The HERO Challenge Championship finale will be played out between three drivers in a battle ground used to seeing motor sport competition, West Sussex and the glorious downs that are home to Goodwood. The title fight for winning navigator also remains in the balance.
With a circuitous route that runs from Petersfield past the Goodwood estate, the bumper entry of 100 historic and classic rally cars will tackle nine tests and regularities over a 145 mile course. The HERO Challenge Cup drivers title fight will take place against the picturesque West Sussex back drop as Alistair Leckie, John Lomas and Malcolm Dunderdale, currently in that order in the championship, battle each other with just five points between them with 10 points on offer for a class win. Simon Ayris in fourth is the outsider, he would need to score bonus points with failures ahead to come through.
John Lomas will be navigated by his 14 year old daughter Natasha in their regular 1936 Riley Sprite, the oldest car on the event, whilst Malcolm Dunderdale and navigator Anita Wickens will be in their Renault 12 Gordini, not their Mercedes 190E Cosworth. Meanwhile in a complete departure from their usual SAAB wheels, points leaders in both championships for drivers, Alistair Leckie, and navigators, Matt Outhwaite, have switched to a 1949 MG TC!
Matt Outhwaite leads the navigator’s championship by 14 points from Anita Wickens who has pushed hard with driver Malcolm Dunderdale in all HERO Challenges in the trilogy. Whilst Malcolm is five point off the drivers lead, Anita needs the overall and class win to achieve the five points bonus needed to pip Matt for the navigators crown, provided Matt fails to score – and that can happen!
Clerk of the Course for HERO Challenge Three, George Mullins, commented on the series finale fight in prospect; “We are blown away with the entry we have for HERO Challenge 3, obviously we are riveted to the prospect of new champions being crowned this weekend. The crews will need to be on their game, although there are no devious tricks to catch people out, we still have seven regularities with multiple timing points to negotiate not to mention the tests that could prove to be very slippery if the wet weather promised materialises. Let us hope for a clean fight with no car problems.
My prediction as the winner will be the sport itself, 99 cars 180 competitors in a new area, what’s not to love “
George then outlined the route across which the championship battle will take place; “This is the first time in a long time we have returned to West Sussex, and as always we have tried to find the quietest roads. The roads and tests promise to be a fitting challenge, especially as this is the finale, certainly the HQ hotel is pretty remote, situated north of Petersfield, the town where we finish the event.
“The tests will be good fun. They are all at Bordon, an old military complex with lots of side roads around the site of old huts that spit out into the open. We head south for two regularities and take a lunch break at Midhurst and then route past the Goodwood estate heading to Tangmere. There are massive greenhouses there where they grow peppers, lots of them, the company is the largest producer in the country!
“There are tests on the runway nearby before we head north again for the balance of the regularities and on towards the end of the rally at Petersfield Golf Club, it sounds a lot but the route is really quite compact.”
The bumper entry of cars is one of the most diverse to be seen on a HERO Challenge for a long time. Although designed for beginners and novices alike to learn about regularities and move up the ladder, there are some very competitive and experienced crews in the mix which means that the championship protagonists my not have it all their own way.
Leading that front line experience are former champions Paul Crosby and Ali Proctor, this time in a Mini Cooper S. Ken and Sarah Binstead return in their Austin Healey 3000 having lead the London Lisbon for many days until exhaust issues intervened. The giant killing winners of the 2022 London Lisbon, Dick and Harry Baines are back to try and get in amongst the leaders in their Mini Cooper S and championship winning navigator Roger Bricknell sits alongside Andy Simpson in his Mini 1275 GT.
There are crews from Holland, Germany, Portugal, Canada, Sweden, Ireland and the Isle of Man. The Scots, Welsh, Irish and English make up the majority of the field, but it is an impressive overseas entry that underlines the attraction of the short one day HERO Challenge format.
Tomas Boemmer and Nils Marose are travelling from Germany in their VW Sirocco 2 GT, with Pieter and Thijs Hennipman in their 1960 Peugeot 403 joining the rally from Holland.
The diversity of cars includes the wonderful 1964 Alfa Romeo GT 1600 Zagato of John Evans, last seen in fine driving form on the London Lisbon earlier this year. This time experienced navigator Andy Ballantyne is calling the shots from the hot seat. Equally exciting is the return of the Stephen Hardwick with Sean Goodman navigating in their Alfa Romeo.
An interesting entry in the Arrive Drive Alfa Romeo GTV 1750 is BRDC Chairman John Grant. One of the key figures responsible the revival of Silverstone’s fortunes, John is back for his second HERO Challenge to see if he wants to make the transition from racing to regularity rallying a more serious option. John has Rachel Maguire navigating for him.
There is the TVR Taimar of the James duo, the Jaguar XJS of the Jacobys plus the rapid 1959 Lotus Elite of Peter and Amy Joy who went so well in HERO Challenge One. Just to mix it up there is the Tanswell’s Triumph Stag and the Nedins in their very different 1968 Sunbeam Stiletto!
And hot off the press after waiting patiently on the lengthy reserve list until their number just came up, is Harry Sherrard’s 1983 Audi 80 Quattro finally making it onto the entry sheets with experienced journalist and prolific author Maurice Hamilton alongside him. Maurice finds himself in the navigator’s seat for his first ever regularity rally.
Maurice has worked in F1 as a news and features journalist for over forty years for media outlets such as The Guardian, BBC Radio 5 Live (commentator) and edited major publications, but he is best known for his writing as an author of autobiographies with Damon Hill and athlete Daley Thompson. Recently his official biographies on Niki Lauda and Murray Walker ‘Incredible,’ have been very successful.
However, he is a rally lover, having written the definitive history of the RAC Rally and winning the Classic RAC Rally with Russell Brooks. He has also won his class on WRGB on multiple occasions co-driving for HERO-ERA’s Tony Jardine. Many will wait to see how he fares and to find out what he thinks of this branch of rallying.
He will certainly be in the right seat to see and feel the heat of the HERO Challenge championship finale and to enjoy the camaraderie of the 99 other crews whilst learning his new navigational craft. He should certainly be impressed by the remarkable array of rally cars around him.
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