Grass Autotest – 14-May-2023

This year’s Autotest was held at a new venue, Ingles Hill Farm, Burton Rd., Ashby,  thanks to the generosity of Maurice and Isabel Stanley, and we were all very pleasantly surprised by the lovely warm sunny weather we had, after the bitter winds of the day before.  When I first arrived, it was great to see Brian and Jean Lee there.  It was only 3 weeks after Brian’s knee replacement op, and I was very surprised to see him, but also good to see him doing so well albeit still on one crutch.  Needless to say, he was a spectator though this year.  Good luck with the rest of the recovery Brian.

The day started with registration, a picnic and a review of our new course.  Frank (Orton) had excelled himself with the course design this year, siting the cones around strategically placed trees, although he did assure us that it wouldn’t matter which way we went round the trees!  Unfortunately, my beloved ALY is still off the road, so I had taken up Martin Woodward’s kind offer of being his navigator – little did Nina know when she had said to him before he left home, that at least he’d do well this year, that she’d obviously jinxed us, and/or not seen my navigating!!

For the uninitiated of our readers, the Autotest is made up of a number of different tests (circuits) that drivers complete individually, being timed.  With only one car on the test circuit at any one time, you do not have the anxiety of having to look out for other cars, and your overall time is added to by 10 seconds for each cone that you touch, or, if you have a wrong test, i.e. you go round the course or a cone the wrong way for that test, you are awarded the fastest time for that test, plus 30 seconds.

13 intrepid drivers started the event and for the first test, the route round, for all bar the first car, was relatively easy to follow – partly because you’d got time to work out the correct route round the cones and partly because the grass was not close mown so that you could follow the tracks in the grass from the previous driver! With Ian (Martin) as chief timer and Gerald (Ladkin), resplendent in his brown coat, high viz jacket and sun hat as the course marshal we were ready to get going.  As the afternoon progressed, the grass tracks needed to be ignored and certainly interpreting the right route round from the test sheet (showing the different routes that each test should take) on to the ground, when you were actually going round the course, proved not to be as easy as it looked – well for me anyway!!  Amassing a total of 3 wrong tests out of the 6 there were took some doing – but yes, I did manage it.  Thankfully Martin did not get so exasperated with me that he threw me out! Whilst 13 drivers started the event, sadly only 11 finished it as Woody and Carol’s car developed a chronic misfire after Carol’s 4th run and they had to retire.  One of the certainties in life is that wherever a Morgan has it’s bonnet up when amongst a group of Morgan drivers, there will be a group of them with their heads under the bonnet trying to sort the problem out! I have benefitted from this trait on more than one occasion and Sunday was no different.  Keith (Alcock), who had come to watch, but wasn’t competing, was first on the scene, followed swiftly by a number of the drivers.  After quite a while, the on-site diagnosis was pointing to the plug leads and or plugs.  Carol and Woody were able to  join us after the event for the Barbeque at Richard and Jenny’s but had a very hairy ride home with the car coughing and spluttering so badly that they doubted whether they were going to make it.  Luckily, they did, and managed to get it into to their local garage the next day. 

Despite my navigating, we, and I’m pretty certain, all of the other drivers and navigators, had a great afternoon.  The weather was very kind to us, it was good fun and not damaging to the cars.  I am in awe of those people who do the course with no navigator, although, when you think about it, Martin having a navigator didn’t do him that much good did it?!  

Throughout the afternoon Linda (Orton) was keeping the scores and impressed me with her mental arithmetic when we were arriving at the overall scores (total time for all 6 tests in seconds) and ranking the results.  It fell to me to announce the results, which were as follows:

PlaceNameOverall Time
1stFrank Orton412
2ndPaul Fileman413
3rdSteve Thompson415
1st LadyJan Fileman429

The Autotest itself was completed by around 5.15 – 5.30 and we all then moved on to Richard and Jenny’s for a Barbeque which was delicious (as usual).

Thanks go to Frank and Richard for organising yet again a great event – even managing to order good weather for us this year; Ian and Gerald for time keeping/ marshalling; Linda for registration and score keeping; Richard and Jenny for the barbeque and the lovely salads and sweets; Maurice and Isabel for the use of their field and facilities, and last, but by no means least, to all of the participants  – you all helped to make it a great event and day.

Liz Ellis  ( words), Paul Fileman (photos).