The month of May saw the return of the Yorkshire Dales Trial and after not competing since March I was keen to take to the hills once again. After my first overall win on the Durham Trial two months ago I was excited for the popular Yorkshire trial as this event would be my first trial as a driver. As ever I was joined by my Dad who was to be my passenger for the day.
An easy journey up the motorway saw us arrive in good time for the trial and after scrutineering we were ready for a day of hill climbing. I was running as car number 71 behind some excellent trailers like Paul Merson and Nick Sherrin and Stuart and Kieran Bartlett. We would be closely followed by friend and veteran trialler Dean Partington with passenger and so-called comedian Bill Rhodes.
Watergates 1 was the first section. For this climb we had to adhere to the tyre pressure rules so would be attempting the stage with our tyres on 12 psi. We would also have to attempt a restart on this section, meaning we would go so far up the hill then stop at the restart marker and pull away again. After negotiating a rocky stream at the start of the section I had to put the power down as the climb was slippery and wet. We made it to the restart, but we began to slide back on the slippery rocks and had to grab the hydraulic handbrake at the last minute. Luckily, we cleared the restart and made it to the end of the section.
After a good start we were straight on to Watergates 2 where we could run our tyres at our preferred pressure and again, we would have a restart to contend with on this stage. We started the section well and drove cautiously at the start as it was narrow and little speed was required. The restart was placed at the bottom of an incredibly steep bank and as I attempted to place the car in a good position, I accelerated too hard and got wedged on a piece of earth. I attempted the restart, but the car wasn’t going anywhere so six points were added to our score.
A quick journey on the public roads and we arrived at a new section known as Dry Gill 2. Fortunately, the weather was still holding out even though some ominous clouds were filling the skies above the Yorkshire Dales. This was a good section with a tricky ending, however, due to the ground being reasonably dry it did not challenge us too much.
We then travelled on to Strid Wood 1 and 2. The first of these sections was an easy climb requiring minimal throttle as there was plenty of traction. The second climb was a little trickier and was another section where we gained unwanted points. Midway along the section I had to turn around a rocky hairpin bend and once again I was a little heavy footed and ended up riding the bank on the left-hand side and managed to execute what looked like a wheelie, however, another four points were added to our overall score.
Hawpike would be our next section of the day. At the start we had to climb a short bank before driving between two trees to the restart marker. The restart was awkwardly positioned, but the section was dry allowing us to complete the stage problem free.
It was then on to our first timed section of the day at Highfield Farm. A course had been laid out with cones and we had to complete the stage as fast as we could. A rare error from Paul Merson in his immaculate Shopland resulted in him getting a time penalty and Stuart Bartlett opted for a Ken Block style approach, drifting his Cannon around the cones. Luckily my attempt was less dramatic and I set a reasonably competitive time.
Section 7 known as Peel’s Wood was a rather disappointing climb for me as I once again decided to flaw it at the wrong moment. The initial part of the climb was good as I went steadily round a bend, but I misjudged the amount of grip I had and put too much power on, resulting in the car running wide and colliding with a post. Another nine points were added to our score and I was keen to improve on my error after the lunch stop.
The first section after the break was Sword Point 1. This was a long climb that twisted between trees in a densely forested area. We reached the restart with no issues and had plenty of traction, enabling us to clear the section easily. Sword Point 2 was next and this proved to be slightly more challenging. The top of the section was covered in large roots and deep ruts and as I went put the power down, we got stuck and however hard we bounced around the car was going nowhere, so two points were added to our score.
Refuelled, we headed on to Wilsons Wood 1 which, despite the restart, was less tricky than some of the previous sections we had encountered. Next came Wilsons Wood 2 and this too proved to be an easy section, so it was on to the infamous Brimham Lodge, filled with newfound confidence after two successful climbs.
Section 12 was an excellent climb where we did better than expected. With the tyres set at 12 PSI it was our turn on the section and knew this wouldn’t be easy after both Paul and Stuart had both scored two points. After starting the climb well, we were greeted with a sharp left-hand bend that was slippery and wet which was then followed by a bank that was covered by long grass. As we went around the bend, I put my foot down and the car had good grip over the wet grass, but we stopped dead on the crest of the hill, metres from clearing the stage. One point was added to our overall score, but a fun climb in the circumstances. Dean who was next and did not disappoint, flying out of the section on two wheels and maintaining his class 8 lead after the others had gained points.
We then drove on to Bluebell Wood which was by far the best climb of the day. Paul and Nick attempted the climb first, but sadly we couldn’t watch all of their attempt as the section diverted into the woods, so we had to rely on sound alone to get an idea of what lay ahead. After a lot of revving it came over the marshals radio that car No. 69 had scored 4 which was a blow for their chances of a class win. Stuart and Kieran had a better run, clearing the section well and were still in the mix for a class win. It was then my chance to tackle the section and had set my tyres at a risky 5 psi in order to get as much traction as possible. The first part of the climb ran alongside a stream and was covered in rocks and big bumps, after which the section went ninety degrees left up a bank, and by bank, I mean wall. To make the turn up the bank I ran wide and put the power down hard and much to our surprise we made it on to the next part of the section. We made it to the restart where both Paul and Stuart had had some difficulty moving away and I thought we would struggle ourselves when I’d stopped on a large rock.
Rather than going for power to pull away from the restart I increased the revs on our Volkswagen Buggy, slowly released the handbrake and we moved away with no wheelspin at all. We then continued along a grassy track before the section diverted again over a gully and up between more trees and bluebells. At the bottom of the diversion was a large mound of muddy earth where Paul and Nick had got stuck, therefore a good amount of power would be needed to make it to the end of the stage. I ran wide in order to get a good run at next part of the hill and flawed it over the gully and launched over the mound of earth in our way with our front wheels in the air. Once the car had landed, we carried on to the end of the section and were very pleased to have cleared a demanding climb. Dean’s hopes of a class win were shattered when he got stuck on a rock at the restart and gained 6 points so it looked like Stuart and Kieran would be claiming victory on this occasion.
The final stage of the day, Longside Wood, was a gentle climb to finish what had been an excellent trial and after clearing the section, we headed back to the start to collect our certificate. The results were published a few days after the event and I was pleased to have finished forth in class behind Stuart and Kieran, Dean and Bill and Paul and Nick with an overall score of 22 points which was a promising result considering it was my first event as a driver.
The Yorkshire Dales Trial is a fantastic event and allows for every trialler to have some fun, whether you’re driving an old VW Beetle, and Suzuki X90 or a more bespoke class 8 car. I look forward to taking part in more trials in the 2019 and will return to the hills of Yorkshire next year.