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A novice’s view of the March Hare Trial 2004

The final part of Murray MacDonald’s invaluable advice on trials preparation for the VW Golf was a suggestion that the March Hare would be a good shake down event for the car and crew. On the day, we arrived at the start with some trepidation, having left Bristol at an ungodly hour, completed the formalities and fortified ourselves with the food on offer in the café. The very clear instructions lead us to the start of the first section, Nortonstreet Lane. Here we got about 50 yards along the track before I remembered that the tyres were still fully pumped up – too late to do anything except keep going, hang on and hope. More by luck than judgement we made it to the end and continued to Whitehall Lane, where we were just about able to do the average speed calculations in time before setting off, relying on the Golf’s rather wobbly speedometer to complete the section without penalty. We attempted Half Moon lane with the drivers window down, big mistake, as you are only supposed to get the outside dirty, but again we made it to the end.

At John Barber 1&2 things didn’t go as well. When we arrived some cars were driving around at the top of what looked like a small mountain covered in red tape, but by the time we started it been raining for about 5 minutes and either because of this or just sheer incompetence, we got absolutely nowhere at all. Most of all, I felt that we had let down the person who had so laboriously strung out the tape, having only used the first 3% of it, and sympathy for those marshals who were standing outside in the terrible conditions. On to Eddlesborough Hill where we continued to struggle, only just making it to the start of the 2nd section. However, with the drying ground and some helpful advice from a fellow competitor we made it round the 3rd section – what a feeling of achievement!

The hot tea available at the lunch stop was very welcome and after this and the improving results from Eddlesborough we approached Brickhill with some optimism. The lack of reverse gear gate (just having the parts in the garage is not enough) was a disadvantage in the special test (that’s my excuse) and seeing the first two cars in the first section disappear into what seemed to be a bottomless pit quickly reversed the earlier optimism. However, once on the move, it was possible to squeeze between the pit and the marker post and no one was more surprised than us to find ourselves passing the last marker. On the next section I discovered that it is not a good idea to go too fast downhill, as it doesn’t carry you up the next bit, just off the section, useful experience for the last one which seemed to go up and down for ever.

At Ivinghoe I (I didn’t say we as my passenger claims he knew exactly what to do) made a complete hash of the steep bit and so missed the chance to drive about at the top of the hill, which looked quite good fun. However we succeeded on the last two sections, Hawridge lane and Hill farm, despite the road being so narrow it was difficult to get out of the car to let the tyres down. Whilst pumping them up I thought for a moment that someone was throwing small stones at me, only to realise that it had started hailing – the weather on the day was best described as variable.

Whilst driving to the finish we suffered the first serious brain fade and took a wrong turning, only to be followed by a small convoy of fellow competitors with a lot more faith in our navigation than was justified. At the finish, brains restored by more café food, we were both pleased and surprised to be awarded the novice trophy. This was the icing on what had been a thoroughly good day – friendly but challenging competition, well organised and an excellent introduction to the sport – we look forward to the next one.

Chris & Nick Clarke

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