With temperatures peaking at 30 degrees plus in the beautiful rolling hills of the Derbyshire Peak District, crews and cars were battling heat and dust, whilst some suffered mechanical malfunctions.
Two crews at the top their respective games, reaching new highs of their competitive progress, were Angus McQueen and Mike Cochrane who blazed to victory in their BMW 323i with Alistair Leckie and Matt Outhwaite hot on their heels once more for second place in their SAAB 900 Turbo.
But causing a sensation as their little 1967 car sizzled and popped its way to the podium, sometimes on three cylinders, were father and son Nick and Andy Pullan in their Hillman Imp. Andy has recently returned from Spain and Portugal where he navigated the victorious Porsche 911 of Paul Crosby on the Classic Marathon.
‘Cros’ as he is known, was also competing on HERO Challenge One, this time as a navigator in Pete Johnson’s Austin Maestro, the crew pairing up after John Lomas had to pull his entry with Pete navigating, for family reasons. The combination of winning drivers in Crosby and Johnson, Pete more recently as a navigator, meant there was a dilemma as to who should take which duties. In the end Paul Crosby navigated, but the combined power of the crew lead to a great fourth place overall. Paul recently celebrated winning the Classic Marathon too!
Michael Moss and James Ewing were another crew recently returned from the Classic Marathon, this time in car as they said, ’more suitable’ to the event. They finished an excellent fifth in their VW Golf GTi.
The 145 mile route included ten tests and eight regularities across the Derbyshire Dales and Peak District, at one point taking a short link section around the top of Chatsworth House which was famous for Sunday spectator stages on the RAC Rally in the nineties. Crews were kept busy by a combination of climbs and drops over narrow and hilly roads, sometimes sharing the thin ribbon of tarmac with numbers of cyclists, other times with tractors!
There were navigational challenges to catch the unwary, such as a speed change and instruction over the page in the roadbook to an unsighted Timing Point not far out from the coffee halt at the Duke of York, also occasional small turns into complex of farm tracks. One such regularity farm entrance was missed by a fair number of cars who ended up reversing to take the right track, much to the delight of the watching farming family observing the antics from their farm patio as sausages sizzled on their barbeque.
The highlight of the day, bookending the start and finish of the day’s competition, was rally driver and CASA Hotel (rally HQ) owner, Steve Perez’ Walton Lodge.
A mixture of fine gravel and tarmac roads around the magnificent lodge lead to a series of twisting, undulating private gravel tracks including some forest. The four tests at the estate were a big hit with teams as rally cars were unleashed accompanied by huge plumes of dust as someone upstairs turned the oven up to reglo eight.
With the heat turned up, some cars began to wilt just like their crews. Father and son Brian and Andrew Yoeman’s beautiful 1969 Volvo P1800E stopped on the second test at Walton Lodge, fortunately close to a gate where it could be pushed out of the way, just as the rifle shots from the exhaust of the misfiring Fiat 124 Spider of Graeme and Caroline Bolt caused the Italian car to stop at the same place. The Fiat eventually retired but the Yoemans returned to the rally after the HERO-ERA Mechanical Assistance crews rectified a faulty fuel pump on the Volvo.
The Dolomite Sprint of Quentin Hulm and Anthony Keyworth was also stopped at the side of the road later in the event with fuel issues whilst Dick Baines fought the midday sun and a misfiring Mini Cooper S at the lunch halt as he tried to coax it back onto four cylinders.
The Hillman Imp of Nick and Andy Pullan lurched from four to three cylinders as the little Imp had its rear engine cover strapped open to encourage any air at all to circulate the small 998 aluminium engine to keep it cool.
Running at the front of the rally, the battle of the Masters raged between Darren Everitt and Susan Dixon in their Triumph 2000 and Noel Kelly with late draftee Nick Bloxham (6th on the Classic Marathon with Stephen Owens) in the Volvo 122S, eventually finishing second to Susan and Darren, Noel and Nick just 30 seconds off. Elliot Dale and Charlotte Ryall in their Ford Escort Mk 1 finished third ahead of Emily and Stuart Anderson in their 1937 Bentley Derby.
Angus McQueen and Mike Cochrane, 1st overall, BMW 323i; Angus; “It’s terrific, but we work hard at it and enjoy it which is the main thing, it’s thoroughly enjoyable. The tests were just great to drive, the estate was brilliant and around various farm tracks of the other tests, some of the roads were almost like hill climbs, what a fantastic area! The marshals have been wonderful, thank you to all of them for staying out there in that heat all day. It is appreciated. We look ahead now to the finale of the HERO Challenge Cup at Bicester in September, there will be a lot of pressure, but maybe we will change more than the rubber for that, brake pads as well!”
Mike; “They were trying to trick us at times, there were some difficult concealed turns into farm yards but we did alright with those, even though it is difficult to stay on time in that situation, but it has been a lovely day, a fantastic place to be! There may be a bit of pressure now for September but we are really looking forward to it.”
Alistair Leckie and Matt Outhwaite, 2nd overall, SAAB 900 Turbo; Alistair; “It was a great day battling Angus and Mike, seconds here and seconds there. We were leading at lunch then they grabbed it back this afternoon, just a cracking day’s rallying! Around Steve Perez’ house was absolutely stunning, an incredible setting with challenging tests, I was petrified in case I damaged his front lawn.”
Matt; “I think we are pretty happy really, another podium but we are still fairly new, we are still learning. We are thrilled as all the regularities went really well, overall we are very happy. There was lots of dust, we kept having to clean the clocks as we couldn’t see them due to the sun!”
Nick and Andy Pullan, 3rd overall, Hillman Imp; Nick “We were battling with dirt in the fuel we think this afternoon, we struggled up a few hills but we got here, and yes my special cooling modification of propping up the rear engine cover really helped, it did keep it a bit cooler! We enjoyed it, it was a good event which was well organised.”
Andy; “We got a decent result, we just about managed to muster enough power in between the significant misfire so we weren’t too badly affected, although we did come across a tractor this afternoon and some traffic but others were affected too.”
Pete Johnson and Paul Crosby, 4th overall, Austin Maestro; Pete, “we are very pleased considering it was a last minute arrangement, we really enjoyed the day with some good regularities and brilliant tests”.
Paul; “ My driver was excellent today, he did exactly as I said and sometimes he didn’t do as I said but he was right! It all worked out really well. I normally drive but getting on the other side of a car, understanding what a navigator has to go through with the workload they have got, I think it makes you a slightly better driver if you can do that.”
Michael and Ciara Pedley, 20th overall, Ford Escort RS2000, Mike, “I’ve never been so hot since I did Ypres in a Triumph TR7V8, that was hot! It was pretty uncomfortable, it was difficult to concentrate at times, I had lots of grit up my nose and now I have a headache but it’s all part of the fun isn’t it? We just about missed Steve Perez’ house, he has a nice lamp post there. Ciara did a great job navigating, we just had one bad regularity, there were some traffic lights and road works which caused some confusion with cars everywhere, but otherwise, it was great!”
James Cooke and David Blackburn, 8th in class, Porsche 944 Lux, David; “ The heat was the big problem and the bicycles and the tractors, but it was a really, really good rally.”
James; “I’ve seen more tractors today than in my lifetime! It was very dusty and hot of course, but to be fair we were OK in the cockpit, there was just too much sunshine, we couldn’t see the dials! The tests were good, it was great driving around the estate, we really enjoyed that although some of the tests were a bit bumpy for our car as it is a bit low, I dread to think what the underneath looks like now, but generally the car was good, no problems at all. “