The Summer Trial 2023 has concluded, after 343 miles the flag has fallen and the winners crowned, and in the end, it was a triumph for the bright orange Porsche that has led from the start. There would be no last leg mishaps, no pressure-driven errors, although the pressure itself was on from the start as the toughest regularities of the weekend offered plenty of opportunities to throw it all away.
The chasing pack were pushing hard, Nick Marris and Ian Canavan in the Datsun 240Z posting just 20 seconds of penalties on the last four regularities of the event, Ian himself a Master’s level navigator and with plenty of experience of winning trophies. Their 20 seconds was equaled by the Baines, Father Dick and son Harry, who were just three seconds back from the Datsun and pushing hard to overhaul the deficit. The day featured no tests, a fact that Dick was happy about after the diminutive Mini had been struggling for grip on the slick asphalt of the kart circuits.
97 miles was the day’s total distance, on a loop of Lincolnshire’s more southerly farms and villages, on a day when the sun was an almost constant companion, after being so absent from this summer event so far. There was still some water on the roads though, particularly in an entertaining ford on the first regularity of the day that was plenty slippery on the ascent out of it, and offered a moment of peril for anyone who might take to the water a little too exuberantly.
Nobody told Paul O’Kane that though, as he plunged the orange 911 into the water’s depths with great aplomb, clearly confident in the way the day was going. This kind of confidence is evident when things are going well, and they had been ever since the first day. It’s easy to back off sometimes when trying to protect a lead, and for a driver who was trying to win his first-ever event, Paul could have been forgiven for being a little more tentative. But with experienced navigator Tullie by his side, he clearly felt comfortable, and rightly so when the pair posted 16 seconds of penalty on the day, bettering the two closest chasers behind them and securing their win by 18 seconds.
The number 66 car didn’t achieve the accolade of being best on the day though, that honour went to the Peugeot 205 of Nick Timpson and Ed Spencer, pipping the Porsche by just a second. There were good performances too for Pete and Jo Johnson with 16 seconds on the day, they would win their class in the Amazon and finish in fourth overall. Equaling that daily number was also Les McGuffog and Henry Carr, who finished just 3 seconds further back, placing fifth in the Healey 3000.
The sun still beamed down as the cars reached the lunchtime finish, albeit punctuated by the odd cloud and once the scores had been totted up, and no protests received the word came from the timekeepers that Paul O’Kane and Iain Tullie had indeed triumphed, from Nick Marris and Ian Canavan in second and Dick and Harry Baines in third.
Paul was in a jubilant mood, and after the champagne had been sprayed declared that it was “Awesome!” he elaborated, “it’s brilliant, I’ve been rallying since the 80’s and I’m so happy to finally win my first ever event and to do it in this car was incredible.” Navigator Iain added “It was a great car and great fun. Congratulations to Paul on his first win and a big thank you again to all of the marshals, particularly yesterday.” Paul also scooped the Test Pilot award for the best driver, deservedly so after being so entertaining on the tests on the slick surfaces of the circuits.
Second-place finishers Maris and Canavan were also delighted to take to the podium, in Nick’s first event for a year. Nick was full of praise for the event itself, “If you have cars and want to drive then do these events, just make sure you find a good navigator, and everything will be ok!”
Securing third spot were Dick and Harry Baines, who are becoming regulars on rallying podiums now. Young Harry also won the Clock Watchers award for the best navigator, so it was a double celebration for the pair who call this part of the world home. Harry, “I’m pleased, very pleased. Particularly happy that we didn’t crash on the slippery tests! They were a bit hairy at times.”
Elsewhere there was a newcomers drivers award for Nick Timpson in his Peugeot 205 XS and a newcomers navigator award for Young Max Geigy, competing with Father Alex.
That concludes this year’s Summer Trial, an event that took place in some of the worst and best weather the summer can offer. Despite all that the weather could throw at us though, it was also an event that was conducted in the very best of spirits and one that contained everything that is great about our sport. There was a worthy winner, youngsters doing well and great cars and huge smiles throughout the field. As Paul O’Kane said, “Awesome.”