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Action Packed Exeter


Multiple Incidents Didn't Detract from an Excellent Exeter Trial

The weather was unseasonably mild but it had been very wet the preceding weeks and some of the sections were very sticky and Wooston Steep and Simms were particularly tough. There was no Meerhay this year and Normans Hump was replaced by neighbouring Marilyn because of logging. There were further problems during the event which resulted in several sections having to be cancelled. However, this didn't seem to detract from a very good trial.


 

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- Pictures from Tillerton and Simms by Simon Robson

 

Stephen Veal (1500cc Dellow Mk1) rounding the bottom corner on Marilyn which was used instead of Normans Hump because of logging in Bovey Down Wood (Source of picture unknown)

Dellow Register Newsletter Editor Jeremy Slatter attempts to burn off the Tillerton restart in his ex Rob Wells Troll (Picture Simon Robson)

Mark and Ginny Endley enjoying Fingles Hairpins in their Liege with 3 cylinder Suzuki powerplant (Source of picture unknown)

Dick Bolt has no shortage of horsepower as he entertains the massed rank of spectators on Simms (Picture by Simon Robson)

It was a dry, mild night as competitors left their respective starts. Unusually it was the West Country contingent that were first away, from Plusha on the A30, followed by Cirencester and Popham. The last car scheduled to leave Cirencester was Simon Woodall in his familiar VW Buggy. Unfortunately his Triple hopes were dashed as he retired soon after when the Hall Effect unit failed in his distributor and he wasn't carrying a set of points.

The routes converged at the Haynes museum at Sparkford, although it was hard to recognise the place as its undergoing redevelopment. Scruitineering was very efficient this year, even with the extra job of checking Spill Kits. In a way the facilities for the trial were better than usual with plenty of room to park on the Kart Track and a nice big room for the control and those that wanted a midnight fry-up.

It was the best part of 55 miles to the first section in Bovey Woods, passing both the entrance and exit tracks to Meerhay, which could not be used because of access problems. Things were different in the woods as the loggers had been at work. This meant that Normans Hump was unavailable but fortunately Tim Whellock and his team know this forest very well through organising the Bovey Down Trial, and opened up an adjacent track which they called Marilyn. With loose stones and a similar gradient to Normans Hump this proved challenging, even without the restart for 6, 7 and 8. The unknown section had a significant effect on the results with many failures, including Greg Warren (Escort) and Dennis Greenslade (Mazda MX5). It was climbable though, and despite the steepness and deep ruts both Peter manning (MG Midget) and Steve Potter (Trojan Utility) went clear. Both went on to win gold medals, a significant achievement in a Trojan.

The familiar Clinton lay waiting deeper into the wood. This was unaffected by logging and there was plenty of grip this year. If Clinton had plenty of grip the upper reaches of Waterloo certainly didn't. It appears that rain during the week had washed mud from the banks onto the track. When people stopped it was a question of a very difficult recovery or a long reverse down to use the escape road, which was also slippery. Unfortunately a very long queue soon built up and Tim Whellock had no alternative but to cancel the section.

Fortunately the next group of sections near Ottery St Mary proved unproblematic and the trial remained pretty much on time at Exeter Services Rest Halt.

It was a fine, bright day as competitors left Exeter for the second half of the trial, soon turning off the A30 to take the windy back roads to Cheriton Bishop and on to Tillerton. The section has become very rough these days, especially in the restart area which proved challenging for classes 7 & 8. When Dudley Sterry fails a re-start it has to be tough! Fingle seemed smoother than last year and attracted the usual spectators, bunched around the first two hairpins. It wasn't a lucky hill for Mike Warnes who failed with a fuel blockage and decided to retire his TR7.

If Fingle didn't claim many scalps that couldn't be said for Wooston Steep which was in fine form for the restarting 7 & 8's, defeating the majority of them. Then came Simms. The hill started out muddy at the bottom and dry at the top. However, the mud was soon carried up the hill and the huge number of spectators were entertained by car after car either failing at the big step or slowing so much the soon spun to a halt. It was climbable though, and both Phil Tucker (Triumph TR3A) and John White (Class 4 Beetle) showed that if you picked the right line it was on with a relatively low power to weight ratio.

Reversing down the slippery slope proved a problem for many and crews of several cars had heart stopping moments when they slipped sideways. Finally two ended up on their side. For Alan and Matt Bee it was mostly injured pride in their Austin Seven but it was a hospital job for Alan Spencer and John Dando in their Class Eight Parsons Special. The incident made the Daily Mail and it is to hoped there aren't to many repercussions. Full marks to Alan and Matt for continuing the trial for a Bronze medal.

Simms had to be cancelled and the delays meant some competitors missed Tipley and Slippery Sam. In the latter case because the marshals had gone when they arrived but one or two climbed the section in any case. Slippery Sam was still live when Nick Farmer came along and tore the rear suspension away from the chassis on a rock. Fortunately he was able to ratchet strap things together enough to get to the finish.

So ended an Exeter that was probably a nightmare for the organisers but somehow proved very enjoyable for the competitors, despite all the problems. Perhaps the weather helped but Tim Whellock and his team have got the trial pretty much right and were unfortunate with the happenings on the day. It must have been very difficult to decide what to do with the results and in the end Simms was cancelled and competitors who missed Tipley and/or Slippery Sam were not penalised.

Published 12 January 2012

Updated 20 January 2012 with link to Draft Report & 4 pictures added.

Updated 21 January 2012 report text added.

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