Classical Gas is an independent web site and is not affiliated to any of the clubs or organisers of the events featured. Words and Pictures by Michael unless attributed otherwise. Michael is a proud member of the MCC, ACTC, Dellow Register and Falcon amongst others, but does not represent their views nor the views of any other organisers or clubs.
It was right out of Gordon’s garage, as would be usual for the Clouds, but instead of turning left we went straight on, past the Little Chef that was now open, and crossing and re-crossing the M5 to the first hill. This first section was not the problem hill of last year where so many people got stuck, but Tin Pan Alley which May’s Wheelspin tells me was first used before the war on the Bristol’s Clubs Fedden Trial when it was called Tramps Paradise. A very un-tramp like John and June Blakeley greeted competitors on this gentle warm-up hill. Like most of the hills it was a long and leafy lane and as an early number there were so many fallen leaves it was difficult to see the surface underneath.
Eric Wall greeted us a few miles up the road at “Alfs Delight” another long leafy section which finished by going over a carpet to get the mud off the wheels before emerging onto a very clean and tidy estate road that led us to the new Age Traveller encampment at the Crooked Mustard/Axe cross roads so familiar on The Cotswold Clouds.
Things got a bit tougher at Boxwell where we approached through Scrubbets Farm. Looking at an old Guy Fawkes program from 1960 I see that the last two hills were “Axe” and “Scrubbets” and Mike and I reckoned that this was the same hill. It was approached with quite a steep downhill so the Guy Fawkes section could have been the Mechanics approach road. Anyway today’s section was easy enough, apart from the restart at the end which was on a big bump leading to a very sharp left at tee.
Waiting at the start we heard Mike Hobbs fail the restart in his Beetle and then David Bowlas do the same in his Midget and when we arrived we made it three in a row! Looking through the results afterwards we saw that around one third failed and two thirds got away clean, including both Dave and John Sargeant in their Beetles who were running just behind us.
The route then led into the centre of Nailsworth and Wood Lane, a tree lined track with a grassy surface, that would have been tricky had it been wet, but didn’t trouble the scorer in the dry. The route then wound its way round the houses and cottages up and down some very, very steep single-track tarmac roads to Ferris Court where Simon Harris was in charge at the start of another hill used on the 1960 Guy Fawkes. Simon warned us that the exit track was extremely over-grown. The section was nice and long with two quite sharp hairpins, the first left, the second right and what I thought at the time was an easy re-start but from the results I see it stopped a few competitors, notably one Andrew Brown!
We were soon back in Cotswold Clouds territory, passing Merves Swerve and down Catswood (used on the 1960 Guy Fawkes) where we stopped to observe the two minutes remembrance silence. At the bottom we went straight across to King Charles Lane, which again was very, very long with the track developing a deep vee gully towards the summit so it was important to keep up the momentum if you wanted to avoid toppling over!
The route now headed north towards Cheltenham up the A46 to Greenway Lane where Jim Scott was on the start line and Stuart Cairney on the restart. The surface was smooth at the start but it became rougher and rockier then deviated off to the right around a fallen tree where there were two different restarts for the higher classes. It looked pretty fearsome as there was a steep step on the inside but by keeping right it was possible to avoid it and most of the experienced drivers went clean.
The distance between the sections started to markedly increase now and we went into the suburbs of Cheltenham coming out again on heading South east on the A40 towards Oxford turning off on the B4632 through Winchcombe to Laverton, a hill I’m sure I remember reading about but can’t find any reference to! It looked innocuous enough at the bottom but the ruts soon got deeper just before we reached a huge rocky step, which had experienced an extremely local downpour. The yellows and reds had a restart but we were able to go straight through so we just eased the Beetle over the bump for a clean. There was a very long exit track and as we were getting hungry and it was one o’clock we stopped for the best part of twenty minutes to eat our sandwiches. We didn’t see any competitors while we waited so there must have been some delays somewhere.
The route wound through Winchcombe again and back north towards Cheltenham, interrupted only by a special test at Postlip managed by Bill Foreshew and his wife. This was another familiar name from the Guy Fawkes, featuring in the 1970 event, my first Classic trial as a competitor, bouncing for Pete Smith in his Anglia.
The trial was coming to an end now but there was a sting in the tail at Noverton Lane with Tim Lakin at the start. It started easy enough with a gentle track through a wood but soon the gradient and the rocks started. There were separate restarts for whites to yellows/reds. Just as I slowed for our restart I heard a loud hissing and on the restart stuck my head out of the window to see a rear tyre going down. We tried to pull away but not to hard as we could see a horrendous rock step ahead and we didn’t fancy our chances getting over with a wheel down to the rim. Mark Linforth had a rescue crew here with a tractor and a Landrover and they dragged us up to a lay-by where we changed the wheel and took a few pictures. We saw that competitor’s troubles didn’t end at the step as there was a very sharp hairpin left just before the finish and this caught out a lot of drivers who under-steered into the trees.
We weren’t the only Beetle to get a puncture here as both John and Dave Sargeant were changing wheels at the summit. All that remained was a special test at Burcombe Lane and an observed section called Viaduct before the finish on Minchinghampton Common. It wasn’t that easy though as we got well and truly lost, as did a few other competitors, and we were pretty certain that all was not well with the road book here.
Mike and I signed off just before 4pm and headed straight for home, as I had to get up at 4 the next morning. We arrived back in Bedfordshire at 7pm having driven though a bit of rain!
We enjoyed our Mechanics Trial. Lots of nice long sections, all on real tracks. OK Noverton Lane was a bit rough but as Andrew Brown says there was plenty of grip so you could pick your speed and line. Like a lot of the hills it could have been a very different storey in the mud! All round we really enjoyed our Mechanics Trial and we will be back next year.
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