Matters of Moment, January 1954
Reg Phillips Wins 1953 R.A.C. Trials Championship
This year the R.A.C. found new territory for the trial which, open only to invited experts, decides the Trials Champion of the Year. The new course was in the Lake District, near Kendal, whereas previous Championship Trials have been run in Wales and Yorkshire. The “sections” were muddy rather than rough. and overnight rain following the winter drought rather upset the R.A.C.’s plans, so that many were virtually unclimbable. The entry was sub-divided into four groups, and each cluster of “sections” was tackled by one group at a time, which avoided congestion and enabled each driver to watch his fellow competitors in action.
At a time when Autocross looks like ousting the slime-storming trial from its premier attraction to “specials” builders it is interesting to see how the 1953 Trials Championship entries were made up:—
The event looked at times rather futile to spectators but was greatly enjoyed by most of the “crews,” amongst whom were some particularly tough female “bouncers.” It is doubtful whether car design is enhanced in any way by the construction and operation of these obscure “specials”; their main achievement, apart from providing entertainment for constructors and drivers, seems to be that of contributing a fine advertisement for the Ford Motor Company Limited, of Dagenham, in respect of the power output and “unburstability” of the 1,172-c.c. Ford Ten engine!
This year, starting about 10 a.m., the Trial concluded, and Dean Delamont, the Clerk of the Course (who that morning had been run-away-with by his Land Rover in alarming fashion while coming down Section A1 on locked wheels !), had the provisional results out by 4.30 p.m.
The “sections” were efficiently handled by volunteer “local labour,” in the form of members of local motor and motor-cycle clubs, and the “tally” system of marking each one was again employed —Lakeland in winter being sufficiently deserted to ensure thes markers remaining in place, whereas we feel that, farther south, they could easily have been taken by small boys as souvenirs.
Section A1 was a steep mud gradient out of a field, with a hump at the bottom, the officials wisely permitted a “flying start.” We saw Atkinson, whose car carried a big “On Tow” notice, vanquish these horrors and Lewis and Wilde fail at the top, whereas Barber and Deeley didn’t get so far and Murray stopped early with seeming lack of power.
A2 was another mud climb, between banks this time from a left-hand turn and with a nasty galley half-way up the short ascent which stopped everyone while we were observing.
Atkinson, Barber and Wilde all stopped in the gulley, Murray got no way at all, and Lewis hit the bank at the bottom, stopping in a cloud of blue oil haze, through which his passenger could be heard asking, “What the — did we hit?”!
A3 was a similar section, but rougher, approached round a slimy right-hand bend. Every car we watched stopped on the bend, and the “section” could well have been abandoned, as to mark it meant judging stopping points to an inch or so. Indeed, Lewis deliberately made no attempt to go round the bend, arguing that he had stopped in a position which still gave him “highest up.” All the remaining “sections” were used with the permission of local farmers, who provided car parks, admission 2s., in which a wonderful collection of spectators’ cars, Bristol, Simca, Austin Healey 100 and XK.120 amongst them, were parked.
Section B1 would have been an interesting one, winding as it did along a mud-lane, through a farmyard and round the side of a field at a steep gradient. Alas, so boggy was the farmyard that practically all the entry floundered there. Warm praise, therefore, to E. Harrison, who made it. and to Dees, who got well up. B2 was a straight, sensible “section” which did much to even out the points. B3 was a farce, cars coming down B2 to swing right-handed into a morass and fail almost at once. There was, too, a nasty drop onto rocks on the left-hand side, where Atkinson almost overturned, his car having to be lifted out by many muscular helpers. It was natural that all except the toughest girl passengers found excuses for nipping nimbly out after a car had failed! Later several drivers, including Alldred and Dees, got just clear of the corner.
As the damp December afternoon wore on it became evident that Reg Phillips, in Le Tout, aided by his broad grin, was doing extremely well. When it came to D1, a long climb where an initial water gulley and steep hump killed momentum, he sailed up and up, to victory.
Here Chandler, who had about-faced sliding down D1, did very well. as did Dees, while E. Harrison, his engine fluffing at high revs., stopped only near the very top. Alldred’s “special” stopped much lower down, its exhaust bellowing defiance on the over-run, while Chappell get his near-side wheels on the grass above the hump and failed. D2 was a long climb up a tree-arched lane in the older trials’ traditions, culminating in a steep, stony left-hand corner on a worsening gradient, where everyone we saw stopped abruptly.
One more section remained, a fine slime-storm up a field from the inevitable farmyard. It was to sort out ties only and was eventually abandoned in the failing light, but not before Harrison had flung a tyre and Lilley had broken the back axle of his J.E.M.
Then there was a short wait on the part of a group of weirdly-clad humans, round Dean Delamont’s Laud Rover, while he worked out the results: First, and Champion, Reg Phillips (Le Tout), for the Northern Section; runners-up: second, T. C. Harrison (Harford): third, M. R. B. Cannon (Cannon). The 1953 R.A.C. Trials Championship was over and these scattered farms under the shadow of the hill were free to revert to their normal routine. For us, the smooth comfort of a Simca Aronde, in which to thaw out.—W. B.