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A Novice Trial, day three. The Acid Test

 

23 May 2021

The final day of A Novice Trial proved to be the acid test as 41 crews tackled four regularities and four tests to put into practice what they have learned over two days in the classroom and out on the road. Sunday was the time in real competition.

13 year old Natasha Lomas sets new record as the ‘youngest ever’ regularity rally navigator

Alistair Leckie and Matt Outhwaite are Novice Trial Champions in their SAAB 900 Turbo

Champions in their 1984 SAAB 900 Turbo were Alistair Leckie and Matt Outhwaite, who also won the ‘Foot Test’ on the roof terrace of the new HERO-ERA HQ on Saturday which was used for training for speed tests. The pair not only won elegant steering wheel trophies for winning the rally but also a bottle of champagne for their efforts rallying on foot!

Alastair; “A fantastic event, it’s been a great, we haven’t done a lot in the last year, so we are absolutely chuffed to win! We are happy with our SAAB which performed well, hopefully it will go well in a couple of weeks on the Summer Trial too, a few niggles to sort out but the car has done well this weekend. It’s a great event, I highly recommend it.”

Matt; We have been smiling from start to finish. The classroom sessions were really good, it helped  to get our eyes back in and then to get out on the road and try it out, its been tremendous, brilliant, I thoroughly enjoyed it. We think we made a few people laugh with the ‘Foot Test’ up on the terrace too! He lead me around the terrace at speed but I have been keeping Alastair in check today through the regularities, keeping the driver in check!”

Finishing 30th overall were the father and daughter team of John and Natasha Lomas in their 1936 Riley Sprite. In doing so, 13 year old Natasha became the youngest ever navigator to finish an official HERO-ERA regularity rally.

Natasha; “ It feels good actually, although I’m pretty tired now. The toughest bit was when it started raining as we were running without the hood up. Dad didn’t do that well, he missed it when I said turn left, he didn’t listen. But I would like to do some more events, maybe a HERO Challenge.”

Father John tried to explain; “ I think Natasha is looking for another driver now! We had two whoopsies, there was a regularity with a speed table, when we started I said turn it over you’ve got it wrong, so we did the entire regularity without the directions. At the tea halt I went to make a complaint saying you’ve missed an arrow off, but it was pointed out that it was me who had made a pigs ear of it. Then there was a left and I just didn’t follow Natasha’s instruction.

“Despite my mistakes, Natasha’s achievements are phenomenal, it’s about getting round, doing it and enjoying it but actually to go round and finish is great, there are a lot of people who are older and wiser who maybe haven’t done it, or made the time control so I couldn’t be prouder.

So was Mrs Lomas; “I think it was fantastic that they have done something together, poor Tash, we go out and do girlie stuff but this is great that they can do an event together. We have grown up knowing all about the Rileys and it’s fabulous, but I will never sit in a car with John.

“Her achievements today are wonderful, she has grown up all of a sudden and been really confident doing it all, she can boss John around all the time now!”

Clerk of the Course, A Novice Trial, Seren Whyte, who was also leading the training sessions with her consultant navigator sister Elise to teach novice crews about navigation and timing, was delighted with the outcome.

Seren;” I think the event has been a huge success. It’s been very straight forward in many ways and lots of the competitors have learned from absolutely no knowledge. There are a lot of smiling people, they all seem very happy. I’m really pleased with how the practical sessions worked with the theoretical lessons, they learned bite sized pieces then went out to try it.

“I think the biggest success was the ‘Walking Test’ on the terrace. You can’t run a practice test, you need a permit, so we came up with this concept that they would walk a test route, pick up a code board and try to go the right way around the cones. They loved it, many had a good laugh doing it but at the same time they learned more about tests and how they work.

“I have had so much positive feedback, so many I have spoken to seem to have caught the bug just like Elise and I did years ago. They want to come and do more, they are asking what events can they do, like the Summer Trial or even the longer events, some are even talking about the Peking to Paris Motor Challenge!”

Second overall was Steve Verrall and Jay Reddy after a great performance in their Porsche 911 with Brian and Andrew Yoemans third in their immaculate and good looking Volvo P1800. Stephen and Samantha Hardwick were fourth overall in their beautiful Alfa Romeo Guilia GT, winning Class 2.

It proved to be four out of four plus a class win for the HERO-ERA Arrive and Drive fleet as the MG B of Per and Fredrik Jonsson won Class 3 finishing a superb 8th overall. Russell Jewell and John Moore brought the A+D BMW 1602 home 28th overall, whilst a very grateful Owen and Jill Tyson finished 38th overall in the HERO-ERA Triumph TR4 after their own Mini Cooper S broke down with Arrive and Drive coming to the rescue.

The most enthusiastic A+D HERO-ERA finishers were the father and son Philip and Ben Maidment who absolutely loved their experience in the 1983 VW Golf GTi.

Philip and Ben Maidment, Arrive and Drive 1983 VW Golf GTi, 12th overall.

Philip; ”It’s our first Novice Trial, we thought we’d do it as father and son but my wife is at home very worried that we might not come home together! I love this car, it brings back a lot of memories from the late seventies and early eighties. My brother had one identical to this funnily enough, it’s a superb car, tight as drum. If we do other events we would go to Arrive and Drive again, it’s perfect, great value. You don’t have to worry about it, you turn up it’s ready to go, if it breaks down they fix it -what more could you want?”

Ben; ”It’s good for me to get a reference to cars from prior to my age group as everything is quite sanitised now, you get a feel for what an original hot hatch was. It’s great, it’s so much fun, you feel everything, even if you’re not doing ridiculous speeds you are engaged with the whole experience and feel everything”.

Working with the Competition Team headed up by Guy Woodcock, Clerk  of the Course Seren Whyte’s route and schedule proved to be a winning combination of training, road practice and competition. It was designed to bring novices on and encourage them to go further in the sport.

Two regularities at the beginning and the end of the day at Bicester Heritage Aerodrome, book ended the Novice Trial competition on Sunday. A well planned route through Oxfordshire, edging around Banbury brought out many householders to watch the 41 vintage and classic cars go by.

The first regularity ran through Hardwick where company Managing Director Patrick Burke was a happy spectator watching and waving with his family as the competing cars passed through. Heading north from there the second regularity was called ‘Boddington Tour’ which lead to the Red Lion at Hellidon for a time control and a quick coffee. This very attractive area not only boasts a series of lakes but also a couple of vineyards, but the teams had no time to enjoy the sights!

After a quick refresh they were straight into longest regularity of the event, the ‘Road to Eden’ which started from the Red Lion car park. This really kept competitors on their toes as the roads wound their way through the superb countryside.

Not quite a sting, but certainly a small rodent bite, came in the form of the final regularity called ‘Seren’s Rat Run!’ This testing route was devised by Seren Whyte on the basis of her drive to work at HERO-ERA’s HQ at Bicester Heritage from the Banbury area, avoiding the M40 by taking the snaking backroads which became part of the regularity!

By the time crews finished the last two tests at Bicester Heritage, they had completed 159 miles over the two days, but the vast majority were unanimous in their praise of A Novice Trial.

Richard Bowser and Nick Canning, 1967 Austin Healey Mk 111, 31st overall. Martyn Reeves, John Parrot, 1967 MG C GT, 27th overall.

Richard “The lessons were quite detailed and to some extent quite frightening, especially for those who had never done it before, but after the sessions we were a bit more confident.” John; “The advice to concentrate on the route and not the timings was good, there is enough to worry about when you first start. It’s a great way of learning what it’s about, try it you will like it .”

Martyn; ”We were trying to lull everyone into a false sense of security yesterday in our preparation for the competitive event today. The fact that we lost 23 minutes yesterday morning was just to throw everyone off the scent. You wouldn’t think I’d done the Peking to Paris in 2016 would you? We still can’t find our way around Bicester!

Nick:;”It was very good, as a novice if anything, I would add a bit more practical time. The girls did very well, a good presentation but you have so much information to take in you don’t want to ask a question. I think there should be more time for practical.”

Peter and Tracey Much, 1968 MG C GT

Tracey: “We are still married, it’s rather nice for my husband to do as I tell him! When it’s all on paper it’s actually confusing but when you get out there and start doing it, it actually makes sense. Hopefully working out the timings will come a little later.”

Peter; “I’ve spent the time being told what to do and doing it! The event has been very good, yesterday morning was tough, the afternoon went better so I’m hoping that progress continues. The organisation had been fantastic, the COVID awareness has been good which assures vulnerable people – we have thoroughly enjoyed it.”

Ann and Bruce Gregory, 1968 MG CGT, 24th overall

Ann “We feel as though we did OK but we struggled a bit with the times, it’s my maths! We only went wrong once yesterday and it was marginal, we reversed back and off we went again, we are enjoying the whole event. We came a couple of years ago when they did the full day session of classroom and my brain was blown, so we didn’t do the driving the following day which was a shame because I think we needed to put it into practice. The way they have done this in sections is very helpful, I think we have genuinely benefitted from it. Really this is the best way to learn”.

Tony Rowe and Robin Carter, 1939 Ford Coupe 91A, 35th overall

The second oldest car in the rally was Ford Coupe of Tony Rowe and Robin Carter. The car was on it’s maiden trip having just been rebuilt after it came over from America 18 months ago. The car went well but Tony found things a bit tough on the first night in the lessons; Tony; “It all went right over my head, so we thought we’d sit down last night and sort it all out, but we didn’t!

Robin; ”Taking part was the best bit. We’ve never done this before, even though we have been around the world on motorbikes together in the last 20 years, we thought now we are going to be falling off motorbikes so we switched to four wheels.” The friends have ridden from Cape to Cairo, spent three years circumnavigating South America, they have ridden through Russia, been to Cap Nord and Tierra del Fuego. Following the Novice Trial, they are thinking of taking part in more rallies.

Talking of more rallies, now there are just a couple of weeks to go before the Summer Trial based in Telford, Shropshire, where the second rally of the 2021 season takes place under the HERO-ERA banner for three days of action packed fun.

Photos by Will Broadhead

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