As I have recorded previously on these virtual pages, I have some previous Sporting Trial experience. (“some…”) Having been lucky enough to have been offered double drives by Stephen Boden and subsequently by Enda Byrne I discovered two things. Firstly, it’s not easy, and that’s an understatement. Secondly, it is extremely enjoyable. With those points in mind, I decided to buy a car at some stage and give it another go.
Fast forward a couple of years and I hear there is a car for sale. Having just (finally) thinned down the collection somewhat, I rang Kevin Flanagan, who had been extremely helpful with a recent rally project, and it turned out that it was his late father-in law’s VW powered car. He sent me plenty of photos and a deal was done, sight unseen. Kevin even offered to deliver the car, complete with purpose built trailer- an offer that was gratefully accepted, as I am currently sans towbar! Once I had the car back at base, it was off to Patch Tyre Equipment across the road, to use their industrial pressure washer. This did a superb job, and must have lightened the car considerably, as a few events’ worth of mud was despatched. After that, it was out with the sandpaper to clean down the front axle and and exposed chassis tubes, all of which had slight signs of wear and even a touch of surface rust. After that, it was a trip to B&Q for a tin of Hammerite and some brushes and within a few hours, the whole car looked way better. As it was starting on the button and running fine, I didn’t bother with a service, or plugs/points etc- a decision I would come to regret in the following days.
A double drive was arranged with my old buddy Donal Loughrey and we put in our entries for the next event, run in Ashford in Wicklow by the Wexford Motor Club. On the morning of the event, it was an early start, up the N7, around the M50 and down the M11 to meet up with Donal in the Applegreen station just down the road from the event itself, which was being held in an old quarry/sandpit. Petrol and sandwiches were procured from the said venue and off we went. We were lucky enough to happen to park beside Enda Byrne and Siobhan McCann. Not only are they two of the top drivers in the discipline, they are both incredibly helpful. Enda scrutineered the car for us- this included jacking up one wheel to check the diff was “open” and also measuring wheelbase and track to ensure the car met the regulations. Once this was done, we went to see Pat O’Dowd, and I got my one day Motorsport Ireland Licence. Car unloaded, we were directed to the Practise Section, Enda telling us to keep driving until the event started. We noticed a mish mash of various types of car- front engined, mid engined, bike engined, car engined etc- it really is a sport where people build their cars from scratch- and modify them regularly too!
To say we hadn’t a clue what we were at would be a massive understatement, but we got plenty of help until a strong smell of fuel let us know something was up. Luckily for us, Johnny Mahon was at hand to help. In a flash, he had our SU carb apart and was off in search of a small copper washer. Of course, he found one and soon had the carb back together and the car running fine- just in time to head off to the opening section. Once again, we were lucky in that Enda was in our group- meaning we would circulate the sections with him and two or three others. Enda also had young Orla Quigley double driving with him and he was good enough to walk the three of us through each section, with loads of tips and advice.
It soon became evident that, although the car was quite capable, neither Donal or I were up to the task just yet! By mid morning, we were getting much better but a misfire had arrived which made the big climbs very difficult. One of the lovely things about Mudplugs is that everyone stops at lunchtime. Tables chairs sandwiches and flasks appear and it is all very relaxed and sociable. John Mahon donated a condenser and Donal got it fitted so off we went to do the second “lap” of the same six sections.
The weather was as forecast- no rain and somewhere around 10 degrees, which was positively balmy by the standards of the previous week. There had been some rain in the early morning though and in some cases, it was all we had to get to the start of the sections. It soon became apparent that the misfire had not gone away and on one section the car stopped and refused to restart, meaning I had to be towed off the section by another helpful competitor (thank you sir, whoever you were!) A few minutes later, the car decided to fire up and pretend everything was fine- so we both jumped in and headed to the next section post haste! We managed to finish the event- covered in head to toe in muck but more importantly smiling from ear to ear- it really is a great motorsport discipline. Congratulations to Christopher Evans for the overall win, and Siobhan McCann for being first VW engined machine, (just ahead of our man Enda!)
The car has since gone to my local expert mechanic for a full service, carb setup etc and the next event is on December 28th- I can’t wait!
To find out more about Sporting Trials, click HERE