Yankee Motorcycles

Today in Motorcycle History

Team Yankee at the 1972 Czech ISDT

Trail Rider November 1972. Page 28

We walked down the trail, it was far too steep even for this amazing car, and knocked, on the outer door of the building. No sign of inhabitants appeared so we circled the building, and there on the far side, at the foot of a long steep greasy mud slope was the Yankee, on its side in a sidehill ditch. This is where it had ended.

Turning back to the hostel, we saw movement in a rear window, a window almost at ground level. As we approached, the window swung open, and we peered within. The dark little room sunken into the hillside at the very back of the house was warm, we felt the warmth rush out as we looked inside. There was Vincent seated at a table, a blanket over his shoulders, a bowl of hot soup before him.

As he looked over to see who had arrived, that old reliable grin somehow was summoned forth. "Gosh, fellas, am I glad to see you guys. Someone I can talk to again." His hosts were Czech mountain people, and English was gibberish to them. Disregarding that barrier, they had gone out and lifted the bike off the pinned Vincent, and helped the injured rider inside to dry him and warm him.

His initial joy at seeing us faded almost immediately, and Charlie told us then, "You know, I wanted so much to finish that bike, to get that Yankee all the way to the end." It wasn't for lack of trying that he hadn't, it had been a game and determined effort by a guy thought by those who knew him in his younger days to be over the hill.

The Trials

The Czechs are masters at ISDT participation, not only fielding winning teams but also organizing superior events. The 1972 Trial was a tough one, and it was the organization that made it so.

The trails intheKrknose Mountains are not tough or impassable, they're quite open, but steep, and stoney, and .much of this year, muddy. The schedule was what did in those who faltered, for it was tight. Checkpoints as close as nine miles apart, and seldom further than fifteen miles left little time for repairs or getting lost, or resting. Even the best riders had but a few minutes in hand at any checkpoint, since the allowable elapsed time was so short.

The routes were essentially twice around each day, and then the reverse on the next two days. Minor changes in the reverse routes were made to connect properly to the daily motocross test, and the final half-day was nearly a rerun of the Friday route for about 50 miles, then branching off to finish at the road race at Valterice.

The Czechs had everyone in the act. Police controlled traffic at every conceivable junction with a road. Army equipment was used for a communication network which kept headquarters informed on the progress of each day. Motorcyclists were working most of the checkpoints, and manning headquarters desks. Teletype facilities were set up at the headquarters hotel, and the press office recorded about 180 members of the press in attendance.

The B schedule was used all week. This is the slower schedule, usually. It proved to be so close a thing that it was never changed. Midweek, however, pressure was applied by West Germany to go the A schedule. The West Germans had lost four marks, and were in 5th place behind Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Italy, and the U.S.A. They obviously hoped the A schedule would knock a few marks off against some of these clean teams, and bring them back into the fight. They were outvoted in the Jury however.

The scariest, roughest part of the event would occur on Friday morning, a steep rocky climb up a narrow cart track on a mountain. Scouts reported the rocks to be running with water, and that no passing room existed. Scouts found themselves taking 30 or more minutes to get up, in a section that had a total elapsed time of not much more than a half-hour. Protests against the impassability of this were lodged, and the Jury decided to bypass it. The Czech clerk of the course later told U.S. observers that he had not wished to use that section, but that the army had insisted upon it. In Czechoslovakia, the military has a lot to say about things. Which brings us to a quick look at the country.