The Hagley & District Car Club, led by Pat Henson and his team, put on the first trial of the 2020 Championship season at the Apley Hall Estate. For those who have not been to either of the recent Geoff Taylor trials, Apley is a vast estate which offers plenty of flat parking and more importantly an estate manager who views our Sunday antics benignly.
After the disappointing turnout for the excellent Gold Star event in January, it was good to see 31 entrants inscribed on the starting list, albeit with 4 non-starters, some of whom got ensnarled in the shutdown of the M6 due to an accident. The entry was boosted by the now familiar presence of the Post Historic class which supplied 4 entries, although Dave Oliver was one of the non-starters.
After the cataclysmic warnings of road closures to get to the site, it was slightly perplexing to get a phone call from Julian, who was helping with the section layouts, stating that the site was bone dry! But so it proved on all but section 5, marshalled by Mike Stephens, which managed to retain dampness all day just as it had in 2019.
Dry hills meant that the scores would be close and so it proved. Section one took a 2 off nearly all the top competitors but Richard Sharp managed a one while Ian Veale cleared it. The aforementioned section 5 mostly took three points off the drivers but Josh Veale and Andy Wilks eked out a two. Section 7 took 4 points off Ian Veale while Josh cleared it – the family battle was about to get interesting!
At the end of the first round, the overall leader was Josh on 4, tightly pursued by Richard (5) and Andy (6). The dry conditions meant that the live axles cars were pretty competitive too- Mike Salton (8) pipping a storming drive by Stephen Barnes (9), while George Barnes (11) impressed in the rookie class, comfortably ahead of Gerald Davies, a graduate of a recent training day, doing his first ever trial! In the Post Historic, Andy Gowen was going well as ever and lost just 11 points.
The low scoring continued in to the second round where Papa Veale (1) came storming in to contention as did John Fack (2). Richard (5), Josh (6), Mike (9) and Stephen (10) kept it consistent to keep up the pressure in the various classes. Andy dropped back a bit but was still leading the Post Historic by a country mile.
So, at lunch it was tight at the top – Ian, Josh and Richard all on ten with John just one further back. In the live axles Mike continued to lead the Reds by a comfortable margin, Stephen moved well ahead of Darren Underwood and in another of the many family battles George dropped back a bit!
We all knew what was going to happen after lunch- raise the tyre pressures and tighten the sections. In some cases, the latter option perhaps went just a tad too far- section one became a difficult hill to marshal correctly with a very tight and awkward turn at the top with Alan Baker, Ian, John and Boyd all adjudged to have slithered through for a clear.
Section two also had a difficult turn inserted at the 5 which caught pretty much all the field. Richard enhanced his chances of victory greatly with a clear- a feat only matched by Boyd Webster.
Section 5 appeared to lose its sting in the afternoon but section 7 took several points off many drivers. This had dug down to become a bit ‘lifty’ but was nonetheless navigated safely by Ian, Richard and your scribe, who generally was having an off day!
Ian was the only driver in the whole field to get past the one on section 6 and this was ultimately to give him victory as Richard faltered slightly with a two on hill 8 where the top boys were getting ones. As ever tight margins at the top.
So, in the Red IRS class Ian took victory on the tiebreak from Richard, 3 ahead of John Fack. Mike Salton easily won the Live Reds as did Stephen Barnes in the Blues. Son George maintained his dominance in the Rookies as did Andy in the Historic.
The team led by Pat Henson worked very hard all day to get a result and are to be thanked for that. It was slightly curious that after the wettest winter on record the site did appear to be bone dry so in many ways it was not the trial the drivers were expecting when they left home. Personally, I feel that Apley has more to give and I’m sure will be explored further in times to come. We are quickly learning that whatever the weather it will be a dry and grippy site, so in future we could probably start the trial on higher pressures. We also saw for the first time some areas that started to dig down excessively – perhaps spots to avoid in the future. Oh, and I forgot to mention, tyres did play a part- Toyos took the first five places!
Report by Jerome Fack
For those of you that did not get a chance to visit this new site last year I would encourage you to do so. The site is vast with the potential to use a huge range of different gradients, wooded areas, some bracken patches and more. Normally the curtain raiser for the year, and an event that often pulls a good entry. If you haven’t tried out this site yet i would encourage you to do so this year…. it may become a favourite.