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Whickham and District Motor Club Limited

Whickham & DMC Marshalling the VSCC Scottish Trial

Chrysler 75 Tourer 1928 4.1 litres

VSCC Biggar Trial Chrysler 75

This club outing came about after a conversation I had at the HRCR Open Day at Gaydon, where I was promoting the Cheviot Stages. The Vintage Sports Car Club also had a stand and I was talking to their Chief Marshal about their events in general and the Scottish Trial in particular and asked if they needed marshals. The reply was positive so an outing was organised.

To the uninitiated, a trial involves a team of driver and as many passengers/navigators/bouncers as there are spare seats, driving a car as far as possible up a steep slope, using farm or forest tracks, quarry slopes, firebreaks or even just the side of a hill. The pre-requisite being the rougher and muddier the better. LSDs and knobbly tyres are not permitted and scoring pegs are marked out up the hill - the further a car gets, the more points are scored. Around 15 sections are run during the day and the team with the most points wins. Its motorsport at its purest.

The VSCC run events for pre-war cars while a similar format of event, known as Classic Trials, accommodates vintage and modern cars as well as motorbikes and sidecar combinations.

GN Sports 1921 1096 cc and chain driven with a twin cylinder horizontally opposed engine

VSCC Biggar Trial GN Sports 1921

Come the day Matthew Price, Martin Wilks, Stuart Bankier, Jon Huffer, Peter Humphrey and myself all converged at the Mill Inn at Coulter in Lanarkshire for signing on, where the Chief Marshal told us to "go half a mile down the road to a farm called Cabbage Patch, introduce yourselves to the marshals from the Riley Owners Club running the section and generally make yourselves useful."

After a complimentary bacon roll and coffee in the pub, we headed off to the farm where two sections had been laid out, both on a grass surface. The first ran round the lip of a small quarry, crossed the farm track via two sharp steps and then had a Stop/Restart box, where cars had to stop and perform a hill start on the 1:4 slope, before climbing further to the end of the section. The second started further up the hill, traversed across the slope then turned sharply to cross the farm track again before climbing on to the end of the section.

Riley MkIV 1929 1087cc

VSCC Biggar Trial Riley MkIV

The 50 odd entries (35 of them being Austin 7s or variants thereof!) were split into 4 batches, each batch starting their event at a different hill, so no-one had the advantage, or disadvantage, of running first or last on each hill. Its a very tactical sport - on some sections the early cars have the best of the conditions before the grass is cut up to mud, on others the early cars may struggle on a slimy top surface before more cars cut through to a firmer base.


First car on the road at our section was a Ford Model A. He used his torque to trickle up both hills on what sounded like nothing more than idling revs to clean both sections and leave with the maximum 50 points. And that was as good as it got! No-one else could get beyond the Restart box at the 17 point mark and failed their hill starts as the track became more and more churned up. If they actually got that far - the 4 point marker becoming ever more like a ploughed field and stopping a fair number of cars.

Austin VAT 69 1930 running what appeared to be a 1200 cc JAP engine

VSCC Biggar Trial Austin VAT 69

On the 2nd section the sharp turn to cross the farm track was stopping most cars and if they did get across the track, the 11 point marker was the best anyone else made.

All these cars stuck on the side of the hill meant lots of manual effort needed to push cars up to the next section of level ground or safely turn them round to descend again - guess what "make yourselves useful" really meant?!

Aside from the myriad of Austin 7s there were some other interesting cars, including a well used Bugatti and a couple of big Chrysler 4 seaters, one of which detached its propshaft on the start line with a loud bang. With spare nuts and bolts located this was swiftly reattached and the hill attempted.

Austin 7 1937 747 cc

VSCC Austin 7 1937

After a relaxed lunch break, the 2 sections were joined together to make one long section for the afternoon. The first few markers were moved to firmer ground to give everyone a chance of scoring more than 4 points and the restart box removed. This made the test more representative and there was a good smattering of maximum 25's scored. There was also a lot less pushing to do!

With the last car finished by 4.30pm we had a good run back through the Tweed Valley and were home at a decent time, which suited me as after a 5.00am alarm call that day I had a 4.30am alarm planned for the following day to go and do the Ilkley Jubilee with Peter.

If this has whetted your appetite for vintage and classic trialling, the VSCC run their Lakeland Trial in the northern Lake District in November and closer to home the Middle England Motor Club are running a trial in County Durham on the 27th May.

Austin 7 Chummy 1930 747cc

VSCC Biggar Trial Austin 7 Chummy

Guy Wickham

(Photos courtesy of Stuart Bankier and there's also some good footage of the event on Youtube).

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