In October the Royal Navy Royal Marines Enduro Team (RNRMET) braved the autumn weather and travelled to Surrey to take part in the annual Army Off-Road Motorcycle Championships. This year the champs were run as a 2-day event over a weekend, the Saturday included Trials and “Hare and Hound” elements and then the Sunday would be a time card Enduro. Without doubt, the element of the weekend generating the most trepidation was the trials, so the team utilised the dry weather on the Friday afternoon and kicked off the weekend walking around the training area, scoping out the lines and eyeing the potential pit falls. For the uninitiated, trials requires you to ride your motorcycle often at less than walking pace around a tight set course without stopping, stalling or putting a foot down with penalties being given for infringements, the goal is to “clean” the section with 0 Penalties. Luckily our resident trials expert Cpl “Gypo” El-Ayouby was on hand to offer some helpful tips from his days as an expert youth rider. That evening following a rider briefing and getting settled into the 30-man mess at Brunswick barracks the team made its way to the Pub to discuss our game plan for the weekend. Up bright and early, the RNRMET were one of the first to arrive and get setup and it wasn’t long before we were into the trials. Although initially we picked up some penalties, very quickly the team got the hang of things and in the first round every rider had managed to clean at least one section. Mne Ollie Harcombe displayed fantastic control of his machine being one of only 3 people on full size Enduro bikes to make it past the second corner on the particularly difficult “graded hill”.
The afternoon saw the start of the 2 Hr hare and hound and the end of the dry weather, although not scored the hare and hound proved a good opportunity for a bit of friendly competition and a shakedown of the bikes before the Sunday event. With 2 classes Novice and Expert, the team were split between 2 lines starting 30 seconds apart. As the flag dropped on the expert class, Mne Ollie Harcombe and his Yamaha 250 got caught up in a 3-bike crash with Army star Tom Ellwood allowing Gypo and Lt Josh Terry to gain a lead and Ollie leaving himself with a job to do to make up the time. 30 seconds later the Novice class shot off into the rain with WO1 Bill Callister getting a great start aboard his Husqvarna 350 followed by LAET Aiden Richardson and Mne Luke Callaghan on his big 450cc KTM. As the race wore on the team smashed in the laps and everybody finished well including LAET Richardson despite his spectacular attempt at crossing a particularly large tree which luckily was caught on camera and surely a contender for crash of the year.
The following day saw the start of the main event, a timecard Enduro to include 3 laps. Each lap involving a steady 12KM loop followed by a 750M flat out sprint section which combined with the trials scores would decide the overall winner of the event. “Gypo” showed fantastic pace from the start and put in a 1:46 on the sprint, but the team were no match for Tom Ellwood of the Army who straight off the back of a world enduro title managed a very impressive 1:23 lap.
The Army champs was again a fantastic event, although different, the trials were a new challenge and acted as a great training aid forcing us to learn new techniques that will only improve team riding in the disciplines we more often compete in. Although no podiums at this event the team placed well, especially impressive considering the level of Army and RAF talent that competed this year. The event proved to be another step in the right direction for the RNRMET which is currently enjoying a surge of success thanks to the incredible input from the team management in fostering support and sponsorship from the RNRMC and industry. The added support partnered with a fantastic team spirit and drive to train and compete has seen the team go from strength to strength in 2019 and the huge RNRMET branded awning is now a well-known sight at events across the south west. The aim will be for a podium at the 2020 Army Champs!