THE 2017 car trials season in Dorset got underway recently at Hogcliff Farm with the Woolbridge Motor Club’s South Dorset Trophy Trial when 26 competitors faced a total of 24 sections.
The first class into action catered for both front and rear wheel drive cars not carrying ballast. Peugeot 106 pilot Jez Searle added another class win to his success in December’s Autotechnics Trial in his 1124cc machine with a comfortable win over the Citroen Saxo driven by Bob North.
The Peugeot man was quick out of the blocks and had amassed a 14-point lead over Dave Atkins (Citroen Saxo) after the first round of six tests. Atkins was under pressure from both Gary Morris (Vauxhall Corsa) and North who were respectively just one and two points in arrears.
The odd point dropped by Morris and Atkins enabled North to move clear of the former by five points at the conclusion of the event, although he trailed Searle by 21 points. The front wheel drive division (with ballast) provided fiercer competition with four drivers, all driving Citroen Saxos, covered by just five points after an intense battle.
Vic Rose stole an early advantage cleaning four of the six tests and just failing to do so on another two occasions therefore gained two penalty marks. Upwey’s Phil Gabe, sharing the Saxo with Rose, slotted into second place having lost four points whilst fellow Saxo pilots Will Lawrence and Ben Chazal shadowed the leaders a further two and four points adrift.
At the halfway mark Rose maintained his two point advantage over Lawrence but now Shawn Franklin had slotted into third place a brace of points in arrears of the second placed man and just one point ahead of Chazal.
The first round of tests after the lunchbreak proved costly for Rose in his debut with a new car. His advantage nullified by Lawrence to see the two Saxo adversaries commence the final round level on points but three up on Franklin. The leading duo both dropped a point on the second test of the last round to retain the status quo but as the pressure mounted the penultimate section of the day decided the battle with Lawrence gaining three penalty points against the two of Rose.
Therefore Rose claimed the class by a single point but was pronounced the winner of the event overall once a performance index had been applied to the scores of all the competitors.
This elevation to the premier award gave the class victory to Will Lawrence but only after a tie-decider was implemented to split him and Franklin who had finished on identical penalties. Chazal claimed third in class four points down on Lawrence/Franklin.
The battle for class honours aside, there were more trophies winners in the ballasted front wheel drive division with Jaxson Marsh claiming the Novice award in the Citroen AX which the club has available for young drivers to experience the sport of trialling and the same car was driven by Sophie Franklin to claim the award for the Best Performance by a Junior driver.
Maiden Newton’s Sarah Kirby won the Ladies class in the Citroen Saxo which she shares with her father. The Rear Wheel Drive class (for vehicles which were not included in class one) saw Sherborne’s Mark Hoppé take an uncontested win in his Dutton Melos building a winning margin of 31 points over John York in his venerable MG Midget.
The final category catered for non-production cars with the Ford Special campaigned father and son pairing Colin and Gavin Cheffey. Youth favouring Gavin in the results with a win by six points.
The local drivers of the Woolbridge club are now preparing to battle against the best trials drivers in the country when the club promotes the first round of the 2017 British Championships at a venue near Crewkerne.