2000 Exeter Trial

by Andrew Allaway

The Start of things to come!

Once upon a time a small red Metro Turbo appeared in a forest glade. The steep hills proving in many cases too much for a little car with small wheels and, in due course, it was scraped and consigned to the bin.

The second generation was born, an Astra 1200 with larger wheels, a dodgy carburettor and an engine still too small for getting up many longer steeper hills. So a larger engine was fitted with a more reliable carburettor.

Now, with a potentially reliable car complete with a larger engine and spare tubes and tyres coming out of the woodwork, devoid of practically all interior fittings, the first classic of the season of the trialing fraternity came upon us. We looked toward the far horizon of a cloudy January night and wondered.

After Gatcombe Lane, the first real test was Norman’s Hump and halfway up the car seemed to run out of grunt, but we got a clear and, at Clinton the same happens, so it’s three clears. Admittedly they were short hills but steep, the first conclusion is that there is not quite enough horsepower and the engine could die on longer hills of the same steepness.

It was clear that the Astra had the grip and all the other requirements, but that the throttle had to be kept fully open at all times, something which come back to haunt us with great ferocity. On to the battlefield that is Waterloo. Keep to the left before the tight right-hander and foot to the board, as we came up to it there was indecision at the marshal’s indication, the foot was lifted and the moment was gone. The marshal was pointing to the right and helping. Streetes and Greenslinch Barton were straight forward climbs and then it was on to the service halt. A Bronze award was being contemplated and would be a great lift to the driver, the work to get the car ready has been immense and immeasurable.

The second half of the trial went to Windout and beyond. Windout is a narrowing tarmac lane on road pressures and leads on to Tillerton; in the Metro we arrived at the rock step and stopped, now we had to challenge or be damned. The tyres were set the marshal says “In your own time” and the foot was floored, the glare of the sun blinded us but “keep your foot on the board” I scream and we hammered on to the rock steps, the driver kept it to the board and the car bucks and yaws on.. ON.. ON.. ON.. The engine just kept going the revs seemed to fall “Don’t lift keep going” I kept screaming or words to that effect, SECTION ENDS went flashing past. “F* Brilliant Paul” I yelled, he was on a high at the road junction, grinning like the Cheshire Cat from Alice. For once I thought that he might just believe in himself and that the Bronze was definitely on.

Fingle Hill is in such a picturesque area, the Teign Valley with its deciduous hillside in winter garb. Not that there was much time to enjoy the vistas, as the corners kept coming left right left right left right up the hill. The crowd got a great view from the start and through the first and second corners, but I think the better corners are higher up, with no bank on the driver’s side, the hill just plummets to the river below. By the way try going down Fingle Hill on a mountain bike without using the brakes! As we had failed on Waterloo we decided that the two special stages would be driven through to avoid any punctures and damage to the car. The crater within Special Test 1 looked even greater than the previous year. At Special Test 2 the boy racer came to fore and we lost time with too much wheelspin at the start. Well so much for just driving through them. Pleasant drive along the bank of the Teign to Wooston Steep, we lowered the tyre pressure and whooshed up the bends and left just after the restart boards and “keep going” the section ends board which was at least 25m past the corner. At the top of the hill the discussion turned to Simms and petrol.

After a splash and dash for one gallon, we headed towards Simms and a chat with competitors, enjoyed our the final tea break and the only intelligent conversation came from the navigators complaining about their drivers. Good fun that! We headed down to the start. The crowd was large and enthusiastic, with cheers and clapping as the cars failed with gusto or sailed to the summit. We started, kept wide and left with the power on, the A boards being the target. Round the corner, we reached the slab and then the grip started to fail and we started going backwards, but it is the furthest we have climbed on the hill, only 10-15 metres short of the ‘A’ boards, and, unless told differently that is what I am sticking to. We rolled down realising that there was not quite enough power in the 1300 engine.

One hill left between the end of the trial and a Bronze, Slippery Sam.

We arrived to find only one car ahead of us and the discussion turned to tyre pressures. I suggested 11 psi and let the air out. Previously we had attempted this in the Metro on the same pressure and came to grief with a flat tyre on the Torbay Trial. Onto the start line we waited for some people to move down the hill and we still wait. Paul then said “lets add more air”, so on the start line we took the pressure up to 15 psi. “In your own time” the marshal said. Paul gunned it and off we went. As we hit the first corner there was a sudden hissing above the car and stone noise. A puncture, the large step was looming quickly, we hit it we get over it (large wheels) the second corner was next. “Gun it” I yelled very loudly and not for the first time that day, but probably for the last time. The very tight right-hand bend was upon us and we carried too much speed into it, the wheel at full lock, all the weight on the driver’s inside flat tyre. There was little response and the bank loomed into vision on my side, we drove up it easily, but we had hit it at too steep an angle to complete the turn. The car rose quickly on its side and was physically thrown across the track. The car and us landed heavily upon the large protruding stone and stop. As we sat and stared out, it dawned on us what has happened. The tractor driver cam down and towed the car and Paul to the gate. I am sure “F* it” was said several times and we sank into depression.

We stared at the damage, the sump guard took it all and protected the engine, but in the process was ripped from its mountings on the passenger side. The body panels at the front were all opened. Miraculously only an indicator bulb was broken and of course the wheel rim was very heavily damaged.

With the wheel replaced we collected our Finisher Certificate and talk with Dave and Richard. Even though we failed in our attempt to get a bronze award, I have always played my sports hard, climbing, mountaineering, and to fail in such a way, always pushing and only admitting defeat when every last ounce of effort is used then the result is a draw. Thus we ended probably the best days trialing we have ever had, with fantastic ups (Tillerton and Simms) and with an incredibly down (at Slippery Sam), depressed and well pissed off.

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