LATE on the evening of Good Friday, the Gordano Service Station on the M5 was rather more busy than it usually is at that time of day as 40 motorcyclists and 65 car crews prepared to leave for the 61st Land’s End Trial. Similar scenes had been enacted at Basingstoke and Lewdown and were about to happen at Oxford, where the last few competitors were to start. The total entry numbered 350 vehicles of all ages, types and descriptions.
MOTOR SPORT, once again, travelled as a passenger in Hugh I.eigh’s 1933 Colmorc Frazer Nash, running in convoy with the other two members of the “Chain-gang” team, Hugh’s son David with his TT Replica of 1932 and Tim Boyce with his 1928 Boulogne model. For us, the trial stalled with a gentle drive through the mild, dry night, East along the M4, South through Chippenham, Melksham and Warminster then West along the A303 to the Ilminstcr By-Pass where we joined with the competitors from the other starting points for the first breakfast halt. Sadly, the traditional Frying Pan Cafe at Sparkford had been abandoned this year in favour of The Jolly Diner at Tintinhull, where parking space was very much more restricted and service slower.
The first trials section of the night was Sag Lane — a narrow lane which winds its way ina a seri. of 90′ bends over a railway bridge and up the side of the Cary valley. In dry conditions, the hill presents little problem, tote make things that little bit more difficult, the organisers had arranged for a stop and re-start wet just before the first corner where a spring lubricates the surface. A more difficult stop and en-scant had been positioned further up the hill, on the very steep section, for the trials specials such as Dellows and so on, but that did not affect us and we sailed happily to the top.
Re-inflating our tyres before joining the road again, Leigh Junior remarked that he was having to learn his car all over again — his engine had dropped a valve seat insert on the Thursday before the event and he had spent Friday installing an engine borrowed from Boyce. The difference was that the Boyce engine was set up to provide power at the top end for fast road work, while Leigh’s own engine was much more flexible at low speeds, and therefore more suitable for trials use.
On through the Somerset countryside by may of Langford and Taunton to the second section at Crofonf, just as dawn was breaking. Croford is another section, simple in the dry, which can be a real stopper in the wet. Luckily, although the track itself was damp, at the bottom, the steep section was virtually dry and competitors were having no trouble clearing the observed section.
Thence to Minchead, up Porlock Hill and along the coast to Lynmouth during the early morning to wait our turn on Beggars Roost. If there had been any of the usual delays at this hill, they were not apparent to us, for we were in danger of getting ahead of schedule at this stage. While we were waiting, we saw Barry Clark, VSCC Trials exponent par excellence, pushing his Chummy ALM. 7 to the filling station for attention to its radiator with chewing gum after a fan stud had worked loose on the section (which he had cleaned) carving a hole in the core. Also busy was J. Tucker-Peake, changing the differential in the non-standard axle of his Ford Popular.
The Roost looks quite impassable to anything if viewed in thc light of headlamps, as it would have been to the motorcyclists and early numbered cars, but in daylight it looks relatively tame, if rough. A Midget running immediately in front of at failed and had to reverse out, but the Colmore climbed steadily to the top to the occasional accompaniment of stones bashing the chain guard, and we were soon joined by Leigh Junior who had made a clean climb, despite nearly stalling the unfamiliar engine when starting off. Boyce should have been next to appear, but instead a series of Ford Escorts began to assemble; it transpired that the Boulogne had shed a chain on the hill and would be taking the tarmac road to the top as soon as repairs had been effected.
The route then took us along the North Devonshire lanes, through Sirnonsbath, and Torrington to a time check, where we were just on time, despite the delays caused by Boyce’s lost chain. A moment later, we were delayed again when Leigh Junior discovered a puncture in the rear off-side tyre. Jennets Way and Yen Vale, two new sections, both with stop and go tests to make them that much more tricky in the dry conditions, proved to be no problem and Sutcombe, a few miles later, looked quite daunting with massive boulders all over the track but turned out to be quite straightforward.
After the hour lunch halt, where we managed to buy a new 19″ tube over the counter to repair the punctured tyre, it was on to Hobbs Choice, a downhill test round a left-hand hairpin on a din track, timed and to be used as a tie decider. The Ford Escort immediately in front of as nearly went straight on at the hairpin, but collected everything together with an impressive display of skill to stop neatly astride the finish fine while White’s Riley 9 looked well under control round the corner, but seemed to have difficulty stopping astride, a problem shared with Leigh Junior, who actually overshot, failing the test. Hobbs Choice led almost immediately to the two Darracott sections, both extremely challenging, the upper section having a double re-start test thrown in for good measure. Campbell’s Model A Ford made light of the difficult first section, but other competitors were not so lucky, two failing while we waited. As we made our to clear the first pan of the hill, we realised just how much the winter had damaged the track, for huge pot holes and gullies had appeared on the hairpins which required especial care to avoid disaster. The three Frazer Nashes made clean climbs, as they also did of Roly Poly, and Leigh Senior was wondering if a first class award was possible as we drove across Cornwall to Ruses Mill, for another double re-start test but this time on a tarmac surface; again no problem, the navigator this year remembering to tell the driver exactly what to do!
With the removal of Crackington from the route this year, it was predictable that the organisers would ensure that one of the other sections should stop most of entry. And as it was. Warleggan, usually relatively simple in dry conditions had been doctored somewhat at its steepest point, and it was here that all competitors had to make a stop and re-start after a timed section. That it was difficult was obvious as soon as we approach — the queue seemed interminable, particularly so as the rest of the event had run very much to time with hardly any delays at the sections at all. The start was steep enough, leading straight into a tight right-hand corner and then steeply uphill. On the steepest part, where a rocky outcrop narrowed the track, the surface had been thoroughly wetted and a VMS here that the timing stopped and a re-start had to be made. The difficulty was exaggerated by a step in the track about eight feet beyond the re-start line, so that anyone managing to creep away from the line also had to find enough grip to climb the step before continuing.
A deep gully on the left of the track just added to the potential pit falls. The marshal cheerfully told us that the numbers of successful ascents could be counted on the fingers of one hand. We took the opportunity to watch other competitors scythe hill, hoping to work out the best way of tackling it ourselves. While watching, a VW Variant succeeded w much cheering, but Ford Escorts, a Shade, a Morgan 4/4, MG and many others all came unstuck, as did we when our turn came, our theory that the way to beat the organisers was to stop with the front wheels only just over the line to give ourselves as much of a run at the step as possible came to nothing when we couldn’t even edge forward Leigh Junior had better luck when it came to leaving the line, climbing away relatively strongly, only to have a floorboard fall into the clutch bringing what should have been a successful climb to a premature end.
And so to Blue Hills Mine, rightly re-instated as the final hill of the trial. Delays at Warleggati meant that the usual queue at Blue Hills had disappeared and we drove straight to the start hoc for she first very tricky section which incorporated a stop and re-start on an extremely steel’ rall’P exuberancebetwe en tv’wheeryn trige-hs tt a rtinh ands the drvriuvcehr understeers off the course, too little and the car stalls. I thought we were in for the latter disaster, but Leigh Senior knows his car and on full retard the engine plugged away to push as round the hairpin and away. The upper section, thoroughly daunting as one looks at the sky straight ahead’ the sea to the right and spectators all over the cliffs to the left, was simpler this year than a has been, although just as rough, and we romped to finish the difficult part of the’ even, Leigh Junior made the over-exuberance mistake on the first Blue Hills section but Boyce cleaned both.
And so another Land’s End was over — competitors are never the best reporters since they only ever see themscloes in action, but they d2 know just what a marvellous event it is — done the Motor Cycling Club!— P.H.J.W.