The Enduro Days in New Zealand that overflowed to Australia & Europe with NZ & Australian Teams
The 1979 Tim Gibbes Motors Enduro Team – Darryl August rode a DT250F & John Jamieson DT175F Yamahas with great success
1981 – I rode the Australian 4 Day Enduro at Broken Hill on a 250 Husqvarna loaned to me by Husky Imports, a NSW partnership operated by 2 of my old friends – Australian Roy East who previously rode MX & grass track in UK & Europe, & Hans Appelgren, a Swede who migrated to Australia some years before, but knew Husqvarna motorcycles inside out.
The course was mainly around & over a small granite rock mountain bobbing out of the ground near Silverton, fairly much a ghost town now. But as we rode there were dozens of small mineshafts that had been dug out the granite rock 150 years ago where men had gambled their livelihood & life on “striking it rich” by finding gold. Many crosses along the way bore the names of these hardy types who died in their attempt. Legend has it that quite a few pushed their wheelbarrows with pick, shovel, water, food & worldly belongings from Sydney, 1,600 Kms away!
Unfortunately for me the rear brake anchor wound around the rear axle causing all the back end to seize up, so that was one of my rare DNF’s.
At the Silverton Pub an Australian native yellow crested white cockatoo, apart from talking as these birds do, would upend all the empty beer cans into its mouth with its beak, for the last dregs, until it became dead drunk!
But a highlight of the trip was being taken down one of the mines near Broken Hill to about 1 mile depth. To see how the men worked with both ancient & modern machinery was interesting. A mine tunnel started 100 years ago still had the same machinery (a pick, shovel & wheelbarrow) working it, while a tunnel commenced say, 20 years ago had the latest equipment available at that time.
Easter 1982 saw NZ have a team of well known riders compete in the Australian 4 Day Enduro based near Sale, Victoria & organised by the Maffra-Sale Motorcycle Club.
Memories from this event was that we first of all needed transport to haul our 9 man crew about, so we visited a suss car yard near Melbourne, for which we tossed a coin with the dealer to reduce the price to $200. It was an EH? Holden Wagon with holes in the floor but an enormously wide rear view mirror that extended the width of the windscreen. Absolutely magic to manoeuvre our trailer load of bikes through narrow gaps. This wagon did us well as crew transport as well as fuel & oil tanker to control points. We planned on leaving it in a no parking zone at the airport on our departure, but one of our local helpers followed us there & took charge of our very useful vehicle of which we owned about $5 shares! We were also conned into borrowing a Falcon Ute from a “mate” which after we drove about an hour to pick it up, found it needed a clutch replacement. No problem with a bunch of enduro riders, we just parked it over a ditch on the side of the road & sent “Steiny” Stanbridge under to do the “under work” while the top side was looked after by the rest & she was a good as new, and another for our service fleet!
The event was reasonably tough, but not impossible with plenty of rocky hills to challenge along the route. The special timed stages were very narrow slow & twisty compared with our NZ MX tests, so it took a while to adapt to these.
Tjebbe Bruin showed us some of his magic when one of our NZ IT250 riders squashed his exhaust pipe so much the outlet noise was like a squeak. Overnight Tjebbe repaired the pipe like new & when the rider replaced it next day, it fitted perfectly. Wizard work!
As the 4 days wore on, one of our Kiwi riders, Tim Aston was having a neck & neck for a class win, so we had to work on methods to ensure he won the 250cc class. In the acceleration test we tied his front forks down with a tie down to prevent the bike from rearing at the start. But the final MX test was the one where he needed a good 20 seconds better time to be safe. We surveyed the track the night before & found one section where the track veered around a fence & a rubbish tip, but figured that if Tim got enough speed up, he could jump the fence, clear the rubbish tip & land back on the track without having to make the turn! Tim, quite a good MX rider as well, accomplished the feat & went on to win the class.
On returning to the hotel for a meal after 4 days of hard work, we looked forward to a good meal. The hotel restaurant was full & service terrible. But a nearby table vacated early, possibly because of our scruffy dirty clothing. Before they were out the door our party had grabbed their plates & scoffed their food, just needed something after a big day!
Now I must get back to these riders for their stories & results.
1982 ISDE in Czechoslovakia – New Zealand’s First official Team in this “Olympic Games of Motorcycling”. It was the 57th ISDE & held at Povazska Bystrica, a mountainous area in North Western Slovakia, but in those days part of the CSSR Republic, a Russian “Satellite” country, so still under Communist rule in those days.
For this event we had 3 very tough & competitive riders – Mark MacDonald, Graeme Harris & Darryl August. We arranged with the Husqvarna factory, then located in Odeshog, Sweden, to hire 4 motorcycles, one for each NZ team member & one for myself to ensure what backup we had was fully effective. The factory also delivered all the rented bikes to the venue as well as retrieving them after, & of course providing spare parts during the event, a great bonus for everyone.
John Hall the Australian ISDE organiser for several years, was the Australian FIM Jury Representative for this event, had asked me to me to be Australian Team Manager in view of my long association with this event. I had known John for many years as he was riding MX in England while I was there.
As Australian Team Manager, this enabled our 2 countries to work together with the Australian Teams, who were well setup with support crews & vehicles while we were very few. The Australian support crews helped us considerably at time controls with refuelling & replenishments, very necessary.
During a previous reconnaissance of parts of the course, it was obvious the event would be tough, with some sections that would block up quickly with riders not being able to negotiate the tough parts. On the first day there was one particularly tough rocky section, so I went there early to be sure our teams would get through. Sure enough there was a blockage, so I spotted the local country teams being assisted by their supporters (illegal but it happens) so helped them myself as well, making it quite clear to the local helpers that any Australian & New Zealand riders get help too! Of course it worked out well, & throughout the event our “local supporters” were there to help us too!
On another occasion I took a shortcut to get to a tough section on time & finished up in an Army Camp. In that country that’s not ideal as I’d found years before. As I rode out of the camp I got that itchy feeling in my back that an AK47 machine gun was aimed at me, so zig-zagged all the way!
Darryl August wanted to inspect a terrain test in their rental Opel Kadette car, the night before going to the test during the event. He did so, but a little too hard, hitting some bumps so hard the engine mounts broke & the engine flopped loosely around under the bonnet. That was the end of that car being much use, & to get it back to Vienna, several hundred Kms away, they made a tow rope out of several tie downs & got some Aussie riders to tow them out of the country!
All NZ Riders finished the event, & all won Bronze Medals, a credit to their strength, tenacity & ability to cope with the conditions & bikes they’d never seen before, let alone the foreign country.
The following year, 1983, buoyed by the success of the 3 musketeers the year before, we got together a bigger contingent to comprise a NZACU Club Team & a Manufacturers Team, plus some extras.
At this time the New Zealand Auto Cycle Union was not affiliated directly to the FIM, so could not enter Trophy or Silver Vase Junior Teams.
This event was held in Wales, a country that I knew well from MX, scrambles, trials & enduros. While it had been 20 years since my last visit there, several locals still knew me, so this was a big advantage obtaining a garage to prepare our bikes.
Beforehand we travelled to Odeshog in Sweden to prepare our Husqvarna motorcycles at the factory, renting a van to move around as a group whilst there. We were able to rest the bikes at a nearby local MX track, very useful as some of the riders had never ridden Huskies before. Of course we tested our rental van around the MX track too!
From left – Jock McLauchlan, Tjebbe Bruin, Tim Gibbes, Graham Harris, Paul Swift, Terry Cameron, Shaun Stanbridge & Brent Carrod.
We stayed in a cheap hotel which could be best described as built out of square, as all the stairs & rooms seemed to lean at different angles, with owner a bit out of shape as well!
Typical of Wales, it rained most of the time, so the ISDE track was fairly well one long rut that started on Day 1, & remained the same for 6 days!
Our transport is pictured below. It wasn’t the greatest van we ever owned, as it blew a head gasket while Paul Swift went sightseeing, then after the event, Graeme Harris had more engine trouble requiring the engine to be removed, this being accomplished by drilling a hole through the roof of the van to get a lifting cable into the engine compartment to get it out. Later it stopped for good, so like all good “leave-a-vans” it was left on the side of the road!
But it did do us proud during the ISDE carting our riders, service crew, dirty clothes, fuel & oil. The Aussies looked down on us for having such a grotty van, as they were well equipped with modern rental cars & vans, but soon realised its value when it came to the hard yards of being used as a petrol tanker to control points!
We were favoured by assistance from 2 master Kiwis – Brendon Keogh, who was living in Scotland at the time, but now owner of Motorad in Wellington & Paul Treacy who was Kenny Roberts Racing top technician at that time, but now back in NZ. They were invaluable helpers to keep the Kiwi riders & their bikes going throughout the event. If any rider was in trouble, for sure they would find him, sort out the problem in no time flat, then return to HQ with a smile on their faces.
The 1983 NZ Enduro Team to Wales ISDE before the event.
The yellow Commer van owned by everyone with about a £10 share was used as service and fuel tanker. Paul and Mrs Swift, Brent Carrod, Shaun Stanbridge, Tjebbe Bruin, Jock McLauchlan, Graeme Harris and Terry Cameron.
New Zealand Team Results > NZACU Club Team (Stanbridge, Swift & Harris) - 4th
Manufacturers Team (McLauchlan, Cameron, Bruin) all on Husqvarna - 17th
250cc Class – Shaun Stanbridge 37th (seized engine Day 5 & lost nearly 1 hour) 9,842.73 points, Paul Swift 57th 13,716.51 points
500cc Class – Graeme Harris - 35th – 11,878.31 points, Terry Cameron – 38th - 12,917.20 points, Jock McLauchlan – 40th – 13,475.74 points, Tjebbe Bruin retired injured after a collision with “ghost riders”.
Here are Jock McLauchlan notes about this event >> My three main memories of the welsh ISDE, 1983.
Number one, the RUTS.
The ruts were deep and endless linked by bottomless bogs. Often you would enter a rut straight after a time control and stay in it until the next time check, 10 to 15 Kms away. That was our lot for most of the event!
The bogs for me were not a problem?? I either went where there were dozens of marshals pulling riders through with ropes, or if no help was at hand, I would find a way around. This meant riding A LONG way off course (swamps on hill tops could be 200 metres across) or breaking off branches so you could sneak along next to the trees. Riders that weren't so careful paid a heavy price.
I remember several bikes with only a hand grip sticking out of the mud. I doubt they were ever recovered!
The ruts were another matter entirely and for me were bloody hard work! From my experience, at that time, a long rut was about 25 metres, not 12 kilometres. On one occasion I was paddling through a creek with deep ruts running down into it and up out the other side. I was passed by a rider on each side of me at head height. They had jumped bank to bank, from one deep rut to another at about ten times my speed.
Clearly I had some room for improvement! As the week progressed I think my rut riding skills did improve, it was sink or swim territory. But the top European's really were superb!
Number two, the VAN.
The New Zealand team transport was an ugly yellow Commer van that we all chipped in 20 pounds for when we landed at Heathrow.
Being laid back kiwis we had no accommodation booked for our first night in the UK. So we drove around looking for some where cheap.
At a likely looking place we pulled into a dimly lit car park. Tim hopped out, there was a muffled yell, Tim disappeared and then there was a crash. Turned out Tim had parked on the edge of a retaining wall with a garden/junk yard a few metres below. Well you can imagine the delight from the team as we had to reach down and rescue the old man, check his pulse and dust him off etc.
At this point I should say that Tim as the NZ Team manager always drove. Tim has always driven with some flair (however the 25+ yr old Commer did limit this prowess a little) and his enthusiastic TM
driving style was encouraged by all except Shaun S.... who insisted on wearing a crash helmet at all times and hanging on for dear life.
A day or two later while on the road to walk a special test, we all saw a hitchhiker a few hundred metres ahead, with his hand out and looking a little down on his luck. It was not about to get any better! The van was full with the whole team so Tim just kept it floored, about 75 kph. Approximately 10 metres from the hitchhiker, in an evil combination of bad road surface, worn steering system and appalling handling the van lurched left into the path of the poor HH. He seemed rooted to the spot, there was a loud crunch as his hand impacted with the nasty angle iron bull bar on the front of the van. He was last seen doubled over holding what may or may not have been left of his hand. Now, to the untrained eye and casual observer (occupants of the van) it did appear as though Tim had aimed for the HH expecting him to jump out of the way! Knowing Tim, clearly this vision was an aberration and we had imagined it. Sadly we were unable
to stop and ascertain the unfortunates blokes condition, because we were on a downhill and only one wheel brake on the van worked.
Plus, we had a special test to walk!
After the six days Paul Swift inherited the van for a little sight seeing and it was finally abandoned on the motorway when the motor expired, probably to the relief of all who travelled in it or near it.
Number three, FUN!
While the race its self was bloody hard work, the trip was a hell of a lot of fun. We all got on and worked together well. It was my first trip over seas and probably the best, a real eye opener and a promise of things to come.
Well Tim, if you can stomach any more of my dodgy writing let me know and I'll see what I can do.
The 1984 ISDE was based at the Assen Road Race Circuit in Holland.
Again the bikes were hired from the Swedish Husqvarna factory, where we went to prepare the bikes beforehand.
We hired cars to travel from Sweden to Holland & I recall leading the NZ other group in another Swedish registered Volvo through Copenhagen to get to a hotel where I’d stayed before. I could only remember the way by going the wrong way in one way streets! I had my family with me, but the other NZ car was stopped by the Danish police for several reasons, mainly because it was Swedish registered & had young men on board, as well it was the “red light” district! After some interrogation by the local police they were released after showing their passports. I wasn’t really popular!
By this time the NZACU had recognised the value of direct affiliation with the FIM, so now we could compete as New Zealand representing our own country in International & World Championship events, which also enable us to enter “MX des Nations”, (500cc bikes) “Trophee des Nations” (250cc bikes), ISDE, road races, etc. We took advantage of this to enter the events below
Before getting to Holland we had also entered International MX events, the “MX des Nations” in those days for 500cc bikes, and the “Trophee des Nations” for 250cc bikes. In doing so we also beat the Australians by 1 week entering in these major team competitions, as the Finish event was first & NZ had a team represented there!
The 500cc event was held not far from Helsinki very close to the International Airport in Finland which involved quite a bit of travel & a ferry trip, while the 250cc event was at Varberg in Sweden.
Our NZ riders were not all MX riders so we shuffled bikes & names a bit to fit the criteria. Imagine the faces of our Kiwis when we arrived at the Finnish circuit not far from the Helsinki International Airport when they saw American rider Jeff Ward double & triple jumping his KX500 Kawasaki while turning in mid air. It was a great learning experience.
On the way to the Trophee des Nations in Sweden we arranged rides in a night time International Super Cross, all these “extras” adding a little bit to our cash budget for the teams.
I need find out from the riders, etc. exactly where these venues were & the Kiwi performances, but by no means were they too bad.
Of course looming up from behind shadows were our “super” helpers Brendon Keogh & Paul Treacy doing work they were skilled in, along with several other supporters
Our hotel was extremely comfortable & hospitable, but an added advantage was that it was in the country, on a road that returned the riders to Parc Ferme each evening. Having a small garage next to it was a useful place to
The Netherlands being very flat, and a lot of the ISDE country being land reclaimed from the sea by a system of dykes, presented its own problems. The whole route was very sandy, but because it was reclaimed from the sea, it was very gritty & sharp, causing amazing amounts of wear on the motorcycles. A front sprocket wouldn’t last a day, a rear sprocket just a day. Even the brake pedal & brake rod pivots wore out within the 6 days.
Darryl August reminded me 26 years later that the New Zealand riders all painted their NZ Team helmets orange, the Dutch National helmet colour so local people might think we were Dutch riders who also had orange helmets their National colour, so we could get a few favours along the way! In those days NZ didn’t have an official helmet colour so a bit of skulduggery was always “on”! The event was very wet & the flat sandy soil cut into deep ruts but still ride-able. I remember seeing the riders leaving Parc Ferme in the mornings out to the route where the ruts were so deep, just the riders helmets were visible as the ruts there were so deep!
Chris & Graeme Harris both won Silver medals, while Darryl August had a cam chain break on the very last day while very well placed but to record a DNF, Tony Cooksley & Dave Owen also DNF’s but at his time can’t recall the results of other riders.
The bikes were returned to the “Husky” truck in well worn condition, one having leaking oil from a cracked crankcase another with a front wheel so buckled it wouldn’t turn through the front forks & so on. We departed the truck fairly swiftly, but the “Husky guys” were accustomed to those problems.
The 1984 ISDE in Holland had 2 teams, the main 6 man NZ Trophy Team so we needed 4 different capacity bikes for a Trophy Team comprising from left Chris Harris, Tony Cooksley, Dave Owen (125)
Darryl August 510, Graeme Harris, & Rob Snep. All rode rental Husqvarna’s except Graeme Harris who had his own CR250 Honda. Read above why the helmets were painted “Dutch orange”!
The upper photos were the NZ riders – Paul Swift, Tony Cooksley, Dave Owen, Darryl August, Graeme Harris, Rob Snep, Mark Haimes, Johnathan Guy, …???... Grant Oliver.
In 1985 the ISDE was held in Spain amongst the dry, steep & rocky Northern Mountains in the rebel Basque territory. Again we worked with the Australian Teams to good effect. More Kiwis were joining the ISDE adventure becoming enthused with the challenge.
Darryl August’s father travelled with me to Spain & the event, & by memory he hadn’t been out of NZ before, so it was interesting to have a man with so much NZ rural experience seeing Europe & especially Spain, for the first time. I recall he was watching some road construction workers making a new road, & he told me that if only he could speak their language he could tell them how to do the same work more efficiently & faster! Seeing how the “old world” did things kept him well occupied during the 6 days event.
Soon after the start each day, riders rode along a rocky river bed then up a steep hill to continue on through the days terrain. It was the first time the Portugese riders had competed in the ISDE, obviously hadn’t trained much in this sort of terrain, as none of them could get to the top of the hill on the first day, so “houred out” within 1 Km of the start of the first day. However nowadays they have got their act together & are a force to be reckoned with.
One incident I recall was a very big muscular Dutch rider having trouble with his bike who saw his father, also big & muscular by the side of the course. He pulled off the track to speak to his father, but the local police had obviously been given orders that riders were not to pull off the track. A major reaction by the policeman saw him hit the father, then pull his pistol from its holster & hold it up to his head! Quite an ugly looking incident but just an indication of how law & order is maintained in this area of Spain!
Of the NZ riders Graeme Harris riding his Honda CR250 won a Gold Medal with much dedicated assistance from his English friend Mike, while Darryl August won a Silver Medal & was 8th in the 500cc 4-stroke class, a great effort having ridden 2 days with an enormous bruise on his leg from a fall. Rob Snep won a Bronze medal, having suffered radiator damage along the way which meant calling in to local farms to replenish radiator water frequently! One runddown farm house where he called for water, he spoke to the "farmer" who showed him a new Ferrari car in a run down shed. Apparently tax is paid on what your house looks like, so it's not uncommon to see rundown houses & farms, but a absolute fortune of cars, art, music etc. inside!
Next came the first ISDE to be held in Australia, based at Cessnock, NSW. With John Hall as Chief Clerk of the Course, Ted Goddard as Technical Chief & many other key people with vast ISDE experience the event was good, & being so closer to NZ it enabled many Kiwi riders to compete in this major motorcycling event.