Mark Whitham, the man charged with ensuring that the Scottish Six Days Trial runs smoothly and lives up to its reputation as the World's most intense and challenging multi-day trial, is staring down the barrel of a frenetic week. The action Kicks off tomorrow (Monday, 3rd May) yet Mark, who took over as Clerk of the Course in 2003, has been hard at work in the Highlands for months.
“We began making preparations for this year's event just two weeks after the 2009 trial had finished,” explained Mark. “There is a lot to be done during the summer months. This mainly entails searching for land, resolving any problems that arose the previous year and generally just keeping everybody informed and happy. Most of the land we use belongs to big estates or organisations, so we have tenants, gamekeepers, factors and shepherds to keep happy as well as the landowners.”
Staging an event like the Scottish Six Days Trial requires military-style precision and planning. Helping Mark throughout the year is a regular committee of twelve people, while extra personnel and volunteers are drafted in closer to the event.
“We have a band of regular observers who have been coming for years, some of them decades,” confirmed Mark. “This is supplemented by those that just wish to help out. We require just over sixty-five observers to cover all of the sections, the checkpoints and the parc fermé. In addition, during the week of the trial we generally have twenty routemarkers/backmarkers, twenty-five Army refuelling personnel and five office-based staff that handle the results and general administration. It is a big operation.”
While a large part of Mark's work centres around man management, and mediating relationships between the various landowners, local authorities and Highland community, the fun really starts when, closer to the trial, he can start planning the course.
“Marking out the sections can take a long time, depending on the water levels and the amount of stone to be moved. Each day's course is set out by four teams of three who work a day in advance. The lads carry all the flags, markers and equipment they need to lay out their part of the route. On the big moor crossings this can be a lot of kit, and they do not have the Army looking after their refuelling, so they have to take fuel too. We probably require about 3000 flags for the week, but this is reliant on getting all the ones from the previous day back.”
More than perhaps anyone else, Mark's life is entwined with the SSDT and, naturally, it is very close to his heart. Hence, developing the event it to ensure longevity is one of his foremost thoughts: “It would be great to see some more top world championship riders return, and I believe Dougie [Lampkin] riding it recently has made a few think about it. However, it would not survive without the clubman riders. We need the mix and we don't want to alter the event to accommodate a few while putting off the majority. We must maintain the event's reputation as an internationally recognised, challenging competition that can be enjoyed by clubmen and professional riders alike.”
For further press info, event images and interview requests please contact Paddy Cuthbert from Podge Publicity on 07968 699636 or email Paddy@podge.co.uk
Notes to Editors:
The Scottish Six Days Trial (SSDT) is mainly focused on the Lochaber area, centred in Fort William. Each day of the trial starts and finishes at the West End Car Park on the waterfront, providing a major attraction for the town.
For trials riders the Scottish Six Days Trial has the same status as the Isle of Man TT has to road racers.
The trial is limited by daylight hours to around 270 competitors, but entries are regularly in excess of 400, such is the popularity of the event. The majority of riders look forward to the only trial that allows them to compete on equal terms with professional and world-class riders. The trial has a reputation for being the toughest in the world, and it is the most prestigious event that a trials rider can win.
Competing in the Scottish Six Days Trial is the dream of every young trials rider, and long may that continue.
The SSDT is managed by the Edinburgh & District Motor Club, and in association with the SSDT the Club runs a Pre-'65 two-day trial for machines manufactured before 1965. This takes place immediately before the SSDT every year, starting and finishing in Kinlochleven. The Pre-'65 trial celebrated it's Silver Jubilee in 2009 and has proved to be the most important Pre-'65 trial in the UK, with entries for the trial massively over-subscribed each year. The Scottish Six Days Trial attracts over 270 riders who together with their followers, spectators and the 150 Pre-'65 riders, provide a major boost to the economy of Fort William and the surrounding areas.