The Boxing Day Trial 2005 (NPTCC)

The first round of the 2006 NPTCC trials championship was held the day after boxing day in the field alongside the river Marron, next door to the home of club members Ann & Gordon Talbot, who have kindly allowed us the use of the site for a number of years now. Thanks folks. The weather was cold and dry with a heavy frost that made the ground very hard, so a tyre pressure of 2psi was decided upon. The site more or less dictates where the hills will be.

This is not a bad thing as by now the clerk of the course (Gordon) knows what does or does not work, and as we only use this site once a year it really works well. It is somewhat different to most other sites that we use, in that it requires confidence, aggression and commitment (in other words it's a rough old fashioned, high revving, bouncing off the trees trial, not particularly loved by owners of expensive cars) and to the seasoned observer it was obvious who had what, in varying degrees.

Hill 1, in a copse at the far end of the paddock, was for the first two rounds marshalled by the competitors before Gordon (with the help of a bunch of enthusiastic young local helpers) took over. The section weaved its way down and up through the copse, before a downhill that led into a climb with a tight hairpin around a tree, that sorted out the committed driver from the less confident. The hill remained the same all day giving a good spread of penalties.

Hill 2, marshalled by Carl Taylor, started on frost-covered grass going up and down the banking twice before disappearing downhill into a copse, and a slow right turn into a climb for the 3/2/1 markers. This hill was great fun and as the ground softened so the engine revs went up (with some crews failing at the first or second part of the banking) and a spread of penalties from 11 to 1 showing off the varied abilities of car and crew. It's always good to have hills like this at a club trial; not too technical or dangerous, just witness the smiles on the crews' faces.

Joy Barton was in charge of Hill 3; this again had a downhill start before turning right into a short uphill, then left around some old tree roots at the 7 and 6 marker, before twisting around and heading uphill into the trees. Again this needed some confident forceful driving, with David Martin on 1 being the only driver to get less than a 6 on the first round. Although others were more successful as the day went on it wasn't until the last round, when the 6 marker was eased, that the less committed managed to get by. Keeping it in the family,

Hill 4 had that laid-back young lad about town, Jeff Barton, keeping a wily eye on proceedings. This section started out on the flat ground with a spurt uphill into a hairpin right, before dropping down into the trees in a long sweeping left hand curve (with lots of loose clag on the outside of the corner) before starting to climb uphill and across a camber; over numerous roots out of, and then into, the trees again for a rather brave dash uphill that required pace over some roots, and past some rather intimidating tree trunks. I think it was here that Andrew Woodhead was a little too brave and committed, and totally destroyed a hub and rim. This hill yet again had a fair selection of penalties and when the hairpin corner started drying out over the last two rounds, Bill Rhodes (driving regular passenger Barry Hogg's newly acquired ex Hepplwhite Kincraft) failed in his attempts to get around. Those who are privileged to know Bill would not be surprised by his caustic comments about this situation.

Ian Smith was in charge of hill 5, which was in the little copse above the banks of the river Marron. This is a tight little hill at the best of times and, with only one route through it, is in stark contrast to most of the other hills, but by keeping it tidy and on line, it was possible to get through with a minor penalty. Accuracy was the name of the game here and with minor changes during the day, it kept everyone thinking. Whilst Mike Lawn was double-driving with Andrew Woodhead (in Andrews's car) Mike's wife Linda was in charge of hill 6, the only hill on the topside of the field by the paddock. This really was quite entertaining as some different approaches ended in failure. The hill started on the flat with quite a long straight uphill climb but just before the main part of the hill there was a bump, and those who insisted in trying to drive over it at pace (rather than just easing off, floating over and then driving hard at it again) soon found out that they lost traction. If you got past this first sticking point and to the top of the hill, the route went back down to the bottom bearing left before dropping into a bomb-hole, which then required a bit of pace on to get out. If successful it then wandered off up the hill with some gentle curves, inviting you to loose traction.

After lunch “fearless” Phil Yarwood had the bonnet pointing up to the sky as if seeking divine inspiration. Didn't work though did it Phil ? On our first run after lunch my driver for the day (Ian Evitt in his Crossle) drove this hill almost faultlessly. I was really pleased for him. Even though he has a super car, when you are a novice driver it's still a big learning curve. Apart from a change toward the end of the section, it remained the same all day but again this was OK as it was still producing a great spread of penalties, 10 through to cleans. At lunchtime Mark Milne was winning the A class, and really was in a class of his own, 12 points ahead of his nearest pursuer, Geoff Geering, who was in front in the B class. This was a tremendous run considering the experienced crews behind him. In the C class Richard Milne, (Mark's dad) was just edging it from Alistair and Carol McVitte with Ian Evitt in pursuit.

After lunch it was back to the hills for another two rounds, with very much the same story as in the morning, with Mark Milne well in control and Geoff Geering looking as though he might take second place before an unfortunate 10 on hill 6 dropped him down to 4 o/a and winner of the B class. Finishing second was David Martin in his immaculate Crossle with a brave performance, considering how easy it would have been to do serious damage to such a smart car. He was followed by Mike Lawn double-driving Andrew Woodhead's car, and beating him for a change. Dickie Milne, (double driving with son Mark) who was driving for only the second time since the car was submerged in the Carlisle floods of last January, won the C class. So the 2006 club championship got off to a rather early start, but there was no doubt that the 26 crews who started and finished the event had thoroughly enjoyed themselves.

It was good to see the vehicle that had been Ian Wright's original Sherpa car, win what had turned out to be an old fashioned (by Cumbrian standards) rough, tough event.