by John Ludford
Sue and I entered the Camel Classic trial several times in the late 1980s and always enjoyed the event thoroughly. Since then business commitments kept us away. This year we were able to revisit the event, and we very quickly remembered what made it so great.
Cornwall abounds in trialling sections and Camel Vale Motor Club, know how to use them. We were given fourteen sections, all of Simms or Hoskins standard, plus two special tests as tie deciders, all within the space of fifty road miles. No marginally competitive hills were used to ‘make up’. the number; few restarts were needed (two for Classes 6, 7 and 8, plus another four for Class 8 only); and even fewer tyre pressure restrictions were required (18 psi for Class 8 only on just two hills). All of this was combined with a start at Safeways car park, Bodmin, offering petrol, ample heated signing on space, food and beverages, toilet facilities; and massive parking facilities; together with a finish at the Crown Inn, Lanlivery, which again offered ample car parking, and excellent food and beverages, which we had sampled thoroughly in a practice run the night before, fortunately. since we were not to make it quite this far on the day.
The weather had been very wet, of course, for two months before the trial and conditions everywhere were slimy. The day before the trial had been comparatively fine for a change, and the day itself started sunny and mild, but with a very heavy dew.
From the start the route went about five miles South to Churchtown Woods for the first two sections. The first was a series of steep drags broken by sharp corners, and the second a single corner leading to very steep climb. We then travelled about six miles East to Dennicksball where the lowest score was 7; and three miles West to Clinnick, which was in fine condition, and stopping nearly everyone on, or just after the sharp right-hander.
Another four miles to the West took us to the Cardinham Woods area, and to section 5, Kingswood, which unfortunately had to be cancelled because the wet weather had caused deterioration of the track, which became effectively impassable, I understand. Shortly afterwards came Laneskin, and the first restart for classes 6, 7 & 8. Most cars scored 3 to 5 regardless of class, as the track swung sharply left up a steep bank.
7 miles to the West. through Bodmin once more. lay Bishopswood special test and Bishopswood Sections 1 and 2. The special test was a straight drive from line A to stop astride line E, followed by a straight drive to stop astride line B. Emma Flay/Kelly Thomas and Paul Bartlemen/Terry Flay were the only crews to score sub 9 second times. Bishopswood 1 had a fairly level start, with a sharp right hand turn up a bank. Class 8 had to contend with a minimum tyre pressure of 10 psi and a restart. No one cleared the section, and several of us flew off at the corner, into the undergrowth, having to be lifted back by the ever keen and cheerful marshals, I must get It right, next year. Bishopswood 2 was kinder, but I cannot recall it, probably because I scored badly.
A short drive took us to section 9, Hustyn, where class 8 suffered a higher start line, and a minimum tyre pressure of 18 psi again. Interestingly, this put their performance on a par with class 1. This Section was in fine form, despite the weather, and is always great fun. To the North West , in two miles, lay Section 10, Polmorle, in the grounds of a market garden and vineyard, not that any evidence of either was apparent. The start was firm but greasy, and half way up a sharp right hand turn, followed by a sharp left hand turn led to an ominous section of untouched grass. Class 8 had to restart. The lowest score of the day here was 5.
Five miles back to the East lay section 11 Helligan, where only Dudley Sterry/Barry Clarke, and Adrian Marfell/June Paterson went clear and one mile further East lay the Shell Wood Sections. Section 11, Shell Wood 1 had a restart for class 8 only, and proved a tough challenge with no one scoring less than 5. Shell Wood 2 was a little kinder, being a more gentle climb to a left hand bend where the gradient steepened. Again there were no clears, but several scores of 1. This was followed by special test 2. Shell Wood Special Test which replaced Helligan Special Test at a late stage. This test was a forward, reverse, forward exercise, stopping astride three lines. Only Dudley Sterry/Barry Clarke and Bill and Carole Foreshew bettered 16 seconds.
About seven miles South lay Lostwithiel and nearby the final section, Section 14, Old Tanhouse, which, as cancelled towards the end of the day, as late rain and a faulty public road drain damaged the surface. The route to Lostwithiel involved an obscure right turn from the A38 into a minor road, and this took us several attempts to find, being in an open car, since it was now raining heavily.
In missing the turn the course closing car must have passed us. When we arrived at Old Lanhouse we followed the blue marker into the section, looking for the start. Finding the start unmanned we guessed what had happened and began to reverse down, but horror of horrors, a weld in the steering column cracked, leaving us without any steering at all. We managed to reverse some way, rubbing the side of the car against the soft bank, but eventually the ruts took us across the track and we were stuck fast. As I climbed from the car I looked at the towering banks above, and in the light of the torch, at the brown muddy water swirling around my ankles, two inches above my feet, and tried to recall that phrase about creeks and paddles. Perhaps someone could refresh my memory. For an impish moment I thought of returning to the car next day, with two skeletons, and leaving them in the seats to be discovered next spring, However, good sense prevailed and I reached for my trusty mobile and telephoned the finish venue,
Sometimes 1 think that trialling is the Cornish National Sport, In the way that rallying is the Welsh National Sport. for with that phone call it seemed that Cornish Trialling plc. swung into action. Clerk of the Course, Pete Allen, accompanied by Dave Keats with his Land Rover, and several other helpers were with us by the time we had walked back to the start of the track. Dave Keats backed the Land Rover up to our car and pulled us down the section, with the rear wheels locked to stop the car from tracking into the bank. This was no mean feat, particularly in the dark and the rain. The RAC were summoned, and we were told that there would be a ninety minute delay, because the day had been busy in that area, Ninety minutes later, exactly, a car transporter arrived, crewed single handedly by a charming young lady named Kathy, who winched the car onto the lorry, took us the few miles back to Lanlivery where we were staying for the weekend, reversed the lorry down a long twisting drive in the dark and dropped the car into a designated parking space. The finish venue was closed by now, and an our landlords kindly made us sandwiches. The next morning those same landlords telephoned a local mobile welder, who arrived within a few minutes and ground out the offending weld, re-welded it and did the same to a second suspicious looking weld in the column, all for a most modest fee. We were then directed to a local motor factor who made us a replacement rear number plate, on the spot, as the original had been lost in the excitement, for a fraction of the price I pay at home. We were now fully operational again, and pausing only to repair once more to the Crown Inn at Lanlivery, for a substantial lunch, to fortify us against the elements, we made for home, where we arrived only a few hours later than originally intended
We had been fortunate indeed. In both that the steering column broke where our speed was low, and the banks of the section contained us, and in that we received such tremendous and knowledgeable help from both the organisers, and the local people. This was certainly a fantastic weekend to savour and to remember.