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Chris on the start line for Water Tower. Across the road is the section ends board for Cress Beds

Is it my imagination, or are Classic trials starting earlier than they did last year? Anyway, we had to leave Bristol at the ungodly hour of 5:00am in order to reach the start on time. At this point it was snowing heavily and as we climbed through the Cotswolds, it got thicker and started to settle on the road, making both driving and the prospect of changing to the “trials” wheels & tyres when we arrived distinctly interesting. However by the time we passed Oxford it had stopped and we were able to complete our pre-event swap in dry and relatively warm conditions. As always the truck stop provided an excellent breakfast and we set of at 08:36 well fortified for the rigours ahead.

The first couple of sections could be tricky, with some deep ruts and in these circumstances, I think the FWD cars have an advantage because they tend to go where the wheels are pointing - although this still depends on the driver pointing them the right way in the first place. Anyway, we got through them without much drama and proceeded to the first special test.

This looked completely straightforward on paper, but such are classic trials that someone had chosen to liven it up by placing “gate B” at the top of a steep grassy slope, at about the altitude of an Everest base camp. However we were encouraged by Martin Halliday’s very tidy and successful drive in the Fiat Panda and set off full of hope only to run out of grunt about ¾ of the way up the slope. It would have been possible to take the corner at the bottom faster and maybe that would have done the trick, or maybe the slope of the hill would have carried you to far from the correct course to succeed, or maybe……

Two sections had been set out at Eddlesborough, the first being an interesting series of ups & downs, with a tight corner between each. Regular readers of these articles will recall that last year we lost an argument with a tree here, so we felt we were justified in being prudent, but of course we eventually lost momentum and stopped frustratingly short of clearing the last steep climb.

This year the organisers had assembled the Brickhills trials construction set slightly differently. The first section seemed to go on for ever but never got tight enough to seriously trouble the Golf, or the navigator, unlike the second, where we go to the top of one rise; became totally disoriented and by the time we had worked out the correct route managed to demolish a marker. Unfortunately, we started the post section analysis before we had got through the gully after the finish, made a complete hash of it and nearly buried the car at the bottom.

We like to support local vendors and my only criticism of the final instructions (and this concerns food, so is serious) was that it was not clear enough that there would be refreshments available at the lunch stop. Unaware of this, we had made our own arrangements, and despite the inviting cooking smells, we knew that to return home with our better halves lovingly crafted sandwiches uneaten was asking for trouble, so we had to miss out on that one.

The special test at Ivinghoe was the scene of a classic farce last year as we recorded what must be the “longest test time whilst avoiding a fail” on record. This year we were forewarned, as the car in front passed “line B” and then spun round and nearly through the hedge. This bought a memorable understatement from the marshal that it was “a bit tricky over there”. Onto the section where we had the pleasure of watching the Trojans attempt it, they are wonderful vehicles from a different age. We were pleased to get as far as we did on the steep bit at the start of the section, but again stopped frustratingly close to the summit.

The last three sections were in the same wooded area used at the end of last years event and my crib sheet noted that, on that occasion, we were successful on both. I don’t know whether keeping records of this sort can invoke the “Murray Walker” factor but this year was a completely different story. On the first, we slipped sideways at one point and were trapped by a small but deadly tree root. The second was better, but, continuing the day’s pattern, we lost control and demolished the very last marker. It’s always been my belief that, if you re going to fail, it’s best to do so in a spectacular and memorable fashion, and the last section provided a good example as we chose to hit a tree right in front of the photographer. My apologies to the official who had chosen to stand in a perfectly sensible location that no-one could reasonably threaten, but even with a lower ratio gearbox, it’s hard to keep the Golf’s momentum without seriously theatrical arm twirling and eventually we just ran out of room.

Our thanks to the officials and marshals, who worked very hard throughout the day (some seemed to be in three places at once and most had to reassemble some route markers damaged by car no 3) and had again put in a lot of effort to create the instructions, negotiate the use of land and all the 1001 other things that must be done for an event of this sort. Once again the March Hare provided an enjoyable and varied days classic trialling.

Chris on the sandy slopes at Brickhill (picture by Julian Robinson

This report is courtesy of Michael Leete's Classical Gas

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