October 1970 - The jungle king roars once more
It was two weeks after the 1970 Steel Horse that another great Belgian classic took place in the calendar of major international rallies; the 5th meeting of the Lions in Zolder, and Paul Lammerant, the dynamic president of MC Brussels brought two more innovations to the usual programme of events.
This time the rally would last three days; starting Friday, a great first! In addition, a Grand Tour was organised for the Friday which would prove a great success with those participants keen to learn more of the Limburg region.
Lion 1970 -A couple of elderly British sidecar enthusiasts
The conditions were particularly gloomy at the beginning of the week, but luckily beautiful autumn weather reappeared for the weekend much to the relief and satisfaction of both the organisers and the rallyists.
Lion 1970 - Triumph Trident outfit
For a small fee of 2 Belgian Francs riders could collect the magnificent commemorative badge at the registration desk; but best of all gain the right to race their machines on the circuit.
Lion 1970 - Rallyists on the Zolder track
Those who had a secret desire to be an Agostini could let off steam for two days on a circuit where the many different twists and turns made it possible to test their riding skills to the bike's limits, even to the point of producing some memorably scary moments. There was something for everyone, from the smallest machines to the biggest bikes.
Lion 1970 - Ready to go for 5 laps
If there were falls, luckily they were mostly less serious. At worst, perhaps some minimal damage to the machine or a few scratches here and there on the unfortunate riders.
In the area surrounding of the circuit, two of Zolder's finest seemed to be enjoying themselves arresting motorcyclists, lecturing them and noting down licence plate numbers. In effect they were trying to annoy as many people as possible in the minimum amount of time...but this did nothing to dampen the spirits and good humour of the rallyists present.
This buoyant mood continued, especially throughout Saturday evening expressing itself in the rhythm and energy of frenzied dancing under the big circus tent in this festive theatre. Many of the rallyists toasted each other with bottles of Belgian beer. The English told jokes and the French were determined not to be left out either.
It was very late when the party finally ended and many could no longer walk in straight lines, but it seemed that everyone managed to find their way to their sleeping bags for a restful night's sleep.
Lion 1970 - Motorcyclists from the northernmost region of France
Early next morning, with the mists lifting, the first rays of sun broke through and with them the promise of a beautiful sunny Sunday. Some rallyists were already cooking breakfast outside their tents, whilst others, with much longer journeys ahead of them, were already packing for the ride home to their own countries. Some warmed up their engines in anticipation of the start of the first race.
Lion 1970 - Ready to hit the road back home
Although the five circuit laps were in fact more of a race against the clock than a real speed race, the rallyists on their touring machines competed seriously with each other. Jules Nys, nine times Belgian Champion, and his son, attended the meeting to participate in the races for fun.
The only shadow marring the ultimate success of this perfectly organised meeting was a troubling incident with some Dutch bikers which was eventually settled. Paul Lammerant went so far as to say that he might organise next year's Lion rally by invitation only. This was proposed to endeavour to eliminate having to deal with troublemakers which had incidentally also occurred fifteen days earlier at the Steel Horse.
So to conclude the account of 1970 Lion Rally I'd like to end with a great song released that year, although choosing one amongst all my favourites is extremely difficult. There were so many classics that year, such as 'All Right Now' by Free or 'In The Summertime' by Mungo Jerry. With the current events involving racism and racial disparity, I have chosen one by a band where the musicians were black and white, male and female. Let's enjoy the beat!
- Jean-Francois Helias
In 1970 I and my girlfriend of 2 months travelled to Berlin via the Russian corridor and then on through the wall into East Germany. Riding my Vincent Shadow. We were pulled for speeding but got away with it, being stupid Englander!
We arrived at Zolder on the way back, meeting friends from the previous year. Of course letting bikers out on the track was fatal. We went out two up on the Vincent, burning off every BMW riding German as was the norm at the time. This lasted a couple of laps till we ran out of brakes.
Later that night sitting on a grass bank I asked Sheila to marry me: we are still together and both riding several times a week all year.
Also did the Shamrock and many other rallies in these years. Good days without all the hassle of today.
- Eddy Whittingham