I think it would be fair to say that the 30 odd entries (more about that later) that turned up for the 2019 Gold/Silver Star final this year, did so with some trepidation. The unprecedented wet weather leading up to the event was compounded by rumours that Clerk, Steve Barnes and son George struggled to even get around the site when they set up on the Friday. So wet was it that they were forced to abandon any hopes of using the vast bracken/grass bank simply because it was nigh on impossible to get to. However they still managed to lay out 10 hills using the wooded area down by the stream at the near end of the site, the dark wood at the far end, a hill either end of the aforementioned bank, and a long, long up and down section slap bang in the middle of the field.
With signing on and scruntineering completed promptly and a team photo taken in an adjacent field we were on our way to the site by 10am. As it turned out a hard frost probably saved the day and actually produced a very tricky and competitive event; where the frost was still prominent you had to tread carefully in a low-ish gear, whereas under the trees and where the frost was easing, it was a “balls out” blast.
When the final was held here last, the sections in the far woods were key; early in them and you were clearing the way for late runners to romp to the top. With more hills there this time, would it be curtains for those guys again; it would appear not because hill 7 actually got worse during the first round with the late runners all struggling to get pass the 7 where the track had become polished and very slippery. In fact in the final analysis this hill was probably key to the results in that the eventual winner was the only person to get near the top every round dropping a mere two points while all, bar one other driver, recorded double figures.
After the first round Bryan Walker in his Jedi was in the lead, dropping just 1 point on Hill 9. Not far behind were Josh Veale in his independent Sherpa and Andy Wiles in the Crossle on 4, and John McKinney in the live axle Concord on 5. In the Silver class an outstanding round of 6 by Darren Underwood put him in the lead with Tom KcKinney a couple of points further back. In total there were 12 drivers with single figure scores, quite remarkable considering what the conditions could have been like. The round was not without some prominent casualties though; Ian Wright broke a UJ after 4 hills, Boyd Webster, an oil pump drive after 6 hills, Richard Sharp retired as Joe was feeling unwell,and Ian Veale slipped a fan belt in a cloud of steam and oil. Only the latter managed to continue after a protracted pit stop owing to his van keys being at the far end of the site in Ian Wrights pocket.
With any “first round” advantages over, the scores in the second round were very close. This time it was Andrew McKinney who led the way on an excellent score of 6, the only driver in single figures for the round, while only 7 marks covered the next 17 drivers.
So as lunch was taken Bryan still held the led on a total of 11 with Andrew McKinney next up on 14 and Josh and Andy Wilkes on 17. Tom McKinney had made good ground and led the Silver Star while a solid second round by Pat Henson elevated him into second position. Meanwhile down at the hills Steve and George assisted by some of the retirees made some devilish tweaks to the sections. Hill 2, ably marshalled by Judith Wilkes was re-built, now consisting of a series of tight turns and slippery roots. Only five cars managed to clear this, the final turn and steep nip proving too much for most; Ian Fullwood was delighted to be one of those five. Hill 7 once again was decisive; the best score a one, recorded by Bryan (again) and David Webster. But this was offset by the travails over on Hill 10, which also had been rebuilt with a treacherous climb to the 7 marker. If you were early you could trickle it, if you were late it blasted, but in the middle, well you took a 6,7 or 8. Indeed only two made it to the top, Andrew McKinney and Mark Milne, while Jerome Fack thrashed the MSR to the 1.
As is normal with this event the results are announced at the dinner and presentation, which this year was at the Chateau Impney Hotel. There we celebrated a well-deserved maiden Gold Star victory for Bryan Walker and passenger Mark Simpson. His final score of 27 points was 5 ahead of Andrew McKinney who in turn was 4 points ahead of Jerome who with Jess, back from France in the passenger seat for the weekend, were cock-a-hoop with their days work. Behind them just 10 points covered the next 9 drivers, a really close finish.
In the Silver Star Tom McKinney took the honours with Pat Henson an excellent second and David Webster third; all in all, a pretty good day for the Irish.
There is no doubt that, all things being equal, the cream will always rise to the top and that was certainly the case this year; Bryan and Tom won because they are very good drivers; simple as that.
Yes the gods shone on us; but that aside great credit must go to Steve and George Barnes for making an herculean effort to create such a challenging and enjoyable trial. Mention too most go to all the marshals and officials who gave up their time to traipse out to the Welsh border and help make this event. It’s just a shame there were not more competitors. Hopefully now that the elephant in the room has been kicked out we can get back to enjoying our trialing, encourage more of you to come out and make this event the showpiece that it once was.
Report by Ian Veale
If you want to check out the action from the day take a look at Duncan Stephens video where you can see how it was won and lost.
Once again we return to the wonderfully diverse site for our Gold Star and Silver Star Sporting Trial Final.
The trial takes place at Lower House Farm, Huntington, Kington, Herefordshire HR5 3PU.
Twelve months ago a long dry spell over the festive period delivered one of the driest Gold/ Silver Stars for many years. Lots of grip and not a lot of points dropped was the order of the day with Roland Uglow and Ross Bruce becoming first time winners of the Gold and Silver Star awards. Roll forward to present day and we’ve seen one of the wettest winters on record and subsequently one would fancy we are in for a very different event.
This year we head to Kington in Herefordshire on the Welsh borders. The site has a bit of everything with a mix of woodland, bracken and grass that will test both car and driver whatever the weather.
As a result of the topsey turvey nature of this years championships with new diff regulations bedding in and event cancellations in the later half of the year, it could be argued that the form guide is very hard to read. With that being said perhaps the best way to pick a winner for each event is to delve into the record books and see what patterns might emerge.
The records for the Gold Star go back to 1948 when Ken Wharton became the first person to have his name etched on to the Gold Star Trophy. Since then there have been 71 Championships, with 35 different winning drivers.
Is the British Champion automatically favourite to be the Gold Star Champion?
Probably not. Simon Kinglsey has taken the 2019 British Championship crown after an excellent season showing consistency throughout the calendar year. It goes without saying that Simon should have an excellent chance in Kington to add the Gold Star to the trophy cabinet but the records show that doing the double happens very rarely. Since 1948 the league and cup double as it were, has only been done 15 times and only twice in the last 20 years. The last man to do this was Ian Wright in 2010 and before him John Fack in 2007. If you think of the amount of trial wins the British champion normally racks up over the winning season, you would think that confidence would take them through to seal the season in style. We look forward to seeing if Simon can take his second major crown of the year.
What car should I drive?
For those drivers who perhaps have a selection of cars parked up in the garage this next section should be studied with interest. The records on what car the winning driver used started in 1971, and is a little patchy until we get to the late 80’s when we get a much fuller picture. The records show that Crossle, Kincraft and Sherpa lead the way as the most successful makes. For those of you now wheeling the Kincraft out of the garage you perhaps may need to think again. The success of the Kincraft was very much before the turn of the century with Calvin Kneebone the last man to win in one, way back in 2000. Since the turn of the century it’s very much a two horse race between the Crossle and the Sherpa, with Crossle currently leading the way with nine wins to the Sherpa’s six. Three of the Sherpa’s wins have come from the latest Indy version driven by Ian Wright, with one from an original live axle and two from the Ian Veale’s Hewland shod IRS at the hands of himself and the following year borrowed by son Josh. The last five winners has seen four Sherpa’s take the crown and one Crossle with Roland breaking the Sherpa grip on the event last year.
The IRS to Live comparison also makes interesting reading. The all time records show live axle winners lead the way with 51 wins to 20 but again since the turn of the century there have been only three live axle winners of the event, Calvin Kneebone in 2000, John McKinney in 2009 and Josh Veale more recently in 2014.
Where should I Live?
South of Bristol or in Ireland is a good starting point. The last 17 winners of the Gold Star currently now live in the South of England or in Ireland. In the last 20 years there have been 5 victories for the men from across the sea, and they enjoyed a purple patch of 4 wins in a row from 2002-2005. Kim Warwick in 2001 remains the last man of a more Northerly persuasion to win the event. With a thriving trialling scene and drivers like Simon Kingsley, Bryan Walker and Richard Sharp leading the charge from the North surely it’s only a matter of time before we see the trophy heading back that way.
Who should passenger for me?
This is a tricky one. The records go in favour of choosing someone you are not related to. Records on winning passengers for the gold star go back to 1956. Since then 27 times the winner of the event has had, a wife, son/daughter or relative in the passenger seat. 36 times a non-related person has been the magic formula. With the odds very even perhaps we should take note from the 70’s and 80’s where 14 times across the 18 years the winners were a family team.
What should my name be?
Nine of the last ten winners of the event have a surname that starts with a letter in the second half of the alphabet. John Fack is the only man to break that trend. The last five years has seen the winner’s surname starts with a letter from the final six letters of the alphabet. An in-depth analysis into fist names suggest R and J are the most winning initials closely followed by C and I.
Does it help if I’ve won it before?
Possibly. Experience no doubt helps but of the 35 different winners of the event only 18 have won the event more than once. Rex Chappell remains the most successful driver in the event sitting on six wins the first coming in 1953 and last in 1966. Ian Wright is Rex’s closet challenger winning the event five times, his first win coming in 1996 and most recent success in 2018. In the last 20 years nine men have won the event for the first time with eleven adding to a previous win. Interestingly only five previous Gold Star winners are likely to be on the start sheet for the 2019 event.
So what about the Silver Star?
Records for the Silver Star go back to 1962, when B. Blundell was the first recorded winner. Last year Ross Bruce became the 50th different winner of the Silver Star event. Despite the records showing 15 less events there have been many more different winners of the Silver Star. Indeed of these 50 only seven drivers have won the event more than once with all of these only ever having won the event twice. Nobody has yet to take a hat-rick of Silver Star wins.
A passenger holds the record for the most successes in the Silver Star event. Chris Millar has recorded three wins as bouncer, twice with Andrew McKinney in 2009 and 2010 and then again more recently with Tom Mckinney in 2017.
The question around what car to use is also more even in the Silver. The all-time records for cars in the silver only really starts from 2000 onwards and shows Sherpa at the top of the tree with the six wins for live axle versions and one for an Indy piloted by Mike Readings in 2011. The second most successful car in the Silver is the Concord with five wins. The split from Live to IRS also offers much hope for the live axle drivers. An estimated 49 times a live axle car has won the Silver Star since the first event to just eight known IRS winners and this trend continues through to modern day. Since 2000 there have been 11 live axle winners and the eight independent winners. Don’t push them beam axles away quite yet!
So who is going to win what?
Can Simon Kingsley do the double? Will Ian Wright equal Rex Chappells record? Can a live axle car buck the trend? Will the title be taken away from the South?
We will find all the answers at the superb site at Lower House Farm, Huntington, Kington, Herefordshire, HR5 3PU on the 18th Jan. Our thanks go to the John Jones and the family for hosting the event on their land.
The trial starts at 10:00am and will consist of at least 2 rounds of 8 hills.
The evening awards dinner is held this year at the Chateau Impney and is also open to all marshalls – please download the ticket application form.