Yankee Motorcycles

Today in Motorcycle History

Team Yankee at the 1972 Czech ISDT

Article by Robert Hicks, Yankee Team Manager
Trail Rider November 1972. Page 26

The I.S.D.T. The rain was pouring down from leaden skies all that Saturday morning, and now, as we drove our rented Renault 1600 through the rain up the switchback mountain road towards Zrcadlovky, our spirits were at low ebb. Up there on the mountainside on this final morning of the Six Days, Charlie Vincent was waiting for us, his determined effort on this final day to finish on his Yankee over, a badly injured ankle just too painful to go on.

Dave Eames, Bob Ferb, and I had been waiting for Charlie at Cemy-dul, and it was a lonely wait, for by now Vincent was far behind everyone else on the route, all alone out there in the murk. We had seen him through earlier in the morning at Rudolfov, and it was then that everyone's morale began to fade. Charlie was over 30 minutes late at this first checkpoint, and we all now began to wonder if he would indeed be able to get through this final 90 mile day.

The morning before, Friday, Charlie was still on gold. He and Dave Eames had been confounding the onlookers as daily they got the big Yankees over the fast but rough Czech routes, zeroing the checks, and holding their golds. Then that Friday morning, Eames' machine had quit, ignition failure, and Vincent had taken a bad tumble, crushing his ankle painfully beneath the bike. Charlie had lost his gold then, but carried on the rest of Friday still well within his silver.

After seeing him off in the Saturday rain at Spindleruv, we headed over the rough dirt back roads of the Krknose Mountains to the first check atRodolfov. We caught the last runners there, the big BMW, the big Triumphs, but Charlie hadn't checked through. He'd had some problem starting the Yankee because he could not put any weight on the bad ankle, nor kick over the bike with it either.

Finally down the greasy track out of the woods he came, 30 minutes late, his silver now lost. With 75 miles yet to go, it would now be a matter of carrying on for a bronze, an effort to put a Yankee all the way through a Six Day Trial in its very first year of existence.

Charlie departed Rudolfov in glum spirits too, he had stalled the bike on the long climb up the mountain out of Spindleruv, and, unable to get it started by kicking, had to roll it back down the trail until he could bump start it, no easy task with so big a bike on so steep and slippery a trail. But he had started, and concentrated then on just getting through.

The next possible place we could meet him would be at the third check, and gas stop, at Homi Marsov, as the trails over the mountains were much more direct than the roads. We arrived there about 20 minutes after he was due, met our pit crew there, Brian Jueckstock from Yankee, and Tom Heininger and all the Webco crew. No Charlie yet.

The area had pretty well emptied of support crews, for nobody else was left on the trails. We learned to our dismay that Dave Latham had come through 4 minutes late, losing the gold he had grimly hung onto all week, when the mists high in the mountains had so badly fogged his prescription glasses, that he had taken several bad falls, and decided to ease up a little. Dave had gone on, his gold gone, just to finish in his silver, a bitter blow after going so far.

With but 5 minutes left of his one hour late allowance, Charlie arrived, and went right in to the clock. As he was replenished and refreshed on the far side of the check, he admitted to being no worse than earlier, but the inability to put down that bad foot, and restart if he had to, was severely hampering his speed. Charlie was running out of time, with still 35 miles to go, and more of those greasy mountain tracks yet to cross in the continuing rain.

As we left Homi Marsov headed for Cemy Dul, we were surprised a mile south of town to see Charlie heading back towards us. He had missed me route just out of town, and lost precious minutes returning when he realized this. The fatigue and discomfort were obviously wearing him down, and we despaired of his holding onto his time at the next check at Cemy Dul.

We arrived there with perhaps 20 minutes of his hour to spare, and me final wait began in the dripping little village square. Through the mists to me east we could see the long steep sloping hills leading down into the village, fields over which the bikes would come, or had, all except Charlie. He was far up mere in those mountains somewhere, and his hour ran out with no sign of him.

Our vigil of the hillside brought a sudden reward, or so it seemed, when we spotted a bike far up mere, and men another. They were too far away to see, and so we had to await their arrival in me square. Soon they did arrive, two Jawa riders with "Z" plates. They were the sweep riders, and so Charlie must be all through somewhere back towards Homi Marsov.

We approached these riders, and the officials at the check and showed them Charlie's #368, pointing at the mountain. One rider nodded in the affirmative, then gestured to his leg, and pretended to drop his bike over on that leg. Charlie had fallen, the bike on his leg again. The language barrier was nearly insurmountable, but one Czech in an old overcoat and a sort of chauffeur's cap understood some very basic English, and he managed to make us aware that Charlie was up at one of the little mountainside hostels used by the summer hikers.