Following the Clee Hills Trial, I had decided that the Ilkley Trial was to be my next outing with Baldrick. Hopefully I had learned something in the interim having used the car on a few club PCTs and PCAs. Apart from operator failure, my main problem on the Clee had been ground clearance and I was therefore somewhat pleased to obtain a set of six 14 inch steel wheels which were blasted and painted a fetching shade of white, not designed to show off any muck but simply because it was the only paint I had in the garage in sufficient quantity for six wheels. I had spent a few days over Easter in Howarth and quite by chance (lying B) had ended up in the Ilkley, Otley and Patley Bridge area so had to have a good look around. Didn’t do me any good though as I presumed that all the sections would be similar to the Edinburgh. Not so!
Anyway, two weeks to go and I decided to repair the fractured exhaust that had been temporarily cobbled up, for a club PCA demonstration, with ally sheet and the indispensable jubilee clip or two. Removing the offending system for repair saw me by mistake gently hit the end of the water pump followed by a steady stream of water from the nether regions of the said item. I had already fitted a new seal kit some time ago but try as I might, 136 type water pumps are rarer than a sensible speech from George Bush so in desperation a new seal kit was fitted, along with two new bearings. Significantly the new seal kit differed from the first one so I suspect it was wrong first time round.
5am on the 23rd May arrived and so did Chris Veevers in his Beetle so, with ‘boss’ person installed in the adjacent chair to me we set off for Ilkley. The car was handling a treat with the new wheels and tyres and the nervous twitch, that was evident when I was acting as opening car on the Northern, had disappeared due to simply tightening a loose bolt on the trailing arm. A simple journey down the M6 then on to the A65 and an estimated journey time of two and a half hours made me jealous of those who live down the country in traditional classic trialling country. However, gremlins targeted Chris’ Bug and he dived into a service station just short of Ilkley to investigate the reason for using near on a full tank of precious fluid to do just 100 miles. The reason was identified as an overflow pipe on one carb that had been sealed with a bolt but no Jubilee clip leading to the bolt falling out. Chris was none too pleased as he had paid good money to get the carbs professionally fitted and set up. However it was then on to the start venue after another brief hold-up due to a traffic jam leading to a Sunday market.
With 40 minutes to go we signed on and then presented for scrutineering. This was a bit chaotic, with the people queuing getting in the way of new arrivals and those others on the way to the start area. However with that out of the way we had time for a look at the route book with its tulip diagrams, new to me and my passenger, and took the opportunity to highlight the sections in the book that had restarts. We were flagged away at 8.40 am for a drive of just over nine miles through lovely countryside to the first two sections on farmland. My initial reaction was of disappointment in that they were just like classic PCT sections with a wish that the other sections were not to be of the same type. This was not to be the case and the spread of different sections throughout the day was welcomed. The first surprise was when we were invited to walk the sections before attempting them. Section 1 was a traverse on grass on a hillside through gorse bushes and then a sharp left turn to the end. With dew still on the grass a delicate right foot was required but ending in plenty of welly at the sharp left to try and clean the section. This however resulted in me swiping out the 5 marker and, as touching markers was penalised, I ended up with a 6. The second section was similar with a sharp right up a steep bank but traction was at a premium and a 10 was the result. It was then off to the next section to meet Don and Eileen Dalton officiating, full of the usual smiles. A nice little rocky section through a wood with a restart on a left hand bend shortly after the start and, once again as before and also throughout the day, a brief walk up the section to see what was in store. I totally forgot about my hydraulic handbrake but made the restart and the section end with little trouble.
It was then on to the next section, a special test and the next surprise of the day. None of this foot to the floor, lines AA, BB, and CC here. This was a straight-line test, start at A, drive through a ford and up a slight hill to finish by crossing line B but slowly. More cunning than Baldrick’s most cunning trick no less! However this test conspired to out Baldrick and I failed by dropping a front wheel into a hole in the streambed and coming to an unplanned stop. Another part of the learning curve experienced but a mental note to suggest we try this one on the Northern, and why not?
Another brief drive took us to the next three sections within a wooded area, the first, Sword Point 1 being a straight, steep run through woods with a restart at the mid point. First problem here was the use of plastic road cones to define the restart, not easy to see within the darkness of the forest but especially so for me as I am colour blind and orange and green look similar. Secondly the restart was positioned at about 35 degrees to the line of the track and offset making it very difficult to drive into the box, well for some anyway. I think that this kind of defeats the object of a restart in that it shouldn’t be made that difficult to actually stop in a restart box. Anyway this had to be a full out gun up the hill after traction was gained but I started to run out of puff so dropped the clutch on a couple of occasions to build up the revs. With a good deal of banging about caused by the engine moving on its mountings and hitting the stops we made the restart but swiped a cone out. Reversing out of the section and looking in the rear view mirror showed smoke coming out of the cooling louvres on the engine compartment. A well-cooked clutch! On then to the next one which was a 270-degree course starting on grass and going round various trees in the wood. I had traction problems here, only scoring a 5 due to the hammer that the clutch had received a few minutes previously. Having reversed out and negotiated the traffic jam at the section beginning it was then on to the next special test in the woods and again at slow speed. Once again, not my most memorable moment, to say the least as I couldn’t even get of the start line.
Reversing out indicated that I had parked it up against a big tree root. Pillock!! Reversing out also indicated a rather nasty sounding noise from an unidentified location at the rear end. Pulling forward also gave the same sound so it was gently on to the road and then pull into the side to investigate With Chris listening I went forward and back but couldn’t identify the exact cause so decided to continue and it didn’t occur again that day. My initial thought was that I had cooked the clutch and caused it to distort. Subsequently the same occurred at a club PCT a week later and investigations revealed that a new pair of rear shoes were moving on their mountings and catching the inside of the brake drum due to poor manufacture. A swift application of the angle grinder soon sorted the problem.
Another short journey took us to sections 8 and 9. The overall short distance of the trial was certainly one of the many plus parts with a total of 17 sections and 2 special tests within a road mileage of 60 miles. Both these sections started on a grassy surface so traction was not guaranteed. Section 8 started flat then a rise to run along side a wall and subsequently a short, steep hill to end. I thoroughly enjoyed this one, exiting the end of the section with the front wheels in the air. What a cracker. The next one was not so successful, requiring a short blast to a very narrow gap between a dry-stone wall and a vicious tree root. With not enough power and the need for preservation of the front end I ended up with a 7 but it was a super little section none the less.
Section 10 was a non-starter for me as I could hardly get any traction and only scored 11. Once again long grass and a bit of dampness underneath defeated me. It was then on to section 11, which was the last section before the lunch break. This one was in what looked like a small quarry type excavation, which was overgrown, once again, with very long grass. The exit was up a short steep hill, which had seen some 4-wheel action in the past, evident from the twin tracks. The procedure for this one involved a quick take off from the start line to get over the long grass then a blast up the bank. This section was only marked with 12, 9, 6 and 3 markers which was good for me as I just cleared the three at the top of the hill before coming to a rest thereby giving me a zero mark.
After a brief lunch halt we were on to the next section via some lovely scenery and in terrific weather. This one involved a simple forestry type track with a restart, once again marked with orange cones, on a bend then a short blast to the section ends. On cleaning the section we gently turned around, mindful of the start marshal’s plea to “Please mind the young trees”.
Sections 13 and 14 were a continuation of each other, being sited on an old incline that had been built to take stone from a quarry many years ago (but nowhere near as steep as the Jenny Wind on the Clee Hills Trial – ed.). The first involved us driving through a gate then turning sharp left up a steep grass covered slope. The start was easy enough but on turning left I started to feel that traction was not as I wanted it to be despite the start marshal telling us we would have no problems. However we picked up speed and shot of to the section ends. The second started a few yards away and was a straight pull up an increasingly steep hill. Once again a success but the return in reverse was a bit hairy as there was something of a drop on the right hand side. The exit from this section was across a field, well marked with stakes, and we were asked to be extra considerate as we passed within a few yards of the front door of the Chairman of the Ramblers Association of all people. What luck!
From my point of view, and I suspect a few others, section 15, Watergate was the section of the trial. A run of a few yards to a stream, left turn and up hill on a rough rocky track, gradually getting narrower and twistier with a nasty sharp left at the 2 marker then a short run to the section ends. That’s what it should have been if I had made it but I bogged down for some reason at the 11 marker and I was so looking forward to making the top. It made me feel even more hurt when I subsequently found from the final results that I was one of the few to fail it. Roll on next year.
Section 16, Cock Hill Mine, took us on an off road drive on an old mine road to get to it. The surrounding area was well populated with what looked like a classic motorcycle trials competition and, although I am not a motorbike nut I could still recognise the sound of a good old British bike. I even managed to recognise some of the maker’s names from my days of scrambling spectating many moons ago. The section was relatively easy on a rocky track with a simple restart half way up. There was then a few miles drive, probably the longest of the competition, to a pair of sections within a field, the first run in a deep gully involving a gentle left hand sweep slightly up hill for a hundred yards or so with a sudden steep, 30 degree uphill finish of a few yards. Looking at this before hand identified a softish patch in the middle but when we were on the hill itself we encountered more rough bits than anticipated. A nice hill none the less and then on to the next section which was an easy straight pull uphill with a slight angle to the left. Stopping to re-inflate the tyres at the end of this section led to the discovery that section 17 had been rougher than anticipated with a slightly bent rim. Still, never mind, as I was happy to be still running considering the previous scare with the mechanical noise.
The last section of the day, Langbar, involved a drive across farmland part of which looked like a training area for the SAS but what was probably a paint ball competition venue. Once again as in a few of the previous sections, this one started on long grass with a wicked left hand bend followed very quickly by a short hill and then a sharp right hairpin up a rough track. Walking the section and watching the previous competitor allowed me to keep well up on the sloping ground of the first part to prevent running in to the marker stakes then a good blast and sharp turn to the left resulted in a tow out and a satisfying 5 scored.
All in all a very good trial, rounded off with pie and peas at the finish venue provided as part of the entry fee. Whilst I finished last in my class I thoroughly enjoyed the trial. There were some understandable problems, but nothing of major concern, throughout the day. For a new trial this was an enjoyable and varied day out but with a bit of rain on the day some of the grass-based sections would have been totally different. I look forward to next year’s competition.
Myke Pocock (Baldrick’s Pilot)