On Saturday afternoon, March 9th, the first post-war car reliability trial to be held south of the Thames took place. Established clubs having remained dormant during the nine months since basic was restored, it was left to the very youthful Hants and Berks Motor Club to set the ball rolling with an extremely successful closed trial.
A 25-mile route was used, starting from the Ely Hotel, Hartford Bridge Flats, eight observed sections and a driving test being sited in country not previously used for a car trial. The clerk of the weather co-operated to provide sunshine after two wet weeks, and the course was in almost perfect condition.
Two easy observed sections opened the trial, a watersplash and a re-start on a gravel-surfaced hill. Neither caused many failures, despite the speed with which some folk rushed into the river — only one driver was seen to take the precaution of covering his radiator.
Some unobserved muddy lanes then took competitors to the driving test, incorporated for the purpose of settling ties, which involved entering the car, turning it round and parking astride a line, and emerging again to stop the watch. The best time was 17.8 sec., by both Davidge-Pitts and V. G. Gabbitas.
The third observed section, a moderately sticky grade decorated by a derelict tank, was the first serious obstacle on the route. The starting point did not provide over-much wheel grip, and eleven of the twenty competitors had to be pushed before they reached the summit. Early corners had the easiest conditions, but Denyer (Lea-Francis) and Gabbitas (Ford Ten) were successful despite late numbers.
The fourth section, Leg Of Mutton, was a short, sharp grassy slope which was by no means easy to climb on standard tyres, In fact, despite Marshal Venables’s warning folk to “keep off the grass,” only Denyer (Lea-Francis) and Panton (Lea-Francis) had a look at the view from the summit.
Two easy sections followed, a ford through the River Blackwater, and a lane with more mud than gradient which failed nobody. If any drivers thought their troubles were past, they had not seen Coombe Lane. Just why Coombe Lane is difficult nobody seems to know. It is not very long, it is not very steep, and the mud is not deep, but it is an amazing wheelspin producer. In the trial, the only clean climbs were by Panton (Lea-Francis), Denyer (Lea-Francis), and Arklay (Standard Nine saloon). One spectating motor cyclist nearly made a fast climb, but was eventually ambushed by a large clump of blackberries!
The final section was a straight, clay-surfaced, hill approached through a ford, which failed about half the entry. Denyer treated it as a speed hill climb, yet Whittet’s V8 Ford simply couldn’t find any grip. Surprising climbs were made by Harrison in a bullnose Morris tourer and by Brown in an old 3-speed Austin Seven saloon!
Analysis of the marshal’s cards showed that Panton and Denyer had the only two clean sheets, Panton being the faster in the driving test. Third place went to E. N. Davidge-Pitts, who had failed on two hills. In the saloon class, Moore (Riley Nine) and Brown (Austin Seven) each had three failures, the former being faster in the driving test.