After a year’s absence due to the Corona Virus restrictions, it was with great pleasure that Tomas de Vargas Machuca and Patrick Burke were able to preside over the 2020-2021 HERO-ERA awards ceremony from the companies HQ at Bicester Heritage. With the assistance of Competition Director Guy Woodcock, they presenting awards and celebrating outstanding achievements within the organisation, looking back over the 2020 - 2021 seasons and awarding the coveted HERO-ERA Cup and Golden Roamer trophies, the highest accolades for drivers and navigators, to their worthy winners.
Sadly, with Omicron on the rise over the Christmas period, the HERO-ERA team were unable to lavish their members with the salubrious surroundings of the Royal Automobile Club, Pall Mall as planned, but never one’s to be defeated in the face of adversity an entertaining virtual ceremony was delivered via the magic of the internet.
The top honour for drivers over the years competition is the much-heralded HERO-ERA cup. To triumph as a driver takes no small amount of skill, with the varied events of a season contributing to the final score, weighted by their difficulty. It still requires consistency over a calendar year though, as well as a strong performance in the big hitting rounds of the cup such as LeJog and the Rally of the Tests. Paul Bloxidge was crowned as the 2021 HERO-ERA Cup Champion, a man that many will acknowledge as a fearsome competitor, despite his mild-mannered nature. Paul is now a double champion, after winning the 2018 crown, but this time achieved the feat in his VW Golf GTI, a relatively new car to him. He had this to say:
“It’s been brilliant to not just partner with Ian this year, but also my grandson Oli, that has been something very special indeed. I want to thank Ian for his contribution, it isn’t just the map reading, but everything else that comes with being part of the team. Oli has done brilliantly as well, and perhaps this year he can partner me on a LeJog or Rally of the Tests.”
The second most anticipated award of the evening is the HERO-ERA Golden Roamer Trophy, presented to the best navigator across the season, and, with the importance of the person in the maps seat to the success of any regularity rallying twosome, it is an award that carries high status indeed. The 2021 winner is Ian Canavan, the man who most often sits next to Cup champion Bloxidge and is again taking the title for the second time after his and Paul’s joint 2018 triumph. The technical expertise required by the navigators in this sport is of a high level indeed, being proficient is one thing, but applying it whilst bouncing around a classic car is quite another and so many congratulations should go to Ian, who had these thoughts on his achievement:
“I didn’t expect to win this year, especially with a non-finish and against such tough competition, but I’m delighted. I predict a new name on the trophy this year though, there are some brilliant navigators entered, hopefully it will be another navigator from the Ilkley club that gets their name engraved on the trophy!”
The awards are also a time for the HERO-ERA family to reflect on the past year’s events, and sadly, 2021 marked the passing of quite possibly the most popular member of the HERO-ERA team in Bob Rutherford. Bob was not just popular within the team, he was a great character and motivating force. He was widely respected in the general rallying community and his untimely death was a tremendous shock to all. Bob’s family and the team at HERO-ERA, determined to ensure Bob’s lasting legacy and find some positivity in tragedy, announced the Bob Rutherford Historic Rally Scholarship for Young Navigators, a subject close to Bob’s heart. His son Will, himself avidly involved in the sport and the chief architect of the scheme, made the important announcement, he took the opportunity to explain:
“Dad was always known for his enthusiasm, and he was absolutely in his element with a map, he always spoke about helping youngsters into the sport and helped myself and Ed when he retired from competing. This scholarship will help young navigators, and hopefully Dad will be looking down smiling and be very proud.”
The scheme will no doubt enable many more young navigators to get involved with the sport and follow the route of young navigators like Oli Waldock, Grandson of Paul Bloxidge, who has been competing with his grandfather on HERO Challenge events over the past couple of years. Whilst his grandfather has of course won many events, this year Oli stood on the top step himself, at the final Challenge event of the season, making him the youngest ever outright winner of one of HERO-ERA’s events, a tremendous achievement recognised during this year’s awards ceremony.
The HERO-ERA Challenge events are of course an excellent steppingstone to the tougher multi day rallies, and their enduring popularity has been boosted by them becoming a mini championship in their own right. This year’s champion driver and navigator were Alistair Leckie and Matt Outhwaite respectively, teammates that began their rallying adventure just 18 months ago on the 2020 Summer Trial. Since then, they have clicked with the sport and accelerated up the ranks in their signature blue SAAB and emerged victorious in the championship after a tremendous battle with HERO-ERA stalwarts Angus McQueen and Mike Cochrane.
Of course, none of the rallying would be possible without the incredible contribution of volunteers behind the scenes, including the many motor clubs and marshals that give up their time to be involved in the sport they love. Whilst it isn’t possible to mention them all, one member of the rallying community and long-time friend of HERO-ERA was singled out this year for their particular effort. Rob Dance was named as the recipient of the HERO-ERA Award for Invaluable Contribution to the sport, selected due to having volunteered on every event this past season and, as Guy Woodcock put it, “spending three days on an airfield in the rain on the Per Ardua ad Infinitum Rally to ensure the smooth running of tests.”
As well as the award winners, the past two years have been a significant one for the organisation, moving into their new headquarters at Bicester Heritage, continuing to put on a plethora of events throughout the pandemic restrictions and ensuring that the organisation conducts all of its activities under the carbon neutral umbrella and enabling others to do so with the launch of NET-HERO. Over the coming year there will be even more focus on this as well as continuing to deliver exciting events across the world. In recognition of the return of the longer endurance events there will be a new award to contest for over the coming season, the Philip Young Endurance Award, a fitting way to honour the legacy of the great man.
There will also be a new event, launched to support a very special charity, the ACE in motion Tour in support of Spinal Muscular Atrophy and continue the charity work that has raised 30 thousand pounds over the past two years for COVID, Starter Motor and Hospitality Action respectively. The aim is to support the charity to the tune of 250k, a figure that will help in the fight against a disease that is the number one cause of death in children under the age of two. Prime movers of A.C.E., Sophie and Mike Howes, joined the awards ceremony to express their thanks and gratitude for the support and creation of the new event that will contribute to the much needed funding.
So, the awards focus was on the achievements of the past season, but with plenty of reference to plans for the future as well. The entire HERO-ERA team are excited for the upcoming season, the biggest and hopefully best yet, with events, that pandemic willing, will visit four continents and cover countless miles. All of this whilst leading the sector in delivering a net-zero carbon footprint. Looking to the future, HERO-ERA chairman Tomas de Vargas Machuca had this to say:
“Thank you to all of the team for everything over the past two years with all of the challenges we have faced. We are all looking forward to opening up again across this year and get back to doing what we do best, and I look forward to celebrating the coming year with you all in 2023.”