Very early shot of Andy Ruffell during his ACE days (Pre-Mongoose) at Harrow Skate Park. Word on the Street is that Andy is putting some ideas together for an Official British BMX Hall of Fame. Stay-tuned. Let’s face it, it’s long overdue.
Mid-Current School Photographer, Paul Bliss, sent us this image that was taken by Mr. Goodsell at the 1982 Halfords Anglo American Cup at Redditch. Tim March making British history as the first rider to beat the Americans on home soil. We hit Tim up with some questions about the legendary event and what it was like to beat US Stars, Harry Leary, Greg Esser and co.
Pre 1982 Halfords Anglo American Cup event at Redditch, you were on GT and only ranked 10th Nationally from the year before. How was your season going at the time?
I raced less than half a season if I remember correctly the previous year, but I was undefeated in the Finals so that’s why I ended up 10th.
I think I must have started in 82 on Mongoose again and would have been winning. Alan Woods beat me at Whitaugh though, I remember that, whenever that was. Then as you know, I just got fed up with Malcom and his “Andy this” “Andy that” lectures in Tenterden and he also changed my pay structure because I’d earned too much commission or something so that was me done with Ammaco.
I wish I’d have ridden the Kuwahara before I left Mongoose but I didn’t and the bike was terrible for me. On Kuwahara, I was also having to get to Reading before each race. Then you’d be in the Gecko Van picking up Nicky, Keith and a few others, it added such a lot of travel time before and after the races for me as I live in Poole, which was 2 hours away. I really wanted to leave as it wasn’t working. Rather than me leave, Gecko (Kuwahara and Redline importer) offered me a Redline ride but I didn’t like the Proline either. The bottom bracket was too high and the head angle felt like I was riding a dragster so I left and was “private-ering” for a while wearing a Strong shirt because I was working in the shop a bit for Chris and Ali trying to get some cash to be able to go racing.
Then, I got hold of Geoff Barraclough (GT Importer) to see if we could do anything, as I really liked the GT geometry when the bike came out in 82. No money involved (as I remember it) but Geoff paid my petrol to the races, I think. So that’s how I got on GT and Geoff and Jill were just about the nicest people you’d ever meet too. I was riding crap on the Kuwahara, then as soon as I left and got on GT, I instantly felt at home, and Geoff and Jill were great as they really supported me. I started winning Nationals pretty easily again and regained my mojo for BMX.
Did you get word the Americans and more specifically, Harry Leary were coming over for Redditch and did it motivate you knowing you were about to see and race the best guys in the World for the first time?
Of course, I wanted to beat all of them, not just Harry. I never did beat Andy Patterson, which was a right piss off. Well in the lead up to the race, I was on Holiday for a few weeks before the race and hadn’t gone near my bike. It was a Summer holiday with Kathy’s family in Aberporth so I was pretty excited about that to be honest.
So a week away with Kathy was what I was focused on, and Aberporth is beautiful so we had a great time swimming and just generally enjoying ourselves. I remember all of us talking about the race and that Kathy I were allowed to borrow Kath’s Mum’s car to get to the race and then drive back to Wales afterwards.
I’d seen the Yanks the year before at Malcolm’s house, Kerensky Bullard, Jamie Burroughs and Roland Veight and I’d already raced Stu at Earl’s Court on a Mongoose so I knew they were beatable, you just had to get a gate. I certainly didn’t see them as the best, I just saw them as riders, some who were better than me, some who weren’t. My previous 4 years of racing MX taught me to ignore hype and bullshit. You can’t fake a 35 minute moto. But in BMX you can get a gate and be lucky.
Once the event got underway, did you feel you had a chance to win? Had you sized Harry up through the early rounds?
To be honest, I never sized anyone up, I’m not that kind of rider. I have one plan when I get to any race, win all the heats, win the 1/4s win the semi, win the finals. I just see it like that. Destroy all competition. As soon as I start thinking about shit then that’s when stuff starts to go wrong.
I just have this memory of being really pissed off that Kathy was just off with the Yanks for a good part of the day and feeling pretty alone and in my own thoughts. Before that main, I sat on my own, on the bus that was at the track, away from everyone. That’s how I felt, like the only rider who could possibly beat them and I really wanted to do it for all the kids that were there, show them that in the UK we were good too, we don’t need to be fawning over these Americans when we have a great scene here. And, at the time, it felt so out of balance with all of the focus on the USA. I felt like I could win a race for sure but Andy Patterson and Harry were on it too. I wasn’t worried about Greg Esser though, he didn’t seem as hungry as AP and Harry. I also knew I was going fast as well so I felt quietly confident, but the mental game is a hard one and it’s not easy to maintain the edge through the whole day.
How did the main go and how did it feel to win and make British, BMX History?
I just got one of those gates that wasn’t the best ever but was good enough to get a decent second pedal and know that I was going to give it everything. As soon as I got through T-1, I knew it was on. I felt like I was making my History in all honesty, a British kid beating the Yanks, it doesn’t get much better and I also beat Addie van de Ven and the Euros and that was a big deal for me too at the time, as all I used to hear from them was how I was going to get my ass kicked by Addie. So it wasn’t just the joy of beating Harry, I’d have loved to have beaten Andy too but I fucked that race up.
With Halfords being the title sponsor of the event, did they hit you up with interest in sponsoring you after the event?
Nope, not a word… I was pretty much “persona non grata” with UK teams by then. Four years hanging around Factory Kawasaki team riders, being sponsored by great people such as Badger Goss at Maico and Bryan Wade at Honda and the professionalism and legacy of MX was about as welcome in BMX as a fart in a lift. I didn’t fit in, still don’t but it’s never dimmed my love of BMX.
Reflecting now, it must surly be one of your proudest moments during your racing career?
I’m pleased that I showed that after riding a BMX bike for such a short time I could level a playing field for a lot of riders who didn’t think it was possible. Am I proud of it? It’s more valuable than pride actually, it gave me the confidence I was lacking as a youth. I worked really hard to be fast on my bike, made a little plan on what I thought I needed to do, stuck to it and was able to make a little bit of history happen.
The best part is that people remember it because they were there, they could feel the energy, tension and gathering of many Nations to see who was the best on that day… I was there, you can’t beat that even if you came last.