1999 Exeter Trial

My First Classic Trial 
by Hazel MacDonald

I had never driven on a classic trial before and I chose as my first event ‘The Exeter’. As a passenger I’d accompanied Murray on many trials over the years, often wondering what it would be like to attempt these steep and rugged sections myself. Never imagining a day when these thoughts would become reality. However encouraged by Murray and assured that I could use the car to its fullest capacity I entered the trial. As the day become closer I felt very apprehensive and occasionally doubted my sanity. I consoled myself with the fact that I was driving a Beetle which had a proven track record, and had Veronica – an experienced navigator – to guide me.

In the queue for scrutineering at Cirencester I realised there was no turning back and become very stoical about the situation. Anyway I was about to fulfil an important ambition, that of becoming a trials driver. After climbing the very straightforward Gatcombe Lane I was feeling a little cosier. However there seemed to be gremlins in the car and it refused to start, much to my horror. Maybe JAZ had suddenly discovered it was being driven by me. Finally we moved on to the woodland area which contains Normans Hump and Bovey Clinton. I literally attacked Normans Hump with all the HP and determination I could muster and made a valiant attempt but failed the final few feet. Now the descent, which I took steadily remembering the wise words of a fellow trialler. This failure left me feeling nervous about the next hill, Bovey Clinton, and waiting in the queue for the said hill, in the dark, amongst experienced triallers rather filled me with awe. When my turn came I put the previous failure behind me and after accepting some support and advice from my fellow competitors I climbed the hill. After the ascent I knew why I wanted to drive, the sense of achievement is tremendous and the adrenaline certainly does flow. This hill saw off any doubts I had and I can honestly say I didn’t feel nervous again just very excited and motivated.

There were to be two further failures, Waterloo and Simms. The first of these was, I feel, a hill for the experienced, as I failed to get round the corner but the second, I believe, has been the downfall of quite a few. You have to have a lot of respect for a hill like that. I approached Simms with real determination and HP but to no avail and had to descend whilst trying to have conversations with several spectators. The atmosphere is superb here and I felt elated even though I’d failed. The remaining hills posed many challenges. For example the rocks on Tillerton, the tree roots on Wooston Steep and the sheer height of Slippery Sam. I remember thinking I’ve reached the restart now let’s try and drive away and we did. Veronica and I were so excited and on such a high that, as we drove along the track afterwards which is a section in itself, that we became almost inarticulate. Restarts were a worry because whilst practising I’d usually failed to stop in the correct place, However I managed to place the car correctly on each occasion although it’s something I’m very aware of. I worried about the special tests too, but managed to complete them with respectable times.

The whole event was an experience which has left me feeling I want to trial again. I am not saying that the Land’s End will be approached without intrepidation, but at least I have a little experience behind me. Finally I would like to thank Murray, for the loan of the Beetle; Veronica, for her patience and guidance and all the marshals who were so supportive.

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