52nd John Pryce Trial - OST 8 Sunday 12th August Rob Roy back
As the sun came up over Rob Roy there was already a large gathering putting the final preparation work to this most prestigious event. By about 7.30 it seemed that most competitors had arrived and were offloading cars and bemoaning the excesses from the previous evening's activities.
To re tempt the taste buds and brain cells back to life Mark Taylor, the official catering officer of the weekend had already engaged the help of brother in law and Chef Steve Cains to produce a very welcome bacon and egg breakfast. (There's something magical about the smell of bacon and eggs cooked outdoors first thing in the morning!).
Unfortunately we had lost our sole female driver, Joanne Stritch due to a previous day's illness, however Rob McBain towed his recently repaired car through the gates to maintain our 25 entrant numbers again. The loss of Joanne was a real pity as she had put in a tremendous amount of work behind the scenes to produce our best ever John Pryce trials booklet, souvenir running numbers and section sponsor cards. Joanne and Andrew had also prepared Dale Shaw's Elastic Flyer especially for the weekend including completely overhauling the ageing Renault powerplan with the aid of mechanic extraudinare, John Cox. It was good to see Joanne well enough to return as a spectator during the afternoon.
We started the morning just down from the hillclimb road in the back gully on a short down and up section. This "piston warmer" surprised the late runners by producing quite a large hole about mid section, which proved almost impassible with the ground much more waterlogged than it was first realised. Further down the gully there were two very satisfying bog hole sections that presented quite a few fail points to catch out the unweary - this was mud trialing at its best and just the thing the Kiwis had come over to participate in.
The fourth and final section of the morning was a real spoiler with some very tight turns and off camber hillside to negotiate. One after the other the silverware aspirants found either a peg in their way or not enough grip, Craig Hansen, Steve Mason and Geoff Taylor being three who couldn't quite get their lines right.
The large crowd was treated to lunchtime entertainment by the newly arrived Treasure Hunt contingent in a John Stevens constructed Austin 7 demonstration section. Car entries were down this year which was a pity as there was a quite a number of new faces who had dropped in as a direct result of pre advertising from Winton, all keen to get a look at anything of interest.
First through was John Steven himself followed by Phil Casey, both finding their way around the sticks for a clear section. Not so lucky was Bob Booth who fell foul of some suspect navigation and ended up with a WD to his credit. Next time out carrying a bit more ballast the Ute got round the pegs OK but couldn't find traction with its heavy load and needed an undignified push to get up the hill. Final entrant Graham Logan tried real hard to make the start line but a cantankerous fuel system refused to play the game and left him high and dry without the vital 7 throbbing horsepower needed to propel said vehicle around the course.
With the bottle of Trial Rocket Fuel Red eventually presented to Phil for the best demonstration it was off down the front gully and back in the mud.
After walking the first section of the afternoon it was quickly apparent that this moist gully would quickly deteriorate once traffic started to flow on the sections. This was proved correct as the final bunch of cars struggled to get to the high pegs when the grass gave way to ruts and mud.
The smooth no nonsense Kiwi driving style came to the fore during the afternoon and it's easy to now understand how they can repeatedly do the same sections throughout the day. Once the Australian had finished with their more rapid and spectacular assaults the sections bore no resemblance of their former selves.
Results were what mattered however and despite the differing machinery and techniques it really was an even playing field with Grant and Sidney swapping points and Nigel and the father and son team from New Zealand, Murray and Steve Bridger also revelling in the conditions, the latter both doing extremely well in unfamiliar surroundings.
The other Kiwi family team of Dave and Lewis Evans were interesting to watch in their Honda Automatic powered Sidco car, the auto being able to rapidly change gears mid section when required without the normal power lag associated with an attempt by the manual brigade.
Further up the gully things were just as moist but welcome returnee Tim Jackson seemed to have shaken off his rustiness and was re capturing the form he enjoyed before departing to South Australia last year. There was a near two ten points in succession for Tim, however despite a rather excited passenger he managed a WD during section 6 at the 8 peg.
With the top of the gully reached, it was off over to the dam for our final section of the day. A quick look at the scores showed both Sidney and Grant tying on equal first place with Nigel about 6 points behind and Keith Mitchell one point behind him.
As the crowd lined the dam the first one through was Murray Bridger who surprised everyone with a very clean run, out and up the steep embankment for a 10 point score. The next few that followed only made the 8 peg. Grant was next through for a 10 closely followed by Keith also achieved a similar score.
This gave Grant an amazing 11th victory in the John Pryce Trial but all eyes were now on Sidney as he lined up for his moment of glory.
With the whole crowd willing him on, Sidney traversed the dam and slowly climbed the car out the other side and up the now very slippy hill to become the first overseas competitor to add his name to the trophy in a joint and well received first placing alongside Grant. Nigel came out soon after to maintain his well-deserved third place.
The presentation of trophies was before a packed house (tent), with about 100 people staying on for this memorable occasion. The evening was full of speeches, awards and presentations, however the biggest applause was reserved for the joint winner speeches that were short but full of kind words for the event and each other. As Sidney said "I read sometime back about this guy Grant Campbell in Australia and I thought to myself, one day I'm going to beat him - well I haven't yet but this is as good a feeling to be alongside him holding this trophy!".
Shortly following the presentation a delicious spit roast dinner was enjoyed by all until it was time to pack up and head home long after it had come dark.
Leaving the post mortems of the trials to another issue, its fitting to close this report with a poem written on a gift plaque to the club from the New Zealand team:
As we cross the mighty Tasman
I think that just about sums up the sentiments of both teams, competitors, officials, helpers and crowd who were truly involved in something special that I hope we can repeat again in the future. Next ANZ Cup Challenge will be in New Zealand, November 2003. - planning starts shortly.
The next two trials are at St Andrews 3 on Sunday August 26th and Wandin 3, Sunday September 9th before a return visit to Panton Hills on Sunday September 23rd.
See You in the Mud.