Mike Pearson won a dry March Hare, but only just. One of three clean sheets Mike was faster on the special tests than the Lieges of Steve Kenny and Jack Endley.
After problems with heavy rain last year the March Hare sections were if anything too dry this year. Nevertheless the organisers contrived a competitive event and although a Class Eight did win victory could have come from several classes, including Class 2 where Steve Potter only failed one hill in his Trojan.
Unfortunately the cafe couldn’t open which was a let down for the otherwise excellent facilities at the A5 Truckstop, just off the Junction 9 on the M1. First reserve Reg Salway had his fill of excitement even before he arrived, having had a puncture and fuel pump problems on his way up from Bristol. Fortunately he got a run as there was one non-arrival, but only after he found John Cotton as a last minute passenger as Reg had come up from Bristol on his own. There were plenty of interesting cars to look at, including Nigel Stoud’s wonderful Model A in a well supported Class 2. And no you weren't suffering from double vision. Mike Chatwin was driving a second DP Wasp and was to have the audacity to better its creator! Also in Class Eight Robin Barlow was testing out his son Mike’s recently acquired Gruff 2. Look out for another acquisition from the Barlow stable very soon!
There was a ten mile run over to the first three sections, all on lanes in the rolling countryside between Hitchin and Luton, starting with Nortonstreet Lane. This gentle section is deteriorating as water runs down it during the winter. However, it didn’t prove a problem for the lower classes who had a straight run through. Classes Seven and Eight had a short deviation near the summit and this caught out three drivers, Keith Oakes (Dutton Phaeton), Keith Newton (Cannon) and Robin Barlow in the Gruff 2.
With last years higher class deviation unusable because the 4WD made ruts were too deep, Murray MacDonald had created a new one. It wasn’t as difficult as anticipated but some of the longer cars in Class Seven didn’t succeed. One of these was Jim Bounden in his Marlin. Jim will soon be taking on a new challenge, following in Nicola Butchers footsteps by tackling this years Peking to Paris in a 1932 Sunbeam 16. Geoff Hodge also had problems in his RDT when he went off course attempting to surmount the bank.
The restart onto the road looks more fearsome than it is and David Murrell was the only failure under the eyes of Robin Howard and the West Suffolk MC team.
Back across the A5 Kensworth sits on top of Dunstable Downs. With Edlesborough Hill not available there was a Special Test and three observed sections at this familiar Falcon location.
The special test was nice. Straight out and back with no reversing, well done to Clerk of the Course Arnold Lane. Mike Pearson is not renowned for using a lot of throttle but he really got his Dellow Mk2 Replica flying to set the fastest time.
The first Kensworth section looked tricky. Starting on grass it went onto the track, off onto the grass then briefly back onto the track where you had to restart back onto the grass, turning as you did so. This proved quite difficult, the camber produced a lot of weight transfer causing the inevitable wheel spin and a few scary moments for Peter Thompson in his Chummy. Steve Kingstone was the only eventual front runner to fail with black smoke pouring from his tyres.
The second section was a twisty affair under the trees. Most days this would have been damp but it wasn't today and there was plenty of grip. Unfortunately this was one of the sections that a few Classic regulars who weren't used to following the numbers on PCT type sections had navigation problems. Graham Whiting was one and Kevin Barnes was to drop his only marks of the day when he was reported hitting a post. Dean Partington was another to have route finding issues here although it was not to affect the final result.
The third and final observed section at Kensworth was a different affair. Clean/Fail with a restart at the top it started at the gate below the barn, went up the track before deviating left and following the hedgerow up to the top where there was a restart managed by David Russell. With the dry conditions this didn't trouble the scorer too much although there were some failures where people didn’t build sufficient momentum.
The first section in Binghams Wood is subdivided with a restart for seven and eight and Falcon regard it as one of the events stoppers. The bottom part of the section was changed for this year and it proved too tight for a couple of the larger cars. There was another issue in so much as the one marker was just at the top of what is known as “Verduns Bank”. This produced a fair number of cleans where drivers got their front wheels past the one but couldn’t clear the bank and come out the top of the section. The restart did its job though, around 50% of the seven and eights picking up marks here.
Another section identified with Falcon stalwart Verdun Webley. Mike Hayward had Geoff Jackson and Reg Taylor joining him on the marshalling team. It was nice to see Reg looking well after being rather poorly recently. Geoff and Reg were looking forward to seeing some of the cars, having constructed the Dellow Mk2 Replicas of Mike Pearson and Richard Nikel (driving brother Ed’s car) and the RDT of Geoff Hodge. Also Geoffs son Stephen was passengering their old friend Robin Barlow in the Gruff 2.
There was a class eight only restart and Geoff and Reg were delighted that Mike Pearson and Geoff Hodge joined the DP Wasps of Dean Partington and Mike Chatwin as the only four cars to get away.
The first Brickhill section followed its traditional wood route starting deep in the valley. It didn’t produce to many problems apart from a couple of lower slung cars who had ground clearance issues. These included Leige owners Mark Worsfold and Simon Robson in Marks BMW 316.
The second Brickhill section had a fearsome restart for classes 3 to 8. Classes 3, 4 and 5 had enjoyed a relatively easy trial so far but this restart was to change things and anyone with a clean sheet lost it here. Drivers in 7 and 8 fared better and around half of them went clear.
After then sections there was a rest halt, time to compare results and see who had kept a clean sheet. These were:-
Class 2: Steve Potter (Trojan)
Class 1: James Shallcross (Peugeot 205)
Class 1: Charles Knifton (Peugeot 205)
Class 7: Steve Kenny (Leige)
Class 7: Philip Hyde (Leige)
Class 7: Jack Endley (Leige)
Class 8: Mike Pearson (Dellow Mk2 Replica)
Class 8: Mike Chatwin (DP Wasp)
Before the observed section there was a Special Test, another nice simple affair. Tony Christie was fastest, driving Ross Nuten’s Dellow Mk2 but Mike Pearson was only just behind, snicking up the gearbox to speed his car round the course.
The observed section had a steep bank at the end and was marked clean/fail. All the class eights cleaned it, as did all but three in Class 7. Don Stringer and Peter Thompson proved it wasn’t down to power as they crested the summit in their Austin 7’s. The clean sheets were reduced though, Steve Potter, James Shallcross and Charles Knifton loosing theirs.
With no restart this year this county road wasn’t too problematical.
Hill Farm was just up the road, another county road. There was a restart for classes 3 to 8 but it didn’t take as many victims as last year. It’s all about positioning here. There is quite a deep hole and there is a lot of weight transfer if you slip into it. Not many did on this occasion although Nigel Jones was penalised for rolling back.
It was back to Binghams Wood for the last two sections. These were different hills to the first visit, the double visit was to reduce the congestion on the tracks from one section to another.
There is a restart for seven and eight on the tree roots. This caught out Phil Hyde and we were down to four clean sheets. This restart doesn’t look too difficult but it’s always problematical, spinning wheels just seem to produce more sap to lubricate the tyres and all but nine cars were penalised.
The difficult part of this section is towards the end, a near hairpin left with a restart for the class eights. This proved to be decisive as Mike Chatwin didn’t get away. Neither did all but one of the other class eights. The exception was Mike Pearson who finished the trial with a clean sheet. So did Steve Kenny and Jack Endley in their Leiges, the win going to Mike with some very fast special test times.
There was a different finish this year. A hot meal for those who wanted it, and free tea or coffee for all. This years March Hare proved to be very competitive, despite the dry conditions. Well done to Mike Pearson for his win. Without Mike and John Parsons there would be no March Hare, as it was these two guys that got it off the ground some 12 years ago and ran it all through its formative years. There were of course many “nearlys”. If only Steve and Jack had gone faster on the special tests a Leige would have won overall. Then of course there was the great drive by Steve Potter in the Trojan. He came near to going clean. Well done Arnold Lane and Richard Tompkins for a trial where everyone had a chance.
First published on Michael Leetes Blog 11th March 2010
Full results can be found here.