Reports of recent events, January 1952

Fedden fiasco

The classic Roy Fedden Trophy Trial of the Bristol MC and LCC went astray this year. The organisers decided to toughen-up the event by discarding the former route in favour of a group of hills beside Colerne aerodrome. Toughen it up, they most certainly did. Aided by one of the wettest Novembers on record, the near-vertical gradients, that aviators have to avoid if they are to land safely at Colerne, caused the 1951 Fedden to be abandoned. At this point some 35 cars were bogged down in the valley awaiting the services of a diesel caterpillar tractor and, on higher terrain, a Nuffield tractor to assist them in getting out. A lorry waited for a Dellow that had wrecked its transmission and many of the others were in various troubles after attempting “sections” of which only 7 out of the 11 selected were deemed suitable and, of these, only three were attempted. Two tractors had been employed during the damp noon in getting the competitors from the second to the third hill along a level sea of mud and only four cars out of 49 entries had climbed this second “section” !

It is easy to be wise after an event and the Bristol Club is not deserving of harsh criticism. But the need to abandon a trial after three hills because the drivers have called an impromptu protest meeting and refuse to go on, should carry a lesson. It would seem to be that, just as trials cars have been getting fantastically specialised, so routes have been getting too tough, especially in this age of small engines and no competition tyres. It should be obvious to organisers, but apparently isn’t, that more fun and value-for-entry-fee will be had by a driver if he gets a reasonable distance up a “section” before failing, particularly if he does not know what is in store round the next corner, than if he is faced with a straight gradient lined with closely spaced “score-points” and very little chance of persuading his car out of the first of them. Even the very skilled, who scores the sole “clean climb” cannot find the lack of any near competition very enthralling.

Grouped hills on private ground have merits, among them the important ones of not inconveniencing the public, and of being economical of petrol and time. But we prefer “real” trials hills, lanes bearing a semblance of “going somewhere” and with twists, turns and changes of gradient and surface to keep drivers ever guessing until, if they are successful, the “Non-stop Ends” notice is passed. We hope that such routes will not be neglected in favour of the perhaps easier to find freak acclivities—and if they are, that someone will try the latter on a wet day before letting an entire trial lose at them !

Nevertheless, congratulations to RW Phillips, whose strange but effective Fairley proved the most effective combination short of a caterpillar-track vehicle under the severe conditions prevailing, and to Parker’s Parker, Imhof’s Imhof and Sweeney’s blown Jezebel Special for also climbing the notorious “section 2.” Sleeman’s blown Ford Ten-Sleeman was runner-up to Phillips by reason of being only 0.6 sec slower in the special test, although giving best to this “section.”