The HERO Challenge Championship is back for 2022 and the first round of three kicks off on the 26th of March in the stunning countryside around Mold in North Wales, and with the links to rallying in the area, it is a fitting point of departure for an event that has captured the hearts of competitors both old and new since the format’s inception. If the close fought 2021 championship is anything to go by, competitors and spectators will all be treated to some fabulous action, but most importantly an awful lot of fun.
The series, aimed at novice and intermediate entries, is designed to introduce those with a little less experience into the exciting world of regularity rallying, whilst still providing a stimulating, but not impossible, level of competition. Such is the success and enjoyment of the series though, it attracts clubman both old and new.
Despite the rally’s blue level difficulty status, it is a field that is absolutely brimming with talent, and victory will be no easy job. Champions from last year, Alistair Leckie and Matt Outhwaite return and are eligible to take a fresh attempt on the title by virtue of the fact that they won the 2021 championship without winning a rally, they will both hope to go one better this time out. They will no doubt be pushed all of the way though, and the likes of Simon Ayris and Kim Bannister, and John Lomas and Pete Johnson, who both took third places in Challenge events last year, certainly have the ability to trouble the champions.
To only consider possible success for those that scored podiums last year though would be folly indeed, as in a sport that is as often governed by good fortune as it is ability, many factors can influence the result on the day. Others that will certainly have designs on victory will be Dick and Harry Baines in their Mini Cooper S, who were class winners last season, and Tim and Mel Green that also took a class victory in a Mini. On any given day though, there are a whole host of competitors that could stand on the top step of this fascinating event and to quote the late, great Murray Walker, just over a year since he left us, ‘anything can and probably will happen’.
Of course, the Challenge format has never been about out and out competition, it truly is the taking part that counts and for many the experience gained is more vital than points on the board. The HERO Challenge is often the first event graduates of the ‘A Novice Trial’ training educational rally take part in. The event is the one Dick and Harry Baines completed last year, along with Mark Lillington, David and Debbie Bundy and Steven Young and Deborah Woolard amongst others, that are all entered into this year’s HERO Challenge One underlines the popularity of the HC format.
But what can the assembled starters, regardless of ability and ambition, expect to encounter? Well, with the rally location being on the doorstep of Wales rally country the opportunities for an impeccable route are almost endless, the difficulty for the route planners is almost what to leave out. “The rally is basically in my backyard” says HERO-ERA Competition Director Guy Woodcock, “so hopefully my knowledge of the area will throw up an enjoyable, but challenging route, that takes in some of the famous names of the area as well as some of the lesser known roads that require a bit of local knowledge.”
Famous names include the Horseshoe Pass and Llangollen and the historic Clocaenog, long associated with both national and international stage rallying. The navigators will no doubt have a tough job keeping the driver’s right foot in check, but there will be the opportunity for them to let loose a little with tests planned on private land.
Whoever triumphs on the day and wherever entrants finish on the board, the most important thing is for people to enjoy themselves and perhaps hone some skills for the tougher events in the season to come. With the location of the rally and the scenery and route on offer, this one does have all the ingredients to become one of the all-time classic HERO Challenge events. What a way to kick off the championship!