1972 Scottish Six Days Trial - remembered

5 months ago • 22/1/2021Posted by Wayne Brodie

Can you imagine the daunting task of driving 450 plus miles to Scotland to face 175 observed sections across a distance of 685 miles, followed by another 450 odd mile return trip back to the Island? 07:30 on Monday 1st of May 1972, 230 riders were sent off from Edinburgh, at 1 min intervals, for the start of the Scottish Six Days Reliability Trial. Four IOWMCC members were brave enough to enter the trial helping to make up a record entry. John Swaffield, Nigel Crouch, John Chape & Stewart Freeman, supported by Martin Casey travelled to Scotland to tackle what is arguably the most gruelling trial in the world. Now for those that knew Nigel (particularly in his younger years) will understand that drama & chaos were often never far behind - this adventure was no exception.

Interestingly, Sammy H Miller (5 times Scottish 6 Days winner) decided to compete closer to home - at the 1972 Wight Two Day Trial. Sammy left the Island, with another Wight Two Day title under his belt, on the Sunday afternoon and drove north throughout the night, arriving in Edinburgh in time to see the start of the sport’s most testing event.

John Swaffield originally came up with the idea to go to Scotland - he wisely decided to travel there himself - whilst the others went up in Nigel’s van. The drama began about half way up, flat out on the motorway - one of Nigel’s van tyres suffered a blow out! Thankfully control was kept, the van didn’t crash and the bikes were intact. The decision not to replace one bald tyre with another - was probably very wise. After a ‘whip round’ (no credit cards or cash machines back then) tyres with tread were fitted and everyone eventually arrived safely in Edinburgh.

All 4 machines from the Island were modified especially for this trial – they were fitted with larger carb jets (to allow for the higher altitude) bigger fuel tanks & important changes were made to the final drive gearing, to give better ‘on road’ performance. The four Island riders decided to pay up front for fuel to be provided along the route at designated stops. The ‘official’ refuelling procedure involved stopping and removing the petrol cap (whilst still on the bike) the nozzle inserted & the can tipped up – the tank was full when petrol spilled out all over the rider and onto a very hot engine. Fuel caps were hurriedly put back on, throttle opened, clutch out - for a quick restart, hopefully to avoid being engulfed by a fireball!

The trial was won for the third consecutive year by Mick Andrews, onboard his Ossa for a loss of just 49. (incidentally, Mick was featured on the front page of the 1972 Wight 2 Day Trial Programme). Martin Lampkin, who was tipped to be the only rider capable of preventing Andrews from notching up the hat-trick was forced to retire, barely 10 miles into the trial, following an engine seizure just after the Forth Road Bridge - and embarrassingly, for him, even before the first section! Alan Lampkin (Bultaco) finished 2nd on 58, just 2 ahead of Rob Edwards (Montesa) in 3rd. Geoff Chandler (Bultaco) finished 6th on 74 with Gordon Farley (Montesa) in 7th for a loss of 78.

Two of the four Island riders managed to finish the trial. John Swaffield (Bultaco) finished 130th with a total of 377 whilst a very enthusiastic, 20 year old, Stewart Freeman (Bultaco) came in 163rd for a loss of 491. Both received 2nd class awards. John Chape & Nigel Crouch both retired earlier in the week.

Nigel’s retirement came about on a remote boggy part of the moors. He noticed a problem with his bike and in an attempt to fix it, he set about removing the engine casings for inspection, whilst leaning the bike over to check the flywheel (casings off) he didn’t notice that the clutch push rod had fallen out on the other side only to be swallowed by the bog - never to be seen again! Nigel didn’t completely lose out though. Along with a newly fitted set of tyres on his van, he somehow managed to enjoy the full use of the hotel’s hospitality, including the washing & toilet facilities together with a full breakfast every morning - despite not even being a resident. He decided to kip in his van adjacent to the hotel where many of the riders were staying & hotel staff were blissfully unaware that he wasn’t actually a paying guest.

John’s retirement turned out to be the result of an unfortunate miscommunication. He was deemed to have run out of time on his return leg to Edinburgh, therefore he was excluded from the remainder of the trial. He obviously didn’t turn up for the start the next morning - however if he’d paid attention at that evening’s briefing he would have learned that more time had been allowed (retrospectively) by the Stewards. This meant that he could have completed the trial after all - and most likely he would have joined John and Stewart as they stepped up to collect their awards. John’s advice to all is simply this: Make Sure You Attend & Listen Very Carefully To All RIDER BRIEFINGS!

Stewart commented “coming down Ben Nevis was fun, most ‘mortals’ would zig-zag down the track but the top boys would come straight down, over the track”. He also remembers that one part of the Ben Nevis section took riders along a narrow goat track, next to a very deep ravine – the organisers had strung a huge cargo net designed to catch the ‘mortals’ if they lost control. One newspaper reported ‘that one rider was knocked clean out cold there (crash helmets were not a requirement in 72) remarkably he soon recovered and went onto finish the trial’.

Whilst Stewart survived Ben Nevis, he did have a spot of bother on the moors – first he suffered a puncture and later his front wheel sunk in a bog, stopping the bike dead, throwing him clean over the handlebars! During the week he also started to progressively loose wheel spokes from his rear wheel and on the last day (Fort William to Edinburgh) he was forced to ride sat mainly on the petrol tank to take the weight off the back wheel, preventing it from collapsing altogether. However those broken spokes did cost him several penalty points following the final machine examination & ultimately a couple of places in the overall standings!

Pictured above; the official SSDT photo of John Chape. Fortunately John kept much of the original trial paperwork & newspaper cuttings from the 1972 SSDT.

An excellent record of a truly unforgettable “Sporting Holiday in The Highlands”.