In an event that spanned five days, the 2016 Royal Automobile Club 1000 Mile Trial was won for a record third time in a row by John Abel, this year he was partnered by Iain Tullie in the Lagonda LG45 he has used to secure the previous wins. The pair held off a last-day charge from Stuart Anderson / Leigh Powley in a Bentley Derby Special to take the victory by just eight seconds, in turn, they held off Sue Shoosmith / Trina Harley by ten seconds to finalise a top three that were separated by just eighteen seconds over 1000 miles. This was the fourth round of the HERO Cup in association with EFG Private Bankers and Zenith Watches, official timekeeper to the HERO Cup series, the first prize being a week onboard the S/Y Orianda and a stunning Zenith ‘El Primero’ Open Chronomaster 1969 HERO Cup limited edition timepiece.
The event started with crews assembling on Monday 11th July in Edinburgh for documentation and scrutiny before competitors were welcomed aboard Her Majesty’s Yacht Britannia for a pre-event dinner that was very well received by all, a tour of the yacht was part of the welcome and allowed those present to take in the splendour and spectacle of the vessel.
Wednesday was another 200 mile plus day and would see the event head south via Bowes Museum at Barnard Castle, Bolton Abbey near Skipton and finally the famed Ilkley Moors before reaching the old steel town of Sheffield, the scenery changing from rolling, heather covered moorland in Northumberland to the craggy, limestone strewn hills and dales of Yorkshire where every valley has its own micro climate. Crews were very fortunate with the weather with only a few showers trying to spoil their fun, the road books had been printed on waterproof paper as quite a few of the vehicles taking part were open.. Franco & Rubinia Majnosuffered a magneto related failure here in their Bugatti Type 13 Brescia, they were able to source replacement parts to keep them in the running. Another crew with mechanical issues were Seren & Elise Whyte, the sisters once again taking part in an Austin Seven which developed head gasket problems, forcing them out of the event for almost two days.The following morning saw competition commence with previous winner Abel leaving the start line at 09:01, heading east out of Edinburgh and into two regularity sections and a driving test before taking coffee at the National Museum of Flight where crews were treated to the sight of Concorde on display in all her glory. Going into lunch at Floors Castle, Paul Crosby / Andy Pullan in their MG TB had managed to eke out a lead of one second over Anderson and Powley. The afternoon saw the event head into England via The Cheviot Hills and Kielder Water before resting for the night at Slaley Hall close to Hexham in Northumberland, three regularity sections and one driving test at Bowhill Estate saw a change in the lead with Anderson / Powley overhauling Crosby and Pullan overnight.
The penultimate day would bring drama and a couple of retirements that would affect the leader board, the short run out from Oxford to Bicester for a couple of driving tests set at the fabulous Bicester Heritage site was punctuated with passage controls to ensure those not adhering to the correct route were penalised. The first test took place in-between the brick buildings that were left from the sites time as RAF Bicester, the War Department specification buildings now home to a vast array of vintage and classic cars, motorcycles and aeroplanes being restored or stored there, it was twisty and flowing test with a couple of surface changes to test the skill of crews, Rory & Alan Brown took one of the fastest times through here with their Invicta S Type Low Chassis Tourer, they were settling into the event and increasing in confidence as it progressed. The following test was more open and flowing and took place on the apron of the airfield at Bicester, lying sixth overall going into this test were Stephen Owens / Niall Frost in their Jaguar SS100, this was Stephen’s best result to date but their participation was cut short when a driveshaft snapped sending the wheel and hub assembly along the apron. This wasn’t the only drama as following a successful regularity section, event leaders Paul Crosby / Andy Pullan started to smell burning from underneath the hood of their MG TB Supercharged, on inspection the distributor had developed a fault and melted some of the electrics inside leaving them stranded at the side of the road and unable to complete the following regularity section, amassing them penalty points and dropping them down the leader board.Leaving South Yorkshire and Sheffield behind, the 2016 Royal Automobile Club 1000 Mile Trial visited the High Peak district and dropped through Derbyshire, Warwickshire and into Oxford for the overnight halt. Crosby / Pullan had regained the lead after a couple of errors from Anderson / Powley, in third and awaiting any slip ups were the Lagonda crew of John Abel / Iain Tullie who reported that they had a noisy differential and were being hampered on the tests by this, the threat of the unit failing meaning John was limited in how flamboyant he could drive the vehicle on the tests. The event holds a special place in peoples hearts with many villages turning out to see these fantastic cars pass through their areas – the village of Boylestone really pushed the boat out and the local pub was opened early with (it seemed) the entire population coming out to cheer crews on, something that all crews who passed through here commented on. The Bentley of Sue Shoosmith / Trina Harley was coming into its own on the tests with a string of fastest times, meaning the class-based system employed on the event was in their favour and they were climbing the leader board at a fantastic rate after putting in some faultless performances. The final regularity of the day came through Wychwood Forest and passed ex-Prime Minister David Cameron’s home before the last time control of the day at Blenheim Palace were crews took in afternoon tea in the Orangery before taking their time back to the overnight halt on the outskirts of Oxford.
The final day started out on Goodwood Race Circuit with four tests bisected with a regularity section, overnight leaders were Abel / Tullie who had pulled out a lead of twelve seconds over Anderson / Powley who had a couple of bad tests during day four to be within striking distance of Shoosmith / Harley who had given the best performance of the day on just nine seconds penalties. Anderson / Powley pressed hard on the final test and clawed back eight seconds from the leading crew, with Shoosmith / Harley also on a charge it meant that just twelve seconds separated the top three at lunch. Abel / Tullie were getting incredibly nervous as they were sure the differential was going to give up at any time and this hampered their test performances – Tullie’s class and expertise came to the fore here and he guided the pair to some outstanding final regularity performances. The last drama of the event came on the very final regularity section – the top two were baulked here by a wedding procession handing the event to Shoosmith / Harley – with unbelievable generosity and sporting behaviour the ladies asked for their time to be discounted and to leave top three as it was enabling John Abel to seal his third consecutive win on the Royal Automobile Club 1000 Mile Trial- however, Clerk of the Course, Guy Woodcock, had received several reports of other incidents prior to this and had decided that the section was to be scrubbed. The Royal Automobile Club and HERO would like to pass on their sincere thanks and best wishes to all the residents along the route and also to the small army of marshals that made the event such a success.