My March Hare adventure started a few weeks before the event, when Michael Leete invited me to accompany him to West Yorkshire to look at a Dellow he was going to buy. Having done the deal and on the way home we talked about it’s role in Michael’s competition calendar.
He decided there and then to make the Southern Autos PCT at Brickhill the shake down event and then enter the March Hare. He asked me if I would like to be the passenger for these events. I said yes provided it was OK with the March Hare committee.
It was a little bit cold in the paddock at Brickhill and I began to wonder if I had enough clothes on. But down in the valley it was totally different as the cold wind was blowing above us. Very quickly it was our turn to attack the first section and things couldn't have gone better, a clean and another clean on the next two hills. What a start. Those of you who were there know that half way around round two, we retired having found all the things wrong that you hoped you wouldn't but knew you inevitably would. Worn out plug leads, points etc. etc..
Three weeks later, and the day of the March Hare. The day dawned bright and cold but without the predicted overnight frost. Our journey to the start was via the lanes of Hertfordshire rather than the main roads. Our route took us via Old Knebworth, Codicote passing a section near Nup End that was used in the March Hare of 1963, on through Wheathampsted, Harpenden to the A5 and the Truck Stop at Frias Wash.
We joined the queue for scrutineering hoping everything would be OK. It was except for a blown side light bulb. We caught up with all the gossip over a true truckers breakfast and we were ready for the off.
The route then took us back towards Stevenage via New Mill End and Peters Green to a holding control just outside Whitwell. We continued through the village to the first section Nortonstreet Lane, a relatively easy climb without the predicted ruts that were present last year.
On through St Pauls Walden and Preston to Section 2 and a regularity test at Whitehall Lane. I have to admit my education never included how many yards to a mile, only meters to a kilometre. Michael managed to work it out somehow and we went through the section in about 50 seconds.
We then continued on our way this time taking in the delights of the Luton southern bypass to arrive at Section 3, Half Moon Lane. By then it had started to rain and there was only a short queue waiting to find out how deep the mud bath would be this year. The answer, as we discovered, was not very, but the restart was a real test of the drivers skill. Michael placed the Dellow and with a little bit of wheel spin we were on our way again, with snow now falling.
Four miles further on the snow had stopped but the Marshals standing on the hill at Kensworth looked rather cold. Our attempt at the two sections laid out on the hill were not very good although I was surprised we got round the first corner on Section 4. While we were there, we witnessed the climb of the day by Ian Davis who stormed up the very slippery slope to clean Section 4 and ultimately go on to win the event overall.
The sun was out again when we arrived at Edlesbrough for three sections on the slippery hill. Our attempts matched those of the competitors in front of us. Ian Davis was again showing us all how it should be done. Lunch was taken after the third section at Edlesborough and time to catch up with the news from the other competitors.
Most of the entry was at Brickhill and the queue for the Special Test was nearly out the gate. Plenty of time then to take photos. We did alright at Brickhill, cleaning all three sections, all with restarts and all in bright warm sunshine.
Thirteen miles south and a totally new venue to me, came Ivinghoe. After the second Special Test there was another short wait until we could attempt the hill. This gave us enough time to fix the exhaust clamp which had come undone along the road from Brickhill. We were told that the restart had been taken out, so it was then a straight forward climb. Full revs were used to get us over the first steep bit of the section and then it was a long drive along the bank to the next little ridge where the restart should have been.
Continuing, the route then took us via the outskirts of Tring through Wiggington and Cholesbury to Section thirteen, Hawridge Lane, where we had quite a long wait in the lane before the section, caused by a vehicle coming the other way. I had expected some water in the bottom of the valley but there was only mud. The restart however was placed with tree roots all around and caught out a lot of drivers, ourselves included. Clive Booth was the man to show us all how to do it this time. Apparently he just stopped and then drove off the line without drama.
The route then took us back over Cholesbury common to the last section Hill Farm. to be greeted by a happy John Newberry and Ian Lawson who had thawed out from their time on the Kensworth bank. Hill Farm presented no problem and we were then heading for the finish via Berkhamsted, Water End and Flamsted. The results were posted while we had a cup of tea and the trophies presented soon afterwards. Congratulations to Ian Davis on a well deserved win and to the entire organising team including all the marshals and a "Thank you" to Michael Leete, for a very enjoyable day.