2000 Exeter Trial

by Tim Lakin

After a summer engine rebuild, the rest of the Marlin needed tidying! So, after several days of fiddling during the Christmas break I was finally ready. Friday the 7th saw Brian (my passenger) and I arriving at the somewhat spartan Cirencester start in good time. The rest of the team Rich Welsh and Jack Windaybank duly arrived. It was good to see many old friends. Our start time of 29 mins past midnight arrived eventually and apart from a 10 min downpour the overnight run to the Jolly Diner passed without incident for any of us.

Breakfast, hood down and now for the trial proper. At Gatcombe Lane we quickly lowered the tyres (unnecessary – but who wants to risk failing the first hill!). I eased the car away from the start line and up the hill to my first Classic Trial end of section board since the Kyrle. Onto Norman’s Hump still in semi darkness. With at least a 10 minute delay down went the tyres. I got to see the section from the start line and up went the tyres in a hurry! It was a bit more rutted and grippy than I remembered! We just made it to the start line without annoying the marshals. Away and up to the restart, stopped early, loads of grip, and as we sped away my nose told me I used too much of my new clutch, still we were clean. Through the trees at Clinton we saw Rich Welsh’s Beetle storm up. For us it was much the same story as Normans – we stopped early at the restart and shot to the section ends board, where we passed Paul Bartleman and Emma Flay re-securing a rear spring using materials found in the wood!

At Waterloo my notes tell me sharp right through the hedge and sure enough it is. I seem to remember this as being very slippery in the past but on the day it caused few problems. Stretes was also Ok for us as it was for most. At Greenslich we caught up with Frank and Brenda Burton. Nice to see them and the Marlin re-united and smart after it’s summer rebuild. None of us could remember the section apart from there having been a deep mud splash. The section proved to be quite dry and we duly reached the top.

Exeter Services came and went rather slowly with a spot of washer maintenance for Rich and I. Followed swiftly by some expensive petrol and a puncture just before Tillerton. Tillerton is a very challenging hill with a tough restart to catch out the unwary. Richard’s class 4 beetle stormed the hill with no hesitation but Jack had to work very hard at the restart for his clean. I set off with brother in law Mike’s words “It’s easy Tim no problem for you!” So off I went thinking thanks Mike, I’m doomed to failure now. However we stopped on the humps at the restart and pulled away cleanly – a climb I shall remember for some years.

At Fingle we are greeted with a slight delay. We learn this was caused by a member of the public insisting on driving the hill in his 4WD, getting stuck and being pulled up by the marshals. Well done to the marshals for keeping straight faces and well done to the 2CV that cleaned the hill straight after – much to the amusement of the gentleman’s children. At the top of the hill we stop and admire the view, it always surprises me just how much height we gain in so little time. Onto a great section, Wooston Steep, where the lane on the way in by the river is very picturesque and the section is competitive. We meet Adrian Marfell descending the hill and learn that sadly this is the end of his Exeter as the car has suffered mechanical problems. All three of us are lucky and clean the hill, so with spirits rising we proceed to the next hill.

Simms for us was to be on 18psi with a restart, the organisers reduced the limit to 14psi. so we remain hopeful. According to the spectators nobody has cleaned the hill recently. Early cars having more luck. As we wait in the lane car after car fails, so does Rich, so does Jack and sure enough so do we. From being hopeful I am now utterly gutted as we were not even close and nor was Jack.Organisers please note – Half a chance of a clean would be nice! On the way to Gabwell I get another puncture. The restart on Gabwell is vicious and we fail as did all bar 4 class 7’s. Onto the finish where Tony Young is desperately trying to find out which Escort he gave his clothes to! It turns out to be Edwin Hayward’s Ford Escort!

Many thanks to all the organisers and to all the marshals – see you next year, Tim.

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