Flagged in our Facebook posts last week, the Vintage Sports-Car Club’s Welsh Trial took place in the rugged hill country surrounding TCMR’s hometown of Presteigne last weekend which was the wettest of the autumn, and possibly the year! The driving rain on the Saturday made for treacherously muddy conditions but competitors remained undaunted especially at the legendary forest ascent at Smatcher – a part of the course that been in use since 1939. Then later in the day at Badlands where cars had to negotiate a waterlogged gully before struggling over a slimy, six foot hillock then onwards towards a sharp left-hand bend and a steep 300 yard track was also extremely challenging.
Many of the cars – all pre-1931 remember and on skinny wheels and tyres – were defeated by the hillock and had to be towed out by a tractor, but some of the most successful efforts were made by diminutive Austin 7-based specials and Chummies – which being small and light made the most of their relatively tiny 747cc engines.
Come Sunday morning it was still raining which promised to make the three awesome hillclimbs above Cwm Whitton Farm especially precarious, although by lunchtime the rain had stopped and the sun had made a break for it although the normally grippy meadow turf had quickly ploughed up into greasy, glutinous glop.
Again, some of the Chummies and lightweight specials had an easier time of it than the big, Class 2 cars which with their long-wheelbases and heavy running gear got caught out on Hill 16 which featured a sharp right-hander at the top. This even defeated local hero Ben Collings – a friend and neighbour of our magazine – in the event’s oldest vehicle, a 9.2litre 1903 Mercedes!
Mention of Collings, whose father, Roger also competes in his vintage Bentley and sometimes his ultra-rare 1912 Swiss-Italian Züst, reinforces our amazement at the willful abandonment with which their owners throw these otherwise precious cars into the fray. The collective value of 150-odd machines that took part in this year’s Welsh Trial would be well into the tens of millions, yet their drivers think nothing of revving engines way beyond their proscribed limits, wheels spinning furiously, transmissions screaming in protest in these most good natured of competitions. And yet replacement parts for some of them have to be specially machined – there certainly aren’t any bits for Colling’s car at the local Mercedes dealer! – and maintaining them in competitive condition is an expensive if rewarding business.
Another impressive aspect of these VSCC events is the number of female entrants, and not just the ‘bouncers’ who energetically jump up and down helping to maintain traction on the slippery hills, and this year in particular we were rooting for another friend of the magazine, Annie Peake, in her Austin Chummy.
There will be more photos of the event this coming week on our Facebook pages so check out www.facebook.com/classicmotoringreview