The next trial was further into the woods, mostly on a muddy tree-covered slope, with a very tight U-turn towards the beginning. Thomas insisted it was possible, although the first few to go through didn’t manage it. Thomas then endeavoured to prove his point, but ended up flattening a 25 foot tall dead tree in the process … point made I feel …. or everyone else!
Half way around the trial was a turn on a cross slope. This looked a bit steep and tested the mettle of many of the drivers, Matt see-sawing on two wheels at one point for a heart-stopping few seconds, and Michael Ghia caused everyone to run over shouting and flapping wildly when he stopped his van sideways on the gradient, looking to be in serious danger of tipping over. Then SyncroSam made the surprise move of the day, managing to get 2 wheels fully off the ground and 3 feet from the floor, on a section where no-one else had managed anything spectacular at all … Clive thought he’d got a clear round, till we gently pointed out the easiest gate of all – that he’d missed completely, not for the first time, and then Euan seemed also to have got a brilliant clear in Donald Dokka, Thomas’ tree-felling opening the way. Andy BBB had by then taken a good look at the task, his not so knobbly tyres , his 16’s straight panels and decided discretion was the better part of valor, joining up with Jake for a safer introduction to Syncronauts’ events … this time, anyway.
The Golden Wonder (our van) seemed to develop starter trouble midday, and as the weather grew colder it started to rain. Matt had it backed into the Spragman’s where SyncroSam (aka WindsurfSam) began an epic feat – rapidly becoming part of Syncronaut legend – 12 hours non-stop work in the wet and cold (on someone else’s van!)
After lunch, some of Jake’s snake-like convoy were to be found parked up (or lost?) trying out their camper’s brewing facilities, just enjoying the surroundings – one presumed. But on with the trials, Thomas opting to set a reverse task around the steep wood, with the rain during lunch and two snaking uphill climbs with tight turns at top and bottom, making it difficult from the start – the real crunch though were some all but impossible gates around the trees on the flat at the top. Mark Mudlark having joined in with the trials group, borrowed Donald the workhorse Doka for a trial run, then all but managed a clear in his less well shod Tristar. A good laugh was had by all watching the novel ways some had of tackling the conundrum posed by those ‘impossible’ twists and turns up on the top.
It was smaller group that arrived at Trial 3, and upon walking it, an even smaller group shouted ‘me first’ – a group of one – Thomas, having set it, soon demonstrated at least one climb out was maybe a ‘ridge too far’. Steve Darch came to the rescue with his wonderful little Suzuki, the Green-eyed monster having ‘exhausted itself’ reversing into a bank – repeatedly. Quickly changing that gate, Thomas un-blocked his exhaust while Clive found the new route navigable, but hit the new gate, then was seen hanging precariously over the drop down into the Devil’s Pit. Geoff and others enjoyed good circuits down and out the sandstone faced gulley, up to the ridge and the hair-raising drop down the rocky slide, as the area was cleared for a crossing by Jake, leading a now battered convoy, with Marcus’ 3-wheel drive syncro having an increasingly difficult time of it. Having previously shown that the rocky slide could be climbed, but maybe not without lower body damage, Thomas hinted at reversing the task! Seeing his increasingly battle scarred van, and a 3-van tow out taking place across the entrance to the gully, those left called it a day and an increasingly cold and muddy one, at that.
Saturday night saw a one hour Syncronauts committee meeting, whilst Crazy Geoff supervised the barbeque alongside the coldest Spragmans ever – it must have been nearly freezing in there – a shock after the mild night before – fortunately it didn’t detract from the meeting, although why we never thought to put on the gas rings on the hob in there I’ll never know. The evening’s entertainment was provided by ‘Mad Dog’ McGill and his Buckfast induced singing and dancing routine, SyncroPete ignoring Muna leaping about claiming her back was broken, and Thomas Hell, Sam, Cate and Matt leaving at 10.30pm to drive to Bristol to collect the necessary parts to get three of the Syncro’s back on (off) road ….. They returned at 2am, to find they’d missed the firewalking, and alas McGill’s rendition of The Cadburys ‘Topic’ advert …………
A great evening, with a 120dB ‘intellectual debate’ (no known subject) between McGill and ‘the Pikey’ featuring prominently, superb campfire, everyone fuelled by either Danielle’s (the Pikey has a name?) excellent mulled wine or McGill’s copious supplies of Buckfast.
Sunday morning saw a real hive of activity in the campsite, with Roger starting the ball rolling with another smokey bumpstart of his G-Wagen, then J&C’s ex-BBC Doka finally caught and belched its black, grey, blue and white smokescreen a good while, before it was happy to run clean …
Elsewhere, with parts foraged from Castle Diamond the previous night, Marcus was being helped by Aidan to fit a failed outer driveshaft CV, Thomas helped by Jake similarly, SyncroSam was still trying to change the course of history (get Matt’s Golden Wonder running reliably) and others were fettling away here and there.
Visitors arrived, one being Richard Jones with his 2.5 DOHC Subaru LHD Syncro, very neat, with Subaru instrument panel mounted firmly on his dash, as well as a laptop for real-time ecu interrogation (you just had to be impressed!). Without a shortened sump and with road tyres , this was not going climbing those Coney Farm hills, but reports came back that it drives superbly on the road, lovely sound too.
It was almost noon when Thomas let it be known we had time for last quick cuppa before his briefing, and again, we were splitting into two groups, Jake’s to tackle some more difficult driving now it was quite wet after Saturday’s rain. But we aimed to be back in camp by 2-00 pm.
Sunday’s trial was laid out by Steve Darch (IOW 4×4 club) whilst everyone was still spannering way the morning. On a much bigger playing field, being around trees on a very steep sided leaf –mold covered slope with a narrow rutted dug out track to start, Steve had not only used some very tight gates on the slopes, but set first two gates, well off-centre to the rutted track. Very few of the syncronauts were willing to take part in this trial (hangovers maybe – SyncroPete parking up, brewing coffee and only accepting the challenge of keeping the mug upright whilst passengering, whilst refusing to drive an inch further, very sensibly!) After Thomas managed to get stuck on the very first attempt, it was adjusted accordingly, the others had a go, and it proved a little easier than it had looked (yeh right Jen, Ed). Clive and Andy both seemed to get just one penalty (at different ends), and it was left to Steve in his Suzuki, to show the trick of getting out the flooded ruts (deep!!) to roar through the offset gate penalty free. Great trial …
After the drama was all over, some fun on the hilltop meadows, especially by SyncroSam, a gentle drive back to base, all maintaining the 15mph on site speed limit …..Ahem!
After a mixture of restorative lunch and de-camping the awards of the event were presented. Best Syncro was jointly won by the two 16 inchers – AndyBigbluebus and McGill, and ‘Person of the Event’ was won by SyncroSam – unanimously – man of the match, services rendered in the wet and cold. Harry thanked Thomas for organising the event’s driving, Jake, the marshals, Steve Darch, honorary member as of SP 1 and forgot all the others he should have thanked – everybody. As usual, Andy Mc, Aidan and Sam stayed to sweep the site, final exit – 5-00pm.
Jenny Leonard (additional material Clive Smith)