Friday, 21 September 2012

The SWCTA Dartmoor 2 Day Classic Trial

With Dave absent due to family commitments, The Teflon Don in Spain, Master Chef in Gloucester Royal Infirmary after getting up close and personal with a boundary rope during a scramble and Mr. Collins on babysitting duty it was never going to be the factory meeting I dreamt of.  Having left it far too late to get into my dream accommodation at the Rock Inn and with the meeting due to start at 1230, I left Cheltenham early on Saturday morning with AS 500 in the back of the van.

The thick overnight fog eventually gave way to a lovely warm afternoon high up on Dartmoor.  Having entered way in advance signing on was a breeze and I had a cup of tea at the food van.  Being on my own I was glad to see so many familiar faces at the event and spying Pete Meeson as I drove into the venue made me feel right at home.  After a quick chat with multiple Dartmoor competitors such as Keith Gardener and Mike Holloway I hurried back to the van, got changed and went to the start.  With Tony Sullivan so well known in the West County I met quite a few new faces who were surprised to see me riding AS 500.

After a quick rider briefing from Mike Naish we began bang on time for two laps of 13 sections in the aptly named Paradise Wood.  This venue is a dead cert for the Vic Ashford trial (used during the ACU Sammy Miller products series) so some of the sections were familiar.  As this was my first Dartmoor 2 Day event, I elected to ride the clubman route and began at Sub 1 which was a rocky stream entry leading to sinuous turns and a climb plotted between the natural vegetation.  Realising that water tracked out of the stream could be a problem, I didn't wait around too long and got away right behind Mike Holloway beginning with a clean.
The view from the back of the Van!

Sub 2 was another sinuous uphill affair on some loose dry marbles but it rode well.  Sub 3 looked fine but a tricky, muddy step that lead to a stream cut out quite badly and what I cleaned on the first lap I had to take a dab on the second lap.  After a short ride we came to a Vic Ashford Trial staple section.  The thick mud in Sub 4 necessitated a dab which turned into a three as I struggled to get AS 500 out of the section.  A soft dab as I entered the stream at Sub 5 was annoying particularly, as I did the same in the Miller event!  This section got quite chewed up and was a pig on the second lap. 

Sub 6 was quite a test and I had to take a dab to get out of deep gully however, on the second lap I lost the front end on the steep entry and recorded a maximum.  Sub 7 was particularly tight but it rode well and was a real tester but I had to take a dab each time as I struggled to get AS500 straightened up and through a tight gate.  After a short ride it was back to some good old Vic Ashford stream sections which rode well and gave me some confidence as I went clean.  The stream theme continued through Subs 10 - 12

which were although Sub 11 was something and nothing on the clubman route.  Sub 13 featured a tight, uphill turn that narrowed, leading to a run along a ridge adjacent to the stream.  Unlike the Miller rounds I couldn't quite get this right and had to take a dab on each occasion.

I finished day one with a total of 13 marks lost which, in the overall scheme of things, was poor and totally consistent with my bad run of form lately.  The sections were spot on and the course plotters did an outstanding job laying out a trial that was perfect for both the big Pre-Unit bikes and twin-shocks.  The “Ride of the day” surely had to go to Bath Classic stalwart Jon Cull who, riding the ex-Teflon Don rigid AJS Model 16, had a superb ride losing a paltry 5 marks.  I must say that having watched Jon in a few sections he did look totally at one with the bike and I heard several people mention that he could be a strong contender to challenge Steve Allen's dominance in Class 1 of the ACU Sammy Miller products series. 

Having thanked Robin Hoare, Gary Kinsman, Pete Meeson and Mike Naish, I took advantage of the food van before heading off on the long journey to St. Erth for a night on the town with Father.

Day two started even earlier for me (0620!) as I high-tailed it out of Cornwall and headed back to Halsanger.  I arrived in plenty of time and by the look of it I wasn't the only one who had a salubrious Saturday evening!  There was no need to sign on again so after a quick rider briefing from Mike Naish we headed to a different wood for some sections laid out by Robin Hoare, Gary Kinsman and Pete Meeson.  With an observer short, Clive Causer opted to observe rather than muscle the lovely big Triumph around.

This wood was another Vic Ashford location however, there were some completely new sections laid on.  For day two we had fourteen sections to be ridden over two laps.  I began at Sub 1 and again, elected to get away early which, as it turned out was a good move.  Sub 1 was an overflow tributary of the main river however, the boulder strewn and root-laden stream bed was bone dry and despite it looking pretty tough, it rode well.  Sub 2 featured a really tight turn into the boulders of the main river and I saw lots of riders come to grief here.  I let AS 500 run on idle until I could straighten up then applied some throttle but had to take a dab to get on line before a rock step.  This was quite fearsome however, in testament to the course plotters it rode well.  After a short ride we came across Sub 3, of which the hardest part, was trying to get into the section.  Sub 4 was a classic Dartmoor section; rooty, wet, off-camber twists and turns into and out of a gentle stream kept you constantly on guard.  Midway through, a wet root embedded in a steep bank caught out the unwary and I incurred a dab but had to take a three on the second lap as the ground deteriorated. 

The long climb up a granite boulder “road” of Sub 5 was fun and it was great to  select second gear, open the throttle and guide AS500 to the top of the climb.  This was the theme for the next couple too.  Then came the Killer!!  Sub 8; I just couldn't get it right.  A steep drop-off into the deep stream, coupled with huge boulders and my short legs saw me submerge AS500 and thankfully, John Pym helped me get the bike out of the stream. 

After a tentative kick I realised that the engine was full of water so removed the plug and began kicking.  What ensued resembled a submarine snorting at periscope depth as water spewed out of the barrel with each kick.  I decided to lay the bike over and lift it from the sump plate which seemed to help.  I kept this routine up until no water appeared when I operated the kickstart, replaced the plug and kicked gently.  To my amazement, AS500 fired straight up and eventually the vapour coming out of the carburettor air intake stopped!  I let AS500 warm up slowly and rode gently to Sub 9 thankful that I was still going and didn't have to give Robin Hoare a shout for a tow back to the pits!

Subs 9 -11 were stream and bank sections used in the Miller rounds and having made my mistakes before, I was wary of the obstacles but did have to take a dab on the last lap as tiredness crept in.  Thankfully, Robin Hoare adopted an idea from the Euro-Cup and provided a drinks stop which was greatly appreciated by the entire entry.  The final Subs were well thought out sections but fatigue got the better of me on the second lap and I dropped a few silly dabs.

Overall, the second day was the more difficult course however, having submerged the bike in Sub 8, I was thankful to have finished under my own steam.  I ended up losing 18 marks on Day 2 with a total of 31 marks lost on the weekend finishing in fifth place on the Clubman route which was rather disappointing however, I guess the consistent theme is that I'm struggling to get to grips with the long stroke 500 Matchless.  I know it's a cracking bike; Tony has had much success on it over the years so I must continue to persevere.

Once again, Jon Cull put in another strong performance and took the Rigid Class win on the ex-Teflon Don AJS losing just 13 marks.  Hopefully, we'll see Jon in the Miller rounds next year; he'd be a welcome competitor who, in current form, could take the title.

I was off up the road tired but happy by 1500 and got home before the threatening rain.  The Dartmoor two day Classic trial was a brilliant weekend and I will look to ride it again next year hopefully, with a few more of the factory riders for company.

Thanks to Mike Naish and all at the SWCTA for an outstanding weekend.  The course plotters from WEMC did well to mark out a trial that was suitable for big Pre-Units and twin-shocks alike which is not an easy task. 

Thanks to the land owners Colin Bowden and Brian Valance who allowed us to ride in the brilliant Paradise wood. 
Check out the results and awards on the SWCTA website HERE

1 comment:

  1. Nice write up Jai, looking forward to the next factory outing, hopefully sooner rather than later :-)