SOME YOU WIN, SOME YOU DON’T THE 1975 ISDT
It’s 1975 and the Royal Air Force Team is now armed with the 125cc Swedish Monark which had
the 6 speed Sachs GS motor…… what a machine!! A 125 that thought it was a 250 or better. Yes,
Sweden’s answer to the KTM.
The event is being run in the I.O.M. so we take the ferry and make the crossing in relatively calm
seas. Standard B & B accommodation on the sea front and now become the lunatic fringe of
society doing wheelies and paddock racing up and down the promenade. A couple of nothing days
to get familiar with the areas we might be getting into and …… I wonder what the TT Course is like?
So Ted Thompson, who is riding for the British Vase Team, and myself set off to explore with him
on the Fire Engine Jawa and me on the tiny Monark. Very soon as we leave town the “horns” are
pushing through the helmet and all hell breaks loose with WFO riding on that “Magical Course”.
First impressions are that you need a computer type brain to remember 39 miles of this! Man
these roads are as rough as cart tracks, utility services, manholes, white lines, cats eyes, curbs
sidewalks) and all the other fun of a public road, and in many places just an unforgiving flint wall!
Well that was fun with speeds up to about 95, can’t imagine what it’s like averaging 130 round
For those not in the know the ISDT has 3 speed schedules of wet 21-23, average 23-25, and
dry 25-28 which the organizers will set on a daily basis. The daily runs for the first 5 days will
normally be about 180 miles with about 10 check points along the route each day and you can
arrive as early as you like but you cannot punch your card until the clock ticks over to your minute.
You can be up to 3 mins late checking in to allow for the bedlam at the time clock. Additionally
there are “special tests” which on this event was 1 lap of the motor cross circuit up on Douglas
Head. So to get a Gold Medal you must complete the entire 6 days on time and stay within a
set % of the Class Leader for your engine size. Perhaps this is the easiest as the Day 1 Leader
seldom makes it to Day 6! Might be something to do with 30 min motos rather than 6 x 8 hours
of riding! If you fall off the Gold standard and slip to Silver then you can lose up to 25 mins on
time before dropping to the lowly Bronze. However once you are 60 mins adrift you are OUT!
Monday morning and bright eyed and bushy tailed we line up 4 abreast and take the start 1
group every minute. No idea of where you are going just follow the signs and hope nothing is
coming the other way. Bear in mind this part of the UK so… Left side please!
One of my group is a West German Trophy rider so he must be good so try and use him as the
“yardstick”. Good plan but he dawdles along at 40 on the public highway and then goes at the
speed of heat in the rough, oh well, I’ll do it my way and set off as though my life depended on it.
The tortoise and hare game goes on all day.
As various checks come and go reports of misadventures are coming in and support crews are
beginning to fill the mind with horror stories that don’t sound too good whatever nationality you
are. 12 o’clock and 2 dead! And Martin Lampkin retired with a broken collar bone?? SH**!
Apparently some continental crashed head on into a cement truck within 5 miles of the start and
pulled the wrong way when he saw it. The other was a Canadian who was riding along a disused
railway where the tracks and sleepers (ties) were up but the gravel was still there with ridges
every 30 inches or so. I found the best way was to go faster and just kiss the ripples. He had got
into a “tank slapper” a bit like a “flat spin” in the F4 fighter, NO KNOWN RECOVERY! And he had
been high-sided and landed on his head before flipping over. Unfortunately he was wearing false
teeth and they had lodged in his throat blocking off the airway with his tongue.
The rest of the day seemed Ok and I got round Douglas Head as sensibly as I could.
Day 2 and some sad faces but the show goes on and at some stage I manage to bend the forks
but kept the wheel round….. very odd! Arrangements are made to make repairs and along some
country lane with a high flint wall there lurks a RAF landrover and a lot of tools. I’m duly ushered
through the farmer’s gate and the brake cable is disconnected and the forks and wheel are gone
and in no time I’m peeking out of the gateway and scuttling on my way.
A little later I’m careering down some leafy track dodging whippy branches and staring at the
little circle of daylight at the end of this long lane when, all of a sudden there is an awful phuuuttt
phuuuuuttt, noise and of course you instinctively back off and look to see what has gone wrong
expecting head bolts, gaskets, exhausts or plugs to have come loose….. well its an old trick, in the
flash of an eye an individual is past me, and yes, a couple of squirts of the decompressor is all it
takes to rattle (in this case me) the opposition.
Right then! By now I’ve noted that my “new friend” is from Ireland thanks to helmet color
recognition and I chase after him as we rocket down the hill to the bowl of light.
He is about 50 yards ahead of me and about the same distance to daylight when all of a sudden
the hole of light closes off as the Manx Rack & pinion Railway train pull across the opening!
GERBaaanG!! Irish meets train and gets his front wheel lodged amongst the trains wheels.
I pass him pointing at my right shoulder where the little pink badge has a single upright digit.
“This Ones For You”
Later we repeat the wheel and fork game and onto the finish without further problems or any
loss of time.
Day 3, a lot more of the same and then it starts, roaring along on a grassy track the motor
suddenly stops. Out with the plug, new one in check for sparks, ZERO! Change leads to other coil,
NOTHING! Well F***! Nothing I can do here as its Motoplat solid state ignition. Push Sweden’s
finest up hill and down dale until I get to a decent downhill to the road. Freewheeling downhill
with about 20 feet to go to the gate I pop her into gear and guess what? ……… Yes, it fires right
up and on we go again. But a couple of miles later same deal No Sparks!
A 10 minute wait with the plug out and wait until it sparks again. Sitting by the road watching
Gold slip to Silver and then Silver to Bronze it appears to me that the new Motoplat system is not
all that it should be. Seems that this red lump is melting under the intense heat and shorting out.
Then as it cools and the plastic hardens up and all is well.
Well that was the way it was and during the course of the afternoon all the bikes suffered the
same fate. Normally we let riders fettle their own bikes but on this occasion it was decided to
send the bikes back to the importer who fitted new ignition systems to all three and all from the
same bad batch. Some you win, Some you don’t!
TONY DOWN No 157 1975 ISDT