After a postponement due to heavy snow a month ago, the first round of the ACU Trailbike trials championship got underway in the lower Wye Valley and the better weather made for a tight finish at the top of the 35th annual Wyegate trial.
Just half a second separated winner Jason Bendall from Simon Welch over the tie-breaking special test, after both finished on no marks lost on observation, along with Andy Foot and Martin Gilbert. All four recorded a perfect score on clerk of the course Rod Jones's 80 mile, eight hour-plus tour of traditional green lanes, so it was down to a dash across a field near the lane the trial gets its name from to act as a tie breaker. Jason held his nerve, and the throttle wide open, to record a much-sought after first Wyegate win.
After a loosener at Mork Hill, Gurlus Grove's narrow gully made for a tricky test, then the 120 or so riders encountered the first tough challenge of the day at Limekiln Woods. A long rocky gully was followed by the feared slab steps, then tricky ruts to finish. Gurlus took a mark apiece off pre-65 winner Steve Allen and second placed Matthew Welch – while Allen is a seasoned campaigner on his Royal Enfield Bullet 350, the same model machine was new territory for Matthew who was enjoying his first outing on his dad Tom's pride and joy. To finish just ahead of former trial winner Steve Grindle and fellow-mounted BSA B40 runner Sam King was no mean feat for him and the bike.
With 32 sections attempted just once a year, the Wyegate throws up all manner of surprises, and with the weather making for generally drier sections, one slip of concentration was all that was needed to slide down the leader board.
Devauden 1's tricky ruts took another former event winner Henry Bendall for a three mark loss, and cost top ten runner Kevin Stannard a mark and Matthew Welch two. Henry overcame that and a five on Limekiln 1 to clean right until the penultimate section of the trial in Forge Wood. Similarly a five on Nannies Lane 2 put Mike Hughes out of a top spot chance while Joe Bendall and Dave Cottle held their concentration better to dab just three times throughout the event.
Surely a candidate for ride of the day was Tom Pike, aboard a Kawasaki KDX 220, a bike far less suited to the sections than many others. To lose just eight marks was a very creditable score.
Standard route winner Nick Worgan had a good ride on his KTM Freeride 250 two stroke to pip Steve Grinter aboard his Honda XL185 by a mark.
The result means Simon Welch, riding long time Wyegate campaigner Tony Falconer's Pampera for the first time, leads the championship for eligible machines with Cotswold-turned Derbyshire star Foot second and Devon ace Gilbert in third before the next round on August 12, run by Neath MCC.
Ch indicates 15 championship points scorers
1. Jason Bendall, Montesa 4RT 260, 0 marks lost (tie decided on special test time)
2. Ch Simon Welch, Gas Gas Pampera 250, 0
3. Ch Andy Foot, Gas Gas Pampera 250, 0
4. Ch Martin Gilbert, Gas Gas Pampera 320, 0
5. Steve Allen, Morris Lubricants Royal Enfield Bullet 350, 2 (pre65)
6. Ch Joe Bendall, Gas Gas Pampera 250, 3 (most cleans)
7. Ch Dave Cottle, Sherco X Ride 290, 3
8. Ch Kevin Stannard, Gas Gas Pampera 250, 4
9. Matthew Welch, Royal Enfield Bullet 350, 5 (pre65)
10. Steve Grindle, BSA B40 350, 6 (pre65)
11. Ch Mike Hughes, Gas Gas 250, 7
12. Ch Tom Pike, Kawasaki KDX 220, 8 (furthest least marks lost)
13. Sam King, BSA B40 350, 8
14. Ch Henry Bendall, Gas Gas Pampera 25, 9 (most cleans)
15. Ch Stephen Kenny, KTM EXC 300, 9
16. Ch Neil Saunders, Sherco X Ride 290, 9
17. Ch Ian Worrall, KTM EXC 250, 10 (most cleans)
18. Ch Ben Falconer, Gas Gas Pampera 333, 10
19. Ch Anthony Griffiths, Sherco X Ride 290, 11 (furthest clean)
20. Ch Paul Sargant, Gas Gas Pampera 250, 11