(August 7, 2015)- The first time a round of the the World Motorcycle Trials Championship was held in the United States was in July of 1975. It took place at the Stepping Stones Ranch in West Greenwich, Rhode Island, and was won by Englishman Malcolm Rathmell riding a Montesa Cota. This July, 40 years almost to the day after that first event, the world’s elite trials specialists again gathered at Stepping Stones and a little history repeated itself.
|The legendary Tony Bou was the big winner at the World Motorcycle Trials Championship round in Rhode Island.
There have been a few events held here in the interim, of course, and that should be no surprise. It is a fabulous location for a World round with huge rocks, daunting climbs and drop-offs, all arranged in open woods that are ideal for spectators.
|Two-time world champ Adam Raga finished second on both days behind Bou.
A total of 43 riders in four different classes were entered in the two-day event (which counted as two separate rounds of the championship), but most of the attention was focussed on the Pro class. Coming into this round,the clear leader in the championship race was SpaniardToni Bou. Bou is nothing short of extraordinary; he has won more world championships (eight) than anyone in history, and this year he took the first nine events in the series – an unprecedented feat. However, fellow Spaniard Adam Raga, himself a two-time world champion (2005/2006) won the three previous rounds and was looking good to pick up even more ground in Rhode Island.
Crowd favourite Takahisa Fujinami, also known as Fujigas, is celebrating his 20th year on the international circuit. He won the World Championship in 2004. Now in his mid-30s, he is still competitive, still a fan favourite, and is showing no signs of slowing down.
|Sherco factory rider Albert Cabestany doing a nose wheelie down the rock face. He placed 4th in the pro class on both days.
The Sunday morning forecast was for severe thunderstorms throughout the day and the trial started under threatening skies, with lots of umbrellas and raincoats in evidence, but fortunately the rain never materialized. Again Bou dominated the morning with a first lap score of 10 points lost to Raga’s 20. And he got better as the day went on, losing only nine points on his second lap and seven on his final lap, for a total of 26. Raga ended up with 50 points for second place and Jeroni Fajardo (55 points) rounded out the podium.
And how did history repeat itself?
|The lone Canadian entrant was Quebec’s Michel Fortin Bélanger, riding a Beta in the International class. He had two strong finishes, placing sixth on Saturday and fifth on Sunday.
Trials is a very small branch of motorcycle sport, ridden on highly specialized machines made in small factories in Spain and Italy. Over the years companies like Bultaco and Ossa dominated the sport but have since disappeared, to be replaced by others like Fantic and SWM, who are also now no longer making trials bikes. This year alone has seen the demise of Gas Gas and the appearance of Vertigo. What the future holds is anyone’s guess.
So, it is interesting to note that 40 years after the first Stepping Stones event, this latest trial was once again won by a rider ona Montesa (Honda) Cota.