This month’s trial at Whittington gave me two things in common with Scott of the Antarctic: I got cold and lost. However, I was never tempted to end it all in a tent with Rob, Dick and Dave, so it can’t have been all bad.
Dan and I set up some sections on the Saturday, to complete the ones Rob had expertly crafted at the top of the site. Although it was a cold, damp day, the ground was still reasonably solid, and we thought that if Dan’s 90 on road tyres could make it, then sections were probably viable. However, the Land Rover gods showed their scorn for us as they had at Bidfield, and by Sunday morning the overnight deluge had created a few unexpected challenges…
Rob scored uncannily well on the upper sections which he had set up, whilst the rest of us made varying progress. The two Discos of Mike and Richard duelled it out with the usual friendly banter and kind words of encouragement exchanged between the drivers. Dick made things look as easy as he usually does, but threw down a gauntlet to Ric which looked increasingly unwise as the day progressed. Ric, with the kind permission of his wife and many assurances from me that Whittington was ‘about as non-damaging as it gets’ had brought their Freelander 2. Once he found the right settings for the Land Rover elves in the traction system (Snow and Wet Grass, if you’re interested) he started posting some respectable scores, and Dick swore that he would give up all involvement with Land Rovers if he was beaten by a Freelander on road tyres. So, as I could do with a cheap ‘distressed sale’ 90, it was cheerful work marshalling Ric’s ever decreasing penalties. Tim had brought along his Series IIa, which was possibly even more ‘patinated’ than my Series 3, all as a result of the previous owner’s neglect, Tim assured me. He set a standard which I struggled to follow, and on section 3 I got a bit lost and saddled myself with 8 points for the rest of the day.
The lower sections were Dan and my first attempt at setting up, and seemed to work well for most of us. Dave took full advantage of any space left to him to get Big Red around the canes, and finished level with me at the end of the day on 22 points. Dan added a bit more mud to his previously pristine 90, and finished a whisker behind on 24. Mike and Richard discovered previously unknown abilities in their Discos for ploughing, and needed a little assistance getting out of one or two bomb holes – we’d forgotten the Disco’s smaller departure angles and the way that low hanging towing gear can beach a Discovery so efficiently. Ric only learned the language of his Freelander’s wing mirror elves on section 7, which was a shame as folded out they had cost him 9 points on the previous section. Dick began to look like a condemned man reprieved on his way to the gallows, and celebrated by clearing the final 4 sections to finish first on 14 points. Tim’s consistency quite rightly punished my mistakes, and he finished an excellent second. Rob, meanwhile, seemed to be having a few issues with clutch control, and an unplanned ‘failure to proceed’ left him in 5th place on 26 points, with the Freelander and Discos taking the rest of the field.
All in all, a good day, especially as the weather cleared up, everyone had some successes, and I avoided freezing to death in a tent.