*The Shires host Round Two as the Challenge Increases
The HERO Challenge Championship returns for round two of the three round mini championship, with the Challenge Two taking place across Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire on the 9th September. The victor from Challenge One, Simon Ayris, will be attempting to make it two on the bounce, but with 78 other entries they will be pushed hard across the six regularities and four tests that will make up an excellent day of competition, including tests at the ever-popular Bill Gwynne Rally School.
The HERO Challenge events have become increasingly popular in recent years, offering a full taste of action without taking up an entire weekend, and are aimed at those who have not yet attained Master’s status.
Those entered into round two of this year’s HERO Challenge championship can expect a route of some 140 miles, packed with 6 regularities and 4 tests, with test venues including Bill Gwynne Rally School and Shennington Kart Circuit. These are no course markers in a car park, but instead we will see the cars taking to unsealed surfaces, with power slides and exciting driving in the offing, a real treat on an event such as this.
The MG B mounted pairing of Simon Ayris and Kim Bannister took the win at HERO Challenge One by just 13 seconds, from second place pairing Chris Chapman and David Broome and both crews are back to renew the fight. However, Kim is unable to compete this time due to family commitments so this time Simon is accompanied by another great navigator, Andrew Duerden, who has pretty much won them all. By his own admission Simon had not planned on entering all of the Challenge events this year due to business pressures, but if success continues here, he may well have to make a big decision on the final round of the season.
There will be no guarantees of success of course, with plenty of talent in the field and if HERO Challenge One taught us anything it’s that achievement isn’t necessarily linked to experience, with the young Archie Holt appearing on the podium at just 19 years of age. Sadly, Archie won’t be back for this round as he has returned to his studies, although his father James will be, this time with Chris Matthews in the navigator’s seat. John King is another entrant who will have a different navigator next to him, with expert Henry Carr picking up the maps and with Henry’s experience and John’s penchant for throwing a car around a test they could be a pair to watch.
Other pairings that finished inside the top ten last time out and will be hoping to improve to the podium this time, will be Scottish Malts winners the Harry and Dick Baines, and London Lisbon victors the Chicks, Stephen and Alex, as well as Mike and Liz Dixon, who have a wealth of experience in their MGB GT.
The Vintage Class 1 will be very entertaining. Belgian Kurt Vanderspinnen and Valentin Charlet from France are in the same 1928 Lea Francis Hyper that Kurt took to 5th place in the Flying Scotsman this year with Iain Tullie. John Lomas is joined by his daughter and competitive young navigator Natasha in their 1936 Riley Sprite. Steve Allen is teamed with car preparation expert and seasoned HERO-ERA competitor Alan Pettit in the navigator’s role in Steve’s 1936 Bentley Derby Special 4.25 litre.
Amongst the 79 entries are some ‘stand out’ cars. Recently voted one of the all time great rally machines by Motorsport News readers, a 1973 Renault Alpine A110 is car 46 on the entry for Edward and Henry Vandyk. In period, the A110 defied it’s glorious sports car looks and unsuitable rally physique by taking multi wins on the Monte Carlo Rally and beating the bolders and desert of the Rally du Maroc to take an epic win.
Also on the rally car watchers list is a 1966 Roots Group Sunbeam Rapier of Mark Knight and Andrew Smith, the Rapier was a mainstay of rallying in the late fifties and early sixties. Another very different choice as a rally weapon is at number 63, a 1982 Austin Allegro 3 of David Hemstock and Colin Readwin.
Minis were triumphant on the Monte Carlo Rally in the sixties and there are no less than seven entered on HERO Challenge Two. Top navigator Paul Bosdet sits in the Arrive + Drive Mini Cooper S for Irish driver Ted Gaffney whilst Thiago Kathirasco and James Thomas should be competitive again in their bright green 1977 1275 GT.
As well as Natasha Lomas, there are two other young navigators intent on developing their skills and moving up in the sport. Twenty year old Daisy Walker reached the last five of the ‘Bob Rutherford Historic Rally Scholarship for Young Navigators,’ which proved to be a very close contest. Although Daisy was not successful this time, she impressed the judges who stated that she will go a long way in the sport. She will navigate her father Patrick in their 1600 cc Alfa Romeo GT Junior.
Alexandra di Valmarana will also navigate for her father Francesco in his 1300 cc Lancia Fulvia Monte Carlo, Alexandra gaining in confidence and ability on each outing.
The HERO Challenge Championship series also attracts international entries. The furthest journey has been made by Mike and Paula Donald who return from New Zealand to compete in their BMW 2002 Tii. There are five other nationalities entered from France, Belgium, USA, Ireland and Italy.
It isn’t just those that are entered who will ramp up the competition at round two, the event itself will feature slightly more difficult navigation than at round one. As part of the wider HERO Training Academy the HERO Challenge Events are designed to increase the difficulty as the season goes on, to help the competitors learning and preparation for trickier rallies. Whilst we can’t give the game away, route planner and Clerk of the Course Seren Whyte has hinted that there might be the odd bit of map-based navigation and that whilst she hasn’t gone out of her way to include tricks and traps, competitors will have to be on their toes.
Another new facet of this year’s HERO Challenge Two event is that it almost avoids Bicester Heritage, with a remote start and finish at the nearby Milton Keynes. “We will only have Scrutineering at Bicester Heritage” says Seren, “We’re always putting ourselves under pressure to come up with new routes, so with that in mind we’re pushing away from HERO HQ and starting and finishing elsewhere. We’ve got some new roads, and some that we have used before, but we have tried to use those in a different way, so hopefully there will be something new for everyone.”
“I’m really looking forward to the event though” says Seren, “We will travel on some wonderful roads through some cute Cotswold villages and have competitors from as far afield as New Zealand and the USA entered. Oh, and there is pie for lunch.”
Well, if nothing else it will be worth it just for that culinary delight, but no doubt, as ever, the Hero Challenge Two will serve up a rallying feast, and tight competition to the last.