It may be the HERO Challenge Championship 2023 aimed at novices and intermediates, but the series has attracted a star-studded entry from experienced winning crews as well, all set to start round one in the shadow of Stonehenge. A ringing endorsement for the HERO Challenge Championship format.
On Saturday 77 cars will face six regularities and four tests over 140 miles in the popular championship.
Winners entered include the double HERO Challenge Championship winners from 2021 and 2022, Alistair Leckie and navigator Matt Outhwaite who are not only swopping jobs so Matt now drives, but have swopped cars from their SAAB to a 1985 Rover 216.
London to Lisbon winners Steve and Alex Chick are in their Datsun 260Z and Dick and Harry Baines are in their well-travelled Mini Cooper S which not only won L2L but also the Scottish Malts a few weeks ago.
HERO Cup Champion Stephen Owens is entered in the Masters section navigated by the man who helped propel him to that success, Nick Bloxham.
The hero of the Sahara Challenge and the Flying Scotsman, Peter Moore is here with his daughter Sophia navigating in his 1936 Riley Special as is Flying Scotsman class winner and Riley man John Lomas with his daughter Natasha making a welcome return. In fact, the younger competitors are well represented with Ethan Plfaumer navigating his father Mark in their BMW 318i and 19-year-old Archie Holt back navigating his father in their BMW after Archie finished his A-level exams and got the place he wanted at university.
It is an eclectic mix of cars from 1934 to 1990. There is the elegantly proportioned Alvis Silver Eagle Special of Danes Bent and Martin Jakobsen, with the equally vintage 1936 Bentley Derby 4 ¼ L Special of Steve Allen and Richard Goodman. However, the most fascinating story is how an Alfa Romeo morphed into a 60’s Bentley that looked more suited to a Concours de Elegance than the tests of Bovington Military grounds that it will have to drive over! More to come on that one.
There are nine newbie entrants in the field which also sees the return of Bentley heroes Charlotte Ryall and Elliott Dale, Elliot a multi-time Trans – Atlantic rower. This time they are back in their 1973 Ford Escort 2000.
It is also great to see the 1964 Reliant Sabre Six of Chris Gallacher and Brendan Gibbs of Ireland, a marque with a strong chassis and thick fibreglass skin which it wore in the heat of battle in Monte Carlo rallies of the sixties.
With the possibility of some welcome sunshine for the first round of the HERO Challenge Championship but the assurance that there will be a big battle for championship points, HERO Challenge One Clerk of the Course George Mullins takes up the story.
George; “ The challenge Championships have proved very popular as it’s not a huge commitment on people’s time. I like to think it is value for money and a great springboard for perhaps doing some bigger stuff later.
“I think with those elements together, you’ve got a winning combination. They’re quite competitive while you’re there, although it’s generally geared up for novices. But people new to the sport shouldn’t find them too difficult. But perhaps because of that, people are sort of getting very keen and competitive.
“We have got a fabulous full entry. I’d like to say that we’ve come to the west country and have fantastic weather but we’re saving that for tomorrow. We’ve tried to design the route so the roads are not too narrow, which can cause problems with the traffic. There are one or two lanes which are a little bit narrower, but it’s rolling countryside. The regularities will be interesting, so will the tests. They are going to be quite long so they will give the drivers a chance to let their hair down and have some fun.”
Paul J Mills and Nick Cooper have paired up again in Paul’s 1969 Volvo Amazon and whilst both are enthusing over the HERO Challenge format, Paul is also really looking forward to the Rally for the Ages on June 3rd at Bicester Heritage. Paul, “Yes, my eldest son and my granddaughter, a 14-year-old, will be competing. She plays rugby and she does all sorts of sports, but she was very keen to have a go at navigation. Simon is my eldest son and Nick is encouraging these youngsters to get involved.”
Nick Cooper, “It’s got to be a way forward because you know, we’re all getting a bit old, so anything that brings a younger crowd in especially in terms of navigators is good. I think that’s a really good thing, we need to support them so they can carry on the sport, we need the younger bodies to come through and hopefully make successful running in rallies and enjoy themselves.”
James and Archie Holt are back in the rally world following Archie’s successful studies, keen to get back out there in their BMW 325i. James, “Hopefully we’re in for challenge, one, two and three with son Archie back in the hot seat next to me. He’s been resting his brain for the last month or two post A-level exams. So, I think he’s ready for action to give probably Matt and Alistair a run for the money – hopefully!”
Archie (19), “Oh yeah, certainly, we will try our best. We are both feeling ready. The exams went well, very well, and I have been able to sort out my university and start there in September to study real estate. Quite fun, although I’m not sure much work gets done in the first year anyway. There is plenty of rally work tomorrow, we will see tomorrow as we will give it our best shot!”
James, “If he does well tomorrow then I’m going to let him loose on the Summer Trial. We’re going to swap seats, now he’s 19 he wants to get behind the wheel!”
Another father-son combination out on the HERO Challenge One is Mark and Ethan Plfaumer in their 1984 BMW 318i, Mark, “We’d like to do all three challenges but probably this one and maybe the last one, but we will see how it goes.”
Ethan, “The format is fine, I think they get harder the more they go on. So, from the last one we did, the HERO Challenge Three, a lot of people said that was harder than the previous one. Hopefully, this will be easier this time, easier than the last one anyway!”
Mark, “I have some difficulties with it yeah, I mean, it was a really well-executed programme you know all through the roadbook, no errors and everything that’s planned and laid on is second to none really, we’ve really felt thoroughly well looked after. The navigation is not easy, but we are making progress, we both really enjoy it.”
Ethan, “I just enjoy it. We haven’t done that many events, but I think I’m getting used to it now. We’ve done a few and I think I’m getting into it.”