Peter Gaunt a life in Trials

PETER GAUNT

3rd August 1936 – 20 February 2019

It is with great sadness that Trials Guru website has to announce the passing of Peter Gaunt. He was 82 years of age.

peter gaunt on a very early 125 dalesman 1971
Bike builder of note, Peter Gaunt in 1972 when he rode Dalesman for Pete Edmondson, this is a Sachs 125cc engined version – Photo: Barry Robinson

Peter Gaunt was a renowned ‘special’s builder’, or so it was coined in the motorcycle press. However, Peter or ‘Top Gear’ as he was universally known in the trials community was much more than that. He was responsible for creating his own trials machines out of motorcycles that were not even designed for the purpose and was capable of winning on his creations, a feat he achieved many times.

Gaunt developed the James trials machine for the factory as well as creating the Gaunt Jawa; Gaunt Suzuki; Gaunt Ducati and the Otley based Dalesman concern made use of his skills to further develop their Sachs engine trials model for boss, Pete Edmondson. He also converted Honda’s production XL250 Motorsport trail model into the ‘Allan Jefferies Honda’ for the Bradford motorcycle dealer.

PETER GAUNT'07 LOCH EILDE BURN
Peter Gaunt on Loch Eilde Burn on his own Royal Enfield 250 Crusader in 2007 – Photo: Iain Lawrie, Kinlochleven

Peter Gaunt also rode for the Royal Enfield factory on their 250cc Crusader trials model along with fellow Yorkshire-man, Peter ‘Fearless Fred’ Fletcher.

Gaunt was a skilled mechanic and regarded as a great ‘fettler’ of machines, knowing how to set them up for peak performance, right through the rev range.

Few will remember that Peter rode in the International Six Days Trial for the AJS factory team on a 500 AJS in the Swedish event in 1966. He rode again a year later at Zakopane, Poland on a 250cc Suzuki twin.

Classic Trial Magazine Issue 23.indd
Classic Trial Magazine featured Peter Gaunt on his Ducati in December 2017

Gaunt suffered a stroke in December 2016, but had fought a brave battle against cancer to which he succumbed on Wednesday, 20th February.

Our sincere condolences go to the Gaunt family at this difficult time.

Peter’s funeral arrangements are: 12.20 on Thursday, 7th March 2019 at Stonefall Crematorium, Wetherby Road, Harrogate, HG3 1DE. Thereafter at The Mill Tavern, Lido Leisure Park , Wetherby Road , Knaresborough, HG5 8LR which is approx 2 miles distant from the crematorium. The family have not placed any restrictions on attendance, all friends and acquaintances will be made most welcome to attend.

Who better to write a tribute to Peter Gaunt than his friend Barry Robinson. Barry spoke to Trials Guru:

Very few people are aware that I was an expert ranked trialler, scrambler and grass track champion passenger and even fewer are aware that Peter Gaunt and I practiced together on Otley Chevin. The Chevin is the very large hill south of Otley. We met purely by chance one summer evening. I lived in Otley and Peter lived at Horsforth about four miles from the quarry in which we tried the impossible. Peter in those days, 1957, had an uncanny talent at making two strokes go at low revs and yet rev out at the top end.

He was finicky about footrest positions and handlebar heights. As it was my playground I set out sections. One section up a wall side defied all Peter’s efforts and I could ride up it with ease. Peter never ever forgot that section. It was brought up in a conversation with Rob Shepherd and Chris Bradley last year at Fellbeck. And, it was Peter that raised the subject. I always point out that when red and blue section flags have to be navigated Mr Gaunt was on another planet.

I know for a fact that he took a hacksaw to the top tube of a works machine, to alter the steering head angle so that the machine turned, as Peter wanted it to do. I do know that the competition manager penned Peter a letter pointing out that they knew better than their contracted teamster.

In the heady days of Rathmell, Hemingway and others I watched Peter ride his Gaunt Suzuki up a muddy section and clean it in the trial and after. The respected Ralph Venables exploded when the same machine climbed a hill in his parish clean. All the other competitors were in second or third gears from the adjoining field.

Who else would have created the Gaunt Suzuki or Gaunt Jawa and made a success of it. None other than Yrjo Vesterinen has his leg over a Gaunt Jawa last year and but for detached brake shoes from their carriers would have ridden the machine. Peter also competed in the Isle of Man on a Bill Bancroft machine, so he could motor on tarmac as well.

I have told Peter Gaunt many times that he was brilliant at setting up trials machines but not commercial enough to profit from his unlimited talents.

Rest in Peace Peter.” – Barry Robinson, Ilkley, Yorkshire

Photo credits: Barry Robinson, (Ilkley); Iain Lawrie (Kinlochleven)

Credit: Classic Trial Magazine UK for the use of their cover design.

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20 thoughts on “Peter Gaunt a life in Trials”

  1. Never knew him personally but always admired him for his special building and using Machines that most would,nt even consider particurly at the highest level . I was c.o.c .for the National Hoad trial around 73 i think it was when he was riding the 90 Jawa and saw him inch his way up the Mighty Ben meon one of THE big hills in the Hoad an amazing site . RIP Peter You will be missed.

    1. No, I did not know him either but I do recall the epic climb of East Meon at the Hoad trial on the 90cc Jawa. I recall dear old Ralph Venables being irked at this unbelievable feat and referring to these little bikes as “clockwork mice.” Peters prowess filtered down to us in the Eastern Centre – including evidently his championing of Villiers carburetors something I couldn’t quite understand – but he certainly would prove his point by his performances. A sad loss of a unique man.
      Sidge Kenny.

    2. Thank you Alan for your comments.
      It brings us great comfort as a family to read your thoughts and memories of Dad.
      Kind regards,
      Tracey Wyatt (nee Gaunt)

  2. Always admired Peter reading about him in Motor Cycle as a youngster and had the great fortune to meet him when I joined the Red Rose Classic Club. A wonderful innovative engineer that wished I could emulate but couldn’t hold a candle go him. A true superstar.

  3. Thank you all very much for your kind words, tributes and for sharing your thoughts and memories of our Dad, Peter Gaunt.
    It brings us as a family great comfort.
    Kind regards to all,
    Tracey Wyatt (nee Gaunt)

  4. I knew and respected Peter for many many years and he loved to share his interest in road racing with me. He was a lovely unassuming man whose skill and ability was unique. Peters passing is a massive loss to the motorcycling world he will always be remembered as on of the trials greats. RIP Old friend. Tommy Robb

    1. Tommy …
      Thank you sharing your friendship and memories of dad
      It brings great pride admiration and comfort to us
      Kindest regards
      Tracey Gaunt

  5. Peter Gaunt a brilliant rider, brilliant engineer and smashing person. Will be sadly missed. Tony Forryan

  6. Tracey.
    I am really sorry we could not attend today but we are in South Africa. Peter was an amazing rider and engineer. When I returned to trials in 2005 after 16 year lay off, I was fortunate to become good friends with Peter, who I had only known casually in the 60/70’s. He was a great help to me and I will always be grateful to him and remember him with much affection. My condolences to you, Neil, Shirley and the rest of the family. You are right to be proud of a great man. Keith Gardner.

    1. Hello Keith
      Thank you for your kind words and taking time out to mention your thoughts and memories of Dad
      He had a great send off yesterday with a packed out crematorium.
      Lead by the one and only Sammy Miller, it was a truly a celebration of Dad’s life.
      It is great to hear that you have been touched by Dad’s passing and I will pass on your condolences to the rest of the family. Thank you
      kindest regards
      Tracey

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