The successful formula that is the HERO Challenge continued its increase in popularity when it received an overwhelming boost through higher entries. As the first in the trilogy which was to start from Bicester Heritage Centre on March 21st, quite rightly it was postponed together with other HERO events in accordance with government and Motorsport UK guidelines. Event permits are suspended until at least the end of April.
A bumper entry of 95 cars demonstrated that the formula for HERO Challenge is working successfully, the first of three HERO Challenge events counting towards a HERO Challenge championship was postponed. The event should be re scheduled along with other rounds once Motorsport UK gives the all clear following any government directives.
The HERO Challenge series is designed to encourage beginners, to take intermediate crews further up the ladder and allow experts to brush up on skills. Some will use the events to shake down their cars. The format has become a learning platform that works for all comers. For newbies It is the logical progression from navigational classes and their first car run as evidenced at the last two Race Retro events.
The popular mix of tests and regularities designed for the enjoyment of all, are run with straight forward navigation. However, the events are still competitive. In the rescheduled event, organisers still hope to run nine regularities and six tests at a new venue not used on the HERO Challenge before. That depends on dates and availability, but route planners will be aiming for a total distance of approximately 150 miles. It will make for an exciting day of classic rallying for newbie, novice, intermediate or expert.
There is a Masterclass category who will compete against each other for their own honours but not the general awards, only their class. The main awards are reserved for the novices and intermediate crews who will be keen to learn and advance in classic rallying once the action resumes.
With such a big entry on the postponed event, organsiers were able to create special classes for the Mini Variants entered and the ever popular MGB and GT’s. Dependent on entrants being able to make the new event date once it is confirmed, HERO hope to run the same categories. The classes are based on car age and engine size, all cars on the challenge events are pre 1986.
An eclectic mix of cars from a 1926 4 ½ Litre Bentley of Martin Haines and Steve Seaman to the 1986 BMW 325i of James Holt and Chris Matthews from the original entry list, typifies the appeal of this series.
It is hoped most crews entered will be able to make the new date once issued. To further illustrate the variety of cars on the entry list that will hopefully be able to make the return are a 1936 Riley Sprite of John Lomas and Peter Johnson. Top navigator and runner up in the Golden Roamer Award, Elise Whyte who was down to navigate Paul Eden in his 1956 Ford Zephyr. Winning navigator Tony Brooks who competed on the Peking to Paris Motor Challenge in 2019, was to navigate Sean Bramhill’s 1962 Porsche 356. Regular competitors at the top level, Tony and Rachel Sheach will also hopefully return in their 1987 VW Golf Gti. Similarly, Darren Everitt and Susan Dixon in their much admired 1965 Triumph 2000.
Having enjoyed the ‘taster’ Retro Classic Tour in his 1972 Lancia Fulvia, Stuart Dyble was looking forward to taking the plunge with navigator Tom Dyble in their first fully competitive classic rally in the Lancia. Another great rally marque that could be ready to roll once competition resumes.
In store for everyone further down the line is an enjoyable 150 mile route that will use the quieter roads north of Bicester and Banbury, then north of Oxford before ending at Aylesbury. Some novice crews who have graduated successfully through the challenge series advancing to the middle ground, should also be making a return to tune in for possible further events this season.
David and Sally Ward may make a welcome return in their glorious Ferrari Dino 308 GT4, hoping to do more events. Also returning will luck will be John and Tracy King who have been climbing the rally ladder since making their start in the sport last year in their 1977 Triumph Dolomite Sprint, including throwing themselves into the deep end on the Three Legs of Mann 2019.
Anita Wickens and Malcolm Dunderdale are also expected to revisit the HERO Challenge in their rare Mercedes 190e 16v Cosworth. The crew have made great strides since also taking part in the Three Legs of Mann, but this year they were also going to take on the competitive vintage event, the ERA Flying Scotsman in a 1936 Ford Type 68. That event has also been postponed.
The HERO ERA organisation will continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation for all medical virus advice but specifically adhering to the latest directives and advice from the governing body of our sport in the UK, Motorsport UK. They in turn comply with all government rules and directives concerning this awful pandemic.
Photos by Will Broadhead