the ISDT 1950 saw the Silver Jubilee of the International Six Days Trial. In the 5th October edition of ‘the Motor Cycle‘ appeared a three page photo review written by George Wilson based on his own experience of the event as he followed it riding a works Triumph Trophy that had been prepared for S.B. Manns that had been loaned to him this is the report:
Successful International Trial Reviewed: British Riders Undisputed World Champions – by George Wilson.TWO hundred and thirteen starters, 132retirements, 81finishers: that, briefly, presents the picture of the International Six Days’ Trial held in Wales the week before last. Tough though the International always is, the Silver Jubilee event undoubtedly went along way towards establishing a record in this respect. During some period every day there was rain, and there was heavy rain every night, so that the ground conditions, already vile before the trial began, remained vile, and, in many cases, became steadily worse as the week progressed.
How many riders, I wonder, habitually travel as much as 200 miles a day?If the truth be admitted, very few! Yet in the International, competitors had to cover something like 250 miles a day, and not over ordinary grade A or B roads, either. Moorland tracks which last year were dry and easy to ride over at speed, became quagmires. There was deep mud, slippery rocks, rutted tracks, and open moor. Many of the road sections, such as they were, consisted of narrow two-ply lanes, with extremely brief straights, steep gradients, and thousands of blind corners and hair-pin bends which required every ounce of concentration. There was no let up between controls, and, so far as the majority of competitors were concerned, no let up for them in controls either, since it was usually necessary to make a quick dash in and away again, or to spend what few minutes remained in carrying out some repair job on the machine. Everyone of the 81 who finished deserves an award wrapped in a £100 note!
For the Trophy, Vase and works’ team riders who rode at a 10 percent higher schedule than the others without loss of marks, there are no words sufficiently expressive to do justice to their riding skill, powers of endurance and, above all, their imperturbability when facing what must often have seemed the impossible. For instance, were I to have been set to ride the Tregaron – Abergwesyn or Minera sections at 31m.p.h. I should have declared that it might be arranged if a miracle and a stiff following wind could be laid on.
But miracles were de rigeur and none of these riders failed in the task; indeed, so far as I am aware, only one of them dropped his machine through misjudgment. And on the surfaces of some sections, one only had to bat an eyelid to set up a slide. Which brings me to my next point…. The trial proved conclusively that we have in Britain the true world champions in this branch of motorcycle sport. To watch a Rist, a Ray, an Alves, was to see a true craftsman- fast, safe, competent and thoroughly at home at speed on almost any surface. The aces in the British Trophy, Vase and works’ teams stood head and shoulders – aye, and torsos – above everyone else, with perbaps one or two elite exceptions. The Britons, too, had bigger machines than those of the majority of riders from abroad: the speeds they had to maintain were therefore higher, and on a good deal of the going, a one-two-five was just as nippy as a five-hundred or three-fifty in some cases, nippier because of its handleability.
What are the characteritics that make these men experts among experts in this type of event?First of all, they are good scramblers. Before the war, Trophy and Vase men such as Williams, Brittain and Rowley were chosen because they were star trials men with fairly wide road racing experience also. But this doesn’t mean that all good scramblers, or trials-cum-racing men, are good I.S.D.T. men. Oh no! Equally important in the International is the cold, dispassionate mind that will not get excited no matter what the circumstances.
And equally important again is the ability to use tools with the familiarity of handling knife and fork when dealing with daily calories; and to know one’s mount so thoroughly that any tasks short almost of splitting the flywheels can be done at the roadside with the minimum loss of time. But all the bouquets do not go to the competitors who finished. Their glory is self evident.
Behind the scenes, day after day and night after night, worked H.P. Baughan, clerk of the course, and his small party of assistants. H.P.B.’s organization was masterly down to the tiniest detail. The schedules were perfect for nearly every class. In other words, they were so tight that only one who was very slick with his tools could have even minor trouble and reach the next control without losing marks. In many instances, however, the speeds proved rather too high for the one-two-fives (only three finished out of 22 starters) and I imagine that no sidecar outfit made today could maintain for six days the schedule demanded of F.H.Whittle (598 Panther sc) who, as a works’ team entry, had to cope with a schedule 10 percent higher than that of the fastest of all the others. I am convinced, too, that because of the higher speed schedules, the toll on all classes would have been higher this year than it was last, even if the weather had been better. Had it been dry, of course, it would have been a much easier event; physical comfort, for one thing, would have been greatly improved!
Route marking in the hands of Chris Stagg and Fred Groves was again excellent. The small team who did the job worked under extremely arduous conditions. They were out day and night through hell and high water. The changes in this year’s course from last year’s were made with a view to cutting down to a bare minimum the miles of narrow, high hedged, twisty lanes which are in common use by vehicular traffic. They were excellent changes. I still do not like those little lanes when one is riding against the watch, but I felt that the risks this year were considerably fewer than they were in the 1949 event. Cattle and sheep seemed to be less prevalent (because of last year’s lesson?), though there were still far too many for my liking.
The night run this year was an innovation. It was an outstanding success in my view. It was designed in such a way that the idea of testing lighting equipment for something like three hours was fulfilled without competitors being subjected to the maintenance of a high schedule. An incidental point was that, though only a few riders lost marks for poor or faulty lights, the general standard of lighting was low. Friend “Torrens” put his Squariel with its special headlamp on the intensity test grid and the difference between his beam and the others was tremendous. As important as any other feature of the International, I feel, is the quick issuing of the results after each day’s run. This year this task was in the capable hands of Peter Chamberlain, and no one could have wished for better or slicker service. Among the private entries there were many who are deserving of special mention. Undoubtedly the button for the most meritorious performance goes to Mrs. Mollie Briggs (498Triumph), who lost only nine marks to gain a silver medal; there was D. Carancini, who struggled against long odds with his 125 c.c. Lambretta scooter until he retired on Thurday; and T.Tun with his Thunderbird – the last a man who has been riding for only three months. Think back to your first three months awheel and ask yourself if you could have finished in such an event!
For my personal mount on the trial I was perhaps better equipped than any of the entry with the possible exceptions of those of the Trophy and Vase Teams. I used a Trophy Triumph – a works’ mount, prepared for S.B. Manns by Henry Vale, of the Triumph competition department. There never was a better International mount and it is well named the Trophy. It handled better than any other Triumph I have ridden. It was fast beyond my wildest dreams and would give me 90 m.p.h. anytime I wanted it; and it “got there” quickly. It was quiet on the exhaust to the extent of being all but in audible once underway. Engine noises were only apparent when one was standing or kneeling alongside; the engine could not be overdriven and never became more than slightly hot. So that I could get “close” to the event, I covered large slices of each day’s route riding often just ahead of the competitors, with them, or just to the rear of them. With the heavy rain, and mud and water thrown up from deep water splashes and mudholes, the rear chain had a hard week, yet it required adjusting only three times. Cables and handlebar controls tended to become a shade “draggy” after a day’s rain, but there was nothing which a pot of oil could not cure. Apart from these tasks I did nothing except ride the Trophy hard and put petrol in the tank. It gave me by far the most exciting motoring I have had for a longtime.
And now it would appear that next year’s International will be held in Italy. Here’s to it – and here’s wishing for sunny weather!