The fifteen previous Three Castles Trials have each seen close competition and worthy winners. Mark & Sue Godfrey are the most successful crew in the event's history, having finished in the top three every year since first winning the event in 2009 before missing the 2018 event. They've had four outright wins, including a hat trick in their delightful 1951 MG TD. Which neatly illustrates that almost any age of car has a chance of winning under the Three Castles class improvement system. The oldest car to have won the event outright is Jayne Wignall's 1932 Sunbeam, which won in 2007. Here's the full story in brief, going back in time year by year.
After a sabbatical in 2017, when we ran the one day Three Castles Trophy, the Three Castles Trial returned to widespread acclaim in 2018 for a fifteenth anniversary edition. This was the first Three Castles to run using scratch timing and the first in recent years to feature a united route for both Heritage and Classic crews. Dermot Carnegie and Paul Bosdet finally reached the top step in the Classic Trial category after many years in which a win has eluded them although they have been best on tests. They were chased all the way by 2012 winners Graham Walker and Sean Toohey in their Lotus Elan Sprint, defeated by under twenty seconds at the close. Sean took the inaugural Nigel Raeburn Trophy for the best performance on Regularities. Not far behind these two, first time entrants Duncan Wild and Steve Skepper snatched third on the last test from Peter Keel and Les McGuffog in their Triumph Dolomite Sprint. Malcolm and Martin Davies triumphed in the third Heritage Trial, in their glorious 1934 Alvis.
2016 saw the Classic Trial decided on the last day as the unfancied Jensen GT of regular Welsh Three Castles competitors Bodfan and Bev Jenkins finally triumphed by just two penalty points over multiple winners Mark and Sue Godfrey, with perennial bridesmaids Dermot Carnegie and Paul Bosdet's Escort just four points further away in third. Any of these crews could have won, as the Godfreys topped the list on regularities while Carnegie's prowess at the wheel saw this crew well clear on the driving tests. 2015 winners Paul Crosby and Andy Pullan were a little further away in fourth, just ahead of 2012 winners Graham Walker and Sean Toohey. On the second Heritage Trial an Irish crew triumphed for the second year, this one being Shane Houlihan and Richard Pain in their lovely Alfa Romeo 8C 2300. Bentley 4¼ crew Stuart Anderson and Richard Lambley had to give them best, but fought all the way.
2015 saw the Classic Trial decided on the last day as a string run across a sequence of driving tests saw Paul Crosby and Andy Pullan's Porsche 911 triumph over Mark and Sue Godfrey's spiritedly driven just-restored MGA. Over on the new Heritage Trial Ireland's Andrew Bailey and Philippa Spiller dominated proceedings in their Bentley 4 ½ litre, chased all the way by the patinated Frazer Nash of suitably attired Bill Ainscough and Jason Dearden.
2014 saw an amazing reversal of fortune on the very last regularity which enabled Mark and Sue Godfrey (MGB) to clinch their fourth win by just eight marks against seemingly impossible odds, again denying Graham Walker and Sean Toohey (Lotus Elan). Jayne Wignall and Kevin Savage (Sunbeam Tiger) likewise finished strongly to deny Dermot Carnegie and Paul Bosdet (Ford Escort) a seemingly certain podium for the second year running.
2013 saw a third win for Mark and Sue Godfrey's redoubtable MG TD (pictured right), which edged out 2012 winners Graham Walker and Sean Toohey (Lotus Elan) and challengers John Abel and John Dennett (Sunbeam Tiger) while Dermot Carnegie and Paul Bosdet's podium bid faltered at the last after the event's lone Ford Escort suffered a mechanical delay that made them OTL at the final control.
2012 finally welcomed Graham Walker and Sean Toohey (Lotus Elan) to the winners' circle. They beat twice previous winners and multiple runners up Mark and Sue Godfrey (MG TD) by just one mark after four days of rallying in unusually challenging weather conditions. Charles Colton and Jess Dickson came through on the last test to take third place in their Porsche 911.
2011 welcomed another new winning crew to the rostrum, as Steve & Alex Chick in their 1959 Mk I Austin Healey 3000 narrowly triumphed over John Abel & Tony Davies (Lagonda M45) and previous winners, Mark & Sue Godfrey (MG TD). Tied for third with the Godfreys before a tie decider were Steve Farmer and Adam Spiers, in their Jaguar E Type.
In 2010 we saw our first ever double winners, as Mark & Sue Godfrey sealed back to back victories in their redoubtable little MG TD. This year their closest challengers were Graham Walker & Sean Toohey, improving year by year and due a win. John Abel & Tony Davies ran them very close, as did fourth placed former winners, Jayne Wignall & Kevin Savage, in their 1932 Sunbeam 20HP Sports. Mere seconds decided things: the Three Castles is known for its close finishes.
The 2009 event finished with event-long leaders, Mark & Sue Godfrey (MG TD) the winners on 17 marks lost, having survived a few anxious moments on the final day as Howard & Matt Warren (Porsche 911) closed to within seven marks, finally claiming second place on 24 marks lost. Chasing them home were Ian Chalmers & Jane Webb (MGB) on 31.
2008 saw our closest ever finish with three crews separated by just one second! The winners tied on just 16 penalty points, but Charles Colton & Peter Stokes (BMW 3.0CSL) edged out Charles & Kit Graves (Jaguar XK150) by virtue of their slightly lower regularity penalties. Previous winner, Howard Warren, was third with son Matt in his Porsche 911.
2007 saw another close finish from which our first pre-war winner emerged victorious. Jayne Wignall & Kevin Savage brought their 1932 Sunbeam 20hp Sports through to win by just eight seconds from John & Pauline Dignan's MGA.
2006 was the year in which enthusiastic event sponsor, Howard Warren, navigated by the experienced Brian Goff, managed to win his home event - by just nine marks, from a very competitive Mark & Sue Godfrey in their delightful and very rapid MG TD.
2005 was the year of the very late entry - it came from Nicholas & Lesley Pryor, with their familiar red MGA going on to triumph over far more powerful cars and proving once again that the class improvement formula to which we run the Three Castles really does give everyone a chance.
2004's winners were Harvey & Jan du Cros in their Healey 3000. You can tell they enjoyed it - they were back in 2006 for a third year. 'The whole event was excellently prepared and presented' they said.
The first winners, in 2003, were Richard Fenhalls & Heather Milne-Taylor, who went on to check every detail of the 2004 and 2005 road route, for which we were most grateful. This remains an event put together by active competitors, for competitors.
Join us in Wales - you've terrific roads and tight organisation to look forward to on the next Three Castles Trial, too. It'll be great fun - and after all, that's what it's all about.