Sam Phillips

Last weekend saw the return of the much anticipated Clee Hills trial. This was my second time at the event and I was very much looking forward to the new challenges that the trial had to offer.

Some new readers will not be familiar with a Classic trial so allow me to explain. At a Classic Trial there are a number of stages that the driver has to compete which vary in difficulty. The aim is to score the least amount of points after all the stages have been completed. Along the right-hand-side of every stage there are markers with a number on them. The bottom marker starts at 12 and the final marker ends with the number 1. The further you get up a stage the lower your score and if you complete a section fully you get zero. The stages are very different and are often made more challenging by deep mud, loose rocks, ruts and trees, so it is very important that the driver and co-driver work together to reach the top of the hill.
There are also two timed stages known as observed tests which involve some reversing and can sometimes determine the winner of an event if two cars are level on points. On some stages there is a set tyre pressure which all cars must abide to which makes getting up some of the stages even more difficult.

VW scorpion editedMost of you will have woken up at a reasonable hour on Sunday, but I had to crawl out of bed at 4:30am to make it to the trial on time. Like last year I was the passenger for same driver, Dean Partington who brought along his DP Wasp, a car that he designed and built himself. My Dad was also at the event and he was the passenger for my Godfather who drove a VW Scorpion.

This year myself and Dean had been put first in the running order which meant that it would be more difficult for us to complete some of the sections as we would be the first car up a stage. The first couple of sections went well scoring zero on both Castle Hill and Gattnen’s Gamble and Dean drove superbly to set a quick time in the observed test. Then came a more difficult stage called Priors Holt 4. This section included a restart, which meant we would have to drive so far up a stage then stop and restart again at the drop of a flag. Annoyingly myself and Dean couldn’t move away from the restart and scored 6 points. Our hopes of victory we made even slimmer when we discovered that our friend and fellow competitor in his DP Wasp had completed Priors Holt 4. The competition was fully on!

012Luckily we had more success on the next couple of sections. We flew up Priors Holt 1 and 6 but Mike was still going strong and completed the same courses with ease. The next stage called Flounders Folly was another good section as we were able to claw by some points on Mike, however we did manage to knock the mud guard off which meant we had mud flying into the car spontaneously for the rest of the day. We managed to complete the next section well considering the fact that it was more challenging last year and we were able to gain more points to Mike on the steep section called The Jenny Wind. The next stage known as Harley bank was up next and hadn’t been used for a number of years. The stage had a sharp left hand bend, and if you got it wrong then there was little chance of completing the section. Dean along with Mike and my Godfather drove superbly to reach the top of what was one of the more challenging sections of the event.

Easthope 1 was the next section in our way. When we started the section we slid into a marker post which, as it says in the rule book, does not incur a penalty. We checked this with the marshal at the top of the section who agreed that no penalty should be awarded, however the marshal at the bottom of the section decided to penalise us the full 12 points which would certainly put us out of the running. When the results are published we will be able to see whether or not we were incorrectly scored.

We completed the last of the observed tests and then went onto the infamous Strefford 1. This stage was probably the most difficult of them all and would determine the winner of the event. Midway up the section there is a slight jump after which you are greeted with what can only be described as a mud bath. We managed to make it through the brown glue-like substance shortly after the jump, but nearing the end the tyre which was at a very low 5psi decided to come off, preventing us from completing the course and scoring us 4 points. Our hope of victory were soon shattered when Mike and co-driver Duncan raced through the mud and completed the challenging course. My Godfather also got through the sludge and reached the end of the stage.

So we weren’t able to retain our victory, but it certainly wasn’t a boring day. Classic trials are an affordable form of motorsport that anyone can try as there are many different classes that you can enter into. Whether you’re a novice or an experienced driver the fun factor is always there and you can’t not enjoy an event such as this one. To fully understand such a unique sport you have to try it yourself, so get out there and feel the thrill of a Classic Trial.