It was a tough trial for the four wheeled brigade with only eleven cars climbing Simms, none of which were in Class Eight who had a very tough restart. The motorcycles fared better with a higher proportion of golds after braving cold weather and slippery roads at breakfast time.
Stuart Holton was entered in his Suzuki X90 but choose to debut his newly acquired Salamander in Class Eight (Photo by Andrew Trenoweth)
Classic Canes Cancelled
Oakhampton starters had to battle with a couple of road closures on their way to the convergence control at Sparkfords Haynes Motor Museum. Logging activity meant that the planned first section at Classic Canes wasn’t available and was substituted by sending the main trial up Class 0’s Redscrip section after a 30 mile road run. Its quite a long section and a queue built up back to and onto the A30. The section was very straightforward and claimed only a couple of motorcycle failures. However several distinguished drivers were shown as missing the section in the provisional results, presumably missing the route amendment.
Underdown was just the other side of the A30 and was straightforward this year with only a handful of failures.
Into Bovey Woods
The familiar sections in Bovey Woods don’t seem to claim as many car failures as in the past although there were a significant number of motorcycle failures. Classes 6 and 7 had a restart on Normans but even that didn’t stop many. Just down the forest track it was Class Eight that had to restart on Clinton. This stopped a few including Neal Vile and Dudley Sterry. Amongst those that didn’t have to restart there were only a couple of failures but they had distinguished company as they included 2017 Crackington Champion Ray Ferguson in his supercharged Liege.
Waterloo was only a few miles away and Chief Official Richard Houlgate was presented with a challenge when multiple PCT champion Barrie Parker had the transmission fail on his Toyota MR2, one of several difficult recoveries the team were presented with on the hill. Not many cars failed the section but the many twists and turns proved challenging for the motorcycles.
Restarting on Passaford Lane
Apart from a couple off motorcycles everyone went clear on Stretes before traversing the very wet track to the special test at Core Hill with its very well organised team of marshals under their gazebo.
Passaford Lane, in the forest high above Sidmouth, was the last section before breakfast. The steepest bit is at the bottom but a restart higher up the hill was included for classes 3, 4 and 5. Sticker Martin had the diff go bang in his Escort forcing him to retire. In class four Ben Giles also failed in his much trialled Skoda Rapide. The section definitely wasn’t Class 5 friendly either and around 40% of them were penalised.
The frost came down at breakfast time
Breakfast was imminent but competitors had to be vigilant as the fields were white with frost and the roads were slippery in places. There was plenty of rooms in the car park and restaurant at Crealey Park for a welcome break where a buffet breakfast was available, provided you weren’t a later number when there wasn’t much choice.
There was the opportunity to refuel at Exeter Services before the two Kingswell Sections which didn’t have a lot of impact on the results.
Tillerton was Tough for the Motorcycles
The rocks on Tillerton were as hard as ever, with the bank on the left hand side ever present to catch out the car drivers. Only classes 7 and 8 in the car classes had to restart on one of the very solid slabs and this didn’t catch to many. However, the section proved very difficult for the motorcycles with around 50% failing. It was even harder for the Sidecar Outfits and Geoff Wescott was the only one to go clear.
There was some doubt that Fingle and Wooston could be used this year and the MCC tried to minimise the impact of the trial with spectator controls and cutting short the Wooston section before the steep bit.
Neither section was problematical for most, even with a muddy restart for classes 7 and 8 just before where everyone had to turn left.
The first motorcycles arrived at Islington Parish Hall mid morning. Parking can be chaotic but thats more than compensated by the friendly welcome and excellent refreshments. The biggest problem is choosing whether to have one of the excellent pasties or the home made cake!
The Gladiators enter the Simms Arena
Of all the Classic Trials hills Simms is the one that attracts the most fanatical spectators who crowd the banks to see the spectacle of flat out attempts at this short, steep and very slippery section. These days the MCC delegate responsibility to the Torbay crew led by the experienced Dave Haizelden. They had arranged some competitive restarts for the more competitive classes. A, B, 6 and 7 having to stop and restart on the lower slopes just after the right hander. The big guns in Class Eight were presented with a real challenge being bought to a halt right on the dreaded slab.
After the event Dave Haizelden reckoned this was too tough, even for these highly competitive machines as none of them managed to get away. This meant it became a non counting stop and was effectively scrubbed from the results for the red circle brigade.
Amongst the other cars there were only a few successes in each class with high speed trickling seemingly the order of the day. There were no X90 climbs this year, only Stuart Roach (HRG) and Steve Kingstone (MG Midget) getting to the top.
Things seemed easier for the solo motorcycles, around 50% going clean. Perhaps the biggest challenge on Simms is for passengers on Sidecars staying on their tiny platform and helping the rider stabilise the outfit when it came to its inevitable stop. Inevitable it was this year and the A boards came into operation with half of three wheeled field stopping between them and the summit.
It was Dark for later numbers at Slippery Sam
After Tipley there was just Slippery Sam, some 16 miles away. Time was getting on for later numbers after waiting a couple of hours for their attempt at Simms. Turning left off the A382 on the approach to Newton Abbot they were confronted to a road closure sign preventing access to the causeway crossing the River Teign. Unless you were local this was a disaster as the MCC had not issued a route amendment and there was no obvious diversion.
In the end most competitors found Slippery Sam in the gathering gloom. Earlier the officials had been confronted with the nightmare senario when Wayne Scott had the macPherson strut on his TR7 come adrift towards the top of the hill. Fortunately there is excellent recovery on this hilll and the farmer went off and came back with a front end loader. Lifting the front of the car with a chain he skilfully backed down the hill, pulling the stricken TR7 behinds him, all captured by Dave Cook.
After all that there were very few failures to report although the section is pretty rough these days.
A new Finish Venue
There was a new finish venue on the sea front in Torquay. One of the back markers Mike Furse arrived at 19.30 which wasn’t bad considering the delays.
The accommodation went down well and the evening meal was ideal for the occasion. Lets hope they weren’t put off by the dirty crowd that descended on them!
The presentations went well. Everyone could see what was going on and for the first time in most peoples memory the PA worked so the Presidents words could be heard by everyone.
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