Category Archives: People

Gary Mac is the top Scot

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Gary Macdonald (Scorpa) in the 2016 SSDT – Photo: John Hulme/Trial Magazine UK

Trials Guru is always looking for something of interest in the world of motorcycle trials and we think this article will be just that.

Photos: John Hulme/Trial Magazine UK; Iain Lawrie, Kinlochleven; Kim Ferguson/Kimages; Gary Macdonald personal collection; Barry Robinson, Ilkley; Iain Ferguson/The Write Image, Fort William.
Words: Trials Guru

For many years Gary Macdonald, from Kinlochleven, Argyll, Scotland dominated the Scottish Trials scene, winning eleven Scottish Premier Trials titles, this in itself makes him the most successful Scottish-born trials rider of all time.

But he had gone that one step further, by winning the British Expert A Trials championship in 2010 riding a 300 Gas Gas, this made Macdonald the first Scotsman to take a British trials title.

Born on the fifteenth day of November 1983, son of a trials riding joinery contractor, Arthur H. Macdonald a local to Kinlochleven. Younger brother of David Macdonald who also rode trials in his younger years.

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With elder brother David (left) a young Gary Macdonald attempts to climb aboard the family TY80 Yamaha on Christmas Day – Photo: Gary Macdonald Collection

Gary began riding at nine years of age on a TY80 Yamaha, many noticed that he had a natural ability. He had other interests such as shinty, in which he played for the Kinlochleven High School team, taking the Highland cup. The TY80 Yamaha was his first trials motorcycle, but it was given as a ‘shared’ Christmas present by his parents, Arthur and Sandra to both Gary and his older brother, David.

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Fording a river near his home at Kinlochleven on the 80cc Fantic – Photo: Gary Macdonald Collection

The Scottish ACU Trials Championship began officially in 1955; the first winner of the ‘Trials Trophy’ was the late A.M. ‘Laurie’ MacLean from Haddington, East Lothian who won it three times on the trot. Macdonald would lift this trophy eleven times, the first occassion being 2001 followed by ten times in succession, 2006 – 2015.

Other multi-winners include Leslie Winthrop from Humbie, Midlothian (nine times) and Gavin Johnston, Inverness (eight times), Macdonald aspired to win and he did so, rarely surrendering even a round to his rivals, such was his dominance of the Scottish scene.

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Gary with his Fantic 80 Mono-shock – Photo: Gary Macdonald Collection

Inspired by his Dad and his Uncle James, a motor engineer from nearby Ballachulish, both trials riders in the Lochaber & District club, young Macdonald used to stick a coke can between the frame and rear tyre to make his push-bike sound like a motorised trials bike.

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Receiving an award from Graham Jarvis in 2000 when the name Bultaco was dropped in favour of the Sherco brand – Photo copyright: Barry J. Robinson, Ilkley.

When Gary left Kinlochleven High School, he started work at his Uncle James’s Lochside Garage at Ballachulish as a mechanic, he attended college at Kilmarnock for two years. However during this time it occured to him that he was unable to hone his trials riding skills, so he quit and went to work for his father as a joiner which he does to this day. This gave Macdonald the opportunity to ride more often and practise his skills. He was also able to take a month off and travelled with Graham Jarvis, minding for him at the World Trials Championships.

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British Championship action at Kinlochleven on the John Lampkin Imports Beta – Photo: Iain Lawrie, Kinlochleven

Macdonald: “Graham actually carried out minding duties for me at a European round in 2002.”

As a young boy, Gary used to watch many trials videos before and during when he first started out competing; his favourite being Steve Colley’s training videos. Later he studied Steve Saunders, ten times British Champion and Wayne Braybrook’s trials videos. Macdonald was also studying world round and Scottish Six Days videos to see how the professional and experts riders cleaned the hazards.

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Wayne Braybrook is one of the top riders in the 1980s that Macdonald watched closely. Seen here in the 1997 SSDT on Ben Nevis – Photo: Iain Lawrie, Kinlochleven

Gary had the ability to then go out and imagine himself riding like the superstars of the day and that is how he learned his craft, almost self-taught. He effectively emulated his heroes and copied them.

Gary: “I watched the SSDT and Pre’65 trials when their routes were around my home in Kinlochleven, I would be about six or seven years old and that most definately inspired me to take up the sport. My favourite riders back then were Steve Colley and Rob Crawford at that time. I broke my leg when I fell off my TY80 near my house and Rob signed the cast, which I still have.”

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Rob Crawford (Yamaha) tackles Leanachen in 1995, he signed young Gary Macdonald’s plaster cast – Photo: Iain Lawrie, Kinlochleven

Young Macdonald, tried hard and with it came the pain of the broken leg which was put in plaster, but he was also very fortunate to have areas of ground where he could legally practise within walking distance of his home.

Gary’s first ever event was an overnight success, he completed the event with a clean sheet on the Youth C-class route to take the win.

Macdonald: “It was a Dunfermline Trial, I was ten years old, it is my most treasured win of all!” said Gary who has never lost his schoolboy enthusiasm for the sport.

Being brought up in Kinlochleven, it was many miles to travel to compete in the Scottish national events and to this day Gary is eternally grateful for the time, effort, encouragement and financial help given by his parents, Arthur and Sandra.

Gary continued: “Many people provided help and support over the years, Malcolm and Rhoda Rathmell at Malcolm Rathmell Sport from 1999; John Lampkin of Beta UK, who signed me for the BETA GP team in 1999. John Shirt of GasGas UK supported me in the 2010-2011 seasons. It was an amazing time which saw me become ACU British Expert champion.”

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Macdonald has led the Scottish Six Days on numerous occasions since his first attempt in 2002. – Photo copyright: Iain Ferguson, The Write Image, Fort William

He continued: “I had an enormous boost when Adrian and Mandy Lewis who ran the local trials business ‘Lewisport’ at Strontian. They supported me as a youth on a Gas Gas 125 and a Beta 125, they’ve since moved to the USA where they still run Lewisport to this day.”

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World Trials action at Aonach Mor, Fort William on the Gas Gas, Gary Macdonald under the watchful eye of his ‘minder’ Ally Morrice – Photo: Iain Lawrie, Kinlochleven

Gary also obtained support from local tree-surgeon Ken Oliver. “Ken has been brilliant, he is a true gentleman and has been a massive help to me over a period of years. He did nice things like getting my helmets customised, one of which was the tiger skin Shoei. Also Mark McComisky helped me, he is the funny-man of trials, who also supported my efforts in the last few years”.

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Being interviewed on the Sherco at the SSDT finish – Photo: Kim Ferguson/Kimages

Macdonald was also fortunate to have the services of local men, Ally Morrice and Peter Davidson to call upon as minder at British Championship and World rounds.

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The SSDT is the most important of events for Gary Macdonald, here he is pictured with Ripon enthusiasts, Keith & Judy Blythe from Melmerby – Photo: Gary Macdonald Collection

Gary also commented: “One man who is sadly no longer with us, John Davies from Dunfermline, himself a former Scottish Scrambles Champion, he believed in me and was a fan from day one and did the best for me and guided me whenever he could. John was chairman of the Scottish ACU trials committee and made sure that I went to Rugby to be trained at the ACU. This allowed me to coach riders for a few years. The SACU covered my travelling and accommodation costs for the course, but it was John that made it all happen.”

Gary hasn’t stopped trials riding completely, but his main sport now is cross country cycling at which he excels. Macdonald has applied his experience gained in trials sport to that of the push-bike. He trains physically even harder than he did when riding motorcycles.

In 2017 Gary decided to enter the Pre’65 Scottish Trial, he won at his first attempt and is the very first Scotsman ever to have won the Pre’65 event.

Gary: “I am indebted to Martin Murphy of Leven Homes Ltd in Kinlochleven for his support during the 2017 and 2018 seasons by supplying me with a BSA Bantam on which I won the Pre’65 Scottish and the Drayton Triumph twin, both specially built by Drayton’s Jim Pickering. He also lent me a Honda TLR200 on which I won my class at the Highland Classic Two-Day at Alvie Estate”.

There is one piece of unfinished business that is always at the back of Macdonald’s mind, that of the Scottish Six Days Trial.

The last Scotsman to win the SSDT was Bob MacGregor of Killin who won it twice, first in 1932 when the event became a one winner event and then again in 1935, Rudge mounted both times.

Macdonald’s aim was of course to take the win and he came very, very close to achieving his goal, not just once but three times. A third place in 2003, when Joan Pons took the win, another third place in 2013 with Dougie Lampkin in first position and a runner-up spot in 2015, again Lampkin taking the win. This in itself makes Gary Macdonald the highest placed Scotsman ever in the history of the event, other than MacGregor’s two wins of course. The only Scotsman to be on the podium of the Scottish Six Days Trial other than Bob MacGregor is some achievement.

Gary: “The Scottish Six Days is worth more to me than the world championships, it’s the one thing I wanted to have and I was so close in getting what I wanted, that North British Rubber Company trophy in my hands. The first time I lost my grip on it was in 2003 on Pipers Burn, that will haunt me for life.”

Macdonald has competed against the best riders of his time, but who did he admire?

Macdonald: “Thinking about it I was really impressed by the achievements of a Scots rider, the late David Page from Edinburgh, although I never met him, I did hear about his achievements. David Page was the best we had in Scotland back in the late 1980s, he was an amazing rider who mixed it with the best of his time. He dominated the youth scene in Scotland and was unbeatable. The sad thing was he died of leukaemia at aged 18 and never got to realise his true potential. I am sure he could have been a British champion or even higher than that”.

And what does Gary Macdonald do now, after all he has achieved more than any other Scottish born trials rider?

 

Gary has more recently taken up cycle sport, particularly Cyclocross, like a steeplechase with road push bikes.

But the story doesn’t end there – to be continued … !

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Donald Buchan from Perth

Fifteen minutes with former Scottish trials rider – Donald Buchan.

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By far the most unusual machine in the 1968 SSDT was the 50cc Sachs powered Heldun ridden by Perth & District clubman, Donald Buchan. He finished in 119th position and a second class award on 508 marks lost – Photo: Ian Robertson, Midlothian

Interviewed by Grandson, Callum Buchan

Photos: Buchan Family; Ian Robertson

Special thanks to the Classic Racing 50cc Club UK for link to their article on Heldun.
Where and when were you born?:

I was born on the 1st of February 1940 in Perth, Scotland.

What is the family history in relation to motorcycles and can you tell us about Jimmy Buchan’s achievements in racing?:

My father, Jack, rode in the TT, the Scottish Six Days and the International Six Days. My brother Jimmy was in my father’s sidecar for the International Six Days at sixteen years of age in 1951 in Italy!

Jimmy rode the Isle of Man for the first time in 1954 and won the Clubmans TT in 1955 riding a BSA Gold Star. Then in 1956 he won the Manx Grand Prix double riding a Manx Norton.

Tell us about the retail motorcycle business you owned in Perth?:

‘Buchan Motorcycles’ was opened in 1960 by my father on Rannoch Road, Perth. In 1972 I took over the business, not because my father had decided to pack it in, retire and play golf all day, but because he felt you’re never too old to travel and got on his bike.

He planned on going from the foot of Argentina to the tip of Alaska. Off he went on his bike with insufficient cash banking on his charisma to be his currency and his iconic tam o’ shanter to explore the other side of the world.

Unfortunately, having reached as far as Mexico, he took ill before making it to the U.S and couldn’t complete his journey.

By the mid 1970s I opened a branch of the business in Forfar and in the next decade another in Perth Town Centre.

As you sold Bultaco and Montesa, did you deal directly with Comerfords and Montala Motors/Jim Sandiford?:

Yes, I dealt with all them directly and also dealt with Greeves Motorcycles, Honda, Yamaha and Suzuki directly.

You rode a 50cc Heldun (mistake in SSDT programme saying 60cc Heldun) in 1968. Tell us about the Heldun and how did the SSDT ride come to pass?:

Having spoken to the Heldun representative at the 1967 Motorcycle Show, chatting about trials, they suggested I visit the factory at Birmingham for a test ride. This lead to me being offered a bike for the SSDT for the following year. The Heldun was powered by a Sachs engine.

In 1968 SSDT I completed the SSDT which is mentioned in this article http://www.classic50racingclub.co.uk/the-heldun-marque.html  (they made a mistake in calling me John instead of Donald!)

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The official ISDT souvenir badge given to riders and officials in 1969

You rode the ISDT in 1969. Tell us about the bike you rode on? None of the Scots finished in 1969, not even Ernie Page, what put you out of the event?:

I rode on a Greeves, it was a Comerfords International Six Days model, 250cc, part of the British Vase B team. I was hit by an Italian rider, I think on day two and fractured my ribs causing my premature departure from the event.

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Donald Buchan’s 1969 British Vase B Team badge from his Barbour Jacket

How many times did you ride in the SSDT?:

I think it was five or six times.

Any favourite events in trials in Scotland?:

Any Scottish champion trial, none in particular. I competed in the length and breadth of Scotland, from Rogart to Ayrshire. Riding various bikes from the aforementioned Heldun to Triumph 500cc.

Were you a member of Scotland’s oldest motorcycle club the Perth and District Motor Club?:

Yes, I was a member from the late 1950s until the late 70s.

Did you organise any events?:

Yes, I was the trials convenor for a few years of the Perth & District MC.

Did you scramble or road race at any time?:

Yes, I road raced on a 50cc in Errol 1958 and at Beveridge Park, Kirkcaldy in the early 60s. I took part in various organised scrambles and hill climbs.

 

Many thanks to Donald and his family for putting this interview together.

The article on Heldun, linked to in this article is the copyright of the Classic Racing 50cc Club UK.

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Other ‘Great Scots’ in the series: HERE

Jeff Smith Trials Expert

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Coming on to the bookshelves in February 2018 is a new biography written by Ian Berry on Jeff Smith, a man who really should have no introductions, he was of course not only World Motocross champion but also was a very good trials rider, who won the SSDT (1955) and Scott Trial (1954 & 1959).

The book, which is hardback and has 450 pages will be published by Motorsport Publications LLC and Ian hopes to have copies available for the Telford Off Road Show on the weekend of 17/18 February. Price to be announced shortly.

Carlos Casas – SSDT Ambassador

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Carlos Casas (Montesa 4RT) – Photo: Trial Magazine UK

Short video presented by TRIALS GURU on Carlos Casas, the ‘SSDT Ambassador’.

For many years Carlos has enthused about the Scottish Six Days Trial to Spanish and Catalan competitors that this has ensured a healthy interest in the event.

With acknowledgement to Trial Magazine UK

Also an article on Carlos HERE

Click on the centre button to run video:

 

 

Karl Clark is 2017 NZ Champ

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Karl Clark (Beta) – Photo: Ian Yeomans

The New Zealand Moto Trials Championship, which has been run since 1972, was held over three days at Labour Weekend in October.  New Zealand is made up of two Islands, North and South. Throughout the year each Island holds their own championship held over several weekends.  UK’s Jack Sheppard has ridden in the New Zealand Championship back in 2014 and 2016 and has taken the title both times.  Another previous two time winner is Stefan Merriman who would possibly be the best trials rider to come from New Zealand with his first place finish in the junior world championship in 1989.

Stefan’s name will be also been known in the UK competing in the Scottish and British Championship. Stefan finished third in the Scottish Six Day in 1992. Stefan left trials for enduro and became world champion in 2000. Some other previous New Zealand winners are two time winner James Lawton, six times winner Andrew Poad  and seven time winner Warren Laugesen who all have also competed at Scottish Six Day Trial and done very well.

The 2017 New Zealand Championship was held on the 21 – 23rd of October and was held in the North Island near the bottom of the Island on the Kapiti Coast. New Zealand events are held on mostly farmers properties. This year’s terrain was made up of mostly treacherous creeks, slippery tree roots, sharp rocks, steep banks and climbs. Ten sections of four laps were run over the three days and this year’s championship attracted over 55 competitors.

This year’s winner is Karl Clark, born and raised in Motueka, a small town at the top of the south island. Karl has been competing since 1995, 2003 was the first time Karl competed in the New Zealand Championship top class, expert. Karl managed third place on his first attempt, with winning the first day he also received the New Zealand Experts Trial which is held on one of the three days and has also been run since 1972. Karl then had some time away from the sport due to the birth of his twin boys.  Karl came back to the sport in 2008, competing once again in expert class right through till 2014 where Karl finished always in the top three but never managing the top spot.  In 2014 Karl suffered a back injury which meant he couldn’t compete at the top level.

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Six weeks before the 2017 New Zealand Championship Karl decided to give it one more crack in Expert as age is now not on his side.  This has always been a childhood dream of Karls to win the New Zealand Moto Trials Championship. Karl was on true form as he won the premier Expert grade on each of the three days, edging out Taranaki’s Matthew Foster, Christchurch rider Jules Huguenin.

“I was over the moon about the result and thought that chapter had closed for me. Also making it even more special for myself it had been twenty-five years since last won by a South Island rider. Looking back at the weekend, experience was the difference as I had more than ten years over the competition.  I thoroughly enjoyed the three days of sections and would like to thank the Ixion Motorcycle Club for putting on a great event. I’m super proud to finally get my name on the Premier Championship grade trophy”.

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Karl himself has also competed in the Scottish Six Day Trial from 2014 to 2016 and receiving first class awards.

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2015 SSDT action with Karl Clark (Beta) on ‘Fersit’ – Photo: Iain Lawrie, Kinlochleven

Karl is adamant the SSDT event is the best event in the world and he would ride it every year if the cost of getting there wasn’t an issue. He feels that riding the SSDT has improved him as a rider.  Not ruling out a return to Scotland, never say never. Karls more than happy to hang his boots up in the premier class but will still continue to support the sport he loves here in New Zealand and to give back to the future young riders.