44 Clean Sheets on a Very Wet Exeter
It was very wet leading up to the event and the torrential rain during the early hours washed much of the mud from the sections. The conditions made the event demanding for marshals, spectators, motorcyclists and competitors in open cars but fortunately there were no timing issues this time.
Start and the Haynes Special Test
There were 43 Non-Starters, perhaps some of them were put off by the bad weather but others had mechanical issues. Adrian Tucker-Peake had transmission problems with his MGF and decided to devote his weekend to organising the Clee Hills rather than come down to Devon. Verdun Webley set out from Southwell in his X90 but the water boiled away ten miles from home and came down in his daily driver to spectate instead.
Popham starters were first away this year and by the time they arrived at Haynes the rain had started in earnest and was to continue through the night. The first Special Test was within the Haynes Complex and saw the events first upset when ACTC/MCC stalwart Simon Woodall was penalised for over running a line in his VW Buggy.
Classic Caines and Underdown
The private track through the trees at Classic Caines was comparatively straightforward, despite the weather. There were only a few failures, the most significant was Kevin Sharp who won a triple with his Suzuki X90 in 2015. Kevin was joined by Edward Broom who lost his Gold in Class three and some of the competitors in Class 1.
After the section it was back on the A30 through Chard to Underdown, now in its fourth year of use on the Exeter. There was the usual difficult descent to the section but not to much trouble on the section itself, although Michael Weeks retired soon after.
Back on the A30, past the start of the A303 for few hundred yards before turning left for a cross country route to Musbury Service Station, only a passage control this year. The canopy over the pumps provided a welcome respite from the torrential rain for the motor cycles and those in open cars.
Bovey Woods Sections
Only 6 & 7 had to restart on Normans Hump, even so this steep hill provided a challenge to class 4 where three of the five competitors were penalised. Interesting that the numbers in this once well supported class were down so much this year while Classes 5 and 6 have grown.
Clinton was a few hundred yards up the track with only class 8 having to restart and this presented problems to quite a few of them. Katrina Selwood was one, driving her first MCC long distance trial in Nick Farmers Cannon Alfa with Nick in the passengers seat. Katrina was to go on to collect a bronze, only failing Simms during the rest of the trial.
Alan Spencer was another who didn’t get away and neither did Lee Peck in his Kracken after the fuel pump failed. Fortunately Lee was able to borrow another one and go on to finish the event.
This lovely old track was the first BOAT of the event, the preceding sections all being on private land. Its a real classic section, lots of hairpins and loose stones, largely maintained by the Flay family, who had to clear a fallen tree in order the event could use the section.
This year it didn’t present to many problems to the experienced competitors, apart from Class 5 that is ,where it claimed the experienced Brian Alexander (X90), Dennis Greenslade (MX5) and Peter Manning (MG Midget), costing Peter a gold.
Without a restart this was a nice simple section for all although several competitors were penalised for missing it. Steven Price was pleased to have a go at it after slipping into a ditch on the way to the section. Fortunately he got a tow out and went on for a Gold medal.
There was no Bulverton Steep this year, replaced by Passaford Lane in the same forest complex near Sidmouth. There was a restart for classes 3, 4 and 5 but few failures although a couple of cars missed the section.
No timing problems at Breakfast
There were precise timing instructions for the Crealey Park Control. No penalty for early arrival and depart on scheduled time. Everyone seemed to understand this and there were no clock dramas this time. The breakfast options were better this year, with fried eggs available and not a powdered scrambled egg to be seen.
Delays at Tillerton
There was a delay for later numbers on the road approaching the section. After fording the fast flowing stream at its foot competitors moved onto the solid rock of Tillerton with 7 and 8 restarting in the roughest area. Outside of the front wheel drives there weren’t that many failures but newcomers were horrified by the steps they had to surmount.
Fingles hairpins came as enjoyable light relief before competitors rescued serious battle with the MCC at Wooston Steep.
Classes 6.7 and 8 were allowed a straight run at the main hill. The other classes turned sharp left before the gradient increased. The plan was for 3, 4 and 5 to restart first just before the corner. This was changed in a route amendment displayed at Haynes. However the restart boards were left in place as they were shown in a route card diagram showing the deviation. Even without the restart the corner proved a bit much for many in Class 5 and about half of them failed costing several Gold Medals.
Almost all the Class Eights went clear but Duncan Welch was one of two exceptions in his familiar Austin Healey Special.
Wooston proved a much tougher challenge for the Class 7’s and only five went clear, including the two three cylinder Lieges of Dick Glossop and Rob Haworth. They were joined by Hal Branson (Marlin), Roger Bricknell (Vincent) and Ray Goodnight who had been struggling all event with water ingress to his Arley’s electrics and water loss from the engine. Likewise Class Six struggled but Dean Vowden (VW Notchback), Barry Parker ( MR2) and Colin Clarke (Beetle) saw the summit.
Simms had the Torbay team in charge, led by Dave Haizelden who had put a lot of work in preparing the hill. There was a restart for 6 and 7 with 8 having more of a challenge further up.
The rain had washed most of the mud away but the old hill is always a tough challenge and only about a third of the entry reached the summit. The failures were well spread through the field apart from Class 1 where none of the FWD’s were successful.
The concrete slabs put the usual strain on final drives. Alan Cundy had his Golf’s diff let go for the second MCC event in succession and Robert Robinson-Collins broke the half shaft on the Allard he acquired from clerk of the course Roger Ugalde.
Final sections in the Dark
The Tipley restart was only for class eight. A lot of work has been done to take the worst of the steps out of the section and there were very few failures.
Later numbers had attempted Simms in the dark and did not get to Slippery Sam until well gone six.
Its a rough old hill these days but the rain had washed away the mud so there was plenty of grip. It did impact on the results though and Colin Clarke lost his gold when he was penalised in his Beetle.
Ray Goodright failed the section, he was still on for a bronze but his electrics didn’t survive all the water in the sumps of the exit track and he failed to finish. Nigel Jones was also for a Bronze with his MX5 but had so much wheel damage he decided to retire before Slippery Sam, having suffered so much damage on the section before.
Changes at the Trecarn
There was big change for the Club Supper at the Trecarn. Waiter service had been replaced by a buffet but still voted an improvement in the quantity and quality of the food. There was some confusion afterwards as some of the award winners had not been aware off the planned presentation but those assembled were able to see Nick Farmer and Nicola Gladwyn receive their triples.
All in all the Exeter was considered a success, despite the weather making the event a test of endurance for officials, motorcyclists and those in open cars.
Full results will follow