Once again “Mac” McKenzi proprietor of the Kirkstile Inn at Loweswater and his gallant staff have had to steel themselves for the annual onslaught of the VSCC trials fraternity to the Lake District. Last year, when he had just taken over the hotel, not only did the VSCC contingent drink almost all of his beer, but somehow they also managed to consume the hotel’s supply of cold water, so the residents were all cleaning their teeth in hot water in the morning. This year the hotel was on mains water, thus the supplies of this commodity just about equalled that of the beer.
The main object of the weekend, the trial, was held in fine weather against a background of incomparable mountain scenery. Dick Smith and Frank Rushton had the organisation running really slickly, with an absolute minimum of waiting at each hill, and despite an entry of 65 and only 4 non-starters, the event finished with plenty of daylight to spare. Unusually there was only one 30/98 Vauxhall entered, Humphrey Milling’s, but there were no less than three Bentleys, the drivers of which were determined to redeem the good name of the marque by getting to the top of the notorious Drum House hill rising from the slate quarry at the top of Honister Pass. No Bentley had yet climbed that hill clean, though it has never apparently presented problems to 30/98s. John Nutter had entered his Speed Six (big enough to give any marshal heart failure on sight, before even attempting to push it out of trouble), Bill Cheston had his 4½, and Randal Stewart had brought his racing 3/4½ down from Scotland with a clean ascent of the Drum House his main objective. This car proved too light at the back for most hills as did another VSCC “racer”, the 1928 Chrysler of the Whittaker brothers, though this problem was solved by Ivor Phillips who filled the rear compartment of his 1929 Silver Eagle Alvis Special with racks specially provided by the Cumberland landscape. Another VSCC “racer” present, though not competing, was the Lagonda Rapier of committee member James Crocker, who drove it up from London to marshal.
Askhill saw 16 cars make a clean climb, and 21 made it at Wood Farm. Fifteen were successful at the first Whin Fell section, but the second section started to sort out the men from the boys with only six clean climbs in Class A. for the more sporting cars, by the Frazer Nashes of Leslie Winder, Stoyel, Harris, Giles (who had a “grumbling” bevel box) and Arnold-Forster, plus the sports Jowett of John Box. In Class B, for the longer chassis and more touring cars, only Cyril Hancock’s 1927 OM was successful.
At the end of the morning it was seen that only two cars had scored maximum points of 80 with clean climbs on all four hills, the 1926 Frazer Nash of Leslie Winder and the 1928. Frazer Nash of Nigel Stoyel. In the long chassis and touring class equal points on all hills amounting to 70 marks were scored by Bernard Kain’s 1929 Type 43a Bugatti with Type 44 engine and David Marsh’s 1922 sports Morris, and these were thus the leaders for the Kirkstile Plate award.
As its driver explained, easily the fastest car before it had failed on all the hills except one was the Special consisting of a vintage Lea-Francis chassis with a 3½-litre SS100 engine driven by Chris Winder, son of Leslie. Perhaps for this reason Chris was amongst the last to leave the bar of the Kirkstile for the afternoon sections, though he himself said that this was because he was sucking “too-good-to-hurry” mints.
Only two cars made clean climbs of one of the Lanthwaite Green sections, Nigel Stoyel in his vintage Frazer Nash and Peter Still in his 1937 TT Replica. (For those who are wondering, this report is not sponsored by Bill Aldington’s advertising department). After crossing the mountain stream here, Leslie Winder experienced chassis flexing when one front wheel went up a bank and a chain came off. As he was putting the spring link back, Leslie’s glasses steamed up, so the link was expertly snapped into place by Assistant Secretary Jim Whyman—just part of the VSCC “get-you-home” service—but Leslie’s score on that hill was only 2. The other hill at Lanthwaite Green was a complete stopper, the long chassis cars all scored single figures, and Peter Still put up highest marks of 15.
The Drum House was certainly not a complete stopper, but it kept its unfailing popularity, especially as its summit was high enough to be immersed in cloud by the time the last dozen or so cars went up. F.t.d was undoubtedly put up by the Leaf-SS of Chris Winder, who must have finished all his mints by now, and Randal Stewart became the first Bentley driver ever to get to the top. 17 short chassis cars made clean climbs, and the successful amongst the long chassis entries were Milling (Vauxhall), Marsh (Morris), Kain (Bugatti), Hyland (Silver Eagle Alvis), Hancock (OM), Hamilton-Gould (Austin 7) and Connock from Scotland in his Austin Heavy 12, very commendable effort this. Peter Still on his ‘Nash scored 14 and thus just missed a 1st Class Award, and John Nutter on the Speed Six did well to score 15 points, whilst Bill Cheston’s 4½ was awarded 14.
At the end of the day Nigel Stoyel, last year’s runner-up, turned out to be the well-deserved winner, and Leslie Winder, who has been competing in VSCC events like this since about 1936, won a 3rd Class Award and the new R.P. 1951 Cup, given by Roy Paterson for the competitor finishing the trial with the longest unbroken VSCC membership.
The evening was enlivened by a firework display and bonfire outside the Scale Hill Hotel, but the VSCC tradition of burning a modern car in effigy was not carried out—or if it was the car had gone up in smoke before your reporter had arrived. — PMA Hull.
Letters from Readers, March 1979
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