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Dean Partington won his third March
Hare Trial in a Blizzard, just pipping Mike
Pearson on Special Test Times.
It was a
memorable March Hare, both for the narrowness of Dean's victory and the
weather, which couldn't have been worse. A couple of sections had to be
cancelled but the rest held out and provided a real challenge. The
real heroes of the day were the marshals, who went home wet and cold after
providing the competitors with a fine days sport.
Cook captured Dean Partington restarting on Water Tower
& Mike Pearson clearing Coombe Hole in the snow before the weather got to
No sooner had competitors
started to arrive at the start than down came the rain that was to persist
throughout the day, when it wasn't snowing of course! With scruitineering
in the sensible hands of John Blakeley and family competitors were soon on
their way east, for a series of byway sections in North Hertfordshire.
These were enjoyable and contained a fair amount of green laning, but
apart from the restart on Cress Beds didn't affect the results.
John Plant testing his A T-P diff as he eases
his way off the restart at Cress Beds. John was second in Class 1
(Picture by Dave Cook)
Nick Wilmhurst strives to balance the car as
Keith Pettit gets out of the ruts on Beetle Drive.
(Picture by Don Stringer)
The first sections were at Copt
Hall, on private land were in the shadow of Luton Airport. Had they looked
down passengers in the big jets would have seen the first struggle was to
get to the sections, nearly three quarters of a mile from the metalled
road. Everyone made it in the end but this could have been a section in
First came a Special Test, with
past March Hare winners Dean Partington and Mike Pearson sharing the
honours with Liam Rafferty. Mike and Dean were to have a day long battle
for the lead, Mike pipping Dean here by 0.5 seconds, split by Liam who was
The first observed section here
was quite tricky, starting in the mud before twisting and turning through
the trees before climbing a disused railway embankment. Only a select
group of Class Eights went clean, headed by the Derbyshire contingent of
Dean Partington (DP Wasp), Charlie Knifton (VW Scorpion) and Liam Rafferty
(DP Cannon), joined by local Mike Pearson (Dellow Mk2 Replica). A special
mention here for Kevin (son of Brian) Alexander who manged to get his
diminutive Fiat panda through the mud at the bottom, nearly making it up
the railway embankment.
Strangely the second Copt Hall
section wasn't that muddy and was cleaned by most of the entry.
With all the rain the
organisers had wisely cut out the lower reaches of Beetle Drive, but that
still left a heavily rutted section, where the Yellows and Reds had to
restart before assaulting Verduns Bank. Only an exclusive group got to
sample the exit track. John Plant was the only non-restarter in his ex
Adrian Tucker-Peake Peugeot 205. Kevin Barnes joined him in his
supercharged Liege, aided by local man Simon Robson in the passengers
seat. In Class Eight only Dean Partington
clear, putting him in the lead of the trial.
Just up the track Webleys
Wobble wasn't subdivided but in the conditions proved difficult,
especially with a Class Eight restart. Nobody went clean, although Dean
managed to come out the top, dropping back a few feet after the failing
the restart and driving out!
Reg Taylor was responsible for building two of the cars in Class
Eight. (Mike Pearsons Dellow Replica and Geoff
Hodges RDT Special) Reg is seen here driving his Beetle
(Picture by Dave Cole of The Herts VW Club)
The snow is coming down hard as Mark Ensol blasts his Marlin
through the mud on the special test. The four
Marlins were very closely matched and finished within two points of
each other. (Picture
by Dave Cole of The Herts VW Club)
As the route wound its way too
the top of Dunstable Downs the rain turned to snow. It was very cold and
windy as well and, with no respite on the horizon, some crews in open cars
decided to call it a day.
Proceedings here started with a
Special Test round the barn. With all the mud it was a struggle to
complete the route but most manged it in the end. Dean Partington set the
fastest time with Mike Pearson just behind. This was to give Dean a ST
total of 25.1 to Mikes 25.3 which at the finish would decide The March
Hare Trophy. Two Observed Sections were planned here but one had to be
cancelled when it became to difficult to reach it.
The section that ran was a
blast through the mud, followed by a stony track before turning off onto
the grass for an adverse camber S bend. Mike Pearson was the only one
clear here. Dean understeered off on the snow covered grass for two,
putting him on eight, the same as Mike. Many of the other competitors
failed to reach the grassy bit. Of those that did only Dave Oliver
(Peugeot 205), Michael Leete (Beetle) and Kevin Barnes (Supercharged
Liege) equalled Dean's score.
Class 5 winner Peter Manning about
to assault the final gradient at Coombe Hole
(Picture by Dave Cook)
Trial winner Dean Partington was one
of only two cars to clear the section.
(Picture by Dave Cook)
Two sections were planned at
this new location but this was cut back to one in view of the conditions.
Called Coombe Hole it looked like a gentle drive through a copse. Rounding
the final corner revealed the sting in the tail, a long dead straight
track with a fair gradient. There were only two cleans and by now you
won't be surprised that they were Dean Partington and Mike Pearson, albeit
with very contrasting styles! Charlie Knifton came very close to joining
them but couldn't quite coax his VW Scorpion to the section ends board.
There were some spirited
attempts in the lower classes and three very different cars managed a
four, Dave Oliver and Kevin Barnes were joined by Jade Bray in dad Neils
Mk2 Escort with car builder Tony Underhill coming across from the
Cotswolds as passenger.
Hawridge Lane and Hill Farm
Neither of these nice two
byways had restarts this year which was a shame. Hill Farm in particular
can be quite competitive if the line is put in the right place.
Back to Binghams
Kevin Alexander follows the family tradition by
trialling a Fiat. (Picture by Don Stringer)
Nigel Jones is getting his MGF more reliable and
won Class 6 (Picture by Don Stringer)
The snow had stopped by the
time the field returned to Binghams for the final section. Falcons Folly
has a nasty tree rooty restart for the Yellows and Reds. The lower classes
didn't have to restart but even so only Dave Oliver, Michael Leete and
Peter Manning (MG Midget) went clear. For those that had to restart it
proved impossible for all but two drivers, and I don't think it takes much
guessing to work out they were. Dean Partington and Mike Pearson both
ended the trial with up 8 marks, the win just going to Dean as a result of
being 0.2 seconds quicker on the Special Tests.
Charlie Knifton was third
overall in his recently acquired VW Scorpion and Dean had better watch out
when he gets the hang of this Subaru powered machine. Michael Leete was
delighted to be 4th overall on 21, just pipping Liam Rafferty (22), Kevin
Barnes (24) and Dave Oliver (25).
Nigel Jones overcome gear
selection problems with his MGF to finish the trial and win class six.
Kevin Barnes headed class 7, followed by Roger and Christina Dudley who
was second after a close fought battle amongst a quartet of Marlins.
Back at The Finish
In the warmth of the Chequers
Inn there was much talk on the relative merits of bad weather gear and
common agreement that the marshals were the real hero's of the day. So
concluded an event that will be remembered both for the weather and the
closest finish the March Hare Trial has seen. Congratulations to Dean
Partington on a well deserved win and to Mike Pearson for making it go
down to the wire.