AS local sport succumbed to adverse weather, sports reporter Sam Murley made his motorsport debut at Holbecks Park, Hadleigh, in West Suffolk Motor Club’s car trial event.
NOT knowing what to expect, my naive belief that the event may be affected or even called off due to the heavy snowfall like a lot of sports, was soon dispelled as I walked across the field and was introduced to Paul Ellis, registrar of the club.
“We need the bad conditions like this to make car trialing worthwhile,” he said. “You are not only trying to beat everyone else here, but you are also trying to beat the elements themselves and these conditions make it more difficult but perfect for what we want to do.”
And he was right. Car trialing wouldn’t be the sport it is without tricky conditions to compete in as drivers take on a series of sections (tests) laid out on hilly grassland with the objective to get as far up the hill as possible without hitting any course markers.
The markers, numbered from 12 at the bottom to one at the top of the hill, are an indication of your score for each stage, the higher you get the lower the penalty, with the objective of every driver to surpass the number one, resulting in a clear section and zero scored penalty. At the end of the event, scores are totalled up and the competitor with the lowest score is the winner.
Having been instructed on the rules I found myself at the first section being introduced to my car for the day, a Citroen AX hatchback or ‘Phil’ as he has been christened by the club.
It appeared simple enough, drive straight up the steep hill, collect no penalty and make the perfect first impression on the expectant motor club and other competitors who were waiting their turn. How wrong I was.
The belief that hard acceleration would lift myself and Phil effortlessly up the hill proved fruitless as I found myself halted and wheels spinning, at marker 10, not the ideal start.
With my ego knocked well and truly back, Paul introduced me to his 18-year-old daughter Hannah, who would partner me for the remainder of the morning.
Hopeful I was now sitting next to another beginner, Hannah quickly set about proving me wrong, not for the first time, clearing the next section perfectly, showing me how trialing should be approached, with caution and masterful clutch control.
Only later did I discover that Hannah was crowned ladies trial champion last year and that she had been competing for a number of years.
However, despite being completely shown up by Hannah, it appeared her skill and more cautious approach, coupled with the advice from Paul, had started to rub off on me as not only did I improve steadily, claiming a respectable five on my next run but on my final effort, I somehow drove my way to the much coveted perfect score, a zero penalty, mission accomplished.
So what of my future in motorsport? Let’s just I say I think Sebastian Vettel et al can rest easy for the time being.
n A massive thank you to everyone at West Suffolk Motor Club and particularly Paul and Hannah Ellis for not only allowing me to use one of their cars but for their patience throughout the morning.
To find out more information about the club, visit www.wsmc.co.uk