Christian Rayer is a name not universally known in the UK, but is very well-known in his native France. Born in 1945, riding Greeves and Motobecane machinery in his early years as a rider, he was instrumental in the development of the first Montesa Cota 247 series trials machine which emerged in 1967, based and developed from the Spanish factory’s Impala engine design.
This was done in association with both Pedro Pi and England’s Don (D.R.) Smith feeding information back to the Barcelona factory, owned by the Catalan Permanyer family, based then at Esplugas de Llobregat.
Rayer was six times French trials champion and rode the Scottish Six Days Trial three times on the Spanish marque. His main rivals of that era on the European trials scene were Sammy Miller, Gordon Farley and Don Smith (England) and Gustav Franke (Germany) who were all professional riders. Thereafter, in 1971 he was contracted by Yamaha to develop a trials machine the basis being their DT175 off-road model.
The trials model became known as the ‘TY’ which stood for ‘Trial Yamaha’ Rayer again feeding back useful information to the Japanese engineers at the Yamaha factory. Rayer’s efforts paved the way for a full-on attack by the Dutch based competition arm of Yamaha Motor Co in trials, but now with Mick Andrews as their main factory rider in 1973. Andrews had been with Spanish rivals, Ossa from 1967, switching to Yamaha in a blaze of publicity.
Rayer’s business acumen resulted in the creation of his dealership called ‘Moto 92’ at Chaville, a suburb of Paris, where he went on to develop up-rated motors for the Yamaha TY250; XT600 and other trail models. He was also the founder of the first riding school for off road riders near Paris and competed in the first edition of the famous Paris-Dakar Rally on the Japanese marque as an official team member, winning many of the individual stages in the process. Rayer also rode in the Enduro de Touquet, also as part of Team Yamaha and finished second overall from a start field of 1000 riders.
In later life, Christian took up para-gliding, diving, hunting and microlight aircraft piloting.
Nowadays Christian runs a business in Valbonne Cedex called ‘IP Moteurs‘ supplying after-market upgrade kits for Yamaha, Suzuki and Honda.
Alexander John Cameron, known to the townsfolk of his native Fort William as ‘Allie Beag’ or just ‘The Beag’, this Gaelic nickname means ‘Wee Allie’.
At the Parade Garage in Fort William, where he served his apprenticeship as a mechanic, there were two ‘Allies’ so there had to be a distinction and it stuck with him for the rest of his life. Allie was originally inspired by watching the Scottish Six Days and ventured into trials at eighteen years of age, when he could afford a James Commando in 1958. This beginner bike soon made way for a brand new 20TA Greeves, purchased from Duncan’s of Brechin a year later.
Allie progressed to a 250 DOT in 1961, which, he rode for only one year. Next season, Allie bought the ex- Jimmy Hutchins Tiger Cub and had it reduced in capacity by the factory at Meridan with the intention of winning the 150cc cup at the Scottish, which he did. Henry Vale, the competitions manager at Triumphs had a Terrier 150cc barrel fitted to reduce the capacity accordingly. That particular Cub had a twenty-one inch front wheel and a widened swinging arm to accommodate a full four-inch section trials tyre at the rear.
His Scottish 150cc capacity win on the Triumph soon attracted the attention of the Greeves factory at Thundersley, Essex and Allie received factory support in the shape of a 149cc bike (XWC 264) for the 1963 Scottish.
Cameron lifted the cup a second time for the loss of 120 marks with his closest rival being Gordon Farley, on a Triumph supported by Jock Hitchcock, who dropped 174 marks. Greeves were happy with the result and used it to best effect in their adverts in the motorcycle press for many months later.
The same year Allie was runner up in the Scottish Trials championship, two points behind Jackie Williamson. By 1967, ‘Beag’ had two special firsts, four first class and four capacity class wins to his credit in six rides in the Scottish Six Days Trial.
Allie was offered a job as mechanic in the competitions department at Thundersley, preparing the factory trials and scrambles machinery for the works riders. He also prepared many of the special ISDT machines including those supplied to Thames Ditton dealers Comerfords. Allie worked in company with John Pease on the ISDT bikes.
Pease who as well as working at the factory was selected on many occasions as a British Trophy team member. The duo fabricated the special engine cradles to carry centre stands, rock guards and the various brackets to carry headlamps, number plates and compressed air bottles for tyre inflation.
Allie became friends with Don ‘D.R.’ Smith who came up to the factory once a week for testing and development discussions. ‘Beag’ would go practising at Kelvedon Hatch near Brentwood with Smith who was one of Britain’s top trials riders, by then, European Champion.
‘Beag’ knew all the ‘works boys’ and was highly regarded as not only an excellent spanner-man but as a handy rider in the Wessex Centre ACU. He spannered for Bryan Goss and many of the other factory motocross riders.
In 1971, Allie decided to return home to Fort William and took up a position with the area’s largest employer, The British Aluminium Company (‘BA’ for short). He wasn’t home long when he received a call from Jim Sandiford offering him a job at Sandiford’s Montesa import business. Allie thought long and hard but decided to stay at the BA.
Having been diagnosed as having Hodgkin’s disease, the Beag had to restrict his trials riding but never lost his enthusiasm for motorcycling. He rode up until the late 1970’s and was a willing observer at both the annual Ian Pollock Memorial Trial and Pre-65 Scottish.
Sadly, Allie died in the November of 1998. His funeral at the Duncansburgh Church, Fort William was filled to overflowing, such was the popularity of the little man known affectionately as ‘The Beag’ to the towns-folk. Many modern day competitors and “old hands” converged on the Fort to pay their last respects.
Article: Copyright – John Moffat -2005
Jimmy Young, Armadale
Alistair MacMillan / West Highland News Agency, Fort William (with permission of current copyright holder: Anthony MacMillan, Fort William – All rights reserved)
Bronwyn Palmer (250 Gas gas) from Perthshire, Scotland gains useful experience at the British Ladies Trials Championship opening round at Didcot on Sunday 16th march 2014. Photo: Heath Brindley/R2WTrials.