If you were to ask many current followers of the ISDE what part they might take most interest in.. it will be the ‘Special Tests’ usually one Cross Country and one MX style each days is designed to sort out the wheat from the chaff of the sporting elite off-road motorcycle racers. Back in the early days of the ISDT the to hell or glory race was on the last day and if your national squad got through 5 days unscathed it would be the speed test, usually on a road race style circuit that the race was decided.
Back in the 1950’s it was clear the sport splitting from its roots of being an event to determine the greatness of the bike as the European Nations became more interested in the quality of the riders. However the paymaster of the event, the Motorcycle Industry, wanted to maximise the marketing value of winning the event. However as the global dominance of the British Bike industry started to wain, it was recognised for the sport to thrive required a new objective which was to measure the rider rather than the bike. The drive to this were the european nations however the greatest act to confirm this shift was from Britain’s Auto Cycle Union who supported the need to provide daily tests to identify the best riders as the event progressed.
In 1960 the ISDT in Austria trialled a British idea of having two special tests a day to examine which riders where performing best rather than who was able to hang in to the pace set by the organisers. The trial worked and in 1961 the F.I.M introduced two mandatory special tests a day for the ISDT 1961. The fact this was driven by the British for a British hosted event where the home nation failed to excel is one of the most obvious milestones marking the ultimate demise of the British Motorcycle Industry within 15 years as this editorial from ‘the Motor Cycle’ of the 12 October 1961 alludes to.
“IT made a welcome change to be writing in the sunshine and among the mountains of Wales instead of in the office. Yes, I was having a few days on the “International” and enjoying every minute of it.
This was a better trial than we have had for 25 years at least. For one reason. The system of including two special tests a day in which riders earn bonus points has transformed the great battle of the nations. Gone is the ridiculous situation in which a number of teams lose no marks and have to be sorted out by racing for it in the in the speed test on the last day. Now, positions are established as the trial runs. We in Britain can take credit for the bonus-point innovation. For years the A.CU. (spurred on,I might add, by our own technical press)tried to sell the idea to the F.I.M. At the Garmisch I.S.D.T. in 1958 the seeds were sown during informal talks. A year later the A.C.U. laid on demonstrations of what was in mind during the F.I.M. Autumn Congress in England. Last year the tests were included as an experiment in the Austrian I.S.D.T. In Wales last week they proved themselves the most significant shot in the arm the trial had ever had.
What can I say about the tragic failure of our team in Wales? Just this: if Britain is going to win in future her manufacturers and riders will simply have to pull rather more out of the bag. I, personally, don’t attach so much importance to winning as I suspect most people do, but I would like to see everyone concerned trying a bit harder.”
The full report in the Motor Cycle of the 12th Ocrober 1961 can be read at our issuu.com library here
The images below are those featured in the full report