Roger Johns writes for Trials Guru and covers the Southern based riders who were a force to be reckoned with.
… Photos – Mike Rapley; Iain Lawrie; Colin Bullock; Linda Ashford; Rainer Heise
… Words – Roger Johns; Trials Guru
Ask anyone to name well-known trials riders and no doubt they will trot out names such as Martin Lampkin, Malcolm Rathmell, Mick Andrews, Rob Shepherd, Rob Edwards and so on… northern born and bred men, usually but not exclusively from Yorkshire.
However, it is easy to overlook those from the southern part of the United Kingdom who were very successful in the sport, who attracted sponsorship and competed against not only the best in Britain, but also on occassion, the best in the world at the time.
With the help of photographs and some old reports, let’s look at the Southern Contenders on Trials Guru, aided by former Southern Centre champion, Roger Johns:
Whilst at the Scott trial in 2016, I was chatting to John Moffat of Trials Guru and he mentioned that he was thinking of doing a story on the Southern Centre riders in one of the most competitive eras in Trials History, the 1970s and 80s.
John asked if I would like to put some words together, as being a Northern gent, he didn’t have a large knowledge of us guys south of the M4. First thing to do he said, come up with a list of riders, so he could source some pics. Well that was interesting in itself, I came up with over twenty names of riders who could win, or make the podium in a Southern Centre round, so straight away it shows how competitive it was back in those days.
So the story goes, in the mid 1970s the dominance of the great Sammy Miller was coming to an end, at the same time as bike development was moving ahead very quickly and along came the likes of Fantic, Yamaha, Suzuki, CCM, SWM etc.
Late in 1975 I rode in my first trial, which happened to be a Southern Centre round. Geoff Guy on a works Ossa won, ahead of all the other stars with Sammy Miller on his factory Honda, Paul Dunkley on a Miller Bultaco, the late Geoff Chandler on his works Ossa, Geoff Monk also on a works Ossa, Pete Anker on a sponsored Montesa and Phil Legg on his Miller Hiro and so on.
In those days we were all riding on the same route, out of interest Geoff Guy dropped just 3 marks, and I finished halfway up the novice class on a whacking 125 marks. That was it, I was hooked and realizing I needed a lot of practice.
Geoff Guy won the Championship in 1975 with Geoff Chandler second which signalled the end of Sammy’s long and distinguished reign.
Sammy Miller of course, a multiple British Champion was almost in a league of his own, which was mirrored years later by Steve Saunders from Cheltenham, himself a multiple British Champion and factory rider.
1976 saw Geoff Chandler win his first of many championships with Geoff Guy runner-up.
1977 again was Geoff Chandler with Sammy Miller getting close again in second spot. 1978 was Geoff Chandler yet again, with myself on my own Ossa supported by OSSA UK in runner up spot.
1979 was another interesting contest, made more competitive by Yorkshire star John ‘Mecca’ Metcalfe moving to the south – as if it wasn’t competitive enough. But once again Chandler took the title with myself again runner up.
1980 – Again saw more young guys get very competitive, the likes of Steve Moore from Woking and Dave Clinkard. I finally managed to steal the title away from Geoff in a titanic battle that went to the last of the twelve rounds.
1981 – saw Geoff and myself both signed for Roy Carey’s Fantic UK. Geoff stole the title back again, at the final round, when I was leading the points table and only needing to finish 4th if Geoff won. I had a mechanical problem and finished a lowly 5th place, what a blow! That year saw Don Harris take third position in the series.
The following season, 1982 and more young riders got in the mix with the likes of Dave Clinkard sponsored by the Jock Wilson/Mick Bowers importership, SWM Moto UK and Steve Moore by Comerfords Bultaco. Dave took the title with myself once again runner up, with Nicky England also works Fantic, in third position.
1983 saw Nicky England, son of scrambles ace Ivor England take the honours from Dave Clinkard.
Dave Clinkard won in 1984 with Nicky England second and myself third.
1985 was Dave Clinkard victorious again, Nicky England second and Steve Moore third.
Through all these years we used to get regular visits from other top riders from adjoining centres, the likes of Martin Strang, Hedley Ashford and Nibbs Kellett, to mention just a few, who could steal the odd win or points.
The quality in depth was quite amazing, between the Southern riders all of us were competing in as many nationals, British rounds and the Scott Trial, regulary winning awards.
So there you go, ten years of the very competitive Southern Centre battles.
Martin Strang from Somerset was supported by Comerfords on Bultaco and always a serious contender:
Colin Boniface from Camberley in Surrey:
Geoff Chandler from Salisbury, who was part owner in Chandler & Wright Motorcycles was a member of the Sammy Miller Bultaco team in the 1970s and also rode Bultaco engined Wasp machines for Robin Rhind-Tutt. He was a member of the Southampton Vikings club:
Alan Baker from North Devon, uncle of Joe Baker:
Graham Baker also from Noth Devon, brother of Alan Baker and father of Joe Baker:
Steve Saunders, was ten times British Trials Champion, four times winner of the SSDT, factory rider for Armstrong/CCM; Honda Racing; Fantic and Beta, with support from Comerfords on a Bultaco before signing for Armstrong in 1983. Steve belongs to Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, born in 1964, he started riding trials at an early age. His first real trials machine being a 100cc Bultaco Tiron. His father Denis was a keen trials rider and major influence on Steve taking up the sport:
John ‘Mecca’ Metcalfe, originally from Kilnsey, North Yorkshire, moved to Essex to be near the Ossa importers of the time, Cliff Holden, thereby riding in many southern centre events.
Steve Moore from Woking in Surrey: As well as being a good trials rider, he is a keen rhythm and blues guitarist.
Dave Clinkard, former Southern Centre ACU champion and also ACU over 40s British Champion in 2013:
Chris ‘Sooty’ Sutton:
The late Len Hutty from Frimley Green in Surrey, rode a Gollner Kawasaki and over time became a very competent Pre’65 competitor, winning the annual Talmag Trial several times.
Page currently under construction, photos and information being collated and sourced.
Link to ACU Southern Centre: LINK HERE