THE title Cleveland Grand National is perhaps more associated with scrambling (motocross nowadays) whereby the leading lights of the 1960s and 1970s plied their trade on the almost vertical faces of Carlton Bank, often in front of the live television cameras, writes Larry Carter.

Household names such as John Banks, Vic Eastwood, Bryan Wade, Jeff Smith and Dave Bickers were regulars on both BBC Grandstand and regional weekend ITV sports shows as they battled it out on their British-built BSAs, Triumphs and Greeves before the onslaught of foreign two-strokes.

But prior to the cut and thrust of motorcycle races up on the Cleveland Hills near the quaint village of Carlton on the Cleveland/North Yorkshire border, there was a slightly more sedate happening when Middlesbrough and District Motor Club teamed up with their colleagues at Stockton once more for to run a one day solo reliability trial.

For five years as custodians of The Scott Trial which straddled the Second World War, the clubs had used land on the northernmost part of the North York Moors to host the famed event from 1938 to 1949 before it returned to its rightful home in Arkengarthdale where it remains.

Wanting to put the experience gained to good use, they applied for a date in mid-December 1951 – a week before Christmas – and thus, the Cleveland Grand National was born.

Fifty three riders entered the inaugural event although only 44 made the start before setting out on two laps of a 30-mile course which started at Huthwaite Green near Swainby before looping south round the trails and tracks near Harfa House then east towards Scugdale Hall and Raisdale Mill. Riders then headed back north to Carlton Bank from where it was due west along what’s now part of the Cleveland Way via Carlton Moor, Gold Hill and Knolls End before arriving back at Scugdale and starting lap two.

Riders that day included Birmingham-based Geoff Duke, fresh from winning the 350cc and 500cc World Championships that year, and former Scott Trial winner Bill Nicholson as well as ISDT gold medalist Derek Tye. But most of the field was made up of local riders including 19-year-old Pinhard Trophy winner Peter Hodgson from Middlesbrough.

Hodgson was first man home ahead of Bill Nicholson but it was 23-year-old Midlander David Tye who set fastest time, taking two hours and 12 minutes to complete the two lap course at an average speed of 12mph. Duke and another young Middlesbrough rider Rex Young were also well placed pending the tot up of dropped marks in the observed sections which were still to be determined.

A special mention went the way of Miss L Blackburn of Bradford who was the only female to enter and completed one tortuous lap on her 123cc BSA before retiring.

Date: December 15, 1951

Location: Scugdale, North Yorkshire

Meeting: Cleveland Grand National

Title: Sporting One-Day Reliability Trial

Cost: 1 Shilling or more