No 4 Star Answer To The Petrol Crisis

One of the more successful aspects of writing this column is that there are times when it is possible to put before the trials riding fans prospects of the sport that affect them all.

Such was the case last week when I was able to reveal to a wide audience that the continuation of the Scottish was under severe threat following the formal letter from the Army to the Edinburgh and District Club that they would not be providing a refuelling service in the future.

Whilst most enthusiasts in Scotland became aware of the problem at some time through the week, to those who were unable to attend, I guess it must have come as a shock. One tends to think that the Scottish is sacrosanct – nothing can come between it and the continuation of the trial for many years. Not a bit of it, as we have seen this week, this refuelling loss is a very real threat and could well see the end of the trial.

However I hope not. Thankfully, the column has so far produced over 2500 hits and 52 postings as I write this on Saturday evening. However, to date nobody has come up with the answer, but I get the feeling that out there, somebody does have the answer, or can at least get the answer, and will be able to pass this information onto the club.

Amongst the many postings some suggested that the Army/RAF could be persuaded to reconsider. Sorry lads, but that was the whole point of their letter to the club. They CAN’T do it any more, and as I understand it the reasons have been made clear. It’s a case of getting the equipment and personnell to the trial for a week. Perhaps it would be possible if there were not two wars going on, but there is, so the trial has had it.

As I see it, whilst everybody is very grateful to the Army for their contribution for the past 16 years or so, and particularly to Sandy Mack for his fantastic efforts in getting this year’s trial serviced, the future must lie with a private, business company. As has been mentioned in some of the postings, refuelling vehicles in the field is not uncommon, particularly in the forests, but that’s with diesel and petrol is a different proposition altogether. However, let’s hope that sooner rather than later the problem is resolved.

Of course, getting a private company to do it is all well and good, but then there comes the problem of them providing the service the trial needs. I understand perfectly when Mark Whitham (the clerk of the course) says that bikes should be able to travel 35 miles before needing to be refuelled, but to achieve that, it seems to me that machines will need a significant redesign, or the extra fuel will need to be carried on a fork tank. Suggestions have been made that the route needs to become a figure of eight, or the daily distance needs to be reduced or even the far flung sections need to be discarded. I sincerely hope not as the trial has followed a formidable format for nearly 100 years and I for one would not like to see it change significantly overnight.

Fortunately, there’s the best part of a whole year to overcome the problem, so whilst time is of some urgency, if only to learn that it can be done very soon is what the trial needs, so please keep coming up with the ideas.

As was mentioned last week, whatever happens is likely to cost a significant amount and the question has been asked whether the riders can afford it. I can’t answer that, except to say that if you want to ride the Scottish – and some 400 apparently still wish to – then finding an extra £100 or so is the price that will have to be paid if the trial is to continue.

Unfortunately I was unable to be at the final presentation of the awards at the Scottish, but I understand that not only was Doug a very popular winner, his off-the-cuff humour was well appreciated by the gathering, particularly his appreciation towards his nearest competitors.

It’s easy to forget that Doug, in the World Championship sections which is where we always see him, has to be serious by the very nature of the job he is doing, so to see the lighter side both in the Scottish sections and at the presentation is welcome indeed.

In a nutshell, if Doug is going to make a regular return to British events, he’ll be very welcome as his talent and character have been sorely missed in recent years.