It’s nearly the end of March 2020 and I was planning to be at Goodwood for the Member’s Meeting this coming weekend. A fortnight later we should have been off on the big adventure, the 330mile, 20 hour drive to Cornwall (by way of some very steep hills) for the Lands End Trial.
Now, with most of us confined to our homes and anything but essential travel frowned upon, it seems like an age since there was any motor sport. But as I write, it wasn’t even two weeks ago that I stood the VSCC Herefordshire Trial. How fast the world can change.
We all saw it coming of course. Maybe not in quite as drastic a fashion, but even 12 days ago we were stood in a small lane near Ross on Wye and discussing whether Goodwood was likely to go ahead. Now it seems unthinkable it was ever a possibiliy. There was already a last-gasp element about the Herefordshire trial, it felt like it needed to be watched, savoured, appreciated. It felt like what it turned out to be : The end of the road for British Motor Sport, for the next few months at least .
Three Welsh spectators were watching with me as a succession of Austin 7s, Vauxhall 30/98s and GNs wiggled in and out of the markers on the loose surfaced 1-in-6 Pinford Rocks section. They were rally marshalls and had been due to be out on the Cork 20 rally in Ireland. That had already been cancelled so they were here, having not previously watched a trial, hungry to see one of the few events still running.
It was a nice day, for early March, rabbits ran in the fields, daffodils sprouted, there was a tinge of green in some of the hedgerows. It wasn’t actually raining for a change. We watched a dozen or so cars go through and there was a gap in the action .The VSCC run things their own way, crews choose which sections to tackle next rather than follow a prescribed order, as one does in other trials. This means you get knots of cars appearing at the start, then nothing for a while. During this first lengthy break the conversation flowed and we got onto the subject of rallying at Pembrey down on the southern coast of Wales. I mentioned I used to compete there myself back in the early 90s. I mentioned our red Rover SDI and one of the three remembered it! Good greif, that was 1993. My maths is poor but I make that 27 years ago! Now I felt very old, all of a sudden.
The action resumed, some (Austin 7s in particular) really charged the hill, front wheels flapping and skipping over the stony surface while others took a measured approach. The most measured, without actually stopping was Matthew Parkin in his 1927 Trojan Utility. Slow but steady, the 2 stroke, chain-drive car with it’s engine under the passenger seat (nothing under the bonnet!)and only two speeds in the gearbox buzzed serenly to the top with much less drama than a modern Land Rover which had carried some officials up moments earlier.
Despite 4WD and all the toys, the Land Rover spun it’s wheels and made heavy going of the climb . The Trojan’s 11bhp was enough to do the job in less frantic fashion. I later put on YouTube several videos of cars on this section,By far the one with most views and comments was the Trojan!
It wasn’t a ‘stopper’ , this partular section, most climbed without penalty but there were a few going the wrong side of markers or just grinding to a halt without the puff to get any higher. It kept the marshalls occupied, giving them a push.
As the final cars emerged out of the steep little lane and up onto the regular country lane I snapped three of them in line astern heading towards the village of Linton with the church tower and a flowering magnolia up ahead of them. It was the last photo I imagine I will take of this nature untill the autumn at least, if we are lucky, and if we are spared! They were indeed heading to the end of the road. For now.
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