The two championship HERO Challenges held so far this year have provided drama right through to the finish line. The HERO Challenge finale and third in the trilogy, has provided a twist before the event has even started!
Championship leaders and winners of HC1 and HC2, Angus McQueen and navigator Mike Cochrane in their BMW 323i have been forced to non- start after Angus’ recovery from a delicate eye operation has taken longer than expected.
However, Mike has won a reprieve alongside Alan Pettit who has stepped in to drive his Volvo PV544, providing Cochrane with the chance of securing the HERO Challenge navigators title, whilst a ‘gutted’ Angus McQueen could still end up on the championship podium despite not being able to compete for medical reasons.
Through the twist of the wheel of fortune, McQueen and Cochrane’s rivals and close championship contenders, Alastair Leckie and Matt Outhwaite now move into the championship driving seat in their SAAB 900 Turbo. Alistair is 11 pts behind in the drivers title chase and Matt just three points down in the fight for Championship Navigator. Despite having started rallying just over a year ago, the competitive pairing have run the rival BMW crew close with two runners up podiums, but now they can smell the champagne.
Whilst the HERO Challenge Championship battle rages over a hectic day of 12 tests and 8 regularities, two of the UK’s finest young Junior World Championship Rally drivers are set to make their classic car rally debuts in HERO-ERA’s Arrive and Drive Mini Cooper S.
Jon Armstrong and Phil Hall will this time become the backdrop to a championship fight, but in a month’s time, the pair from Co Fermanagh N.I. and Nottingham respectively will be in the thick of their own championship battle, this time for the Junior World Rally Championship title in the JWRC finale in Spain.
Not to be discounted in third place in the drivers HERO Challenge Championship, is Simon Ayris leading a group of no less than 13 MGB’s. He is just four points adrift of Alastair Leckie and will no doubt keep the SAAB driver on his toes as Simon will be guided by excellent navigator Kim Bannister.
A Novice Trial earlier this year was not just the scene of Alistair Leckie and Matt Outhwaite’s maiden rally win but it also witnessed the debut of 13 year old Natasha Lomas who set the record for the ‘youngest ever’ regularity rally navigator to compete as she guided her father to 30th place overall in their 1936 Riley Sprite. Natasha said part of her ambition was to compete in a HERO Challenge, so she is to get her wish, but this time she will be expecting her father and driver to follow all her instructions after he turned the wrong way when expressly told by Natasha to go in the opposite direction!
Whilst talking record breakers and champions, such a combination has teamed up again in car 84, a VW Golf Gti. HERO Cup Champion of 2018 and winner of the Scottish Malts just two weeks ago, Paul Bloxidge teams up with his grandson and navigator Oli Wadlock. Oli became the youngest ever HERO-ERA Rally podium sitter when he navigated his grandfather to second place on the HERO-ERA Summer Trial 2021. They could well be heading for the podium again, could it be at the expense of the championship protagonists?
For one of the success stories of grass roots to experienced rallyists, look no further than car 88 with Malcolm Dunderdale and Anita Wickens. They have persevered and learned along the sometimes rocky road, but at one point last week, they were leading the Scottish Malts in their Renault 8 Gordini. They finally finished fifth ahead of some big names, producing their best ever result. They will be competing in their fabulous Mercedes 190E Cosworth which is always a crowd pleaser.
Another fabulous car with a very experienced crew on board is the 1976 Alpine Renault A310 of Tony Brooks and top navigator Peter Scott.
The Masters Class is just that, with Summer Trial winners Steve and Thomas Roberstson taking on Steve and Alex Chick who won an epic battle in the London to Lisbon Rally in what could prove to be a ‘Families at War’ battle of MBG GT versus Datsun 260Z.
Bike racer Mike Farrell returns in his 1936 Jaguar Tourer with Zach Burns on the maps to take on the Lomas’ Riley Sprite, plus the Alvis Silver Eagle Special of Bent and Martin Jakobsen and Peter Moore with Dan Stellmacher in their Riley Special in the pre 1955 class.
After an absence through recovery, it is also great to see Tim Sawyer back behind the wheel of his famous yellow Ford Mexico with none other than the legendary ‘tea cosy’ hatted Nick Cooper also making a long awaited return in the navigator’s seat.
Chris Wilks and David Creech will again forsake their 1933 Singer Le Mans Prototype or famous ‘Blue Singer’ for their 1963 Volvo Amazon as they push for results amongst their 14 rivals in the hotly contested Class 3 for over 1850 cc cars.
With a mix of champions, would be champions, record breakers, winners and Junior World Rally Championship drivers, what is in store for them?
Seren Whyte, Clerk of the Course HERO Challenge Three; “ It’s the third and final HERO Challenge of the year, so we have ramped it up a little bit, but it’s still a blue green event. For those that have done all three this will possibly be a bit harder, but for those coming into the event, novices and intermediates for example, they will still find it challenging but doable and hopefully enjoyable. We have a couple of little tricks up our sleeves but nothing too major.
“ We have ten tests, eight of which are on an airfield and two are at Shenington Kart Track, then we have eight regularities. The first regularity is a long one first thing, which will be a nice wake up call. But in the afternoon it will be quite intense as there are not many long sections in between the action, pretty much full on in the afternoon.
“It’s always hard to call in terms of a championship finale when you haven’t got a clear winner, especially when some contenders can’t compete together, but it makes it more interesting. It’s now been thrown quite wide open. We can see some, who maybe haven’t had the overall results but have been consistent throughout, possibly winning.
“As far as our JWRC drivers are concerned, my biggest advice would be to enjoy it! We are passionate about this sport and when people come from different facets of motor sport, or any sport for that matter, and try our discipline we love it. If they do exactly what they learned in the training sessions they could do quite well, they obviously have the skill.”