25 YEARS LATER 

Dougie Lampkin MBE 

Champion, ambassador and legend 

2019 marked twenty-five years since Dougie Lampkin won both his first World Championship event and his first Scottish Six Days Trial (SSDT). At the age of forty-three and with an unrivalled palmares he can certainly now be classed as a champion, ambassador and legend. 

Q: 1994 was a defining year in your career – what can you remember about that season?

DL: It actually started a bit earlier as I had won the European Championship in 1993 and signed my first Beta factory contract so I had pushed hard with my training in preparation for the season ahead. I had ridden my first SSDT in 1993 with Nigel Birkett who had rode the event many years with my father. I was instructed to follow him all week, which I’m sure Nigel wasn’t too delighted about, however I took as much advice from him as I could and I’m sure it would have taken me many more years to gain this amount of knowledge without his help. I had ridden as much as possible and started the 1994 event well and with the advice from dad and riding with my cousin John Lampkin and great friend Paul Dixon I managed to win the SSDT. This was a trial I had followed all my life and dreamt about competing in so I couldn’t believe it had happened and certainly took a while to sink in, especially coming just two weeks after my first World Trial win at Houghton Tower.

Q: After winning the European title in 1993 – were you satisfied with finishing sixth in the World at your first attempt in 1994?

DL: I was happy with how the year had gone as I won my first World Trial, which came as a bit of a surprise to everyone including myself. I was starting to be more noticed around the World and with that came a little more pressure especially from myself to push on and put in as much effort as possible. I was getting more and more help from Beta and as I received the ‘special parts’ the more I loved it. I was going in the right direction and was very motivated to keep up the hard work.

Q: Whilst you moved up to fourth in the World ranking the following year – 1995 – were you disappointed not to win another World Championship round that season?

DL: The results went a bit up and down during that season as I think the pressure got to me and I struggled to perform consistently. There was expectation during 1995 for another win, but I wasn’t riding well enough and just didn’t deserve win number two and I needed more time and to train a little differently. So my father and I started to spend more time in Spain training in better weather and on different terrain to make up the difference on my rivals and to ride in these conditions so I could reach their level.

Q: Having won the World Trial at Houghton Tower twelve months earlier, what went wrong at Hawkstone Park the following year when you ended up finishing fourteenth and almost out of the points in front of your home fans?

DL: There were no excuses and I rode terrible and that pressure crept back in and I couldn’t ride at all, it was probably one of my worst rides that I can remember. It was a real eye opener to me at how fast the table can turn and that I needed to be much better prepared. I hoped that would bring me more confidence. It’s always worse when you don’t perform at your home race. It has always hurt me a lot when this happens and I have been known to be miserable and sulk afterwards at times! It’s the same now.

Q: What a different story it was at Hawkstone Park twelve months later – 1996 – when you claimed your second ever World Championship round win before then winning again the following weekend in Ireland?

DL: After the previous year’s disappointment I certainly felt the pressure to show that I could handle these situations and expectation, I had signed again for Beta and had the best bikes available together with help from Donato Miglio who was my teammate and also test rider, he knew how I liked my bike and how to set it up for me at the various events and during 1996 this made a big difference and the wins started to roll in and all the effort of training in Spain was paying off.

Q: 1996 was the year that you showed that you could mix it with the best in the World week in week out – finishing as runner up to Marc Colomer in the World Championship – despite riding the last round with a broken wrist – this must have confirmed to yourself that you were ready to challenge for the title the following season?

DL: Things were going pretty well during this season and I think after the race in USA I led the championship for one week before Canada and before Marc turned up the heat and opened up a lead that I couldn’t catch. I think that I didn’t know what I needed to do to beat him and maybe he was better prepared than me, having said that I was learning all the time and come the end of the season after having had the feeling of being the championship leader, I wanted more so I pushed really hard during the off season. I knew I was close but needed some breathing room between my rivals and to make a real attack on the number one plate.

Q: With twenty counting days for the first time in history of the FIM Trial World Championship – it is fair to say that you dominated the 1997 series with thirteen wins and clinching your maiden title with a round to spare. How special was that day in the Czech Republic?

DL: I definitely hit the ground running, my team, preparation and my bike felt brilliant and it was time to prove to myself that I had what was needed to win the championship. As the season went on my confidence grew. The penultimate round in the Czech Republic was a place we had ridden before and I liked the terrain. I remember just trying to take each section one at a time, which wasn’t easy even though I was riding great. As we were almost at the end of the final lap I heard Malcolm Rathmell say to my father how it was going and dad said “I think we’ve bloody done it!” I think that was the first moment I let myself believe I nearly had achieved a lifelong dream. The last section was in the town centre and I could hardly concentrate, but as I rode through the end cards to be met by my parents and cousin John I knew the job was done and our emotions got the better of us. I had followed in my father’s footsteps and also become a World Champion.

Q: Your absolute domination of the 1998 / 1999 / 2000 / 2001 championships was of the likes never seen before – what was at the core of that period of unrivalled success and did winning feel easy during these years?

DL: My ambition was to be the best and become World Champion and had pushed myself to the limit. When you’re number one there is only one place to go and that’s down. I didn’t like the sound of that so I didn’t have any time off and got stuck into my training to be as best prepared as possible. I remember doing interviews before events and getting questions like “who do you think can finish second today?” I hated that, but it just showed that if I rode the best I could then no one could beat me and that made me train harder. Looking back when I finished winning the championship, I realised that even though you think that your giving 100% there is always more available and that was the difference in those glory years.

Q: What do you remember about clinching your final FIM Trial World Championship title at the last round in Spain back in 2003, and equalling Tarres’ record of seven outdoor titles and becoming the first rider to win seven in a row?

DL: The title race had come close and Fujinami (Fuji) was sick of being second to me in the championship and to be fair he had some great rides during the season. The last round was near Madrid on massive dry rocks, so we both had strong competition from other riders, which could influence the end result. I remember many things about that day, but my favourite was my Uncle Arthur had ridden alone on his road bike all the way to Spain to support me and at the end he held a flag that said “KING DOUG”. I still have the photo as that was very special to me. The Trial went well and I was in front of Fujinami all day, but the pressure was incredible on both of us. As I exited the last section the relief was immense, I had my family and friends there including my future wife Nicola and we all celebrated like it was 1997 all over again. I went to see Fuji in his motorhome after the Trial and he was a broken man and crying. I knew just how hard he had worked to lose again and I imagine it took some getting over.

Q: By the time 2003 had come Fujinami had been your teammate at Honda for a few seasons, and was now emerging as your main rival – how were relations inside the team as you felt the tide was changing?

DL: Fuji and I had been teammates since 2000 and to be honest he was a pain in the arse at times! As a teammate we got on very well except for race days, which is to be expected. I always worked very closely with Amos Bilbao, who was my test rider at Montesa and he knew just how I wanted the bike and together we worked perfectly. Fuji however wasn’t good at set up and would just copy what I was doing and my settings especially at the races. He was also watching me closely in training and was adapting his style and training as close as he could to mine. I think this was the time he had cracked it and knew what it took to take the crown.

Q: After pushing you hard in 2002 / 2003 the moment came at the closing round in Switzerland – despite winning both days – that you had to finally surrender your long held crown to your teammate and friend – what was the feeling like?

DL: I had started the season well, then Fuji had a good run during the mid-part of the season where I lost ground to him. We had one round after the summer-break and he had a healthy lead and the title was his to lose. I therefore had time to almost prepare myself and it wasn’t going to be a shock finale. I absolutely cruised the last double header, but the title was gone. Seven years on top is a long time and I can tell you that when the moment does come and you lose your World falls apart and it’s certainly a big pill to swallow. I took some time out from the Trial bubble and for the first time thought about other things as Nicola and I planned our wedding and started to think about a family. I hadn’t given up on getting my title back, but I needed to take a breath after having almost like tunnel vision for so many years. However Montesa had a new four stroke bike for 2004, and myself and Fuji would have needed a magic wand to win the championship on it which is a real shame as we would have had a great battle I’m sure if we had stayed on the two stroke 315 bikes. Fuji and I are now great friends even though he calls me “seven times lucky’ we have a great respect for each other and our achievements.

Q: It is fair to say that you remained competitive at the highest level for a few more seasons before you finally had to come to terms with the fact that you were now on the slide – how difficult was that to deal with after so many years at the top?

DL: Looking back now it’s just the reality of the situation, but at the time it was painful as I often thought I was making the numbers up even though I could almost always finish top six or eight. Even though you love what you are doing the feeling is not the same and you hang on for a while and then the time comes to call it a day at the top level. The call from Montesa that my contract was not going to be renewed was never a good sign, but that’s life. I returned to Beta where it all began and really wanted to show Montesa and myself that I could still mix with the best, but my rivals seemed to get younger and I was definitely getting older!

Q: Do you now look back fondly on your last World Championship round win in France in 2006?

DL: To be honest I’ve never really given it much thought, I remember the race well as during section inspection the day before the Trial, it was bone dry and almost like an indoor - so not really my favourite of going, but during the night it never stopped raining. As the sections were changed it became perfect for me and I won victory number ninety-nine. I have been asked many times - would it have been nice to get one hundred victories, but if it had happened I would have only wanted to get one hundred and one. I’ll never be completely satisfied with my career statistics, which is a shame, but I’m sure that hunger and drive has played a part in the amount of success that I have had over a long time.

Q: In 2010 you suffered an ankle injury at the SSDT, this was to prove the beginning of the end of competing at the FIM Trial World Championship with you calling time on being part of the series after your home round in 2011 – did having the injury make this decision any easier?

DL: That injury is one of the most stupid things I ever did in an event, as I tried to jump a gap that I should have easily ridden through as everybody else did, but instead I ruined my ankle and had to retire from the SSDT and to make it worse I was leading up until that point. Afterwards as the World championship continued I was really struggling with my ankle and during the round in Spain I had a massive crash and as I lay on the floor in pain my Dad said “That’s it your done” to which I said I would be fine in a minute to carry on. But he really meant my World Championship career was over. I knew straight away he was right and although I don’t blame the injury I think it made me realise that I was struggling and not enjoying the races as I should and that is always the time to stop.

Q: Since retiring from the World Championship you have remained very competitive at the classic events – adding seven more Scottish Six Day Trial wins to your tally, having already achieved five previous victories at the SSDT from 1994 to 2012. You stand in a class of your own with twelve SSDT wins, compared to the next best total of five that both Sammy Miller and Mick Andrews managed. When you add these to your twelve World titles – can you understand why many people consider you to be the best Trial rider to ever grace the planet, even despite Toni Bou’s incredible feats over the last decade or so?

DL: I love to ride in the classic events as it also gives me that special feeling of being under pressure especially before the start of the Trial itself. My SSDT record is something I’m very proud of as I grew up watching my family at this event and its very special to us now as it has always been. I find it very difficult when people talk about the greatest rider of all time as we all rode at different times with different bikes etc., although I must say I would have liked to have given Toni a run for his money, but that’s not the case and I can tell you that to win twelve was amazing so I can only imagine how twenty six and counting feels like so he gets a massive congratulations from me.

Q: Outside of your many competitive titles, you are on the record as saying that becoming the first rider to wheelie the entire TT course on the Isle of Man ranks up there with your biggest achievements – three years later do you feel that is still the case?

DL: After my championship winning years I have experienced some fantastic opportunities especially through my long term role as a Red Bull athlete. “Dougie’s Wheelie” was something that had been kicked around for a couple of years, when it got the go ahead I suddenly realised how hard it would be especially as when I returned from the meeting at Red Bull HQ and told my dad. His reply was “That’s ridiculous you can’t even wheelie to the end of my drive.” He was right too! The feeling when I crossed the line was just like winning the World Championship and it’s definitely right up there with my finest achievements.

Q: Obviously the huge success of the wheelie project came at a difficult moment in your life, with the passing of your father as he lost his battle with cancer earlier the same year. How did you cope with losing a man who you had been so close to you throughout your career and was the ultimate father figure?

DL: As we got the go ahead from Red Bull that the wheelie project was on my father became more ill and his treatment wasn’t going as well as we had hoped so I was not really giving much thought to my riding as time was moving on. He lost his battle early in April, my family and I were hit very hard as a massive part of us was gone. I started to ride my wheelie bike after a couple of months, but in early July I could do more than a couple of miles, so I called my manager Jake and told him I wanted to cancel the whole project. He didn’t say much and I knew the call didn’t go down well at all! I’m sure that losing dad had played a big part as giving up certainly was never my style. I had a call from my great friend Blackie and I think Jake had called him and told him that we needed a team meeting to get back on track. I trained everyday and made changes together with Blackie and my mechanic Nick and things started going in the right direction and to cut a very long story short in the end we succeeded. I feel sure though that if dad had been with us, there would have never been that negative moment that I had as he always knew how to handle me in those situations.

Q: Three years on, has it become any easier when you reflect on all the magical moments you shared with your dad?

DL: I have a lot of amazing memories from my time with my dad on and off the bike. On my personal side he was the best dad in the World and he always knew when to pass on advice and was always there when I needed help with whatever I was doing. On my career side we did everything together and shared all those moments which will always be very special. Although my victories since he passed away don’t feel the same, I know that he would have wanted me to keep pushing to succeed as we had always done together.

Q: Like your father, you remain a huge character in the World of Trial in your role as Vertigo Ambassador / Team Manager whilst also being the UK importer for the brand. Do you still enjoy being inside the paddock and part of the Trial family, even after twenty-five years?

DL: I love the feeling in the paddock and the Trial family as I call it. I always enjoyed the testing so now working with Vertigo, right from the beginning of the project with the owner Manel Jane has also been a great experience. To develop and bring the bike to market, plus to import the bikes into the UK has kept me in touch with the sport I have loved all my life.

Q: As a father yourself now, do you see your sons Alfie and Fraiser repeating your father / son story, or does the future hold something different for you and your family?

DL: I was never pushed by my father to ride my bike so I wanted to do the same with my boys Alfie and Fraiser. They love riding their bikes, but mainly just for fun and in some Trials when they want and when I happen to be at home to ride with them. Whatever they choose to do, I will be there to support them all I can, so lets see what happens.

Cheers folks and happy riding …….