This years Exeter was very cold and mostly pretty dry. It was a tough event and in places very rough
There were a few dramas before the start. Dave Middleditch entered his recently acquired ex John Boswell Dutton Phaeton, a well known car that appeared in Top Gears historic Lands End coverage when it was the camera car. Dave drove the car down to Nailsworth a few days before and it just wasn’t running right. He mentioned this on the Classic Trials FB Group and received an offer of help from Eric Wall who along with Ian Moss got the car running nicely, albeit with a borrowed carburettor.
Roger Ashby had entered his Coates Orthoptera in Class Five. This is a delightful car with an Austin Seven Chassis containing a Ford Ten Engine driving an E83W axle. Unfortunately Rogers Allen Trial issues had resurfaced. He found this was caused by the Fuel Tank goo disliking modern fuel and he just couldn’t get it cleaned out in time.
Amongst the motorcycles the competitive Jon Hustwayte had issues with his Gas Gas Pampara and didn’t take the start despite Kathy Martins attempts to find him a last minute replacement.
Main trial competitors converged on the Haynes Museum at Sparkford from the familiar starting points of Popham, Okehampton and Cirencester after a Special Test enroute.
Queue on the A30
With Classic Caines not on the agenda this year Redscrip, some 35 miles along the A30, was the first section on the main trial. Traditionally a Class 0 hill it was used for the main trial last year when logging denied the use of Classic Caines. There were problems with the queue going back onto the A30 so a holding control was introduced just as the route crossed the Devon border. It was adequate for the motorcycles but when the cars came along they soon spilled onto the A30 so the thinking cap will have to go on if Redscrip is used this way in the future.
Underdown was just across the A30 and didn’t present too many problems this year, although Lee Sample had the engine of his Rickman Ranger cut-out on the last bend. Lee managed to limp to Musbury where he managed to get it running properly.
Into Bovey Woods
After the control at Musbury Services, a crossing of the Seaton Electric Tramway and a run up Harepath Hill the tough action started in Bovey Woods where Normans Hump (restart for 6 and 7) and Clinton (restart for 8) waited.
The restarts claimed a few victims with the real damage done in Classes 1 and 5 with a significant number of failures.
Waterloo was a few miles down the road, as twisty as ever, with its sharp ascent just after the tight right hander to catch the unwary. It certainly trapped the experienced Duncan Welch, out for then first time in the Pinto engined Racecorp LA acquired from Mike Furse. Originally built by Steve Boakes Duncan was taking a while to get used to the car having a rather longer wheelbase than his familiar special and also reckoned it needed some ballast!
The Restart Dug Out on Passaford Lane
The Ordnace Survey Map shows a long thin strip of green woodland to the east of Ottery St Mary, home of the flaming tar barrel ceremony in November. Stretes is situated in this woodland and it can be tricky to even get to the section if its icy. Fortunately that wasn’t a problem this year, despite the cold and without a restart didnt present any issues.
After the Core Hill Special Test and the rough descent to the outskirts of Sidmouth came Passaford Lane, the final section before breakfast. Only classes 1 to 5 were scheduled to restart. Most were successful but their handful of failures were supplemented by a few in the higher classes who performed the restart even though they should have gone straight through.
Breakfast at Crealey has improved.
Dawn was breaking for the first arrivals at Crealey Park where the breakfast has definitely improved, both in quality and the way it was organised. The break was welcome, especially for those riding and driving in the open where it provided a welcome chance to thaw out a bit.
The two Kingswell sections should have been next but fell foul of the recent wet weather. The organisers judged the access was going to be problematical for then large MCC field and they were scrubbed at the last moment.
Delays at Tillerton
A holding control was set up to avoid blocking the access road to Tillerton but this was soon full to overflowing and later competitors had to wait the best part of two hours.
The problem was that the rocky section proved very slippery for the motorcyclists, resulting in two thirds of them failing and many falling off all of which took time. Classes 7 and 8 were scheduled to restart but this was cancelled after the first half dozen cars in order not to cause further delay. It was still tricky for the lower classes even with what should have been a straight run through and over half the cars outside of 7 & 8 came to a stop on the slippery rocks.
Fingle and Wooston
Fingle has become rougher in recent years, especially where the corners have got cut up and it needs to be treated with a bit more respect than it used to be.
At Wooston Steep all classes had to turn left at the fork rather than the higher classes attempting the higher reaches. However they had a muddy restart just before the turn. Around half failed here including Dudley Sterry which was to deny him a gold.
Chief Official David Haizelden had amassed a formidable array of experienced trialers to run the famous old hill. Surely the signature Hill of not just the Exeter but all the MCC trials. Dave himself reckoned they had made it just that little bit too difficult for the Class Eights last year, but they got it spot on this time.
Classes 1 to 6 had a straight run at the hill. Class 7 a restart just after the bend and Class 8 had theirs a bit higher up. The result was at least one clean in every class, including the Class 8 where Mike Pearson trickled his 1600 Continuation Dellow Mk2 off the tricky restart for a clean in what was probably the least powerful car in the class.
With the earlier delays at Tillerton darkness had fallen when later numbers attempted the hill so the spectators were treated to the site of headlights piercing the gloom.
Tipley was Rough
Car competitors may have had different views about many aspects of the event but there was one thing they were united on. Tipley wasn’t just rough it was too rough. Not just the section but the entrance track where there was a deep gulley to negotiate before even getting to the start. Then if you came out the top of the section the exit track was horrendous where the former tarmac road has developed gaps resembling the Grand Canyon. The good thing is that the efficient Torbay locals want to use it for their event and the MCC will benefit from the repair work they have planned.
It was to prove the downfall of Bob Blackman who had just cleaned Simms in his recently acquired Arkley MG. The car was going well until the drive stopped driving just before the section ends boards. There was no recovery vehicle so the crew and the marshals (you needed to be more than observers on this section!) had to manhandle the stricken Arkley out the top. Once clear of the section Bob and passenger Lee Peck soon found the broken half shaft. They had a spare but couldn’t get the broken bit out of the diff, so sadly had to retire.
Slippery Sam in the Dark
A Nice Evening in Torquay
The traditional MCC Supper went down well. The food was good, seconds were available if you wanted and the service was slick. The meal was followed by an awards presentation which gave the winners the chance to receive the well deserved congratulations of their peers. And so ended another Exeter Trial.
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