It was a dry, mild night as competitors left their respective starts.
Unusually it was the West Country contingent that were first away, from
Plusha on the A30, followed by Cirencester and Popham. The last car
scheduled to leave Cirencester was Simon Woodall in his familiar VW Buggy.
Unfortunately his Triple hopes were dashed as he retired soon after when
the Hall Effect unit failed in his distributor and he wasn't carrying a
set of points.
The routes converged at the Haynes museum at Sparkford, although it was
hard to recognise the place as its undergoing redevelopment.
Scruitineering was very efficient this year, even with the extra job of
checking Spill Kits. In a way the facilities for the trial were better
than usual with plenty of room to park on the Kart Track and a nice big
room for the control and those that wanted a midnight fry-up.
It was the best part of 55 miles to the first section in Bovey Woods,
passing both the entrance and exit tracks to Meerhay, which could not be
used because of access problems. Things were different in the woods as the
loggers had been at work. This meant that Normans Hump was unavailable but
fortunately Tim Whellock and his team know this forest very well through
organising the Bovey Down Trial, and opened up an adjacent track which
they called Marilyn. With loose stones and a similar gradient to Normans
Hump this proved challenging, even without the restart for 6, 7 and 8. The
unknown section had a significant effect on the results with many
failures, including Greg Warren (Escort) and Dennis Greenslade (Mazda
MX5). It was climbable though, and despite the steepness and deep ruts
both Peter manning (MG Midget) and Steve Potter (Trojan Utility) went
clear. Both went on to win gold medals, a significant achievement in a
The familiar Clinton lay waiting deeper into the wood. This was
unaffected by logging and there was plenty of grip this year. If Clinton
had plenty of grip the upper reaches of Waterloo certainly didn't. It
appears that rain during the week had washed mud from the banks onto the
track. When people stopped it was a question of a very difficult recovery
or a long reverse down to use the escape road, which was also slippery.
Unfortunately a very long queue soon built up and Tim Whellock had no
alternative but to cancel the section.
Fortunately the next group of sections near Ottery St Mary proved
unproblematic and the trial remained pretty much on time at Exeter
Services Rest Halt.
It was a fine, bright day as competitors left Exeter for the second
half of the trial, soon turning off the A30 to take the windy back roads
to Cheriton Bishop and on to Tillerton. The section has become very rough
these days, especially in the restart area which proved challenging for
classes 7 & 8. When Dudley Sterry fails a re-start it has to be tough!
Fingle seemed smoother than last year and attracted the usual spectators,
bunched around the first two hairpins. It wasn't a lucky hill for Mike
Warnes who failed with a fuel blockage and decided to retire his TR7.
If Fingle didn't claim many scalps that couldn't be said for Wooston
Steep which was in fine form for the restarting 7 & 8's, defeating the
majority of them. Then came Simms. The hill started out muddy at the
bottom and dry at the top. However, the mud was soon carried up the hill
and the huge number of spectators were entertained by car after car either
failing at the big step or slowing so much the soon spun to a halt. It was
climbable though, and both Phil Tucker (Triumph TR3A) and John White
(Class 4 Beetle) showed that if you picked the right line it was on with a
relatively low power to weight ratio.
Reversing down the slippery slope proved a problem for many and crews
of several cars had heart stopping moments when they slipped sideways.
Finally two ended up on their side. For Alan and Matt Bee it was mostly
injured pride in their Austin Seven but it was a hospital job for Alan
Spencer and John Dando in their Class Eight Parsons Special. The incident
made the Daily Mail and it is to hoped there aren't to many repercussions.
Full marks to Alan and Matt for continuing the trial for a Bronze medal.
Simms had to be cancelled and the delays meant some competitors missed
Tipley and Slippery Sam. In the latter case because the marshals had gone
when they arrived but one or two climbed the section in any case. Slippery
Sam was still live when Nick Farmer came along and tore the rear
suspension away from the chassis on a rock. Fortunately he was able to
ratchet strap things together enough to get to the finish.
So ended an Exeter that was probably a nightmare for the organisers but
somehow proved very enjoyable for the competitors, despite all the
problems. Perhaps the weather helped but Tim Whellock and his team have
got the trial pretty much right and were unfortunate with the happenings
on the day. It must have been very difficult to decide what to do with the
results and in the end Simms was cancelled and competitors who missed
Tipley and/or Slippery Sam were not penalised.
Published 12 January 2012
Updated 20 January 2012 with link to
Draft Report & 4 pictures added.
Updated 21 January 2012 report text