I.S.D.E Portugal 1999
Written by Gordon Ayshford   
Introduction
In 1999 the Club had a dream, and there is no better way of describing it than to revert to the pen of Gordon Ayshford, Chairman of our ISDE Sub Committee, who wrote this report for the SE Centre Gazette immediately after the 1999 ISDE in Portugal:

 

“INTERNATIONAL SUCCESS FOR SE CENTRE –
Best British Team, ISDE PORTUGAL, 13-18 SEPTEMBER 1999

“‘Win With Witley’ read the bold banner headline on their promotional flyer.

“From the position of reigning champions in the SE Centre Enduro Combine and veterans of the ’97 ISDE in Italy, they had a dream: that in this, their club’s 75th anniversary year, their entry of two teams – the Witley & DMCC team and the Witley SE team, would live up to Witley’s reputation as a club of winners.

“Winners of the Cambrian Award for the Best British Club Team at 7th place in the ISDE club competition of world class entries, the Witley team of Neil Bowker (Silver medal), Peter Batt (Bronze), and Richard Alldred (Bronze) spearheaded a SE Centre double. The Witley SE team of Darryl Peach (Bronze), George Brent (no medal – incomplete 4th day) and Tim Hunt (Bronze) were the 4th British Club Team at 12th position.

“A large number of riders with a depth of Enduro experience at local, National, World Round and ISDE levels exists within the Witley membership. Team selection had caused headaches. Fund raising had been on-going since Witley returned from Italy. Local businesses and many individuals had made contributions as confidence had grown. The ‘Win with Witley’ slogan had however failed to bring the level of commercial sponsorship that had been sought.

As the season had progressed and the competition date approached one headache was replaced by another – Witley were left with only four fit riders and paid-up entries for two teams of three within the ACU/GB quota. Now short of riders and funds bold action was required.

“Plans for a squad containing the Witley & DMCC team and a Witley SE team of riders from the top SE Centre clubs, Witley, Croydon & Kingston were cast. Approaches made to the SE Centre and the Enduro Combine were rewarded by their full support and generous contributions. George and Tim were invited having ridden many times beside Richard, Peter, Neil and Darryl, and they bonded well into the existing squad.

“The long ferry crossing to Santander brought the squad of Witley riders, family and ISDE stalwarts Dave Kavanagh, Roger Johnson, Paul Jay and Gordon Ayshford together with the Welsh and other GB teams into a larger family, though behind the camaraderie were there any doubts? Why were Witley sending out TWO teams? They just had to wait and see. At signing on in Coimbra the Witley riders were in uniform – matching yellow shirts, club logo and sponsors’ names. At the opening ceremony Witley riders were in blue shirts embroidered with their names and ‘Witley and District MCC 1999 ISDE Enduro Team’. The support team were in yellow and navy. Looking like the top national team they marched through the stadium with pride, they were here to do business: Witley had created a whole greater than the sum of the parts.

“This inner strength proved itself time and again through the six days of the competition Monday 13th through to Saturday 18th. The riders egged each other on with competitive jibes when they were strong and offered brotherly support in adversity. The support crew fulfilled a vital role in the success and pits managed by Alison Galpin provided the efficient base camp essential to any mission.

“Their tale differs from many other teams in that it does not feature serious injury which unfortunately tarnished this gruelling event for many top teams.

“Day 1: Monday...

“Day 1 left everyone wondering what they had let themselves in for. The first stretch of 25k of road work from the start at Coimbra ran out and up into the hills for the off-road business to begin. The dust was intolerable, visibility nil, with schedules set that required a superhuman effort. Everyone lost time due to queuing for special tests which did nothing to help the despondency felt by some.

“Richard twisted his front end in an impact, nothing serious, straighten it out in the morning, and Tim was dogged by fouling plugs on downhills. A pragmatic mood existed in the Witley pits.

“Day 2: Tuesday...

“Day 2’s course was a repeat of the mountain sections from Monday. Same problems, but not much time lost – Neil went clean, George’s bike was rattling and George was hanging.

Darryl changed his fork legs for a softer ride. Richard was feeling short of energy, but full of the fighting spirit. and Peter relied on his technical skill/sense of humour. Tim’s plugs were still fouling – disaster as he lost his bum bag on the course but his day was saved by a passer by he had met the day before and who happened still to have one of Tim’s old plugs – that he had cleaned! Broken bikes to the left of them, injuries to the right of them but the power was with the Witley lads to keep on going on.

“Day 3: Wednesday...

“Witley & DMCC were the highest placed British Team, all the riders got a boost and rode off fighting fit. The course was different for day 3 and some hoped easier. The sun was still baking down but it was cool in the dark woods for the morning lap. Everyone was suffering from the hard bumpy surface and Neil did a tyre change thinking the tyre was breaking up – but no – just hard going and air trapped in the forks. Darryl felt little benefit from Tuesday’s fork change. Tim had learned to cope with the plug problem by opening the throttle gently(?).

“Day 4: Thursday...

“It was the same course as Wednesday and the same schedule. No relaxation of the times at all during the week for which the organisers were criticised. The element of danger arises from lack of control when the riders have to maintain ‘racing’ speeds. This was being borne out by the growing list of casualties from all levels. Disaster struck Witley on Thursday, but thankfully a breakdown not an injury. A message was relayed to the paddock that George’s bike had given up the ghost – a replacement piston and rings were required. Visits to nearly all the teams running Yamaha 250’s resulted in the choice of a ‘good’ second-hand piston from Dave Ball from the RAF Team, or a new one from Craig Douglas the Australian rider. When George’s bike was returned to the paddock by trailer all hands set to work. The new piston didn’t fit – too recent a model, the second-hand one did. The bike was rebuilt with fingers crossed(?). It started on the fourth kick and ran smoother than it had all week – into the parc fermé with only seconds to spare.

“ Day 5: Friday...

“Another hard day was in store with the focus on finishing safely to hold the existing positions. Tim, having finally cured his misfire with a jet swap, paced George all the way round to preserve the engine he knew was living on a wing and a prayer. The GB camp were amazed that the six Witley boys had kept going one day after another while so many ‘top’ riders paid the price of difficult riding conditions and over enthusiasm or loss of concentration. Finishing Friday brought a combination of elation and relief to Witley.

“Day 6: Saturday – Final Motocross...

“‘Ride carefully into Coimbra to the town’s motocross track and wait for your race’ was the only instruction the riders required for Day 6. Then the heavens opened, all of September’s rain could have fallen that day. The weather turned the motocross into a slapstick comedy and thankfully the results of day 6 were cancelled.

“Apres ISDE...

“A pizza party ensued for the high spirited Witley squad – and then on to the clubs in the town. Having returned a result that everyone in the South East Centre should feel proud of, the riders and support crew have fulfilled their half of the Win With Witley bargain. Everyone reading this should be proud to be connected with the Witley & DMCC 1999 ISDE Teams.

This effort must not go to waste within the South East. Sponsorship must be forthcoming for next year to show the others that a South East Centre Team can WIN OUTRIGHT”.

So all in all Portugal 1999 was a very successful occasion for the Club. Over the years Witley riders have achieved much success in Enduros, of which the following, in addition to the ISDE and Enduro Combine, are further examples:

1989: Phil Cannon won a gold medal in the ISDE in Germany.

1990: Danny Stalker – British 500cc Expert Champion.

1991: Paul Jay – SE Centre Expert Champion;

Neil Bowker – British 125cc Clubman Champion.

1995: Neil Bowker – SE Centre Expert Champion.