobody except the riders saw every section, but for the hardy spectators at the trial, I think most would agree there were no killer hazards. I spectated at 15 groups through the week, which probably amounts to a third of the trial’s sections, and there wasn’t one that could be considered over the top. And that has to be good for the trial as a whole. Nobody went clean, and nobody looked like going clean, so there’s simply no need for the trial to be any more difficult and I suggest that the club currently have it about spot on.

Congratulations to Alexz Wigg for claiming the win that was so narrowly his last year, but commiserations to Michael Brown and Dougie Lampkin, both of who could have won had they not suffered mechanical problems. Three riders on 15 marks going into the final day was the culmination of a week that set up the classic showdown on the Ben. Brown, at the front of the entry had a tough call to claim the win, so to lose just two marks when many of the sections were so very slippery was a fine achievement. That left Alex and Ben Hemingway to sort it out between them and with a magnificent clean sheet, Wiggy held his nerve, looking as cool as a cucumber to win his very first Scottish.

Many folks would have liked to see Ben come out on top (on the Ben!) and with Team Lampkin/Hemingway around him, all working for his benefit, he had every chance, but it was not to be. Anyway, congrats to all three for a fine culmination to the week.

It’s easy to talk about the top men, but looking through the results and watching the riders through the sections, several riders caught my eye. Perhaps most impressive of all was Mick Boam who came home in 38th place. He recently won the Clubman class of the Bemrose (amongst other events) and right from first thing Monday morning, he looked good. His clean of the two subs at WD on Friday was simply superb; flat out, skimming every rock was a great ride. Sure there were other cleans on that tough section, but his was certainly the most impressive that I saw.

Ricky Wiggins from down my old stamping ground had a good week, as did the Hancock brothers from Cornwall. Wiggins cleaned Nevis Forest on Friday and that was a fair ride in anybody’s book.

Once again, Darren Brice, the two Dixon brothers from Cumbria together with Richard Gaskell, didn’t disappoint, nor did Chris Myers on the TY 250 air-cooled Yamaha. It was Chris’s 23rd Scottish and the ninth time he has ridden the same bike in the trial.

Carles Casas was in his 21st Scottish and had been given number 21 by the organisers in recognition of his long-time support of the trial and he too had a very steady week. David Pye on the only twin-shock in the trial rode very well when the bike was performing, but he too had to change almost everything electrical and fuel related mid week before finding that a new stator plate was the answer to it not revving.

Nigel Birkett now holds the definite record for the greatest number of starts in the trial. Not sure of the exact number, but what is certain is that he has finished every single one – and with a fine 65th place this year, he’s definitely not there simply making up the numbers.

Must congratulate the girls as well. As expected, the battle was between Becky Cook and Emma Bristow. Becky had Craig Talbot as her riding mentor and Emma was with James Fry. The lads did all they could to encourage their charges with the final results going to Beck by just eight marks. It was as close as that all week and they certainly had some great rides.

Joanne Coles with Chris Kilham was great on a 125 and took the 125 award as well. It was her first Scottish and she rode really well.

It’s really good to see friends able to ride together. Last year the club attracted some criticism about splitting riders who wanted to ride together, which spoilt the week for some, not to mention the difficulty of catering for two riders who might well be three hours apart in the entry list. This year it seemed as if everybody who wanted to ride with a friend was accommodated, so in that respect too, the club got it right.

There’s a lot more to say about the Scottish, but there’s always a sensible place to stop as a columnist, and I passed it 250 words ago so I’ll call it a day by ending with the simple comment that it was once again a fabulous week in the Highlands.