Fuel For Thought

Just about twelve months ago I wrote in this column that in my considered opinion, the 2007 Scottish Six Days had been too hard. As I recall, I remarked that the section plotters had toughened up a significant number of groups by siting the sections further up the gullies which generally made them harder.

That column created significant comment on this site, and as I now look back at it, there were over 7100 hits to the column and some 79 postings. I don’t suppose for one moment this week’s column, a year later, will generate the same amount of interest, but let’s hope so.

Thankfully, this year I don’t have to write that the SSDT was too hard, nor do I want to. It’s very difficult as a spectator to form a totally accurate judgement, one can only report as one sees it, but in my opinion, the trial was much more rider friendly this year.That also makes it more spectator friendly. Whether that is because the sections had been plotted on the marginally easier side, or because the weather was so much better, but from my standpoint as the average spectator, it certainly seemed particularly enjoyable.

Only the riders who rode both trials can tell me whether I’m right or wrong, but those I spoke with certainly seemed to be enjoying it more. I asked clerk of the course Mark Whitham whether he had made a conscious decision to ease the trial, and he told me that he hadn’t. As far as he was concerned, the severity of 2007 was the level he was aiming for in 2008. If that’s so, and I have no reason to doubt him, it means that the sections themselves may have naturally been on the easier side.

But all the above pales into insignificance when we come to the question of providing fuel for the riders in the trial. Mark told me on Monday afternoon, in confidence, that the club had received a formal letter from the Army advising them that this would be their last year providing the refuelling service. However, by Wednesday, I had heard the same story from dozens of other folks, most of whom had heard it from the Army personnel, so I’m not breaking any confidence in reporting it here.

Speaking with Mark again on Friday afternoon, we spoke at some length, trying to see some other way of overcoming the problem of no Army service next year. We both thought that there must be an answer, but as yet, it wasn’t immediately apparent to him (or me!) for that matter.

The logistics are horrendous. There is a need for at least seven refuelling rigs, which at the least can only be seven Transit vans, seven trailers and enough jerry cans to hold the fuel for 275 riders at one fuel stop. That’s the easy bit. Then of course you need trained personnel and the licencing to transport fuel around the countryside. Somebody more knowledgeable than me will have the answers, but I can’t see a licence being issued to allow 40 jerry cans being transported to a remote location out on the moors. That was the benefit of the Army doing it, they had all the permissions required.

So in a nutshell, the Edinburgh and District MC need to know the answer to their problem as soon as possible – and if there is anybody reading this who HAS the answer, and can provide the service or at least tell them all they need to know, then the club would love to hear from them as soon as possible.

Mark was concerned about the extra cost which would inevitably have to be passed on to the riders. I’m not certain, but I think the current entry fee is about £300 which includes the cost of fuel. Whilst that may seem a lot, in my opinion, I think it is actually exceedingly cheap. Compare that cost (£50 per day) with the cost of entering a two day British Championship enduro, which well exceeds fifty quid, without fuel, and you’ll get my point.

Even if the entry fee had to rise by £100 per rider, that would generate £27500 which would go a long way to funding a refuelling service. Of course, everybody hopes it won’t come to that, but there are many decisions to be made over the next few months and we must all hope that there is an answer and the Scottish continues well into the future.

Don’t forget, if you have the knowledge, pass it on please.

Having written all the above, I must finish by congratulating Dougie Lampkin on a superb win. In my own mind I rather stupidly thought that Doug was not up to winning again, and if I had any money and was a betting man, would have put it on Michael Brown. Of course, whilst Dougie has slipped from being a world round challenger, when it comes to events like the Scottish, he is very much the man. His level of concentration, and of course riding ability on sections that to him are relatively easy, makes him start favourite. It might well be 12 years since he last won (think that’s right!), but who would bet against him winning a few more yet.