Championship Trial, by Jupiter!
The above heading is not intended to signify that the Fourth Trials Championship, contested in Wales on December 15th, was particularly sensational, interesting as were the "sections" and skilful the driving, it merely signifies that we went up to Meifod to see it in the Motor Sport Jowett Jupiter.
That journey hampered at first by fog, which cleared before we passed the turning to Worcester that lakes you to Shelsley Walsh and headed for the excitingly new country beyond, was accomplished with the lack of effort we have grown accustomed to in the Jupiter. Going home, the average speed at night for the route Shrewsbury, Ludlow, Leominster, Bromyard, Worcester, Chipping Norton, Oxford, Henley and much cross-country running thereafter, was appreciably better than 45 mph, in spite of one stop for petrol and Castrol, and another while a 61-truck goods train steamed leisurely along the single track line which crosses A34 near Oxford via a level crossing with manually-operated gates. We stayed the night before the trial at the Queen's Hotel, Welshpool where washstands serve in lieu of running water, but where we were welcomed at 11.30 pm, found hot water bottles in the beds and had an excellent breakfast. One way and another we motored about 750 miles that weekend. Incidentally, the Jupiter climbed Fish Hill out of Broadway in top gear at 35-40 mph.
To revert to what this article is really about, 35 drivers qualified for the 1951 RAC Trials Championship, to do so is in itself a high honour. As the other wierd "specials were scrutinised at Meifod, and the freedom of their differentials checked on the elaborate "braked rollers", which someone observed, the Competitions Department of the RAC has been able to afford from all the Competition Licence fees (!). We made a check on the rear tyres favoured by these experienced slime-stormers. Although we scored seven Michelin, six Dunlop, four Goodyear, three Firestone, two Dominion and one Pirelli out of 23 cars observed, some of these and others besides had Oxborrow retreads, and it can safely be said that Oxborrow had a field day, and that this tread is very popular with trialsmen. As to engines, Francis alone trod the former glory of lots of litres, with a Mereury in his HRG. 21 of the others choosing Ford Ten engines, two Javelin, one an Austin A40 and one an MG power unit.
Col Barnes arrived in his Vauxhall, Dean Delamont in a Land Rover, JW Brown in a Dellow, while Ken Wharton, "Jackie" Masters and Sir Algernon Guiness were present as stewards, and Jack Woodhouse timed the Special Test.
Each "section" had to be taken twice, even numbers doing the south circuit first, followed by the north and vice versa. Mountain was a steep climb up the side of a grass grown field, approached from the road through a gate and round a loop at the bottom of the field. It was divided into six sub-sections but a bump between sub-sections 3 and 4 brought everyone to rest. Wilson's Austin, with very exposed track rod, hit the bank at the gate and didn't even see the section. Lawson 's Lotus I did not get very far, and Sinclair-Sweeney's Jezebel had a front wheel slide which spoilt the climb. Very good amongst the first attempts by the even numbers were Beardshaw's Wharton, tyres on negative pressure, E Harrison, who made a brilliant attempt in the Hartford I, Sleeman, whose blown Sleeman Special got as high as any, Lamb's Dellow, also very high up, and Corbishley's CCS; all these got into sub-section 5. On the second circuit, after the marker cards had been rearranged at Ken Wharton's suggestion because the field was now a quagmire, Walter Waring got furthest up in his blown WHW Dellow and was well on his way to winning the championship. There followed fun and games in a wood where a fallen tree had blocked the approach to one section (leaving only 4 in all in a route of 21 miles). The north circuit had the remaining two sections and the cross roads Special Test, where cars were timed doing most "illegal manoeuvres" on a public road !
Hairpin was a mud lane leading to a hairpin bend where every competitor was stopped by a bank so steep that only a tank could have climbed it. We saw E Harrison (Harford 1) make a bold bid to breast this bank. Waring tied with him, and Rumfitt's Cotton II was outstanding, while Lawson (Lotus I) almost got into sub-section 2. Lamb drove smartly into a tree and as smartly reversed out. Waring got furthest on the second circuit. The last hill, Farm, was perhaps the best value, for it was long, very steep, and if you got past an extra lump which defeated most of the Dellows, some alarming gullies had to be negotiated, which threw cars broadside and racked alike chassis frames and passengers' demeanours. E Harrison hit the bank but continued. Sinclair-Sweeney surmounted another bank unabashed in Jezebel, and Imhof climbed fast. Winder's Morris, TC Harrison's Harford II, Spence's Spence, V Chandler's Chandler Special, Wilde's Ford, Faulkner's Paul Special, Lilley's AW Special, and Sleeman's Sleeman Special failed on the first, circuit.
Water running down the course helped the cars to wear away the banks of the guIlies and things were easier for the second circuit. Outstanding climbs were made by TC Harrison, Imhof, Mosby's Ford, Fleetwood, who picked his way neatly in the GRH, Lilley and Rumfitt, whose pinked loudly, Burgess' Burgess smelt hot but came up well. Pentony was complete master of his Cyclops on a neat ascent, and Preston, his passenger in a "knees up Mother Brown" attitude, held a bad Slide but his Austin with blown Ford Ten engine, performed very well. Watting had a rough passage but blipped up confidently, the Spence V went over at alarming angles on a fast climb, Wilde was the most "dicey" yet, and very effective, while of cars which appeared to drive their drivers, the Chandler Special showed noticeable lack of front-wheel adhesion. Baring found it bumpy but his Cotton Special never faltered and his charming passenger smiled happily throughout, which on Farm was the exception rather than the rule ! Hopkinson spent some exciting moments but mastered his Aus/Ford well. Beardshaw's Wharton was ok in spite of a fluffing plug, the Paul Special flung mud and the Harford I took it steadily. The CCS boiled, faltered, but got up. Jezebel was steady; Phillips effective Austin "Javelin" built up well after slowing, likewise the Sleeman, after gigantic skids had slowed it. There were two incidents on Farm—the Bailey canted at frightening angles, then pulled off its near-side back tyre (no spare !), and Francis also needed the tractor when his HRG Mercury broke a universal joint. Those not mentioned above failed to get near the top, while Lawson and Price did not arrive at this hill ; Crump's Marsden and Wilson's Austin had retired earlier.
The RAC got out the results in Shrewsbury, where the BTDA had its party, many hours later.