ON MEETING THE M.O.T.
SOME VIEWS BY WELL KNOWN EXPONENTS OF TRIALS
SIJ1ESTORMING, even if it proves nothing and has a bad influence on the design of certain sorts of sports-cars, gives pleasure to hundreds of drivers and to many more hundreds of spectators, SO it is very necessary that we should give the politics of trials careful consideration. Just at present they are quite enthralling. In the January issue of MOTOR SPORT the general situation was reviewed. As trouble was obviously brewing, Guy Bochaton formed a Committee with a view to forming a Greater London Motor Club to run combined trials in the congested slime areas around London, while retaining the individuality of the existing clubs. The R.A.C., anxious not to exert any constraining influence on the Sport, agreed to give every possible assistance and the Bochaton Committee got quietly down to the job of tapping the views of secretaries and committees of those clubs involved. In the meantime, complaints in growing quantity caused the Ministry of Transport to complain to the R.A.C. that trials were becoming a matter Of concern and to ask the R.A.C. to endeavour to put their house in order. This is a very seri ous matter. F. L. M. Harris, Ceneral Secretary of the M.G. Car Club, has emphasised that even small dissatisfactions expressed by local councils can very quickly result in strong actions by the Ministries which they approach, as he knows front experiences in connection with camping and caravan sites. While we believe that no drastic action is contemplated against the running of trials in the immediate future, clearly the sooner we put our house in really good order and tell the M.O.T. that we have done so, the better it will be for this branch of the
Sport. The R.A.C. has taken prompt action by appointing a special committee of three and of appealing to club secretaries to submit the views of their respective clubs as to how the existing situation can best he cleaned up. We feel that the publication of some private individuals’ views may assist clubs to debate the matter and to form their own proposals and that discussion on this extremely important subject may be of some considerable assistance to the R.A.C. when they come to take decisive action to appease the M.O.T. Consequently we have approached certain experienced persons who have decided views on the subject and quote these views below. That action must be taken soon is evident from the interest which the M.O.T. is displaying and by the growing unrest, for, following the attempts to close Jenkins Chapel, Isle Lane and The Warren are now in disfavour. K. N. Hutchison, one of our more prominent and enthusiastic trials drivers, and joint secretary with Sydney Allard of the Ford Enthusiasts’ Club, suggests the following cure :— ” There is only one solution to the present difficulty of multiplicity of trials, and we all agree that the solution is to drastically cut the number of events. Whilst doing this I suggest it would be a good idea to completely re-organise all the clubs concerned with promoting trials, on the following lines :
1. There should be only one motor club per county.
2. Each club could only have as its members persons living in that county.
3. Persons would only be permitted to Jain one club—their home county club.
4. Each club would only be allowed to promote two events per annum-one closed and One open.
5. The open event, however, would be open to any and all other county clubs.
6. Each club’s events could only be run in the boundaries of their individual county.
” Naturally there would be other regulations, but the six mentioned above are the ones which would most strongly affect competitors and members of the public, landowners, farmers, etc.
” Let us analyse them one by one. By only permitting one club per county one would immediately curtail the ridiculous state of affairs at present in vogue, e.g. in Kent alone there are about half-a-dozen clubs operating as local clubs, where one would be quite sufficient. Also this arrangement would mean that every club would be stronger numerically and financially.
” Number 2 is merely the natural sequence to having county clubs. Obviously a person residing in Surrey would be more interested in joining a Surrey club than, say, a Northumberland one, and vice versa.
” From the competitor’s point of view, item 3 is obvious, as it would not be necessary for a regular competitor to have to join about a dozen clubs to get his trials.
” The most important points are numbers 1. and 5 and in these anyone with half an eye can see that this is the solution. By the proposed arrangement each county would be Only driven over twice per annum, and at intervals of six months, the winter say for the open event, and the summer for the closed one, when the club in question was Catering for its members and could put on an easy course. Even the most consistent of trials .entrants would have enough events available— say only thirty counties came in on the scheme, there are even then thirty-one events per annum for each individual. Instead of nearly 200 trials in the year 1938 there would be seventy, which is getting down to a number that is reasonable.
” Item 6 would have to be insisted upon, as it would prevent county clubs straying to popular trials districts to run their events. ” The above is a rough outline of a scheme that would go a long way to solving the difficulty of the present trials position. This Scheme would mean the end of long trials extending through several counties, and would also eliminate night sections, both of which would be quite acceptable to the majority of competitors. After all, on the M.C.C. type of trials, it is not So much the use of hills that causes friction, but the fact that a procession 300 or more cars long drones through countless villages and towns for many hours. Again, to illustrate by practical examples, a trial like the Gloucester would cease to exist as such, and the use of the Gloucestershire bills would be the prerogative of the Gloucester county club and as such would be only used twice a year—unfortunate for competitors, maybe, but it would
allow the residents of Gloucestershire to take a better view of trials. You may say, ‘We11, what about small local clubs cutting in and running events for anyone who would join that particular club ? And the answer is that all competitors would have to take out a trials Competition licence issued by the R.A.C. or other controlling body, and if they ran in these unauthorised trials, their licence would be taken away. Thus, the competitor would watch his steps in this direction, and the clubs that persisted would eventually fade out through lack of support. ” This scheme would mean throwing overboard many old club traditions, and making, a lot of sacrifices, but it would be better than having all trials banned, and once officialdom takes a hand in the matter all sensible reasoning and sound
arguments are cast to the winds. It has been suggested in some circles that the R.A.C. should take a hand in the matter, in cleaning up this mess, but I would remind readers that the R.A.C. is not in close enough touch with present day trials conditions to be in a position to make decisions relating to trials. ” Also many persons hold the view— and not without good reason–that the R.A.C. is responsible for the present State of affairs. It has been in their power to cut down the ntunber of trials run in the past, but instead of their doing so, we have an increase. Also, by making open invitation events, only open to a limited number of clubs, they themselves have forced up the number of
trials. As a regular competitor and joint secretary of a flourishing one make club, I am extremely anxious that we do not lose our sport, and as such will place every facility in the way of any committee or body that is elected to bring about a better state of -affairs.” This would certainly seem the complete and effective cure. Unfortunately it would spell the death of many pleasant small clubs, not existing solely to alinestorming, but relying on a few small trials per annum to attract a reasonable membership. That is assuming that such dubs are to be allowed to exist at all, which requires an amendment to Clause 1 in Hutchison’s proposal. Certain clubs could continue quite happily by running socials, speed events, etc., or by their collective membership appeal in the case of some one-make bodies, but many would inevitably fade out and unfortunately it is these smaller clubs which put over trials with sensible, worth-while hills and conditions. Another objection Is the difficulty of making certain that competitors only join one club—persons with more than One private address would doubtless claim to be entitled to
join a couple of county clubs. Longdistance trials have a fascination all their own, and these, too, would die. In spite of Hutchison’s opinion of night sections, the M.C.C., which organises our three premier long-distance events, claims to be immune from individually delivered complaints. But as a thorough cleaning up of a very sticky situation Hutchison probably holds the solution. Writing in ” The Sphere” on February 12th, A. Percy Bradley, A.M.I.Meeh.E., suggests a simpler solution. He favours banning Sunday trials, ceasing operations between the hours of 10 p.m. and 8 a.m., and limiting activities to twelve trials per hill per annum. ‘ht seems quite a sound plan, as it has the advantage of not eliminating hills which may Cause the least trouble, yet which would. rank with ” offensive ” hills under the Bochaton and Hutchison schemes. The problem wOuld not be insurmountable if the R.A.C. provided themselves with a corn: prehensive survey and locations maps of all known hills and I feel that if the M.O.T. did not accept it they would accept very little else—perhaps not even the county grouping plan. Mr. Bradley’s scheme would not obviate congestion in villages and approaching roads in areas where ” good ” hills are closely bunched, and presumably would not eliminate night sections over main roads, but then Hutchison’s scheme would tend towards much greater congestion in ” good ” areas three times per year, and it is debatable which local inhabitants would
object to more. Moreover, with Bradley’s scheme it would be reasonable for the R.A.C. to spread trials over varying areas as well as restricting the use of the hills, whereas the limited suitable hills in many counties would result in inevitable thrice a year convergence, under county control. John Eason-Gibson, a Director of the Light Car Club and something of an expert on motor-sporting politics, -says :— ” Before considering a cure for the present trials problem it must be realised that the public is not annoyed at car trials but at trials generally, i.e. motor-cycle, and car trials equally. A cure, therefore, should come from a combined committee of the A.C.U. and the R.A.C. which should limit trials to a certain number per year. County committees could assist this joint committee to assemble the calendar at the beginning of the year and avoid overworking any one hill or its immediate vicinity. The Bochaton Scheme, in my opinion, would only cause needless work, without any useful purpose being served. I also think Competition Licences should Je compulsory for any trial or organised event—even a scavenge hunt—and any person supporting an unauthorised event would be liable to immediate suspension. All authorised events could have number plates overprinted with the R.A.C. badge so that an unauthorised event could, by collaboration with the police, become a criminal offence. This does not require Parliamentary action an Order in Council would suffice—fifteen minutes’ work. The sooner our house is put in order the better, otherwise the m.o.T, may ask for and get a more sweeping Order in Council The compulsory Competition Licence would probably be both a useful practical idea and one that would be very acceptable to the M.O.T. agitators. The workability of the scheme would depend on what co-operation the club and county committees gave the A.C.-T.7..! R.A.C. governing committee, but snub support should be forthcoming provi,1 ii the seriousness of the situation can be universally brought home both to individual competitors and clubs. But would
the governing committee be sufficiently impartial and firm in dividing up the permissible nuniber of trials, which must 1?e extremely curtailed, amongst our immense number of scattered clubs of divers views and x,ery varied status ? F. L. M. Harris, Secretary of the Car Club which has over 1,200 members and organises a very extensive trials programme, writes :—
” MOTOR SPORT sets me :a difficult task when I am asked to express the views of the M.G. Car Club on the trials situation. The, position is changing so swiftly and we have so many centres of activity that it is hard to keep abreast of current opinion within the club.
” Naturally the club as a whole feels some concern because it seems evident from recent developments that trials will soon be under much stricter control than they are at present. And restrictions of any kind are always irksome. ” We hope that in the various ‘ official ‘ deliberations concerning trials which Will be taking place in the next few months it will be remembered that the present tendency is for trials to develop along Rally lines. Already it is the special tests rather than the hills which decide the
awards in most events. If freak hills are to go out of use as part of the natural development of the sport, complaints concerning trials will disappear and there will be no need for any restrictions of an official kind to be imposed.
” The M.G. Car Club is of the opinion that every recognised automobile club should pay to the R.A.C. a small capitation fee per home member, thus providing the parent organisation with a source of revenue which could be applied, to more direct control and development of club events on the roads.” We have always disliked competitions which are decided on freak driving-skill contests, but slime-storming proves nothing either. And it might be an excellent thing if sensible tests, involving severe braking, fast cornering and acceleration to a reasonable speed, universally replaced mud and gradient. We believe that only one big hill is to be used in the M.G. C.C. Abingdon Trial. But we are not convinced that extensive, or even existing types of driving tests, can be held safely and without inconvenience on any but private ground. And such tests are unlikely to suit such a varied entry as trials based on hill-climbing or hill-climbing in conjunction with limited special and restart tests. We have advocated the use of speed events on private drives in lieu of slime hills, but there are insufficient venues to serve for every trial, unless these be curtailed as ruthlessly, or even more so, than Hutchi son deems desirable. The M.G. C.C., like the M.C.C., has been extremely thorough and cautious in matters of Organisation, but this has not prevented local clubs from using, or practising on, hills picked by the M.G. people, but without their careful marshalling and control. It is very largely this sort of happening which has brought trials into disrepute, and the Hutchison and Gibson provisions guard against its continuance in the future by specifying Competition Licences, which should also provide the R.A.C. with
an ample additional source of revenue. Mr. Harris believes it desirable to devise special tests which will not humour racing type cars to the detriment of existing typical trials-a,vagens. R. A. Macdermid, the well known M.G. trials driver, has expressed the opinion that a League of Trials Drivers, In effect a Trials Drivers’ Union, should take control of all trials and should limit the number of trials to a maximum of one per week-end. The success of such a venture would naturally depend on how such a Union was constituted and of what degree of support it received from the Clubs, and there is at present no real reason to relieve the R.A.C. of control, for their inactivity up to now has been intentional, as part of their policy of reFtricting the Sport as little as possible, which is a fair enough explanation. Macdermid also makes it clear that he dislikes night seetions, yet, apart from that influence of ” tradition” which is appreciated by more amateur drivers, there is a deal to be said in favour of night sections, even if the M.C.C. argument, that tired drivers fail more easily on hills, is not taken too literally. And some
persons feel that to abandon main-road night sections to humour the M.O.T. is. to play still further into the hands of all-crushing authority. That trials. politics are in a tangle is very evident and it is imperative that this tangle be quickly and effectively sorted out. The man who finds the best solution will go down in motoring history as a benefactor of the Sport and those who seriously discuss the various schemes put forward will contribute their share towards reaching this much-needed solution.