NOTES ON THE A.C.U. INTERNATIONAL SIX DAYS’ TRIAL.
ALTHOUGH not a “sporting event” in the strict
interpretation of the term, the International Six Days’ Trial calls for more than passing comment as being one of the most strenuous events organised up to the present time.
Eliminating the trade element, which naturally forms the greater part of the entries for such a trial as this, we find it becomes an ultra sporting event for private competitors, the severity of which may be judged by frequent remarks as to the danger of fixing the average speed at 20 m.p.h. In fact, for sheer continuous excitement nothing could have surpassed Tuesday’s run when, with practically no main roads upon which to make up time, the route went along narrow winding lanes, up and down alarming gradients to say nothing of other baulks in the shape of cattle, lorries and occasional steam rollers. The Solo riders were the more fortunate, for they always had the chance of turning into a hedge or ditch, but the lot of the sidecar drivers was often very hard and
extremely cautious driving was the order of the day, which left little or no margin for maintaining the average speed.
Last Minute Alterations.
The Trial commenced from Andrews’ Garage, situated at Southampton Docks, which was perhaps just as well for some of the foreign competitors who decided to do a little more tuning before the actual start. The air was filled with the bark of the Villiers’ engines fitted to some of the German machines, and all the riders appeared to be very excited and anxious. When J. Herzogenrath arrived late with an O.E.C. Blackburne complete with open exhaust and no front stand, he soon discovered it would be necessary to do some very quick thinking in order to get ready for the start The night was a very busy one for the German team and after much telephoning the required parts arrived next morning in time to be fitted. Considering this rider knew no English at all, it is surprising how he managed to get through the first two days. He got absolutely lost at the top of King’s Settle, thinking be was much further on the course. It is to be recorded that he and all other Continental visitors rode throughout in a very sporting spirit, and the writer who had to pass and re-pass continually was always given plenty of road, even by Moldenhaver, who was handicapped by his right-handed sidecar. This Norwegian was riding a Harley-Davidson with a flexible sidecar, and though some efforts were made to discourage him to attempt Lynton, he was quite optimistic, but nevertheless his machine proved very difficult to handle in the rough. Of the eleven German entrants, six at least had retired by Tuesday, which was unfortunate, but, as their Press representative remarked: “We do not have such hills in our country.” That is to say, they choose easier courses for their trials. Other foreign entries of interest were the D-rad machines and the Neanders, both of German origin. The former were very well driven and only one was observed to fail
their sturdy construction appearing to be ideal for the conditions of the course. A Viktoria sidecar, a Solo N.S.U. and a Gillet completed the German entries.
Australia pinned its faith to the A.J .S. machines, the Dutchmen rode B.S.A.’s and the Norwegians had two Harley-Davidsons and an Indian Chief.
Sunday turned out as a day of surprises, for who would have expected to find Heath astride an S.S. 100, Longman on a Panther, or Belfield on a two-speed Scott ? Miss Cottle, Miss Foley and Miss Ball were all on their usual mounts, but Hugh Gibson was riding a solo o.h.v. Raleigh, and with Cathrick (Dunelt) was unfortunate in having to retire by reason of indisposition on Tuesday.
Monday’s run started off fairly mildly, nothing of any consequence being noticed until Middle Down Hill was reached. Here there was some first-class team work, the Panthers, James and-Royal Enfields going up in single file and only a yard or so apart.
The cloud of smoke raised by Himberg (Neander) was rather distressing to some of the early competitors, as it obscured the hairpin bend entirely for a while. King’s Settle Hill, a picturesque landmark crowned by Alfred’s Tower, proved the undoing of three competitors, and the next hill—a sharp rise out of Bruton village for 50 yards—meant a quick change into bottom gear if failure was to be avoided. After lunch at Shepton Mallet everyone had checked in except No. I, Bahr (Neander), who had crashed. Another crash was reported, but this turned out to be a non-competitor who had rammed an official car. In the afternoon Draycott Hill proved a long and trying climb, the gradient of I in 5 combined with a vile surface accounting for many failures; none of the British machines failed, however, which was partly due
to correct judgment in selecting the best ascent and skilfully avoiding the loose portions.
Draycott proved an excellent test for the machines, as after some 30 miles running in intense heat, the engines had a stiff job in front of them.
Wedmore, the next climb, proved very deceptive, and though the percentage of bad failures was small, good driving was essential if the turn at the top was to be taken in correct style. At the summit a regrettable incident, when Bullus (Panther) unaccountably upset the veteran Raleigh rider, G. J. Hamer, of Holland. He was severely injured in the thigh, but first aid was immediately forthcoming from a nearby cottage. Tuesday’s run began in almost tropical heat and the entire day was spent in traversing endless lanes, grassgrown tracks, steep ascents and alarmingly sudden descents arranged in quick succession. In the morning the famous hills of the past were climbed and here failures were few and far between, Porlock, Lynton and
Beggars’ Roost all seeming quite simple for modern engines when the surface is dry. The ascent of Dunkery Beacon, the top of which was veiled in mist, was long and tortuous, small gullies and large stones helping the gradient to call forth great skill.
A hundred cars and odd vehicles were assembled at Beggars’ Roost and an enthusiastic audience cheered again and again as the famous hill was conquered by most of the riders, but it was not until Tuesday afternoon that the real piece de resistance of the whole trial came into view. Rising approximately 800 ft. in about half a mile, completely bestrewn with small boulders, Fingle Bridge is undoubtedly an excellent test for the modem motor cycle. The bends and twists are so numerous as to cause one to lose count, all one’s attention being needed to manoeuvre one’s machine over the surface, which only compared with the rocky bed of some mountain stream.
Here some of the most experienced riders were seen to throw out a tentative leg and the banks were struck by several riders who bounced off large pieces of rock. When this happened there was little chance of recovering as frantic wheel spin ensued and the unfortunate riders would find it impossible to continue the climb. It is good to observe that the majority effected good ascents, the performance of Sibley, on the Rudge, deserving particular praise, for, in spite of one stop, he managed to reach the summit with plenty of revs., if not too much wheel adhesion.
Those who fancied Fingle Bridge to be the conclusion of the day’s entertainment were mistaken, for the course continued over miles of rough ground until the main road was eventually reached at Wellington. Near the latter place a Matchless sidecar collided with a lorry, thus blocking the lane, so that for a long period all the sidecars were delayed, thus causing them to be caught in a violent thunderstorm., which certainly had the effect of washing away some of the dust the riders had collected during the day.
At the conclusion of the day’s run the absence of W. A. Bouette was discovered, and it appeared that he had crashed near South Molton.
On Wednesday the weather broke entirely and what should have been a delightful journey turned out as a” London-Exeter over the Welsh mountains. At the moment of going to press:the trial is still in progress.