Whilst the national press may be full of news of this year’s sports personality of the year, in the world of classic endurance rallying, the big news this week is the result of this year's HERO Cup and Golden Roamer championships. Awarded to the best driver and navigator across the years qualifying events, both are fiercely fought and well-regarded accolades with tremendous prizes for the top three in each class. Indeed the winner of the HERO Cup will be able to enjoy a week onboard the luxury yacht the S/Y Orianda, courtesy of the Classic Yacht Experience and the year's best navigator will gain a free entry to their choice of a red or black event next year.
Like all of the best sporting contests, this year the fight for victory went right down to the last event of the season and would be settled by results on the fearsome LeJog; Lands End to John O’ Groats, one of the toughest rallies Europe has to offer. As it stood going into last weekend’s event there were several drivers still in contention to win the cup, and with only one of the top three entered and so many potential points available for the toughest event of the year anything could have happened. Jayne Wignall looked to be the favourite, with Stephen Owens chasing hard and, on an event, where even the most experienced pairs can fall foul of fatigue and mechanical gremlins nothing was guaranteed. In the end Jayne Wignall emerged triumphant, beating Stephen Owens by just 11 and a quarter points, with Paul Dyas coming home in third place, despite scoring a fantastic 75 on LeJog. It was the narrowest of wins, but well deserved and congratulations to Jayne who reflecting on her victory had this to say:
“There is nobody more surprised than me! I wasn’t aware I was in contention until I was alerted at the time of the RAC Rally of the Tests, but I am delighted. It is a bit of a feather in the cap, I have won awards before such as a Gold Alpine Cup in the 90’s which was really good, but by today’s standards winning the Hero Cup is great, I am very happy. A big thanks must go to my navigator Kevin Savage who played a big part in helping me win this title”
For those clock-watchers amongst us the fight to be top of the table in the coveted Golden Roamer award for navigators, supported by The Basic Roamer Company, was set to be just as tight, as despite last years runner up Elise Whyte leading by some distance going into LeJog, without an entry for the event the young navigator would be forced to sit at home and wait nervously to find out if the lead would be enough. Second place before the event was Roger Bricknell, who would need a near perfect score to slip into first at the death. Entered as he was, alongside son Thomas in what has been a successful and reliable pairing all year, there was every chance. As it was, Roger put in a near faultless performance to record a maximum of 75 points, just one of two navigators to do so on this years LeJog. It was enough to push Elise to the runners up spot for a second year in succession, with Martyn Taylor, winner of the Clock Watchers award for best navigator on this year’s LeJog, in third place. Of his win Roger had this to say:
“I’m really pleased to win the Golden Roamer as I only started navigating in 2014. Having been a driver for many years I concluded there were more drivers with cars than navigators. I lost a car and a navigator who wanted to be a driver, so I started navigating and learning as much as I could along the way. Of course, you are always learning but I am really pleased to have won this championship in a relatively short amount of time, especially against all the young bloods who are out there today.
“Thomas has been great behind the wheel, he’s very good, very quick but we help each other along the way, with routes and timings because he has a degree in maths so we can check each other’s work as we go along.”
Huge congratulations must go to the winners in each category, and indeed those who came so close to victory. With such hotly contested competition and with young blood coming to the fore in each class future competitions will likely be just as competitive, and all of us at HERO cannot wait to see how next year’s championships will unfold.
Photos by Will Broadhead