The Night started Dry but the rain set in during the early hours. The organisers were on the ball, made a few on the fly changes and the weather didn’t dampen the competitors spirits
Competitors experienced rain on the way to the start and some even got a taste of heavy snow but that cleared before the start.
Unsurprisingly with the Covid pandemic still raging there were quite a few non starters at Sparkford, there being no multiple start night run this year.
The route started with its familiar route through Yeovil to the Tarmac Section and test at Windwhistle Hill, the only section shared between the main Trial and Class 0.
After Underdown and the Musbury Control the main trial crossed the Seaton tramway tracks and ascended ascended the hill to Gatcombe, a rather innocuous section usually reserved for Class 0.
Next came Hangman’s Stone and Bovey Woods, home of Normans Hump and Clinton, the later in the safe hands of a Falcon Motor Club group led by Keith Oakes.
The teams experienced rain during setup but it was dry when the first competitors arrived. However the rain came back just after four and the section was quite muddy for later numbers.
There was no Waterloo this year so the route went via Streets, the Core Hill Special Test and Passaford Lane before running along the coast at Sidmouth before the breakfast halt at Crealey Park. Jason Byron, was debuting his 1300 Reliant Rialto and enjoyed the first few sections but had to retire before Crealey after his axle casing blew apart.
After the rest halt should have been Kingswell, a muddy private track well known to Torbay competitors. Its not so easy to include a section like this on an MCC event and it was cancelled for fear of delays, just it had been on the last Exeter.
Tillerton was its usual rocky self with a restart planned for the higher classes.
The restart was cancelled after a few cars had gone through but not before Lee Sample had the diff let go on his Rickman Ranger.
Everyone turned left at Wooston Steep rather than tackle the higher reaches
Simms didn’t bear its teeth this year and the majority of competitors crested the summit, some for the first time in their trials career. But less than a mile away……
Just a few more sections to the finish at the Passage House Hotel alongside the River Teign. In the evening Nicola Butcher and Dave Craddock were awarded their triples covering consecutive events back to the 2019 Edinburgh.
This years Exeter competitors were pretty universal in judging this a successful event, perhaps the best MCC trial for years. A high standard set for the future
With the Camel being cancelled because of issues obtaining permission to use their forestry sections the Allen was the last Car Classic of the season, held on the same day as the Neil Westcott taking place in the West Country for Motorcycles.
Never the toughest trial on the calendar the Allen is still one, if not the most, popular, the entry reaching its maximum plus reserves within three days.
Peter Browne tackled a very wet Tarka Trial on his Triumph Metisse
Having enjoyed a gloriously sunny Tamar Trial a few weeks before, my brother Neil and I decided to enter the Tarka on our 650 Triumph Metisses. I was conscious that the weather forecast for the 31st was not good but took comfort from the fact that the forecast is very often wrong but in this instance that did not prove to be the case.
It was already raining heavily when I woke at 4.30am and continued as I loaded my bike onto the trailer and headed off on already flooded roads to collect my brother and his machine.
By the time we reached Bideford we had seen so much rain and passed through so many floods it was clear that we would not be having an easy day and were beginning to doubt the wisdom of using such heavy machines but we had already passed the point of no return.
The first four sections were in the Tapeley Park Estate woods and were predictably very slippery on the wet leaves and tree roots and gave me the first taste of what would prove to be much pushing throughout the day. I did manage one clean but it was a good deal later in the day before I managed another.
Riding with my brother Neil and our friend Andy Petherick on his 350 BSA we left the woods for a few miles of road work to section 5, Stony Cross.
This was a loose stony climb in a narrow lane with what looked like a stream running down it which lubricated the stones very effectively.
A few miles further on was Section 6 which started as a partly submerged farm lane with the water becoming increasingly deeper until the tractor wheel tracks disappeared leaving you to guess or discover where they were as the water continued to deepen with it eventually coming over the top of my boots with my feet on the footrests. I remember my brother saying he was fearful that it would reach his handlebars at one point.
We then made our way to Stoodleigh Woods where there were four sections in the woods. I have no memory of the first which was Georges Bank, possibly due to trauma or more likely senile decay.
The remaining three were firstly a steep slippery climb, then a leafy climb with a tight deviation at the top and finally a climb on a track through a stream with a tight turn at the top.
I felt I should have managed the last of these at least but failed to do so and had the opportunity to further practice my pushing instead.
After a lunch stop at Rogers Garage in South Molton we rode to Holdridge Woods where there were another four sections, reduced to three due to the weather.
The first started in a stream and exited up a slippery bank and the remaining two were on such slippery mud that I was exhausted by the time I had wrestled the Metisse to the start board and achieved little more than that.
Section 15, High Bray was next. This is a regularly used hill with rocky slabs and steps and is notoriously slippery.
There was a restart for all classes and this was certainly a stopper for the Metisse. I had help from many Marshalls during the day but would particularly thank the Marshal that helped on High Bray for his assistance and patience whilst I straightened the bike enough to be able to continue.
Next were two sections near Stoke Rivers. The first was a bog with a steep climb out which had been affected by the previous nights rain and the second was a steep grassy climb which it was actually quite fun to see how far it was possible to get up on the Metisse but even more difficult to come back down.
Section 18, Snapper was a narrow lane with a tight bend and rock steps on the bend which I approached too cautiously and stopped on one of the rocks.
A few miles further on was the final section, Kings Cott and this was a wet stony lane which I was hugely relieved to clean mostly because it meant I did not have to manhandle the Metisse which by now appeared to have more than doubled in weight.
This only left the special test at Pristacott to complete and this was the normal start on line A, then stop astride B and finish astride line C except that this was in a lane with deep puddles of course, which did increase the sensation of speed. I did the test with my visor open and as a consequence coated the inside of my helmet and visor with muddy water and had to ride to the finish at Tapeley Park with it open.
I was hugely relieved to finally get to the finish after what proved to be an exhausting event and am much impressed with the way my Metisse survived the many attempts to break it during the day.
It is very much to the credit of the North Devon Motor Club that they were able to still run the Tarka Trial despite the appalling weather of the previous night.
The road route was very well chosen and took in some excellent North Devon lanes and scenery and the Route Card worked well with only a few exceptions and that may not have been the fault of the Card.
Having had good weather for many of the recent ACTC Trials it is inevitable that at some point this would change and this was that event. Let’s hope we do not get another like it too soon or I may need to buy a modern machine.
Ben Tonkin won Launceston’s Tamar Classic Trial on Sunday, returning in his 1600 VW Beetle with 2 year old son George passengering for the first time. It was a very close scoring day that saw the lead change multiple times on the last hill.
Writers Note – This years Edinburgh was a controversial trial. While developing this report I would be grateful for any factual additions or corrections so it is as accurate account as possible. You can make these in the comments here on this page or by any of the many other ways you can get in touch with me – Michael
This years Edinburgh Trial was heavily promoted in all the available Social Media channels, emphasising a significantly different route avoiding main roads and the inclusion of some of the challenging classic sections for more classes.
Come the day the event was beset by bad weather which particularly affected the later numbers resulting in many cancelled sections including what many regarded as the “best” ones. The second half of the event also presented a navigational challenge and many missed sections. All these issues contributed to a significant number of retirements.
A Different Start
The Ladies missed the usual Loo
Special Test was an Autotest on a Kart Track
Test diagram at the start showed the various lines lettered but unlike the other tests the lines had no letter boards when you got there, adding to the confusion.
The considerable number of wrong courses justified the dissatisfaction of many competitors.
The Finish was not COVID secure
Up until this point all the controls were in the open air so competitors concerned about COVID security could choose not to go inside at the meal stops and minimise their infection risk.
This was not so at the finish and competitors were expected to walk through a crowded bar to hand in their numbers and inform the officials they had finished. Initially those competitors that did not do this were deemed to be non-finishers but this was changed after objections.
This years Edinburgh Trial was a controversial event. It was ambitious with its routing and attempts to find new sections. Although interesting these were generally non competitive and in the case of XXX necessitated a lot of extra road mileage and a potentially damaging exit track. The trial route mainly achieved its objective of staying off main roads but at the expense of difficult navigation and many who choose to rely on the road book had difficulty following the route.
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Duncan Stephens followed up his win on the Exmoor Clouds with a dominating drive on the Taw and Torridge
With Stuart Bartlett in the passengers seat of his UVA Fugitive Duncan had a day long battle Keith Sanders in his Reliant Scimitar SS. At the end of the day these were the only cars with single digit scores, the win going to Duncan on six with Keith on nine.
Apart from Duncan and Keith the remainder of the entry attracted some high scores on what was reckoned to be a tough event with some very steep sections.
The motorcycles had a strong class X entry. Ian Thompson was the best Solo amongst the regular classes
Run last year as a Single Venue Event Minehead Motor Club had planned to run a road trial this year. Unfortunately there were problems a few weeks before the event and the route had to be confined to the extensive Headon Woods. Tristan Barnicoat dominated the Motorcycles while Duncan Stephens had a hard fight with Charlie Merson and Stewart Green to win the cars.