WVAC John Langford Trial

Report By: Bretton King


The Wye Valley Auto Club has perpetually staged trials that have provided entrants with some of the best sections in Western England, yet sadly their position seems to be off the radar and Sat Navs of many... if only they knew what they are missing!!

Last Sunday saw another classic trial staged at the iconic village of Craswall nestled on the Anglo-Welsh border country's Black Mountains, where rocky stream-based section abound and featured heavily in the John Langford Trial, one of the Western centre championship rounds.

The TMX publicity machine still managed to attract 41 starters on a rare, bright morning, where an abundance of observers also made a pleasant change.

Sadly, the days of riding up steep banks and steps at College Farm and Daniels Top are long gone, as are the raucous sessions in the Bulls Head pub where scrummaging for seats beside the wood burning stove, desperately trying to balance piping hot bowls of soup on one knee and a pint on the other gave many an entertaining post-trial aura about the Percy Chadney and Stan Hinsley events... aaahhhh - those were the days.

Still, times they are a changing as Bob Dylan once proclaimed, and so too have the venues, but this hasn't affected the stalwart WVAC crew led by Messrs Hunt, Sanders, Sanders, et al and they can all still put on a amned good trial - One name that has become etched into numerous Western Centre trophies is that of Simon Welch, so all eyes were on him as he set about trying to remain undefeated in this year's championship rounds.

The Expert and Clubman/Expert action went into gear at section 7 and Henry Bendall was expected to mount his challenge from here, but sadly for him the wheels started coming off his wagon as early as the nine-ten double sub where a very slack dab put him on the defensive immediately, quickly followed by a 2 as he struggled to launch out of the stream and up the climb between trees of ten.

Surprisingly, Simon made an error in number nine too but he limited his to a dab and a clean. Onto section one and a dab for Simon as he bisected the trees of the left hand pivot turn seemed to signal the beginning of an off day for him too.

However, in reality, he only dropped one more mark for the rest of the day and instead of Henry mounting the challenge, it was Matt Welch that got nearest to his sibling, albeit on a score of 22 marks. For Henry, the day deteriorated as he proceeded to rack up four maximums and ended up in fourth place behind a speedy Barry Husband.

The Clubman/Expert class was a far closer affair, with the tussle for first place lasting all day long. Oxford's Stefan Walters always rides well and took a great win recently at Stroud Valley's Ron Carter Trophies trial, while championship leader Nathan Pekala has been Mr. Consistent in 2012's title race so a battle royal was expected between them.

However, not to be overshadowed was newly turned fifty-ite Bretton King who is no stranger to these parts, having first ridden at Craswall 30 years earlier... life in the old dog yet?? Stefan set his stall out early and his first lap total of just 3 marks made a statement of intent, especially as King and Pekala each clocked up nine marks, King making what proved to be a very costly error when he turned out of section five only to be waved down by observer Dan Sanders and informed of a five for turning out of the section too early. No amount of pleading made any impression on the steely observer's card and the "price" was duly paid for a lack of attention (senility creeping in I hear you say!!).

When the 2nd lap was completed, the margin was even larger, with Stefan on 6, King on 14 and Pekala on 17 - clawing that sort of gap back was going to be difficult but a lapse from Stefan meant that his cushion was reduced to just 5 marks going into the last lap. Pekala and King each took three's on the twisting climb of number three but this wasn't enough to defeat Stefan who took the win despite shedding six on his final tour. Gareth Talbot won the Youth A battle by a very comfy 20 marks form day-long rivals Alex Muirhead and Jake Hoare.

Keeping up with his son, Mark Talbot scraped home in front of Normandale series contender James Lamin (out on his beloved Montesa) by 2 marks, with the camber of section one proving to be James' ruin as he lost three here compared to Mark's clean sheet.

Merthyr's Dai Bedford had a cracking ride only dropping marks on two sections but sadly these were a 3 and a 5 - no good if you want to win this sort of contest. Continuing the theme of a tight contest, the two main protaganists in the Novice class went into the final lap separated by a solitary mark, with Phil Marsh leading Will King. Marsh matched King over the opening two subs but when the Exeter University student shed another dab it looked as if Phil was home and hosed.

However, having fived on the submerged rock of the 9th section on the previous lap, Phil's nerves got the better of him again and he needed a dab to escape. The clean that followed on the last sub though was enough to hand him the win and deny the Geography student the glory.

British Championship runner, Victoria Payne, was Best Youth B on the route, defeating a number of "wise old men" including Dave Morris aboard his Jotagas. The Sportsman route saw a very able Tom Watkins top the list and win Youth B (a rider to watch!) 5 ahead of Mark McCarthy and 46 ahead of his Dad, Richard - yes, a classic case of "Don't do what I do!".

The fact is that this part of the Centre has some of, if not the best terrain around, and many more should treat themselves to something a little different by making the little bit of extra effort to experience it - you won't be sorry you went... There is nothing ever set out to kill or maim, nor are there any bike breaking sections - just good well marked out trials. Who knows, you may even find a pub with a wood burning stove in it to warm your cockles by at the end of the day...??