The 2022 Trials series kicked off without one of its long term competitors, supporters and enthusiasts, following the passing of Ian Templeton.
As a newbie 4wheeler, the first trial Ian did was many years ago at Ngatea, with his wife Jenni as Navigator, in a recently acquired A-Class Suzuki, and from there the couple became a fixture in the National Trials community.
Ian died on the farm where he was born, worked and managed all his life, and with his wife Jenni raised a family of 4 on the way.
“He was never going to die anywhere else” according to Jenni. “Although he was struggling to get around, so long as there was someone to do the gates, he would be out every morning in the big new Claas to feed out.”
“Then one Sunday he came in, headed to the couch for a rest, and never woke up.”
Ian and Jenni met on a blind date set up by a school friend, “he was a friend of my brothers” explains Jenni, “he rang me up on my 16th birthday, we got engaged on my 17th and married 18 months later.”
They had both been born in Te Kuiti and lived on farms less than 30 mins apart.
By that time Ian was managing the family farm, having taken over when he was 21, following the death of his father. “He was a country boy through and through,” according to Jenni, “he warned us if we ever sold the farm, he would come back to haunt us!”
As Jenni reported, Ian always had a passion for adventure, which led to a very early farm bike, and inevitably moto-cross, where Ian competed under number 69 for several years.
Then one winter he shot and skinned enough Possums to buy a JAP Solo bike, and he and Jenni hit the Speedway scene, mostly competing at nearby Kihikihi, but they also trekked through to Stratford, and across to Napier.
He particularly enjoyed Rosebank Speedway in Auckland, heading up to race there the day after he and Jenni got married.
Then, eventually tiring of dust, sweat and leathers, something new beckoned.
Having spent quite a bit of time on the family boat, Ian had decided he would have a go at scuba diving, and was immediately captured by the sport.
“He became a dive master and helped train many new divers.” Says Jenni, “We had lots of weekends away and a few trips overseas, and always plenty of scallops and crayfish. He never was a very good fisherman though.”
“I learnt to dive a year after he did, and then all the kids learnt too, so it was truly a family sport for us, with our eldest daughter going on to become an instructor and taking trips out to the Poor Knights.”
This all came to a sudden halt in 2000, when Ian had a mild stroke that affected his speech, and the doctors called an immediate halt to diving!
“He hardly left the farm for two years after that” recalls Jenni.
But from somewhere, a collection of Suzukis started growing, most of them immobile, till, one day in the middle of talk about adding another one Jenni gave him a bit of an ultimatum, “We’re not getting another one unless it’s a competition vehicle!”
So began an enthusiastic search on Trade Me, and Steve Thomasens old truck joined the collection.
There is still a considerable collection on the farm, although a couple of the Suzukis have been sold off to fellow competitors for kids and projects. “Also a couple of Daihatsu Ferozas and Rockies that are looking for a good home” Jenni adds.
Even that old original “Mountain Goat” farm bike that started it all is still there, “and there is a 1930 something Morris 8 he bought 50 years ago if anyone is interested.”
I knew I was pretty safe on the farm” she claims, “he never got rid of anything old!”
Jenni still remembers their first 4WD club trip, “When we got home Ian said ‘that’s the most fun I’ve ever had’. I remember Linda Griffin driving their truck in a speed section that day”, she says, “and Ian being so impressed and saying he’d better not wimp out.”
Spectating at a National Round was the introduction to a new dimension, and the couples trial career began. “I just remember Chris Tomalin doing a backflip with Linda in the truck,” claims Jenni.
They spent some time following Nathan Fogden and Graeme Paton, in their A Class truck “and talking to them between hazards, they encouraged us to just come along and compete.”
“So the first trial we did was at Ngatea and we were in the same group as Andrew Graham and Dan Barnett. We couldn’t believe how friendly and helpful everyone was”.
After a few years in A class, upgrading the truck along the way, they finally won the class in 2010-2011.
Deciding E Class looked a bit more fun, with some brakes for Jenni to play with, they returned to Steve Thomason and bought his old E class Mitsubishi.
“By then Becki was hooked too, and we lost our photographer as she started navigating for Deano, then Pierre and finally driving her own A class.”
“That E class was never the most reliable truck, to say the least, and Ian started talking about building a C- Class truck.”
John Cowpers wife Nonnie suggested to Ian that maybe he was too old to start building a truck, and why didn’t we just get Dan to build us one. Jenni reckons going with that advice was the best decision they had ever made.
They took a year off competing while Ruby was being built, and in 2015 “she was our 40th wedding anniversary present to each other!”
“We had four years competing in Ruby” says Jenni “and having an absolute ball. Even though 3rd was our best national trophy, we did win a trial at Maramarua I think.”
In 2017 Ian was diagnosed with Cardiac Amyloidosis and told he would likely only have 5-7 years to live and by the 2019-2020 season he was too sick to drive Ruby.
“It was absolutely wonderful that Dan (truck builder and multiple national champion, Dan Cowper) accepted our offer that he drive Ruby that season, on the condition that I would navi, and Ian got to see her reach her full potential, winning C class, which he always believed could happen.”
Even though he could no longer compete Ian attended every round, following Dan and Jenni around the stages on his electric Ubco bike.
The 2020-2021 season saw Becki step up to driving Ruby, and Ruby had her first ever rollover. It says volumes about Ians skills and driving style that he competed in three National Series, and never suffered a rollover.
Ian was very proud of the way Becki drove and we look forward to many more seasons with all our 4 wheeling friends. I know he will be looking down and sending encouragement.
In testament to that, when Jenni sent Chris Tomalin and Fleche Crawford out in Ruby to compete in the first round of the 2021/22 season she told them to go make Ian proud.”
After a stunning performance that saw them bring her home 3rd overall, and get her name etched on the podium, Chris reckoned they had done just that.
“But then, I reckon there were three of us driving that day. Ian was right there urging her along.”
“Stay safe Ian, we’ll see you on the tracks.”