The 49 Novice Trial crews were not only fuelled by the Heroics Café with fresh sandwiches on Saturday, but they also enjoyed a sandwich course of double classroom lessons with two fillings of practical road work.
A non-competitive programme of visiting Principal Controls in four regularities included two brilliant training events on foot, one test on the roof of the HERO-ERA HQ and the other, the first time a regularity has been attempted on foot, as it took teams around a course at Bicester Heritage with hidden controls.
Seren Whyte, the Clerk of the Course for Novice Trial explains the rationale behind the Novice Trial;
Seren, “ The rationale behind the whole of the Novice Trial really is to attract new people into the sport. We encourage them to enter then train people so that they’re ready for any of our blue and green events at HERO-ERA. My ethos is show them all the tricks that we have, we show them how we try to catch them out. Then we give them everything and let them make the mistakes on this novice event so they learn for next time. And when they come and tackle the Hero Challenge or the Summer Trial, they can actually understand what they’re doing and hopefully do really, really well!
“Each time we’ve run this event we’ve run more and more cars. I actually thought after last year when everyone was so excited to get out and compete again post COVID, that it was going to be a bit different this year. I was not expecting to see those levels again this year, but in fact we have even more cars entered this year. It’s so fantastic to see so many newbies wanting to learn, as they represent approximately 80% of the field.
“We had to actually ask them where they were all coming from because we didn’t know! Some people have just seen our videos online. They have seen YouTube videos and just said I want to try that. Some people have been recommended by friends. Some have actually come on one event before and not really understood all the different aspects but returned to come and train with us, then hopefully understand and compete in more events, but they are a real mixed bag.”
After three comprehensive classroom sessions and one Saturday debrief, all led by the experienced sisters Seren and Elise Whyte, the newbies will move to put all their lessons into practice in real competition.
Seren continues, “ Sunday is the actual ‘A Novice Trial.’ This is a mini rally in exactly the same format as they would find on any of our blue and green events, but just in the morning, so they’re all going to get ready to start 0830 when they’re going to go out and try out every element they’ve learned about in the classroom sessions in the practical training they’ve had so far, and hopefully we’ll find our winner for the ‘A Novice Trial’ 2022!”
Ben Maidment and Alistair Hastings, car no 22, 1963 Riley Elf Mk 3
Alistair, “I think we want to give our perspective as two young guys, I’m 22 Ben is 23. Yeah, we want to show that it’s something that we can do as two young guys, particularly people that are into cars and nearer our age who will be into stuff of our era.”
Ben, “And having done this for three or four months and being into it, it’s just cooler. Looking at these cars they are cooler and more visceral. You can enjoy them more, and it’s only taken a couple of months for us to notice that, so if we can give that to other people, then great. You learn so much more about driving as well, the actual mechanics of driving.
“I’ve driven an Austin Seven like two or three weeks ago, it was a completely different experience in terms of the gearboxes that work backwards and super slow and all those kind of things. So it’s just a learning process.”
Alistair, “Yes we are probably motor nuts if that’s the right word. This is something I would like to progress.
“I’ve always been very interested in navigation, probably since I listened to a podcast once with Nicky Grist, that really sort of turned my head onto it. So when Ben said, do you want to sit next to me on this rally? I said, Yeah, obviously so quickly. We’re going to give it a go. We’re going give it our best shot, this will be the first competitive rally event ever for us.”
Ben “Part of it is self pressure because we want to show we can get into it. It’s probably not a good application for young people if we come last. We’d like to win!”
Giles Gunning and Charlie Waller, car 9, Arrive and Drive 1961 Alfa Romeo Giulietta Spider
Charlie, “I’m ready to get started after all those sessions. I feel like I’ve been revising all night, but I’m sure that we’ll go wrong four or five times! But the main thing is to not argue as they’ve advised us, then it should go well, and we hear there’s a prize at the end.”
So what attracted Giles and Charlie to have a go?
Giles; “Our jobs, our work in the industry is to provide valuations of historic vehicles, we are ‘The Classic Valuer’ so any chance we could get to kind of get involved and actually understand a bit more about the environment and the people that are involved in Classic cars and rallying, we grabbed the chance.
Charlie, “We’ll talk about attaching value, but this HERO-ERA Arrive Drive Alfa Romeo we are using car has just been fully refurbished, it should probably be in a concours rather than a rally so we have to look after it.”
Giles, “It is exquisite. Thomas has done just 30 miles and I think we’ve added a few more, everything is absolutely mint, the engine bay and the interior are perfect, the job is amazing. It’s important to bring it back in one piece!”
“I feel the pressure on the navigator, there is a lot of work for Charles, actually!”
Charlie; “I think the geek in me is really starting to come out as I’m reading through all of the different tulips and understanding where we are and I’m feeling confident, although maybe naively.
“Sunday’s the big day, because that’s actually the Novice Trial when you’ve got to put everything into place, the Saturday practice is done, we can ramp it up on Sunday, as long as we have fun. But we have to bring the Alfa back in one piece then everyone’s happy.”
Julian Cork and Henry Mainwaring, car 39, 1978 Aston Martin Vantage v540 Fliptail
Julian; “I’ve had the Aston for 16 years now, but this is my first rally so I’m very excited to be coming out in the car, It’s going be awesome.”
Henry’ “We have been friends for 35 years and we have always loved cars. When Julian bought this one, I was not actually with him. We had looked at a few before but then I’ve had a few cars over the years, so it’s a passion for both of us and we thought this would be a great way to actually use our cars.
Julian; “Henry’s got a Lancia Fulvia as well so that’s also going to be some fun in the future.
“But I think we have had a lot of fun with this car over the years. We’ve got quite a few miles on it with various trips around the place. It’s been to France and Spain and so it’s no stranger to taking distance.
“The intention is to learn and progress and maybe do some more events.”
Gavin and Emma Print, car 51, 1990 Mazda Eunos Roadster
Gavin, “ I was drawn into this as I’ve been a petrol head since I was tiny, from moving little toy cars around on the carpet. Mum and Dad weren’t into it but I was surrounded, the guy next door built stock cars, the guy over the road built racing chariots. Somebody else did an engine swap and a pickup change on a 70’s Chevrolet. I had no chance, I was going to be a petrol head whatever happened!”
Emma, “We work as superyacht crew, Gavin is a Captain and I’m a Chef, we’ve been working together for 11 years and Gavin has worked in the business for 20 years this year.
We sailed across the Atlantic in November, we were in Antigua in January but it was a little bit chilly when we got back!
“This is about learning with a view to taking it up when we can. I got into it because of Gavin’s perpetual petrolheadedness, but I grew up with a Dad who had three daughters and who really wanted a boy, so I grew up in garages and with Scalextric.
“I’m quite competitive. So I don’t want to say the aim is to win because it’s obviously our first ever event, but we would like to do well.”
Gavin; “We want to get round in a respectable time without having an argument, that would be great and we want to do another event again afterwards. We were already talking about doing the London to Lisbon and we would love to compete in the Peking to Paris at some point!”
Molly Hardingham and Helen John, car 37, Arrive and Drive 1977 MGB Roadster
Molly; “I was a bit surprised that we had the fastest time on the ‘foot test’ apparently we were the quickest, but there were lots of people behind still to go, so we could have been beaten.
“Of course we’re here to win, we are competitive! Everything went OK this morning after our little engine boil up, the boys fixed that. It’s gone pretty well. There’s been a couple of things that we’ve not got quite right, but we realised those mistakes ourselves and corrected them, and managed to get ourselves back on the right road, we’re happier with that we’ve managed to fix our mistakes.”
Both the navigator Helen John and Molly Hardingham work for HERO-ERA, Helen as Head of Finance and Molly as a Hospitality Manager so it’s great that an in house team is learning more about the business in a hands on way.
Molly; “For me, I’m surprised at how much I am learning. I’ve kind of thought that I knew enough about what I would expect today, but it’s actually pretty different to what I would have expected. So it’s nice to see that there is actually loads to learn. It’s also nice doing it and seeing it from a competitive perspective. It’s actually really great fun and engaging.”
Helen is normally crunching all the numbers for finance and now she is working on the timing numbers and navigation figures, so which is the toughest? Helen’ “I think doing this is tougher, but it’s very satisfying when you get it right – much better than reading a balance sheet.”
Lee and Freya Clarke, car 11, 1962 Triumph TR4
Freya, “Yes this will be my first one and then we’re doing the generations rally next year so this is preparation. It’s been pretty good so far, not too bad, but I got a bit of stressful on the last bit like working out the timings, everything was more tricky than the first session when we were just going by directions.
“I work quite well with Dad, I think we’ve been quite good team, no crosswords yet.”
Father Lee arrived from New York on Saturday morning just in time to take over from Mum Cathy.
Lee; “I had hoped to be in yesterday but work took me over to New York. It’s fantastic to be able to travel though after two years of having been locked away. I’ve got a team in New York so it was a great chance to see them. It’s was great to see them but I hotfooted it straight to the airport and then dashed here to be on the rally.
“My wife was looking after things until I arrived, Cathy held it all together. We’ve only got the car back from the garage yesterday, it’s only just running as we blew the engine up on the last rally. So fingers crossed, it will work.”
Freya; “Definitely the toughest part is the timings, getting all the numbers right in my head. Trying to do maths on the move is hard, I haven’t done this much mental maths since I was in secondary school. So yeah, getting used to all that is quite a challenge.”
Francesco and Alexandra di Valmarana, car 16, Arrive and Drive 1964 Triumph TR4
Alexandra, “ The timing I found tough, the navigating was easier than I thought it was going to be, but the timing was really hard.”
Francesco’ “I think it’s the long distance historical element that I’ve always liked the idea of, and so this is dipping our toes in the water, we may or may not progress to something further afield, which could be kind of fun.
“We like the look of the bigger events, like the ones in South America and then of course the grandfather of them all, the Peking to Paris, just phenomenal. I don’t know if we’ll ever make it but it’s a great thing to aspire to.”