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.
Photo – “International” spirit: Welsh children cheer #225 J.H.L Lewis (246 Greeves) as he climbs a rocky section near Llandrillo on the fourth day. ISDT 1961
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.