By Geoffrey Pickett

OVERNIGHT rain proceeding the event, and further downpours during the early tests, provided drivers with a challenge as they competed in the Reg Paull Trophy Trial at Woolminstone near Crewkerne.

The first round of four, during six tests, presented little in the way of complications as the grassland was fresh and undisturbed.

The leading drivers completed the first half dozen sections without penalty but the passage of the cars during the first run broke the grass surface on many tests which along with showers of rain brought mud into the equation and therefore lower levels of grip.

Competitors without ballast were the first to experience the change in conditions which had a huge impact on the scores. Following the first round, Jez Searle and Craig Hayward, driving a Peugeot 106 and Citroen Saxo respectively, led the class having accumulated a single penalty point.

Six tests later they still led the way but Searle had amassed a total of 30 points with Hayward on 35. At this juncture in the event Harvey Hayward, Saxo mounted, had moved into the placings a mere three points adrift of Craig.

Previous national champion Mark Hoppé, from Sherborne, displayed his experience and skills throughout the Woolbridge Motor Club event at the wheel of his Saxo to go into the lunch halt with an eight point advantage over fellow Saxo driver Will Lawrence.

The first two runs provided close competition in the rear wheel drive category with Maiden Newton driver John Kirby at the wheel of his Mazda MX5 holding a seven-point lead over the Reliant Scimitar SS1 of Weymouth’s Alastair Stevenson and Gary Morris also campaigning a Mazda MX5. Stevenson and Morris were tied on 70 points.

Jez Searle was ‘on it’ right from the off following the recess dropping just five points in the third round of competition and only four during the final set of tests. This performance propelled the Tidworth driver to the class victory some nine points ahead of Craig Hayward.

Harvey Hayward dropped back during the afternoon tests but finished on a total of 86 points to win the award for the Best Performance by a Young Driver.

It was the unballasted class which provided the winner of Ladies Award with Katie Hobbs' Saxo finishing a single point in arrears of Harvey.

Mark Hoppé, displayed consistency throughout the afternoon with scores of 15 and 16 on the final two rounds to take the Reg Paull Trophy as the overall victor.

That left class honours to Weymouth Saxo driver Tony Freeman who enjoyed a strong performance after lunch and demoted Will Lawrence, eventually finishing 13 points to the good.

The afternoon saw Gary Morris move up to challenge Kirby in the rear wheel drive division, the Bridport driver continuing a successful season to take the win by a mere three points.

A ‘specials’ class ran alongside the road cars featuring the SRB driven by Dominic Bishop and Julien Lightfoot. A single error in the morning by the latter with a similar scenario in the afternoon gifted the win to the Bere Regis driver who completed the day with zero penalties.