Monday, 17 January 2011

Trial and Troll Tales (Exeter Trial)


Butterflies..... Why do they say "Butterflies" when your stomach feels like it has been starved for a month and yet has a ton of tumbling rocks moving around! Anyway, why have I got butterflies? It is simply the hour before we leave to meet up for the MCC 82nd Exeter Trial.

Rain? Well yes that was going to be a factor, considering it had pretty much persisted through the week in the south west.
Danger? Well no that isn't really a factor any more than a 200mile drive normally would be.
Failure? Yes maybe that is some of the reason. Given my reputation in the past for getting lost perhaps that is a very serious problem. And of course failure means I will let someone else down "cos there is no "I" in Team" as they say.

Jeremy owns this little Troll T6 Trials special. The car was built in the early 90's although the donor car is a '67 Ford. The engine is a 1600 Ford crossflow, suitably tuned and with twin Webers. A space frame chassis that would be at home on any Lotus Seven or circuit race car, topped off in an aluminium skin all of this contributes to a balanced and lively package, but does it look strong mmmm?

Jeremy had picked me up the Sunday before just to have a quick drive and familiarisation of the car.... did I fit?
I always feel a bit uneasy in someone elses car or bike, but this was such an easy car to drive, making me feel a little less uncomfortable. The acceleration is brisk, the fun bit though is the midrange, that is so strong that sometimes I  felt I was driving a much bigger car. The midrange coupled with a five speed box really allow this special to be a comfortable "Jack of all Trades".
That same midrange almost embarrassed me, as we came through some gentle S bends leaving a 30mph village there was a little mud on the damp road, I thought "well it might" but we are not really accelerating hard..... I was wrong, it did do a little kick out and I was mindful of the short wheelbase and perhaps an inclination to turn turtle rapidly, no worries though a quick opposite twitch on the steering straightened us as if I mean't to do that..... sorry Jeremy (who is ever composed), lesson learned!

Finally 7.30 on the Friday night arrived, after squeezing a minimal change of clothes into an allocated space in an oversize army Duffle Bag across the spare wheel rack, we were away. Destination Popham near Winchester.

Like a chess game all journeys and adventures seem to go through stages. No matter how much you plan ahead, things always settle in to their own routine. This was no different, no surprises just the comfortable homeliness of the small cockpit and the endless run of cats eyes threading ahead.

The Trial has three initial start points, Popham, Plusha and Cirencester. From each of these the groups converge into the main start at the Haynes Museum in Sparkford, near Yeovil, Somerset.

Popham for me had memories of aeroplane days where I once saw Lady Bader (the wife of Sir  Douglas Bader) sitting at a table surrounded by moustached and Blazered older gentlemen.
Quite different on this day, the warm room producing a sauna like effect as we all had multi layer thermals but little space or inclination to remove any layers.
At our allotted 10.38 time we were waved out of the car park as No 158, that's 158 minutes plus 30 minutes after the 7.30 start time. (The bikes are allocated the first times, meaning they will really hit a majority of the special tests and hills in the dark!).
Then a run down to Sparkford, arriving as some of the bikes are released. The sight that greeted us through the headlights  was of a small scale, slightly eccentric, British Dakar, buggies and bikes all bristling with wheels and tyres, tow points and multiple lighting systems. The bikes looked particularly purposeful and gave me just a small pang of envy.
Before taking a break we made our way through to the scrutineering and a check of all road legal paperwork.
Then to coffee and bacon rolls. With time to spare we had a quick look around the museum.

With no offence to the hall of a million and one red cars, we settled down on the viewing seats to grab and bank some minutes of fitful "micro sleeps", just might pay dividends later!
 Fitful sleeps......yes on account of the raging storms rattling off the tin roof and roller shutter doors....... Did I say I had a a "pang" for the bikes, maybe not, nice comfy Troll sounds good.

Outside of the restaurant in the bike park stood a 1991 Enfield Bullet 350 (Indian) named "Peter".

I know this bike really well because I was it's second owner, the first being a Vicar from near Salisbury Wiltshire.. hence the name "Peter". This bike was my daily 56 mile ride and saved me enough money to follow another dream. I will always have a real soft spot for this Bullet. However, it's adventures really began when I sold it to a friend who has such a passion for everything in life that each day barely has enough room to do everything. Dan, now an engineering graduate, has ridden this bike in so many epic travels all over Europe and the UK. To say nothing of the time when the bike wrote off a Porsche (which also broke Dan's leg), was stolen and discovered by a determined Dan in a ditch having been burned out. Following another rebuild it was off again, to Brooklands, to Montlhery and beyond, roadside rebuilds all taken in their stride.
Appreciating the very traditional side of historical motoring events, Barbour clad Dan has entered with road tyres and very few modifications, other than the neat illuminated "Tupperware box", rolling  route card system mounted on the handlebars.
I stood and watched Dan set off into the lonely darkness, long after the glow of the rear light and "Tupperware" route box disappeared into the gloom I could hear those ever friendly "wuffle thumps" of the exhaust into the night.

To Be Continued......


  1. Excellent write up Eric, can't wait for the next instalment.

  2. Great story, looking forward to reading the rest. I must get to a trials event one day - not seen one before.

  3. Hey, you guys are so good for your support, thanks so much.
    Best wishes to you.