What appears in the results can be a far cry from what the conditions were. The USA entries consisted of enthusiasts who had scraped up the considerable expense to have a go, support was non-existent, and hotel conditions deplorable. Our ‘billet’ in Douglas developed a heating problem so we had no hot water or heating. Can you imagine what it felt like to put on wet socks, boots, gloves etc every morning?
I got so desperate that on the second evening I borrowed a raincoat and trudged down to the public baths for a hot soak.
I picked up my mount from the factory, a modified US spec model with lights, air bottle etc and a 19in front wheel with trials tyre. Suitable for the desert sand, but not Manx mud. There were no 21in wheels available, sir.
To ensure the bike was broken in, I rode it from London to Liverpool, checked in and set off on the first day with an East German trophy rider on the same minute.
He showed up the next day in spotless riding gear, while I was shivering in mine. On the first special test he crashed hard so I stopped to see if he was okay, but he urged me on. From that time on, every check I came to, his support team would ply me with hot drinks and strange snacks.
On the third day a low-speed spill in a stony gateway split my new ‘unbreakable’ front fender. Sorry sir, no spare fenders. Eyes filled with mud, game over.
If high winds had not hit the island it would have been okay, but using the same course backwards every other day was brutal, as the ruts were so deep that the footrests would bottom out and the rear wheel would spin. If you had a 50 or 75cc bike it was easy to lift out, but not a 650cc Triumph.
If you have ever seen a rider up to his ass in a bog with the bike barely visible, that was the scene. Somehow, those perforated steel strips miraculously appeared for certain riders.
So, to sum up, I think it was 50% rider and 50% support. Triss Sharp found that out.
And a final note, McQueen was not in this one, the studio having concerns after reading about his exploits in the 1964 event.
The event is imprinted on my mind, 50 years later!
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