No Rush for Gold on Lands End
The 2004 Lands End wasn’t a particularly tough trial. Most of
the sections were relatively easy but there were two big obstacles for those
aspiring to gold. The ever-difficult Hoskins, and a tricky restart on Bluehills
1 for the higher classes as a spoiler. All this meant that there might be fewer
than 20 competitors who cleaned all the sections.
Philip Whatmough's Morgan was in trouble at the
Popham start while Colin Sumner and Mike Young endeavour to bounce their
way up Hoskin.
Dave Nash helped Neil Bray to change a flat at
Popham then found he had no less than three of his own to fix at the top of Daracott.
Brian Alexander waits in the water at the foot of
Crackington while the last of the bike competitors assault the hill.
Neil Bray remembering not to stop at the Class 7
restart on Treworld while Dudley Sterry and David Wall look pretty cool as
they come out of the top of a different Bluehills 2.
Good Friday was a nice sunny day and Popham car competitors had the unusual
experience of wearing their sunglasses for both the start and finish of the
trial. Scruitineering was a bit different to usual, with the marshals coming
to find cars in the back field rather than competitors get checked on the way
in. As usual a few were having early problems. Philip Whatmough had the brakes
of his Morgan +4 in pieces; assisted by Ian Blackburn who is normally
associated with his unique Singer. Neil Bray arrived at the start to find he
had his first puncture of the day and it took the combined resources of about
six people, including a spectating Stephen “man in black” Bailey, to break the
bead. Ian Davis fell foul of the scrut when after 17 years the MCC have
decided that the buggy’s dynamo belt isn’t properly guarded!
Neil wasn’t the only one with tyre problems. Pete and Carlie Hart were no
more than five miles away from home, on their way to the off at Michael Wood
Services, when they had a flat which they fixed when they got to the start with
the aid of David Foreshew and his bead breaker.
The weather stayed fine on the route to the North Petherton Control near
Bridgewater. In Stuart Harrold’s case it was accompanied by the ever increasing
rumble of a failing front bearing which mysteriously cured itself as the trail
went on! There was some confusion at the control as a lot of people didn’t read
their route card, arrived to find the petrol pumps closed and had to retrace
their steps to the M5 services a mile or so back down the road.
It was soon time to leave for Felons Oak where there was some confusion about
the route to the section. The instruction in the route card said “SO no DP – SO
up lane to”. The turn left had an MCC no entry sign so competitors dutifully
went straight on to come to a dead end an irate householder as you had to turn
right to find the section! The restart for cars was nice and dry but a couple of
steps have developed making it very important to stop in the right place. Ted
Holloway and Simon Groves were amongst the few to fail here. The motorbikes
didn’t have to restart here but a few did anyway which was unfortunate. Peter
and David Manning arrived at Felons Oak to find they had Brian Alexander’s time
card and had to retrace their steps to North Petherton to swap it for their own.
This put them about 100 cars back down the field and they had a slow journey
over the moors.
Stoney Street was quite rough this year, especially near the top where a
number of pipes cross the track and are sticking up more and more each year as
the rocks either side get eroded away. Sadly Ed Nikel didn’t get this far. Ed
had been struggling with a miss-fire, then the lights disappeared and he was
forced to retire.
Leaving Stoney Street the route headed up onto the moors and into a dense
mist, which was a real problem. Competitors formed into groups with the
followers having a much easier time than the pathfinder. Veteran Aerial rider
Tom Beckerleg was running amongst the cars as he had machine problems back at
the Plusha start when he couldn’t get the engine started at scruitineering. Tom
and John Lees soon found that the chain drive to the mag had jumped off and got
the venerable Aerial on the road. Peter Mountain had his wipers stop working
crossing the moors and Jim had to operate them by hand as they fought their way
through the murk, only for them to fix themselves when the sun had burnt away
Beggars Roost wasn’t too bad for the early numbers, but cut up as the event
went on, causing more and more failures and a delay soon build-up. Beggars
wasn’t entirely straightforward even for the early numbers. Clive Booth and John
Alssop struggled to get away. Simon Groves cleaned the section OK but by the
time he got to the main road his newly fitted clutch had well and truly gone.
Simon managed to get the stricken car to a garage and fitted a new clutch, only
to find a terrible vibration. As he couldn’t find the cause, let a lone cure it,
Simon had no choice but to retire, although he limped down to the finish. The
many failures had caused a queue all the way back down to the garage by the time
Mike Pearson came along at the end of the field. Unfortunately when the time
came for his assault on the hill Mike stalled the engine getting away from the
re-start. He got going quickly and didn’t roll back but was concerned about how
the marshals would view this and was on tender-hooks until the results came and
he could see he had been given a clear.
Riverton wasn’t too difficult and on to Sutcombe where the restart has become
very cut-up and it could be very difficult to get away if you didn’t stop in
exactly the right place. Riverton wasn’t so easy for Ian Davis though. First the
car had to be bump started then the lights failed on the section. After his
earlier mechanical problems Tom Beckerleg had been running back amongst the
early cars, who were very disappointed to see him record his only fail on
Riverton. Fellow British bike fan, and reader of this column, John Lees
struggled a bit with his Triumph twin but recorded a clean and went on to a
If some of the early sections have become rougher that certainly wasn’t the
case at Darracott, which appears to have been resurfaced, and even the Class 0’s
were due to have a go. However four of them had failed by the time Ken Green
came along and after a mobile phone conversation with the C of the C it was
cancelled for class 0. The section was followed by a nice simple special test
after which Dave Nash stopped to repair no less than three punctures he had
accumulated so far in the event. Dave’s unique MGeetle was going well, with no
troubles from a re-built type three engine, which allows a flat parcel shelf
under the rear window. Dave wasn’t the only Falcon to be suffering from tyre
problems. Richard Tompkins was another to have multiple punctures and had to
miss out a couple of hills when he diverted to a tyre depot and got over taken
by the course-closing car. Ian Davis had finally traced his electrical problems
to a faulty earth although he struggled with the indicators later on.
The special test at the top of Darracott was cancelled after the marshals
gave verbal instructions different to the route card and there was further
confusion at the Widmouth Holding Control. The first bike competitor was due to
leave at 5.05 am. However, for some reason marshals held an ever-increasing
number of bikes and only let the first one away at 5.45. They then let
competitor’s go at one-minute intervals. This was fine until one of the car
competitors persuaded one of “those who must be obeyed” to speed things up. This
was all very well until Crackington where the holding control was cancelled and
marshals at the old hill were getting cars arrive much more frequently than they
could let them up the hill and a horrendous jam developed.
It didn’t seem that the traditional extremely local shower of rain had been
as heavy as usual. Only the red cars had to restart, but even so there were a
fair few failures. Michael Leete was delighted to power his way through on the
minimum 10-psi pressure, albeit at the expense of a puncture. Neil Bray
successfully restarted Primrose to clean the hill but heard later that the
marshals had failed him for taking too much time to get away. Running close
together neither Dave Nash nor Peter Thompson managed to get through, nor did
Keith Oakes who was having an un-characteristic bad day in his Dutton Phaeton.
Ian Davis had a different problem. Arriving at the section in splendid
isolation he was beckoned to the start line and asked the start marshal if he
had time to let the tyres down. No problem. But no sooner had he started than
Robin Moore comes over 'I'm chief marshal. You haven't got time for that. I'm
going to invoke the 30 second rule'. OK technically he may have been right but
with no cars behind Ian thought that a little harsh.
Later in the event it appears that the marshals allowed multiple cars on the
hill in an attempt to reduce the delays and this caused a number of competitors
to get baulks when the preceding car came to a halt. Pete Hart, Mal Allen and
Murray Montgomery-Smith were running close together and all suffered this fate.
The river at the foot of Treworld was running very full and plenty of water
was being carried up the lower reaches of the hill. The yellows had to restart
here and Simon Robson was failed for not doing so. Tony Branson got his Marlin
away in fine style only to stop a few feet from the top when the engine had a
fit of the sulks. Sadly Treworld was to see the end of Peter and David Manning’s
trial when the teeth on the crown-wheel stripped so it was ride home on an RAC
truck for the Midget. Class 8 didn’t have to stop but Peter Mountain was one of
many who very nearly did!
A very welcome rest was a few miles up the road at The Wilsey Down Hotel
where the facilities are accessed through a cattle market where men with sticks
normally drive beasts to their fate, steel hurdles keeping them straying from
the path set by their masters. During breakfast one wag was heard to enquire if
this was a message!
In the past the rest halt has been followed by a quite long main road run,
enabling competitors to catch up time. This year the route lay through lanes and
villages and even the early cars were running behind time at this stage if the
event. Warleggan isn’t a difficult section but it’s a bit rough and the
challenge is easing your way over the rocks while keeping the car in one piece.
Stuart Harrold and Chris Phillips didn’t have any problems as their Troll has
sufficient grunt so they can ease off over each bump and accelerate to the next.
By the time Mike Pearson came along at the end of the field he had to queue for
45 minutes and found the hill dreadfully rough causing a lot of punctures.
Hoskins has developed a reputation for being the Lands Ends main stopper in
recent years and this was justified once again as car after car had to reverse
back down. Peter Mountain was one of those but then along came Dudley Sterry to
show it could be done. Class eight had a very tricky restart in one of those
areas that had once again experienced an extremely local rain shower. Stuart
Harrold and Chris Phillips mastered the section. Stuart got out of the polished
ruts well over to the right in the red restart box, got away well but then had
to get back into the ruts so it was engine on the rev limiter and a great deal
of bouncing/side to side woggling by Chris and they crawled to the top and out
of the section for a clean. Running near the front of the field Clive Booth
couldn’t get away and neither could Mike Pearson in the other Reg Taylor/Geoff
Jackson built Dellow Rep. Mike got off the restart but wheel spin set in almost
immediately and he went no further. Reg Taylor himself was running his Anglia in
Class 0 but had to retire when his fuel pump packed-up. Class 0 competitors
appeared to be enjoying themselves but it was far from damage free and Alan
Foster stove in both the rear wings on his Morgan +8.
After a Special Test, came the Bishops Path section where the restart for
yellow and red cars had been moved back a bit. Pete Hart was delighted to get
away. Fellow class Seven competitors Tony Branson and Simon Robson both failed
with different opinions. Tony reckoned that the section was doable and fair
while Simon reckoned it was too Mickey Mouse for The Lands End.
With the nice weather the slopes around Blue Hills thronged with spectators.
Bluehills One had Dennis Greenslade in charge with Graham Brasier taking care of
the start. There was a restart on the slab onto the road for red and yellow cars
and bikes and poor old class three cars for some strange reason. Blue Hills One
is one of those sections that is very easy to fail if you don’t put the car in
exactly the right place and with the restart it was very tricky indeed and
didn’t go down well with competitors some of whom thought it was bit unfair.
Ross Nuten was one of the early failures, bringing his total to three failures
on the event. Ross enjoyed his Lands End, being much more confidant in the car
now it has a Fack Diff. Ian Davis was another one to come to grief as was Mike
Things were a bit confusing between Bluehills One and Two as what happened
bore little resemblance to the route card and it wasn’t clear where the section
actually started. The hill itself was just right, challenging but far from
impossible and it went down well.
With the delays later numbers were arriving at the finish up to three hours
late after waiting for a long time at Beggars, Riverton and Warleggan. The
facilities there were good and there were plenty of the MCC hierarchy around if
you wanted to express your opinion about the event.
All in all a good event, even if one or two of the hills had controversial
restarts. It was very noticeable how much the mileage has reduced in recent
years and I for one do not think this is a good thing. The Lands End is about
more than the sections and I would like to see it go back to going further west.
However, that and some of the restarts apart, well done to all connected with
the organisation for an enjoyable and well-balanced Lands End Trial.
The guys you hope you don't meet. The
winch crew at the top of Bluehills 2!
Click here to read
Peter Barr's Lands End Report.
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