“You never know how fast you are going until you fall off”. This is one of the legendary statements in On Any Sunday, a 1971 documentary film with Steve McQueen which was also nominated for an Oscar. “Still to this day it typifies and underlines what Enduro is all about: reality”, the Englishman John Collins, Director of FIM’s Enduro Commission tells us.
“Things change, events change, expectations change: in Enduro, as in life, not everything fits neatly into specific boxes. I see nothing wrong with variation, but for me, and I am sure many others, the long standing traditional Enduro and all that it involves has a history to be cherished and for a rider it can provide the ultimate challenge”, he adds.
He has a very privileged point of view. He got to know Enduro because he accompanied a friend to an Enduro competition – and what a competition. A few years later, he was racing himself.
“As support for a friend in the ISDE in Sweden in 1966, and then of course I started riding in UK Nationals from about the mid-1970’s and attending the ISDE in Brioude as a spectator in 1980 sealed my enthusiasm. After that it was a case of attending many events as UK delegate for our riders where one witnessed the good and the bad, and the highs and the lows”.
According to Collins, two major changes have occurred in this sport since then. On the one hand, “the fact that the emphasis moved away from very hard courses where remaining clean on time was an achievement more towards performance in the Special Tests”. On the other, “advances in Enduro motorcycles and their reliability has had a huge effect”.
Collins remembers with some nostalgia the time when the rider was the only person responsible for the motorbike’s efficiency during a competition. Today, this rule applies only to the ISDE. “I understand why the change was perhaps inevitable but old guys like me still hold the principle of riders working on the machines in high regard”, says Collins. “Enduro has always had fairly extensive regulations, and these have been refined to cater for the changing nature of the sport. Some may regard them as too extensive! But, in reality, it means Enduro requires the rider to adopt many skills and calculations and not just the ability to turn the throttle.”
Nowadays, he explains, “with Race Direction playing a bigger part I believe the riders can better associate with the Officials and also appreciate that it all needs a joint effort from all in the Enduro family”. The introduction of a Race Direction and the presence of “a Course Inspector in the form of an accomplished rider actually riding the course, tests prior to the race, and working with the organisers in pre-event visits” make a huge difference and represent an undoubtable improvement.
Collins explains that the Race Direction normally “involves 2 FIM Officials working with the Clerk of Course. There is a FIM Steward there to deal with appeals and also to take a reporting role. The FIM Technical Delegate works with the National Federation technical staff. The Promoter and his staff will be heavily involved in the non-sporting aspects of which there are many, and, very importantly, each event has the FIM Timekeeper and his staff who also work in unison with the local National Federation timekeeping staff. I suppose I should mention myself as CEN Director. Along with the FIM Enduro Coordinator, I attend many events and meet with riders, teams, organisers.... The whole object in recent years is to get everyone on side and make it very much a joint effort where teams, organisers, promoters and riders are all working together.”
He clarifies that the relationship with the riders hasn’t changed much, also because the majority of people involved in an event have a past as riders themselves. “Today’s riders are different and have to be very professional but most are approachable and I have found the old ‘them-and-us’ philosophy has long gone and they, along with the teams’ principles, are easy to work with”, confirms Collins.
The heart and soul of this sport hasn’t changed either, as it remains first and foremost a challenge for both rider and motorbike, he concludes. “One is no use without the other. Enduro encompasses varied terrains and conditions. Unlike many other disciplines the rider never quite knows what is coming next and how he must negotiate it. The events all vary and so does that challenge.”
Although Enduro is a discipline that is constantly evolving, its essence will always stay the same: the passion of those who compete, who practice it as amateur, and who organise it in order to guarantee a bright future.