Yorkshire’s Motorsport Legend: The History of the Scott Trial
By Larry Carter
Head up to Swaledale and Arkengarthdale and engage the locals in conversation; I guarantee it won’t be long before the subject gets around to the Scott Trial. It’s part of theheritage up there, but the world’s toughest one-day time and observation trial hasn’t always been held around the hamlets of Marske, Hurst, Fremington, Langthwaite and Whaw, as well as the tourist Mecca of Reeth.
The event began in 1914 when Alfred Scott, inventor and founder of the Scott Motorcycle Company, challenged the workers at his factory to ride from the factory in Shipley through the Yorkshire Dales. Of the fourteen starters, only nine finished. The event was reintroduced after the First World War in 1919 and although Alfred Scott died in 1923, the event continued to be run by the Scott workers until 1926.
Bradford and District Motor Club took over and held ‘the Scott’ around Blubberhouses until 1938 when the permission to use the land was withdrawn, meaning that a new home at Swainby was found for the immediate years after the Second World War. A reorganisation of boundaries by the sport’s governing body in 1950 saw a switch to Swaledale under the auspices of Darlington and District Motor Club until 1990 when current custodians Richmond and District Motor Club took over and continue to put on a wonderful event annually. Well, that was until something called Covid appeared in 2020 and we all know what happened then.
While it has been the domain of plenty of Yorkshiremen over the years, one in particular has made an indelible mark on the event. Gerald Richardson, who lives only half a dozen miles from the start, set a number of records during his tenure, some that stand to this day, including two fantastic wins in 1983 and 1985.
One of four competing brothers from Skeeby, this Richardson contested his first Scott Trial in 1980, learning the skill and survival techniques needed to not only get round the 70-mile, eighty-section moorland course of bogs, streams, rocks, and everything else mother nature could throw at it, but to beat 200 other competitors.
By 1983, he was established sufficiently to give his fourth attempt a proper go, but things didn’t go to plan due to a last-minute change of machinery. Having ridden his Gatenby Italjet on the weekend previous’ Red Rose Trial, the frame had broken and due to difficulty obtaining parts the week before the Scott, it looked as if he’d have to sit it out. But with the help of mechanic Tim Bell and importer Nick Jefferies, a new British-built Armstrong machine was secured on the Friday evening before the trial started on the following Saturday morning. Talk about cutting it fine!
However, the day couldn’t have gone much better, and Gerald had a strong ride without any major problems to set fastest time and with third best marks on observation, he claimed a sensational win. Some, however, were a little less than gracious and suggested it was all too good to be true and there’d been some cheating going on. But there hadn’t and as a result, Richardson became the very first winner from the Richmond area to lift the Alfred Scott Memorial Trophy for the first time and he’d done it on a bike he’d only seen for the first time, let alone ridden, the day before.
The victory heralded the first win on the Scott for a British machine since Arthur Lampkin won on a BSA in 1965, and no one has taken victory on a British bike since, so that makes it another two notches on the belt!
If winning in 1983 was hard, trying to defend his crown proved tougher and Geraldm narrowly lost out in 1984. Some confusion over the section markers in the final part of the event around Goats Splash near Helwith saw him ‘five’ both back-to-back sections (called ‘subs’) meaning he had to settle for second place.
He wasn’t in any mood to finish second in 1985, however, and aboard a Yamaha, scorched round the moors in an incredible time of 4 hours, 15 minutes and 45 seconds which, despite the course varying from year to year, is still the benchmark ‘Standard Time’ today as no one has gone quicker in the past thirty-five years. He was second best on observation to win by the two marks, which significantly, he’d lost out to the year previous.
Injury hampered his 1986 attempt having broken his wrist on the run up, and with no training it proved too tough even for a gritty Yorkshireman. Despite setting Standard Time on a couple more occasions, and challenging for the hat-trick, sadly Gerald couldn’t quite manage that elusive third win and eventually called it a day in 2003.
As well as the two wins, Richardson won a total of seven gold and seven silver coveted Scott Spoons (first-class awards) and remarkably finished nineteen events on the trot without retiring. That in itself is bordering on yet another record to add to the rest. It doesn’t end there, though, as in the history spanning over a century of this great event, while tipping a nod in the direction of four-times winner Philip Alderson from Askrigg, only one other rider from Richmondshire has won the Scott since, and that was a certain Jonathan Richardson who took a sensational victory in 2011.
By doing so, ‘Jono’ joined his dad to become only the second father and son to win this prestigious event alongside Martin Lampkin and his son Dougie, who is now a twelve-times world champion.
Anyone who knows Gerald can vouch he’s not one to dish out compliments easily, but on this occasion he’s both happy and proud that his lad won on his third attempt whereas it took himself four cracks before he took a win.
Making sure she doesn’t get left out of the limelight, daughter Chloe is one of an increasing number of ladies who tackle this daunting event these days. Since making her debut in 2012, she has been classed as a finisher most years and if determination counts for anything, she’s every bit as good as her dad and her brother.
Article taken from ‘North Eastern Motorsport: A Century of Memories’ by Larry Carter, pucblished by Amberley Publishing, £15.99
Top image: Richardson tackles the Surrender section in 1987, two years after his last win. (Neil Sturgeon)