Dean's March Hare
Dean Partington was one of six clean sheets.
With dry conditions all the sections were cleanable and mistakes cost dearly. The six clean sheets were distributed between three classes, but Dean Partington really flew on the Special Tests, to win the March Hare Trophy.
With entries on most trials down, the March Hare organisers were delighted to have an over-subscribed entry for their route through Herts, Beds and Bucks. Looking through the entry it was roughly split into three. A third were regular Classic Triallers, a third occasional or class 0 triallers who don't do the rough events and a third locals who mainly do PCT's. With some withdrawals and a couple of non-starters 48 cars left the new start at the Chequers in Redbourn after an excellent breakfast.
Norton Street Lane
With no restart or diversion this year this stony lane was a nice ease in to the day and there were no failures.
After a couple of miles of green laning to get to the section the lower classes enjoyed a run straight up the lane, and even the restart didn't claim any victims. Originally classes 6, 7 and 8 were to deviate off into the wilds but Chief official Murray MacDonald took mercy on six and seven, leaving only class eight to enjoy the excitement!
The steep bank reduced the hopes of many and Mike Pearson and Ed Nikel in their Dellow Mk2 Replicas and Tony Christy driving Ross Nutens Dellow Mk2, were the only local drivers to go clean.
This was a new hill this year, and to the best of our knowledge has never been trialled. Its a wide muddy lane with lots of ruts. A few days before it would have been a stopper for many but the dry wind changed the conditions completely and Jonathan Baggot, who is more often seen driving a Van Diemen in the Monoposto series, was the only failure in his Marlin. Chief Official Simon Robson has a master plan for next year, involving blocking off the easy route!
The final public byway section in the Hitchin area featured the familiar restart by the Watercrees beds. The week before the trial the step onto the road looked so fearsome that Clerk of the Course Arnold Lane made a visit with a van load of concrete to make it easier. In consequence it was pretty easy to pull away and nobody troubled the scorer.
The first visit to private land had two new sections and a special test at a new Falcon location right alongside the Luton Airport runway. The special test was a nice simple affair on broken tarmac where Dean Partington set the standard, a second and a half faster than Tim Foster in his Eskimo special.
The first observed section was a tight PCT affair on grass. The dew had gone by now so there was plenty of grip. However, the turns caught out a few, including three of the seven Suzuki X90's in the trial.
The second Copt Hall section was very different, utilising the embankment of the disused Hatfield to Dunstable railway, closed in 1965 when it got the axe from Dr Beeching. Marshaled by West Suffolk Motor Club, the section had a variety of surfaces and some tight turns. Around a third of the field picked up penalties here. Both Kevin Alexander (Fiat Panda) and dad Brian (Suzuki X90) dropped nines and Chris Maries and Clive Cooke were the only X90's remaining with clean sheets. The section wasn't friendly to Class two either. Peter Thompson dropped two but all the others in this class failed at the nine as did Kevin Barnes in the blown Liege.
The first visit to the Woodland near Hemel Hempstead further reduced the clean sheets. Beetle Drive ends on a rutted bank with a restart for 7 & 8 and the Mobil 1 The Grid film crew in attendance. In the lower classes only Keith Pettit in his Frogeye Sprite, and the three Beetles of Sam Holmes, John White and Michael Leete went clean. Kevin Barnes was the best in Class 7 but even he dropped two. It was left to six of the Class Eight's to show how it was to be done and even they had to work hard. Even so a number of them lost their clean sheets here, including Mike Pearson who was carrying the TV crews camera.
The second woodland section was mild in comparison. There was a class 8 only restart and although half of them failed it didn't affect any of the clean sheets. Unfortunately Roger Dudleys Marlin developed engine problems and he had to retire here.
There were three sections at this familiar Falcon venue. The first two were typical PCT affairs. the third utilised the rutted track around the barn and had a retsrat that would had been tricky had it not been for the dry conditions.
After a longish road run there was a special test and two observed sections in the familiar setting of Brickhill that has been trialled for the best part of 50 years. Dean Partington was fastest again in the sandy ST with Tim Foster second again, this time by only a tenth of a section.
Brickhill 1 utilised the track up the gully, a marvelous blast through rutted sand before restarting and turning up the bank. Most went clean but there were a few failures in the gully for those who didn't have enough momentum to get through the power sapping sand.
Brickhill 2 started in the woods at the far end coming back up to the paddock through the ruts formed at the Falcon PCT a few weeks before. There was a restart here where the Suzuki's struggled although Howard Blackwell used his experience to go clear. In the higher classes the only failure was John Parsons who has organised many events at this venue but was struggling with a very fluffy type 4 engine in his VW Buggy.
With no restart and dry conditions everyone cleared this overgrown lane.
Despite the dry conditions Hill Farm always catches the unwary. Apart from 1 & 2 all the classes had to restart. This was definitely not Suzuki friendly and again Howard Blackwell was the only Japanese machine to go clear.
The event finale was back in woodland for the final two sectiomns. The Falcons Folly restart wasn't as difficult as usual this year with only a couple of failures
The last section has decided the outcome of The March Hare for many years. Its all about a rutted hairpin bend, with a restart for class eight only. It was no problem for class 1 & 2 who all went clear. Not so for Class 4 as both John White and Michael Leete failed. Sam Holmes got though to retain his clean sheet and win the class, one year after his Classic trial debut.
Keith Pettit in his Frogeye went clear to retain his clean sheet and win Class Five. Peter Manning was second in his Midget on 11, narrowly pipping Clive Cooke in his X90 who had been second until failing Binghams Warren. Brian Alexander proved the Japanese machine could get around the hairpin but earlier fails kept him out of the awards.
In Class 7 Harry Bounden arrived with three but that went up to nine after failing here, just pipping Kevin Barnes to the Class win.
Although half of the class eights couldn't get away the four with clean sheets all did, so their class was decided on ST times. These made Dean Partington (DP Wasp) the overall winner, Tim Foster (Eskimo Special) the Class 8 award, followed by Liam Rafferty (Cannon) and Mike Chatwin (DP Wasp)
Despite the dry conditions the organsiers were pleased to get only six clean sheets and the fact they were spread amongst the classes proved the restarts used to handicap some of the classes worked. The event seemed to go down well with the competitors. Some commented that a couple of the new sections were to tight but we can reply on the organisers to sort this for next year. The event was characterised by a great variety of cars from Simon Diffys Humber Nine Twety and John Wiltons Trojan in Class 2 to the highly developed DP Wasps driven by some of the sports most successful drivers in Class 8, all enjoyed by those participating, marshaling or viewing the event.