The Walsingham trial 2008
750 Motor Club by Monty Peters
The South London Centre of the 750 Motor Club found a new venue for the sixtieth running of The Walsingham Trial: the military vehicle testing ground at Bagshot Heath in Surrey.
This area was well known to Works Rally Teams during the late sixties and early seventies. The original alpine course was a famous proving ground for many of the Factory teams. This all ended with the building of the M3, which effectively cut the site in half. I well remember testing there with Paul Faulkner in the works Datsun in 1974. & with Tony Pond in '79 in the Talbot Sunbeam. The abrasive gravel tracks were renowned for destroying tyres in as little as 9 miles! However, enough of the nolstagia, & back to the Trial.
The trial attracted an entry of 24, many of the Midland based regulars were missing, seemingly averse to travelling south of the M25. However Mark Seward & Calvin Kneebone made the trip from Cornwall in order to give Mark's new car another outing. A number of 750 regulars helped to swell the entry. Non-starters reduced the field to 21. Peter Fensum did not appear, apparently unable to rebuild the gearbox of his Crossle in time. Cornishman, Alan Ede and Richard Woollett were also absent.
C of C, Bill Watson, was concerned about the sandy soil between the pine trees cutting up, and wisely laid out 12 sections, of which 8 would be used on each of the four rounds. These sections were laid out in such a way that the marshal's simply had to move the start gates a few feet after each round to give us a new hill. Mentioning marshals, Paul Harris had gathered a huge number of race marshals, resulting in the woodland being ablaze with fluorescent orange overalls!
The trial started under a grey sky, but the threatening clouds failed to produce any rain during the day. For the opening rounds, tyre pressures were set at 4psi. (with hindsight, they probably should have gone higher). The scrub like ground offered good grip, which made the early sections fairly easy, so long as one maintained pace and a light right foot. David Rance & Stuart Beare probably wouldn't agree with this statement, as their start hill (1) stopped them both, together with David Zank at the six marker. The cause was a tree stump hidden in the long grass. Once this became apparent, everyone avoided it and most went on for a ‘clear'. Was it the luck of the draw, or poor reconnaissance? Whatever the reason, it was an early setback for this trio, as it soon became apparent that it was going to be a low scoring morning, and any mistake would prove expensive. Paul Faulkner was not getting on very well with his borrowed Sherpa, getting a three on his first hill (3) followed by a ten on his second. Then the rot set in & it just got worse as the day progressed. He can't wait to take delivery of his ‘new' generation Sherpa. Hill 6 was the only section that caused any problems for the front-runners, stopping almost everyone at the one marker. The exceptions being, Duncan Stephens & Ian Wright who went clear.
The scores at the end of the first round showed that it was all very close at the front. By virtue of their success on hill 6, Duncan & Ian were the leading pair on zero, with a gaggle on one, comprising, Stephen Barnes, Richard Robarts, Steve Courts & Monty Peters. Ian Rodman & Kevin Rivers were on two, with Calvin Kneebone, driving Mark Seward's MRS, on three. Bill Sherras was going well and was on five. Wife, Kate was having a busy day, passengering for both Bill & Duncan Stephens. David Rance, after his troublesome start was on seven, Bill Hicks on eight, With Paul Price & 750 man Larry Carroll on nine.
The second round saw some new sections bought into play and yet again David Rance & Stuart Beare suffered on their start hill (3) and stopped at the five, whilst the majority sailed on for a clear. Hill 4 caused a few problems. Duncan Stephens stopped at the three, which resulted in him dropping him to third place at lunchtime. Stephen Barnes spoilt his good run with a stop at the five marker, and Calvin's early promise was slipping away with a six on this hill. The alterations to the hills were failing to stop the leading bunch and it was clear that tyre pressures needed to be raised for the afternoon rounds.
The scores showed that Ian Wright, Steve Courts, Monty Peters and Ian Rodman had gone clear for the second round, with Richard Robarts & Kevin Rivers dropping just one mark. The leader board at lunchtime showed that it was all very close, with Ian Wright leading on zero, Monty Peters & Steve Courts on one and Ian Rodman & Richard Robarts on two. Kevin Rivers & Duncan Stephens were on three, then a small gap to Stephen Barnes on six. Rounding off the top ten were David Rance on 12 with Paul Price (still a little rusty after a long lay off) on 14. Bill Sherras was leading the green class on 18, with Mark Seward not far behind and closing the gap on 23.
As predicted, C of C Bill Watson announced a rise in tyre pressures to 7psi for the afternoon rounds. This decision, together with some subtle changes to the sections transformed the trial. As the third round commenced, one could hear the high revving of engines throughout the woodland, which suggested that grip was now something of an issue! Hill one caused few problems and most went clear. Hill 2 saw plenty of drama, with Kevin Rivers falling foul of the ruts on the first turn and spoilt his card with an eleven. Richard Robarts negotiated the first few turns but got caught by the slippery bracken at the seven. Larry Carroll was next up and he stopped at the ten. Steve Courts was next, and he got drawn towards the poles from the old section 2 and momentarily got off line, which resulted in a stop at the nine. The ever-sporting Monty, who was following, was delighted to witness this error. He then drove the section, negotiated the eleven, trickled through the ten, bit of pace, up past the seven, on past the six (can't think why they all made it look so difficult) whoops – missed the 5 gate. B….r!! Moral of the tale – don't get cocky!
Half the competitors cleared Hill 3. The same story applied to Hill 4. Not for Richard Robarts though, he got no further than the ten. What he ate for lunch, I know not, but after an excellent morning score, his afternoon session was falling apart. Hill 5 caused little problem for the majority but caught one or two on the eight gate, including the aforementioned Richard R. He was now becoming very frustrated! This section saw the only retirement of the day, when Rowland Carson went missing with unknown mechanical gremlins. Hill 6 stopped a few at the eight including Stephen Barnes, Kevin Rivers, Dave Oliver & David Zank. Hill 7 had a tight left turn with a big root between two trees just before the eight gate. It stopped the entire field with the exception of Mark Seward. No, he didn't clear it, he inexplicably got caught in the first gulley and collected a ten! Despite this setback, he was overhauling Bill Sherras for the lead in the Green class. Hill eight produced a mixed bag of scores with a number of driver's stopping either at the two or the three, whilst half the entry recorded a clear. It was here that David Rance spoilt his good round by stopping for a nine.
The scores at the end of the round showed that Ian Wright & Duncan Stephens had both lost nine marks, which meant that Ian was leading the trial on 9, with Duncan now second on 12 .The next three places were very close with Ian Rodman third on 15, ahead of Monty Peters 16 & Steve Courts 17. A good round by Stuart Beare put him up to sixth place on 26 ahead of fellow Sussex Farmer, Stephen Barnes on 29. Paul Price was eighth on 30, with Kevin Rivers slipping back to ninth on 32. Rounding off the top ten on 34 was David Rance, who had Josh Veale in the passengers seat, urging him on.
With alterations to the hills, and the closeness of the scores at the top, the last round was going to require maximum concentration by the leading group in order to maintain or improve their positions.
Hill 1 one produced no surprises, and the top five all went clear. Hill two, was cleared by most of the leading bunch, but the first to crack was Ian Rodman who collected a six. Duncan Stephens gave Kate Sherras the fright of her life by very nearly tipping the Crossle over backwards as he crested the steep hump at the end of the section. Fortunately, Duncan, who is now an experienced campaigner, dipped the clutch in the nick of time and the car came back down to earth with a big bump. The heavy landing may have tweeked the chassis, as there was an ominous kink in the aluminium side panel! The experience did not seem to phase him (Ican't say the same for Kate), as on the very next hill he effectively won the trial by going clear, whilst the rest of the leading group all stopped at the four. The exceptions being, Kevin Rivers, Richard Robarts and David Rance, who all cleaned the hill.
Green class protagonists Bill Sherras and Mark Seward were two of only six drivers to clear hill 4, beating the likes of Duncan Stephens & Ian Wright in the process. (Now boys, all you have to do is repeat that on every section of a trial and you will be in the winners circle!)
Hill 5 was a twisty little affair that was cleaned by most, but catching out a good few on the three and two marker. Larry Carroll, caused amusement by managing to wedge his car on a tree stump that really didn't need to be driven over. He was quite put out, when Monty P suggested that either he went on an immediate crash diet or get out of the car so that we could lift it! He chose the latter. Monty P then tackled the hill and drove out of the section at the easy 2 gate! Hill 6 was fairly straightforward, but stopped a few at the tricky last turn on the two. Bill Sherras got it all wrong lower down the section and stopped at the eight gate, allowing Mark Seward the opportunity of taking the lead in the Green Class. Hill 7 had now been re routed, missing the big hole by the tree root, Most went clear. It was Mark Sewards turn to get it wrong, Whilst Bill Sherras went clear, Mark stumbled at the eight. Just to make him feel better, Calvin did the self same thing! Hill 8 produced 10 clears and no real upsets.
Looking at the scores for the last round, David Rance put in a faultless performance to record a clean on every hill. Next best was Duncan on one, with Ian Wright and Monty P a little way behind on six.
The final results confirmed that Duncan was indeed the winner, with Ian Wright taking second. After a close fought contest Monty Peters nudged ahead of Steve Courts to take third place and top Blue, with Ian Rodman finishing not far behind Steve to take 5 th place and second Blue. Bill Sherras & Mark Seward had a good tussle for Green Class honours but Mark finally took the win by 4 marks.
Prior to the prize giving, a special award was presented to Craig Bazley by Viv Ayres of the 750 Motor Club, in recognition of his unstinting efforts over the years at keeping Trials alive within the 750 Motor Club. A well deserved award.
The 750 Motor Club should be congratulated on making the 60 th Walsingham trial a worthy BTRDA championship round.
Rowland Carson/Shane Road Mudpin RETIRED