Andy Curtis approaching the restart on Hawridge Lane. He was one of 5 competitors to clean the entire event, and won overall by setting the fastest time on the two special tests.
It was another Super March Hare. Conditions were good and the sections were mostly well thought out, giving a challenge to the more experienced but allowing novice cars and drivers to have a good day. There were five clean sheets; overall victory going to Andy Curtis in his Buggy on special test times.
Fred Gregory and Pete Stafford eye up the Robson Liege.
Jason Crowleys immaculate Fugitive.
38 crews gathered at The Watling Street Café, just of Junction nine of the M1, on 9th March to do battle with Falcon’s March Hare Classic Trial. Organisers John Parsons, Mike Pearson, David Sheffield and Arnold Lane had attracted a nice mix of experienced competitors, newcomers and some cars that aren’t usually seen on the usual Classic events. The event had taken another major step forward, dropping some of the sections on private land and adding another four byway sections.
Byway - Starts with deep, muddy water which gets carried up the hill where there was a slippery re-start for 7 & 8. The section was run the other way round this year.
Richard Tompkins struggled with his Fuel Pump before the off.
Ed Nikel about to blast his way through the water.
Competitors hardly had the chance to get their engines warm before arriving at the start of the first section, marshalled by the Herts VW Club.
Byway, long straight climb on loose stones with the left hand rut getting deeper towards the summit, Classes 1&2 have a straight run through, 3 to 8 had two re-starts, the second where the ruts were at the deepest.
Keith Pettit took a high line on the re-start ....
.... only to slip sideways into the bushes!
The section wasn’t too difficult this year as it is well drained and was bone dry. The second restart had plenty of grip but was tricky if you didn’t have the car positioned correctly. It was possible to straddle the line without the wheels in the ruts. However, you soon slid back into them, as Keith Pettit found out when the rear wheels of his Frogeye Sprite went sideways into the ruts while the front wheels stayed out. Keith needed all his skill on the throttle to get his crabbing car past the section end boards but he just made it.The Owen’s weren’t so lucky. Owen Turner failing in his K series engined Imp and so did Owen Briggs in the VR6 engined Whinney special, which was giving some electrical trouble, a bit of a disaster with electronic fuel injection!
Byway - Tree Lined Lane with a very good surface now the council have resurfaced it and removed the fallen trees.
Alun Lewis on the special test. (Picture by Mike Hayward)
Jason Crowley's Fugitive was a little muddy by now! (Picture by Mike Hayward)
It was out with the foot-pumps here as there was a 20-psi minimum pressure to mitigate against the councils new surface, which is now rather better than the neighbouring M1! Mike Hayward was running a simple downhill special test before a nice gentle observed section. Andy Curtis really flew through the special test, breaking the 10-second barrier and setting a time more than two seconds faster than Owen Turner in his Rally prepared Imp.
Byway - A straight, stony, tree lined gully with a re-start for classes 3 to 8.
James Bounden sees the light at the end of the Cress Beds tunnel.
Andy Curtis showing a clean pair of heels to the opposition.
There were no problems on Andy Clarke’s re-start on this nice little section, which has been the opener on the last two March Hares.
Byway, just across the road from Cress Beds. Starts with a very Muddy, rutted, waterlogged track, leading onto a gradient through a tree lined gully with a re-start for classes 3 to 8.
Dave Nash and Alistair Bray.
John Looker and Keith Vipond.
It was a good job there had been a bit of a delay at Half Moon Lane as Chief Official Arnold Lane had found the exit blocked by a load of Mountain Bikers parked cars which needed bouncing out of the way before proceedings could start. Once things got going start-line marshal Stuart Cairney watched with amusement as competitors tried to get into the correct rut ready for their assault on the waterlogged first part of the section. This caught out quite a few competitors, including Keith Pettit who needed the help of the recovery vehicle. The mud and the re-start weren’t very Imp friendly and Richard Tompkins, Ed Nikel and Owen turner all suffered on the mud and the re-start. Jason Crowley was another one to struggle, his Fugitive being more at home off-road racing where it is allowed rather larger wheels and tyres! Jason was one of the many competitors attracted to the March Hare by the extensive Internet publicity.
Byway, track along a field edge, with a very muddy exit road alongside a farm.
Patrick Osborne and family.
Colin Perryman discussing Skodas.
This was the first time this section had been used and the organisers had the start half way up the hill after the tricky bumps just as the track leaves the road. Reg Taylor was in charge to see both his creations, driven by Geoff Hodge and Clive Booth, make a clear run, as did the rest of the entry. There were problems though as John Rowland got his clean at the expense of a puncture and needed help form his fellow competitors to lift the car out of the ruts to change the wheel.
Two sections on Private Land. The first was a trip through the trees followed by a steep climb just after a corner on deep sand with a re-start for 7 & 8. The second section went up the sandy gully where the ruts were quite deep, followed by a steep gradient with a re-start for 7 & 8.
Herts VW Club marshalled Half Moon Lane and Brickhill.
Class 3 winner John Bell emerging from the trees on Brickhill 1.
Colin Biles fighting his way through the sand on Brickhill 2.
John Looker and Keith Vipond needed a push start after lunch.
The two Brickhill sections caused problems for quite a few competitors in the lower classes. Quite a few didn’t survive the run through the trees where Jason Crowley had problems in getting his long wheelbase Fugitive around some of the corners. Ted Holloway struggled in his Sierra as well, first straddling a fallen tree then falling foul of the deep sand. This was also the downfall of Patrick Osbourne who lost his clean sheet in his smart green Skoda.
Special test and Section on Private land, the section was all about a tricky restart on a grassy bank.
Simon Groves was another to struggle with Petrol Pump problems.
John Rowland drove one of the two Citroen 2CV's on the event.
Andy Curtis flew through the special test again but was just piped on time by Jason Crowley and Owen Briggs who set the fastest time.
Two sections on Private Land – The first started in the field, going through the gate and through the trees before diverting into the bomb hole with a re-start for 7 and 8. The second section was all about a tight right hander on a steeply rinsing gradient, again with a re-start for 7 & 8.
John Looker and Keith Vipond enjoying open air motoring!
Fred Gregory and Pete Stafford went better on dry land!
There was plenty of grip on the notorious Edlesborough surface as the wind had dried out any surface moisture. It wasn’t possible to see much from the start so Falcon regulars were at an advantage in knowing what was round the first corner! A few of the lower classes were caught out by the surface on the lower reaches and failed the first section.
Two sections marked out on private land at Kensworth under the control of Robin Howard. The second went up the gravel track before diverting through the muddy patch over by the fence.
Katy Tucker-Peake on her way to a class win.
Duncan Weaver battled with overheating all day and had to retire after Kensworth.
The first section was all on grass. Although it looked straightforward, there was a sharp left hander under some trees whose shade retained the surface moisture. This defeated all the FWD cars apart from Andrew Burt and a few in the other classes as well.
County Road - Downhill entrance road, the section started just before a mud hole, followed by a rising gradient through a tree lined gully with a restart for classes 3 to 8.
Andy Curtis making a successful restart. (Picture by Murray MacDonald)
Colin Sumner on his way to winning Class 5 in his Morgan. (Picture by Andrea Lane)
This was another section that became more and more slippery as the day went on, as successive cars drew water up the hill. Andy Clarke’s re-start was sited just where the track formed a vee. Again, strategy was everything. Competitors who straddled the vee with the car level fared best, those who went either one side or the other hit trouble and the restart caught out a number of distinguished drivers, including Fred Gregory, Matt Robson, Peter Morley, Ross Nuten and Owen Briggs.
County Road - Tree Lined Track that had been used on the March Hare back in the 50’s.
The sponsor checking the route is clear for the next car!
Normally we picture Neil Bray under a Skoda, this time it's Neil and Alistair Bray watching Dave Nash under a Skoda!
With no restart and an easy start line, Hill Farm was a nice gentle end to proceedings that was cleaned by all the survivors. The run in to the finish was not without drama for Gary Booth whose Buckler cried enough at the days exertions and spluttered to a halt in Berkhamstead and was towed to the finish by Michael Leete with the help of other competitors.
The field were a bit spread out at the end but quite few crews stayed on to sample the transport café fare at the finish where the quantity and price of the food certainly put the local Little Chef to shame.
What a wonderful trial. Of course, the sections can’t be compared to events in other parts of the country, there aren’t enough suitable hills for that. But John Parsons and Mike Pearson are establishing The March Hare as an event with its own style in its own right. An enjoyable event that is suitable for novice drivers or novice cars run in a friendly and relaxed way with enough bite to challenge everyone’s skill.
Originally published on the Classical Gas Website at www.classictrials.co.uk
Click here to view the full 2003 results