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Hide & Seek - The Edinburgh Trial 2022

Hide & Seek - The Edinburgh Trial 2022

Steven Price pulls his Land Rover in behind our Suzuki as it sat steaming at the kerb in the village of Warslow.  “Is this the end?” He asks. I said it was. “If you can get it going again, I can wait…”  but the amount of water trickling down on to the road by this time was never going to allow that. The radiator had sprung a leak an hour or so earlier as we sat in a queue and despite repeated efforts to refill it, the hills in rural Derbyshire were just too numerous and too steep. As we climbed each one the temperature gauge climbed too. Now we were heading towards the final four observed sections and at least two featured sustained flat-out blasts up even steeper gradients. It wasn't going to work. 

Steven was driving the course-closing car and according to regulations if he overtook any competitor during the event, they were deemed to have retired.  But he was trying his hardest not to do that and to give everyone a fair shot at finishing. It's a quirk of those rules that competitors starting towards the back of the running order (we were car number 200, only three or four from the very tail of the field) had, likely as not, been playing hide and seek with him since dawn!  Not that we were behind the official schedule, it was just that the delays on route start to stack up and those running at the back have progressively less time to deal with them.  In our case, even before the cooling issues, we sat in a couple of hour-long queues as those ahead were struggling to get through one of the 14 ‘observed sections’ on the 170-mile route. It's the nature of the beast. Ultimately, we would still have retired even if we had been running right at the front of the order. 

Lichfield Rugby Club Around Midnight

It had all started some 12 hours earlier in the flood-lit car park of Lichfield rugby Club. Alongside me as usual is my daughter Charlotte, at 16 years old, already a veteran trial competitor having been reading the route books, keeping the times and assisting with tyre pressures and changing punctures since the age of 12. But this could be the end of an era as she's now got a part time job working Friday nights and Sunday afternoons!  The majority of events will thus be impossible for her to fit in. 

The Crew Just Before 2am… The Strong Coffee Has Clearly Worked!

 As we wait for long line of cars, motorcycles and sidecar combinations ahead of us to set off into the night, she takes the opportunity of some sleep.  A couple of hours later we find ourselves lined up on the moor at Tissington Ford for a time control and after crossing the water, search out the first ‘section’. We progressed through this and the next two in the darkness without incident and climbed up onto the moors high above Hope Valley as the dawn started to break.  The scenery was wonderful, the route was remote and rugged. It was all going rather well.

 On The Moors Above Hope Valley

Then on Middleton Moor with a glorious sunrise just ahead, we got stuck in a big queue for a strange manoeuvring test against the clock. Lots of bewildered faces came back down the track towards us having had their go. It was taking ages, and behind us was Steven Price in THAT Land Rover, making its first appearance in our mirrors.  Actually, the test wasn't too difficult once I just listened to my trusty passenger saying, “round THAT way…” rather than trying to work out the route myself. 

Barry Redmayne's Suzuki X90 Waits On Middleton Moor

We had one more Section before the breakfast halt and having ‘cleaned’ that one without penalty and stopped to repressurise the tyres we were just getting back in when the car running behind us overtook…which meant we dropped back a little closer to that Land Rover! Sneakily the crew had not stopped to pump up their tyres and risked the following 5 miles on very low pressures to clock in ahead of us at the next time control, In this way they distanced themselves from the course closer, and that game of hide & seek, which was now in full swing. But I got my own back, checking out of the required 60 mins breakfast/rest halt just ahead of him (it's timed to the nearest minute and we were both on the same one) and headed out onto the route with that little extra margin of safety restored. 

The next section, grandly named Excelsior, is approached down a very narrow , often flooded, lane between dry stone walls . In places it's so tight that you cannot actually open a door wide enough to get out. 

View From The Roof As We Wait In Line For 'Excelsior'

Here we ran into yet another delay. Almost an hour was spent while car after car got stuck on the rock shelf the represents a formidable obstacle on this section. Barry Redmayne, seasoned trialist and our class rival in another Suzuki X90, had a look at what was happening and concluded it was a bit of a disaster zone. Nothing seemed to be making it to the top without a tow or a lot of pushing from the marshals. So, Charlotte and I had lunch: Cheese scones, jam buns and cheese & pesto straws, all baked the day before by my youngest daughter Georgie. Delicious! Washed down with strong coffee from the flask it served to keep us awake. By this point we had been on the road for about 9 hours. 

Eventually Barry got to the front of the queue and stormed up. It looked easy, but then he really knows what he's doing, and the car is very well set up. On the rock shelf is a stop-and-restart zone where you wait for the marshal's signal to continue. These ‘restarts’; are always at the roughest, slipperiest point. Such was the case here and this was the main reason for the succession of failures. Lots of cars simply could not get going again after the restart signal and vanished in a cloud of tyre smoke. 

Getting The Restart Signal On 'Excelsior'

 We managed to get away from the restart alright but then went for a wide line on the following left-hand bend and ground to a halt amid the craters. “Try an inside line” said the marshal, we rolled back and had another go. Easy! But of course, the first attempt counts and our clean score sheet was now spoiled. Damn. So, this event wasn't going to result in a much-prized gold medal. You need a faultless run for one of those. But we were in line for a silver if we didn't fail any other sections. 

From here the route ran East through Winster to Clough Mine and a couple of enjoyable muddy sections that needed revs, speed and momentum. We managed all three and headed back to the Dudwood complex still looking for that silver medal.

The Suzuki Lined Up In The Autum Sun At Clough Mine

 But while queued up I spotted a whisp of steam - or was it smoke - curling up from the front edge of the bonnet.  A quick investigation revealed a mist of boiling water hissing out of the top corner of the radiator. Fellow X90 runner Jeremy Salter became the day's first Good Samaritan when he kindly gave us a bottle of ‘rad weld’ in the hope of sealing the leak. With that added to the cooling system we progressed slowly to the front of the queue to find no one at all was getting to the top of this section. In fact, the BMW ahead had bounced into a tree and needed rescuing.  When our turn came the same tree loomed out of the woods at us and invited contact… but I stopped in time. Another failed section, so now we were only looking at a bronze medal at best. Same as last year.  

Through The Trees At Dudwood Trying Not To Slide Into Any Of Them!

With the radiator topped up again we headed off to the quaintly named Middleton-by-Youlgrave but came to a halt halfway, but not for any mechanical reason, there were cows in the road! One had managed to escape and push over a stone wall, so the farmer was moving them all to an alternative, secure, field. Another chance to top up the water.  This was getting really worrying.  About ten miles later the temperature shot up. We stopped again and the course closing car pulled in behind us for the first inquiry as to our plans from Steven, who became the day's second Good Samaritan by offering us a tube of sealer for the radiator. Unfortunately, the split was inaccessible, but it was a kind thought. We chose to press on but after having to climb several steep hills in bottom gear the gauge shot up again and here we were in Warslow with steam everywhere and the Land Rover parked behind us. Our event was done. 

 Then we met our third Good Samaritan of the day. A kind local man walking back to his house asked if we needed help and even fetched his home phone (there was no mobile signal) so we could call the local garage to see if they had anything that might stop the leak. They didn't, so having let the engine cool and refilled the radiator once again we asked our new friend the best way back towards Ashbourne and set off carefully in search of a garage that might have the right stuff on its shelves. This would take some time…at least the scenery was majestic.

We got back to Gloucestershire just as the sun was setting and with the gauges reading normal, then just beyond the only motorway junction for miles, the engine tightened up, the car slowed and I parked up on the hard shoulder just as it died. A cloud of steam appeared. The head gasket had blown and dumped all the remaining water on the tarmac.

Investigating The Cloud Of Steam

 It was getting darker by the moment. Forty-five minutes on the phone listening to the recovery service saying our call was important to them…but not important enough to actually answer, was all we could take as the phone was about to go flat. Then the fourth Good Samaritan appeared. I don't know your name but thank you Sir. Your kind offer to tow us to safety was very timely.  Having done that and left the Suzuki in an empty pub car park, he then gave Charlotte and I a lift home. A very generous act by a total stranger. The Suzuki was finally recovered at midnight. If he had not stopped to help it would have been a very long, dangerous wait on the side of an unlit motorway.

It had been an enjoyable event up to the point where the radiator started to leak, but if the rest of it was a bit traumatic it was also heartening. So many people came to our assistance. Our thanks to all of them. 

We will be back in action soon,