It is now three years since the last Scottish Six Days Trial – yes it was 2019 when Fort William last welcomed the event – it is an understatement to say that Monday, May 2, is an eagerly awaited day when at 7.30 am in the West End car park, rider #1 Scotsman Lewis Bell (followed by his brother Liston) will be flagged away to start the 2022 SSDT.
In a flashback to the 1990s, the first six riders, Lewis, Liston, Michael McNiven, Scott Gordon, Robbie Weir and Colin Barrie will all ride Yamaha TYZ machines.
With 288 riders (give or take, we can only go on how the entry list stood at the time of writing) we can only skim through the list so apologies to anyone who feels left out, it is appreciated that every rider has a tale to tell.
Jamie Bingley (7 – Beta) is a Cumbrian first-timer but dad Gary has been around a few times and will keep him straight. Current British Expert champion Tom Affleck (28 – Sherco) gets to ride with reigning British Trial2 Champ Andy Chilton (30 – Scorpa) and Chris Alford (32 – Scorpa) with Scorpa factory rider Billy Green (33) right behind.
Scorpa importer Nigel Birkett (43) has ridden every Scottish since 1971, so a quick session on the abacus tells us that (discounting 2001 Foot and Mouth and 2020/2021) Birks is setting out on his 49th consecutive Scottish…
The names arrive thick and fast now with a surprise French entry from first-timer Alex Ferrer (53 – Montesa), former World Champs rider while young Dan Hole (64 – Beta) also a first-timer failed to persuade dad Woody to keep him company.
The mighty Dougie Lampkin (67 – Vertigo) 12 times winner of The Scottish follows and will settle for nothing but a 12 + 1 victory. Doug is accompanied by brother Harry (75 – Vertigo) and cousin James (70 – Beta). Also right in the mix here are the husband and wife team of James Fry (69 – Sherco) and Emma Bristow (73 – Sherco).
French ace Benoit Dagnicourt (81 – Vertigo) is back for another attack following his debut last year when he took the Best First Timer award. One to watch.
Stunt rider Jack Challoner (93 – Montesa) probably won’t throw in his famous backflip (although you never know) while Michael Brown (114 – Sherco) is sure to be in contention for a top-three finish.
Promising teenager Harry Bowyer (116 – GASGAS) is a first timer but has Scottish enthusiast John Shirt (117 – GASGAS) to keep him straight.
Former SSDT winner Sam Connor (122 – Beta) still loves his trip north from his southern Hookwood base while Ross Danby (124 – TRRS) and ever-smiling Tom Minta (126 – Scorpa) are certain leaderboard contenders.
Veteran former Canadian Champ Stan Bakgaard (135 – Scorpa) flies over to rent a Scorpa from old pal Nigel Birkett while James Dabill (139 – Beta) the winner in 2019 will be looking to defend that title despite having retired from being a professional rider.
Spanish SSDT super-fan Carlos Casas (140 – Vertigo) is back for his favourite holiday and will be entertained all week by the hi-jinks of pals Dan Clark (156 – Beta) and Ben Butterworth (158 – TBC). Wish I could watch these two riding the moors!
The Bullock brothers Brad (159 – Beta) and Dec (162 – Beta) know their way round as does 1981 winner, Frenchman Gilles Burgat (169) who again starts with pal Fred Michaud (170 – Sherco) brother of former multi World Champion, SSDT winner and current FIM trials boss Thierry.
Teenage tearaways Harry and George Hemingway may have been hogging the headlines recently with British and European exploits but it is dad Dan (175 – Beta) and Uncle Ben’s (177 – Beta) turn for some Scottish fun. The lads will get their turn!
There’s a bunch of welcome Irish interlopers around here including old hands Gareth Andrews (190 – Beta) and Andy Perry (192 – Beta).
Another former winner Alexz Wigg (189 – Vertigo) is back for a ride around with pal Sam Haslam (191 – GASGAS) and both are sure front runners. Not far behind come a bunch of likely lads including Richard Sadler (208 – Vertigo), John Crinson (209 – Beta), and brothers Jack (210 – Sherco) and Dan (211 – Sherco) Peace who will be gunning for Scottish glory.
Dan Thorpe (229 – GASGAS) has the perfect temperament for the Scottish while Cumbrian brothers – amazing how many brothers, cousins etc compete in the Scottish – David (237 – Scorpa) and Sam (238 – Scorpa) Myers follow with veteran Yorky Phil Alderson (240 – TRRS) for excellent company.
Manxman Juan Knight (270 – Scorpa) returns for another gallop round and if you can keep up with Juan on the tracks and fells you should be an enduro ace.
And last men away on Monday – which will be after midday are Yorkshire pals Alan Mudd (287 – Vertigo) and Boyd Webster (288 – Vertigo).
The Scottish has enjoyed good strong entries from women riders over the last decade or so and this continues in 2022 with British #1 and multi-world champ Emma Bristow (73 – Sherco) leading the way.
Emma is joined by German duo Mona Pekarek (35 – Sherco) and Charlotte Stefens (36 – TRRS) and Brit first-timers Jazz Hammond (57 – Scorpa) and Alicia Robinson (82 – Beta). Chloe Richardson (84 – Beta), Victoria Payne (86 – Sherco) and Katy Sunter (230 – GASGAS) have done it all before.
Katy gets to keep her husband Dan Thorpe (229 – GASGAS) on the straight and narrow while Alicia Robinson has to watch over dad Stuart (83 – Beta).
Finally, Andorra will be represented by Alba Villegas (275 – Vertigo).
SSDT history will be made when two riders will compete on electrically powered motorcycles – the first time in the event’s history that this has happened. They will be Englishman Matthew Alpe (166) top man at Inch Perfect, and French ace Gael Chatagno (165) – both riding the French-built Electric Motion machines.
The performance of the EM in the sections is not in doubt, what the pioneering riders will discover is how they cope with long sessions on the road – up to 30 miles – moors and tracks and possibly wet days and deep river crossings. The Army will carry spare batteries for the bikes to the refuelling stations, with all safety precautions taken.
Good luck to both Gael and Matthew as they create Scottish history.
Once again the trial is indebted to Sandy Mack and the Army for contributing their essential SSDT refuelling service. It cannot be emphasised enough how important they are to the event.
Also on the subject of fuel, given the recent rise in the cost, the club issued the following important statement:
“There has been a lot of talk and speculation on the effects of recent fuel costs and whether there will be any fuel surcharge for competitors at this year’s event. The club is pleased to confirm that due to some additional late sponsorship we are not going to charge any fuel supplement this year. It is recognised that to compete in the SSDT is costly enough without additional costs being put on to entry fees.
“The club runs the event on a non-profit basis so this year will be very tight but thanks to our generous sponsors we are working to keep the cost down as best we can. Please take time to check out our sponsors, their support helps keep the greatest trial in the world going strong.”
That is excellent news indeed so many thanks to the generous sponsors helping to keep costs down for competitors.
With there having been no Scottish Six Days Trial since 2019, Clerk of Course Jeff Horne and his route and section marking team were up against it, with permissions to seek and conditions to check so took the sensible option to go with what they knew and could most successfully deal with so the six daily routes are pretty much as for the 2019 event.
It isn’t just about plotting a new route these days – the distance between fuel checks also has to be taken into account and if there is access for them.
This meant that on their weekend trips to Fort William – the event is run by the Edinburgh and District club remember – on a recce they could hit the ground running and check conditions on the ground after two years of weather.
These trips involve informing the landowners, farmers, tenants, etc beforehand because some of them wish to meet the team, to show them where they can and cannot go, depending on how they are working the land.
You can of course find out and study the routes on the ssdt.org website but for newcomers here’s a quick rundown. Each day starts at 7.30 am prompt and regardless of route mileage, there will be 30 observed sections.
Don’t forget to buy an official programme as there will be recommendations and approximate timings as well as the rider entry list.
MONDAY: Most spectators head straight for Leanachen where there are acres of car parking and the sections are just yards away in the rocky riverbed. Then, while the riders head out towards Spean Bridge and then over the moors to Kinlochleven, the most beaten path is down the road to Lagnaha where you can park and grab a brew and a cake in the village hall before taking the short walk to the sections.
Lagnaha is particularly good if you are heading home on Monday night after a long weekend taking in the Pre-65 as you are already on your way to Glencoe. An alternative is to head round to the lunch stop at Kinlochleven and have a look at Garbh Bhein or Cameron Hill.
TUESDAY: Riders set off from the West End car park and head south on the A82 Achintore road before hanging a right and taking a trip on the Corran ferry. The first sections are just on the other side at Ardgour although Carnoch is a good bet a bit more of a drive around.
Competitors then head across country on a cracking run alongside Loch Shiel while spectators will need to about turn and head back along the A861, along the opposite side of Loch Linnhe to Fort William, to emerge on the A380 and turn right where there are several options, including the old favourite at Trotters Burn with its famous step at the end.
WEDNESDAY: Time for the first trip down the historic Mamore Road for the riders where they start with Callart and then along to Kinlochleven where you could have a look at Lower Mamore or maybe Pap of Glencoe. Spectators are not allowed down Glen Etive as there is no parking! Please don’t be tempted to sneak down as this is a very sensitive area and you will only put the future of the trial in jeopardy!
The day is all about the route to Appin where there are plenty of spectator options including the final group in the burn in the forest at Bealach.
THURSDAY: It’s Mamore again for the riders and Sleubhaich for starters but spectators have the option of loose climbs at Clachaig in Glencoe or further down the road to the burn along from Chairlift.
Riders then get the ride out over the forbidding Rannoch Moor where they will encounter Dunan and remote Corrour before heading over to Fersit. This is around a 40 to 50-minute walk across the fell and is worth the effort, especially on a fine day!
FRIDAY: After the longest day of the week there are another 100 or so miles on Friday but a high percentage is on tarmac as this is what used to be called ‘road race day’ although there is no need to speed.
It is a spectators delight as the majority of groups are right beside the road although please park sensibly as people are going about their daily business who need a clear road.
Favourites include Pipers Burn, opposite the Salmon farm, WDs, Laudale and then the loose climb at Camasnacroise, or a mile or so further on Meall Nam Each and Kilmalieu before the final group at Rubha Ruadh (Rhubarb!).
SATURDAY: It is tempting to think it is all over bar the shouting but Saturday is harder than it looks on paper! Back across the Mamore road for a third time to Kinlochleven where spectators can take in the famous Pipeline should they wish. You need 20 minutes or more for the loose, uphill walk.
But as those riders looking to finish and praying they don’t have any last-minute dramas make their way over the moor and back towards Fort William, most spectators will make their way onto the lower slopes of Ben Nevis or further up the valley to Glen Nevis for the finale.
Well, almost the finale, as the very last section is Town Hall Brae in the centre of Fort William and a chance for the locals to get a glimpse of what has been going on all week.
Then it’s a couple of hundred yards back to parc ferme for the last time and maybe a cheeky beer to celebrate reaching the finish!
If you are staying all week you could give yourself a break from driving with a day in parc ferme, watching all the riders spend their allotted 15 minutes working on their bikes before the start or having last-minute panics with adjustments before heading down the road.
Then you have time for lunch before heading back to watch the entry stream back in, some tight on time, others with time to spare to get stuck into some probably much-needed maintenance.
And spare a thought for all the hard-working officials. The teams in parc ferme, out on the sections and the marking out team who spend their week working a full day ahead of the trial and of course the office-bound crew who look after the never-ending paperwork and of course – the results!