by Bryan & Sarah Bradbeer
Two trials in eight days – this is beginning to be a habit – but after an absence of twenty years from the trials scene I was finding that I needed all the practice I could get. Things have changed quite a bit over those years. The MCC trials seem to endure for ever but there was no ACTC and I certainly don’t remember so many “local” trials happening. The left hand drive Beetle has been replaced with a Skoda 136 Rapid – the engine is at the right end but the similarity seems to end there as far as my ability to get it up hills is concerned! The navigator is now my wife and my children now navigate for me when asked.
Some things haven’t changed. Looking down results lists many names are memories of years ago, including Greenslades, who are the reason why I am writing this report. It was nice to get the ‘phone call from Dennis after 20 years – but I should have guessed that a favour was being asked!
It is now three weeks since the trial, and not knowing that I was going to be asked to write a report I did not make any notes! By the end of the trial one hill merges into another – after three weeks I’m afraid the details will be singularly lacking. Despite the incredibly wet weather of the past few days the Sunday morning was bright and dry which always makes it easier to get up for an early start and a two hour drive from Liskeard up to Barnstaple. North Devon Farm Park seems a good choice for the start/finish – as much as anything it is always interesting being able to watch other competitors on special tests – especially the combinations which we car drivers don’t often get to see.
Scrutineering is tighter than it used to be, probably just as well, and I must remember to somehow seal the battery box up before the Exeter in January. That apart we were allowed to start, and straight into the first special test. Having watched a lot of the bikes and some cars we thought we understood the test – but when you get out there with your foot flat on the floor, one bollard looked much like another – but hastily shouted instructions from the navigator – (on her first outing for twenty years!) meant we completed it without error in a respectable time.
The route instructions were somewhat brief (R 0.4m L 0.8m L etc) but after a few miles and in conjunction with the coloured cards we gained in confidence, especially after arriving at the second section to find we had made up several places already and lost our following cars, without seeing anybody else, let alone overtake anybody. Coddon, Kingscott and Sherwood were all completed without drama. After the previous trial the week before, both cleaning a section and not getting any punctures were novelties. Neither of us remembers the special test on Sherwood and can only assume some misunderstood instructions at the start of the section and treating the B line as an ordinary restart! We must have done it correctly since we have a time – but it was not exactly fast.
It was at this point that our confidence in the route card wavered a little. There was definitely a red card on the fence opposite, but the instructions stated L. Perhaps they included the little grass triangle we had come round! Carry on – up the road to the next junction and again colour and letter don’t match. We carried on hesitantly for a mile or two and were sitting trying to work out where we were, when the Greenslade Beetle appeared. He confidently turned left with a wave and so we followed and soon pulled into a grassy field for what was obviously a special test and not Spittle. After some minutes confusion in the car it transpired that we had turned over two pages at once! It makes quite a bit of difference to the navigation. Sugworthy was a flat mass of mud with bollards scattered about. The saving grace was that even with no air in the tyres and foot flat on the floor again you could hardly move fast enough to miss a bollard!
Now we really were on the way to Spittle and the first major hold up. Someone was stuck in the river and even the Land Rover couldn’t seem to get any grip to pull him out. The longer you have to wait the deeper the river seems to get, the higher the step out of it and the muddier the hill on the other side. However the cars in front, including another Skoda cleaned it, and eventually our chance came, and amazingly we did as well. This was beginning to look good – four sections down and no penalties – look out Giles! However Oakwell changed that. We didn’t pick up the muddy step at the top in time and slithered to a halt just past the 2 marker – still only 1 penalty. It was a long reverse down and out the way we came in – disappointment tempered by the big smile on the drenched through, very young lady marshalling at the bottom, and keeping everything under control – our marshal of the day!
Lunch came and went, car and crew refuelled, but nothing else needed doing, the car was running fine. With that came the rain but we had had so much over the past few days and weeks that it seemed to have washed a lot of the mud from the sections. It was often more difficult to reach and leave the sections than climb them. Oakwell apart we seemed to have plenty of grip for once without having to run tyres so soft that they keep coming off the rims or puncturing. The warning about the DEEP STEP on the approach to Holdridge was taken seriously as we dropped over it to a loud crunch, and then slid the car across it. We might have been better to approach at speed and fly across it – but no damage appeared to have been done. Holdridge was cleaned as was Beccott and with the cancellation of Northleigh and Hurscott we managed to find our way back to the finish – glad that I had picked up the OS maps, just in case(!) as the route card fell apart with the cancelled sections.
The final special test back in the car park looked like good fun for the bikes and we watched carefully to ensure we understood the cloverleaf type course we needed to drive. We were the first car to attempt it and I was just waiting for the cones to be moved apart a bit to give us a bit more room than the bikes had had to get around. Unfortunately the marshal didn’t see it that way and off we went. The end of a good day, only one penalty point, no punctures, car still running well so plenty of welly to get the back sliding out – really enjoying this test – scream up towards the finish line only to be aware of an aggravated navigator shouting something about one more loop still to do!!! We hadn’t crossed the line so into reverse, complete the loop and try again to finish – to claim the slowest time of the day!
Unfortunately we couldn’t stop to sample the culinary delights of the Farm Park, and with the weather worsening decided we should head for home. The roads on the way home were as bad as the trial in places, with water nearly as deep. At least the car was fairly clean, although the mud all over the engine was an indication of the depth of some of what we had been through, and that didn’t wash off on the way home.
Thanks to the North Devon Motor Club for a well organised trial and a great day out and apologies for the lack of detail about the individual sections.
Post Script: 1. The puncture happened the next morning when I leapt into the car, late as usual, to drop my daughter at the station to find a flat rear tyre!
Post Script 2. For anyone scrutinising my report and the results we seem to have picked up a 6 on the final hill Beccott – we can only assume it was because we were waiting on the restart line for the marshal to drop the flag when it dawned on us that she had raised it to signal us to go! Just as well we’re not in championship contention!