Brunel at the Exeter Trial
An invitation was issued for TR register members to compete in the Exeter Trial by the M.C.C. as guest members, and they now had a new class for classic cars which did not include the very difficult sections which could damage the car. The alternative sections would be mainly on tarmac and suitable for classic sports cars. I entered the event and my son Chris agreed to drive, a new experience for him as he had never competed in such an event before.
The car had to be prepared for the event in line with M.S.A. regulations as they cover the insurance but for the TR it was just fitting a reversing light, fire extinguisher, competition number holder and a few other adjustments. We set off from Bristol reasonably happy with our preparations and arrived at Haynes Museum at midnight for scrutineering and the start. My only objective was to finish the trial at Torquay as our hotel rooms and the club's gala dinner was booked and paid for, 186 miles later according to the route instructions. I had not read them before the start so not being familiar with the terminology we immediately got lost and on narrow country roads at 3 am it was not easy to find our way back on to the route. The first special section we approached at 4 am, and were behind 6 competitors waiting to clear the section. Delays were due to another section being too close so we were waiting for cars to clear both sections. The approach was on a very steep incline and it took almost 20 minutes to get to the start by which time the car was beginning to misfire, fortunately we cleared the section but could only put the misfire down to petrol starvation on the front carburettor as we were so long on the incline with the engine running. We did not keep the engine running when stopped on steep inclines and had no further misfire incidents.
To make navigation easier the best way was to follow another competitor, which we did, and cleared the next two sections. But by following one who was in a different class was not a wise move as we missed our sign and ended up at a difficult section not for us and had to turn around, and meeting competitors head on in the narrow lanes was embarrassing. The next encounter was on a sharp bend which was flooded and we couldn't see how far the water was around the bend. A car had turned around and he said he wasn't going to risk getting stuck, however we decided to risk it and relief to get to dry land but a TR is not watertight so we were now suffering wet feet. The route took us across Dartmoor and our next hill was Windout, there was a ford at the bottom, so again, more wet feet. We had to stop on the steepest part of the hill and pull away but it was so slippery that when we stropped the car slid backwards and trying to pull away just wheel spin with the car still going backwards. Reversing to the bottom the car made it eventually to the top without stopping but struggled.
We finished the trial at Torquay clocking 230 miles 21hours after leaving Bristol the car running well and no damage achieving our objective. We both enjoyed the event and looking forward to the Lands End trial at Easter.