Following a second classroom session on the basics of navigation and timings, 41 crews set out on a journey of exploration as they ventured into the glorious Oxfordshire countryside to try and convert their practice into perfection. Crews even had to attempt a ‘Foot Test’ against the clock around the new HERO-ERA HQ terrace in preparation for the actual tests they will encounter in the competitive rally on Sunday.
Luckily for many who either went the wrong way or booked into controls early, this was all part of the learning curve as today the four regularities did not count for overall placings in A Novice trial – the actual competitive rally takes place on Sunday. Two road sessions totaling 61 miles took crews through such delights as the Heyfords, Weston-on-the-Green and Kirtlington. A mix of narrow lanes, and B roads sweeping through the countryside ensured that all the drivers and navigators had plenty of action to keep them all occupied as the sun gradually shone down on the event.
Guy Woodcock, Competition Director HERO-ERA; “It’s great to be back out again, it’s been a long six months since our last event here at Bicester. The classroom sessions have been going well, and the teams are now out on their road practice, but the team have really pulled well together to put this event on. We have a mini rally for the crews on Sunday a half day from 8.00 am until 1.00 pm so hopefully they can put into practice everything they have learned in the HERO-ERA showroom today.
“It’s interesting as we have people who have come back for the second or third time trying to improve on their skills together with lots of complete novices, which is what this event is all about. A few people I have spoken to only bought their cars a week ago and this the first time they have driven them, but they all here to have fun and enjoy it.”
The first car away from Bicester Heritage was the 1936 Riley Sprite driven by John Lomas navigated by his 13 year old daughter Natasha who, if she crosses the start line of the competitive rally on Sunday, will become the youngest ever navigator on a regularity rally.
Natasha; “I am really looking forward to the event but I haven’t really thought about the record, if it does happen I think it will be quite cool!”
John Lomas; It’s great to be out and enjoying a rally again although I’m a bit nervous about being car number one and of course I need to do as I am told by Natasha, a trait she learned from her Mum! We’ve gone for keeping the roof off too as I see some blue up there.
“There are a lot of families taking part in the Novice Trial and so many people out on their first ever rally, it’s really encouraging. That’s where HERO-ERA are so good in taking people through that process of learning and then going on to anything up to Peking to Paris.”
Ian Thomas and Peter Dyer,1962 Austin Healey 3000 Mk 2. Ian; “This is a refresher for us. We did the PAAI here in December which was a mud bath but great fun.” Peter, “It was a great refresher for me too, I picked up a couple of things last night in the lessons that I’d forgotten, you never stop learning. We are competing on the Summer Trial and three of the HERO Challenges so everything helps!”
Pam and Patrick Watts, 1964 970 Mini Cooper S. Pam; “It didn’t start off very well this morning, how difficult can it be? We were doing the measured distance but there are two sets of notes. We started on the measured distance notes but somehow half way through we went onto the stage notes!” Patrick; “ We wondered why we didn’t see any other rally cars, everybody else had turned off right – I said to Pam, ‘they must have got it wrong!’ Pam; “ We did all the speed bumps in the village and then we had to turn around and go over all the speed bumps again!”
Interestingly it’s not just the newcomers from the general public taking part, but insiders from the HERO-ERA organisation themselves who are entered in the event to learn about regularity rallying. Carly Morrison is the new Head of Memberships for company and is competing on A Novice Trial with her father Nigel in their Triumph Spitfire; Carly; “ This is my introduction to rallying and I think it’s the prefect place to start. It went a lot better than I thought it was going to, I got to see a bit behind the scenes so now I can see what everyone enjoys and I get it.
“Nobody is afraid to ask each other questions which is really good, we all accept that we are new, but I think the general camaraderie and sharing the enthusiasm makes people happy and comfortable.”
Nigel; “ So far so good. I’m just concentrating on the driving and doing what I’m told as usual, the Spitfire is holding up as well which is a bonus.”
Alistair Leckie and Matt Outhwaite, 1984 SAAB 900 Turbo, were particularly quick around the HERO-ERA terrace ‘Foot Test’ as they charged around the course with arms linked, against the clock, as if they were close in the SAAB. Matt; “Alistair literally dragged me around the test as fast as he could, he claims the driver sets the pace, so off we went!” The crew were fastest at one point. Alistair; ”What a result, we didn’t quite manage to beat the bogie time but we had a great laugh. Seren and Elise were great about it. The event overall has been great, really well organised. We were lucky enough to do the Summer Trial last year with really good COVID protocols and it is the same here.”
It looked like the team nearly spun completely off at one point! Matt; “Yeah we got a bit carried away, a bit heavy with the right foot.”
Martin and Joe Beck, 1973 Porsche 911. Joe; “We were a bit early at some starts, meaning we may have been a little bit too keen. I think we made one mistake earlier on in the first regularity but we managed to correct it fast enough. The tulips went well but the more information we were given, the harder it was to put it into practice.”
Martin; “We actually have no idea about plus or minus time, it’s been a complete baptism of fire! It’s our very first time, I’ve never done anything like this before. The second regularity in the afternoon was the hardest, trying to get the time and the distance.
“I’ve only ever been passionate about sailing before, so this my transfer from sea to land. I have sailed a lot on a global basis, I went to the Pacific last year, it was big trip but it was during COVID so I was stuck in the middle of the ocean. So now I want to venture across the earth rather than the sea, hence enduro rallying we hope! I would love to do the Peking to Paris event, that’s the goal, but we have to work our way up to it. 2025 is the target as Joe will have graduated by then.”
With two classroom sessions and four regularities behind them, the 41 crews now face the acid test of the actual competition which will end at Bicester Heritage on Sunday with a series of tests. However, the final day will prove to be the acid test for the many novices who have to be ready to convert practice into perfection.