In the trial the hazard was altered a trifle so that it should not be a case of "parrot knowledge." Very few, however, made anything of a recce, or even paused on the starting line to have a look. A superb show seen in this phase was that of Pte. Biggs (498 Levis).
Paddy Johnston's "shell-hole'' hazard or, rather, "throttle-control" section, drove home the need for looking before one leaps, for immediately after a very short, steep "up" there was a sharp turn to the right. Paddy pointed out that on active service none could tell what lay behind the brow; there might be barbed wire. Thus the thing to do was to throttle back when part way up and roll over the summit. Then there would be the ability to stop if need be, and the low speed would mean that there was time to pick one's route. The hazard also emphasised the need to look well, ahead—to think in terms of a difficult point lying some way ahead. Three who were noted as putting up perfect shows here were 2/Lt. Templeman (350 Norton); Pte. Southon (Ariel) and Pte. Tonge (Royal Enfield).
The tree-root hazard was largely a natural one, and decidedly difficult—much more so than it appeared. There was a premium on path-picking and an engine which opened up cleanly. One of the neatest, seen here in the morning phase, was Sgt. Archer on a G/3L Matchless. Pte. Prudence, on a similar machine, was also good, but a fraction rough with his throttle. Pte. Smith (350 Triumph) neglected to take his weight off the saddle as his machine hit the steps. Suddenly he went flying, holding a handlebar rubber (minus handlebar) in one hand.
"Plenty of ambition!" remarked a spectator, as Pte. Heath (Triumph) disappeared after a fastish, wild sort of showing. A few minutes later, after Pte. Lewis had given his demonstration, there was a further comment—this time from one of the competitors; it comprised merely the four words, "Easy when you know!"
Performances were considerably better in the afternoon. Pte. Hughes (B.8.A.), Pte. Gowlett (Ariel) and Pte. W. Traish (Ariel) were all noted as good. The one rider of a 1,000 c.c. machine, an Ariel Four, paused at a root, but proceeded to make a most workmanlike restart, and successfully negotiated the remainder of the climb.
The stretch of mud employed was only about 20 yards long. It was a gullied portion of a footpath (on the W.D. land on which the local Home Guard has the training rights). On the left there was ditch, near the left of the path lay a deep water-filled gully, and on the right slime on rough and temporarily hard going. Another thoroughly nasty proposition. Some, on their first attempts, said to themselves, "Mud! This is where we turn up the taps!" And a number flew —yes, flew!—into that ditch, one having his model catch alight, happily without damage, in spite of a nasty blaze.
There was only one thing to do if one was to be utterly safe, which, as Sgt. Murray stressed, was to trickle through. The lad who got into the ditch and his machine on fire, had he been on his own, would probably never have reached his destination, he pointed out, and the job of a D.R. was to get there.
In the afternoon the mud was softer and, if possible, even more treacherous. This time not one was seen taking risks, and the vast majority were making really workmanlike showings with their weight where it was needed to afford maximum traction—in the saddle. Some still used their clutches. Two of many excellent performances seen here were those of Pte. Biggs (Levis), who gave just one wise, safety's sake dab, and Pte. Rogers (Royal Enfield).
Most difficult of all the hazards was the restarting test.. The gradient was steep and the track very slippery indeed, also there was much loose stone higher up the hill. With a perfectly co-ordinated bump-down on the saddle and clutch in, it was possible to get away on the track. A very small number took care to place their back wheels on a patch that would afford wheelgrip. All it was necessary to do was to start with the machine level with a white post. Lockett (Norton) duly had his machine level with it, but on the heather, which could be counted upon to afford reasonable wheelgrip. It was a case of a track which, like so many tracks, tempts people to use it, whereas the only way to get to the summit with fair ease and safety is by eschewing it.
Even in the afternoon quite a number still kept to the track, although its nature was such that few, other than a George Rowley, could make a perfect get-away on it.
At the watersplash, however, there was a vast improvement as compared with the morning, when a number charged the 30-yard stretch, and it was a practice with many to endeavour to get through without using the clutch. In the afternoon man after man was perfect. About the only failures seen were those of riders who omitted to give their machines enough throttle when they reached the middle, which was well over hub deep. Pte. Mace and Pte. Lockett lifted their feet almost tank high to keep them dry, yet never seemed to waver an inch.
Best Performance of the Day—L/Cpl. A. T. Hunt. (348 Ariel) and Pte. J. H. Lockett (348 Norton), a tie with 29 marks out of a possible 30 (i.e. gaining a bonus mark on each of five hazards for "outstanding confidence and ability").
Equal Third—Pte. Biggs (500 Levis), Pte. Mace (350 Velocette) and Cpl. Panton (500 Norton), 28 marks.
Other Good Performances (in order).—Pte. Masters (350 Matchless), 27; Pte. Southon (350 Ariel), 26; Pte. Major (350 Triumph) and Pte. Hollamby (490 Norton), 24; Lt. B. W. Amey (490 Norton), Pte. Cronin (350 Ariel), Sgt. Miller (350 Ariel) and Pte. Fry (350 New Imperial), 23 marks.
Best Team Performance—H.Q. 1st Glos: Pte. Mace (Velocette), Pte. Lockett (Norton) and Pte. Major (350 Triumph), with 81 marks out of a possible 90.
Second Best Team—H.Q. 55th Kent, No. 2 Team: Pte. Hitch (350 Royal Enfield), Pte. Carter (500 Velocette) and Pte. Southon (350 Ariel), 67 marks.
Third Best Team—D. Coy., 11th Berks: Cpl. Panton (500 Norton), Pte. Windsor (500 A.J.S) and Pte. Whittaker (350 Ariel), 66 marks.
IMAGE CAPTION: The watersplash was deep. Here Pte. Dunlop
(350 Ariel) is adding to its effective depth by travelling a fraction fast
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