This weekend 47 crews will assemble at Bicester Heritage for one of the most important weekends in the HERO-ERA season. No, it isn’t LeJog or Rally of the Tests, in fact it isn’t even a wholly competitive event – although try telling those involved that! It is A Novice Trial, a weekend of training for newbie drivers and navigators, some of whom will be participating in regularity rallying for the very first time.
The format of the weekend is a mixture of seminars and classroom-based training, as well as plenty of practical elements to put into practice the skills learned in the classroom. These road going sessions culminate in a mini rally that takes place on the Sunday, adding in just a little bit of the pressure and exhilaration of competition that will hopefully leave the fledgling competitors excited for future adventures in rallying.
Over the past few years, A Novice Trial has become an established event on the calendar and a vital steppingstone for those making their way in the sport. Designed to nurture those wanting to enjoy their classic car in a fun and fulfilling sport, many crews have used this as an entry point into the world of regularity rallying. Some have even taken a sidestep for the extra tuition, after beginning with more difficult rallies. One pairing that did just that are last years A Novice Trial winners, Alistair Leckie and Matt Outhwaite. After that success, they went on to clinch last years HERO-ERA Challenge Championship, showing just what can be achieved with some diligent application of theory.
They are but two of many though that have come through the ranks after a good grounding in ‘Novice’. Other successes last year include the emergence of young navigator Oli Waldock, and whilst he will always have a bit of a helping hand from Grandad Paul Bloxidge, his experience on the event in 2020 no doubt helped him to his first win in the nav seat during last year’s HERO Challenge 3, the youngest ever outright winner on a HERO-ERA event. Also picking up a class podium that day was young Natasha Lomas, who was competing at the age of 13 with Father John, after enjoying her first experience in the car with Dad during the 2021 Novice event. She will continue to compete with the old man on this year’s HERO Challenge events and those at HERO-ERA hope that A Novice Trial can be a springboard for even more young blood getting involved in the sport – they are the future, after all.
Many of the old soldiers of the sport will have found their way without these training events, but very few will have passed through the ranks without any kind of help whatsoever. But then that is one of the beautiful things about this sport, there is a real community of people always keen to help one another out. Some of those will be peppered in amongst the crews this weekend, people like Navigator Anita Wickens, herself a novice not so long ago. There are also those who may be experimenting with swapping seats, like David Creech and Chris Wilks, a pairing that we have seen in reverse on many events now.
This event is of course designed to run without the pressure of a full-on competition, but there is one pairing that may just be feeling a little bit of a burden to do well, being as they work for the organisation! Molly Hardingham and Helen John will be swapping over to the other side and ditching hospitality duties this weekend and getting out the map books instead, all I can say is pay attention ladies, and no talking at the back!
Seren Whyte oversees proceedings this weekend as Clerk of the Course and leading the classroom sessions. Along with sister Elise they will inject their own particular brand of fun and enthusiasm into the event, as whilst this is about learning it is ultimately about enjoying yourself in your classic car! Speaking of the weekend ahead she had this to say, “We are very excited to have 47 crews joining us for A Novice Trial this weekend. With theory and practical sessions on Friday and Saturday crews will be well equipped to tackle the mini rally on Sunday morning, the big question will be who will be our Novice Champion of 2022. Following the success of last years ‘walking test’ we are also introducing a ‘walking regularity’ to try timing at a slightly slower pace before heading out in the cars.”
So, there we have it, plenty to look forward to for our newbie crews, and hopefully they will all enjoy taking these early steps in the sport and return for more. We hope that many of them will be the competitors of tomorrow, and perhaps nestled in the ranks are even one or two future stars. Only time will tell on that one.