Under overcast Lincolnshire skies the Union Jack was waived, and the HERO-ERA Summer Trial 2022 got underway, with the number 1 Bentley of Bill Cleyndert and Emily Anderson passing under the starting gantry first. They are in the master’s category of course and will enjoy their own fight with the other masters entered, but this event is really for those crews that haven’t attained the masters classification just yet and 67 of those would pass under the arch, heading off into this three leg event, with dreams of doing well.
It was just an afternoon’s competition to be contested on this first leg, with the action beginning at 2 pm sharp and with the cars thrust almost straight into a test at the Ancaster Kart Circuit, a beautiful little track nestled into the hillside on the approach path for RAF Barkston Heath, one of many Royal Air Force bases that call ‘bomber county’ home.
The RAF have a saying, there are old pilots, and there are bold pilots, but there are no old bold pilots. Some of those might be test pilots in our midst might do well to remember that saying, as they threw their cars around the circuit. One or two over cooked proceedings, the number 12 Lotus Cortina driven by Chris Howell, that was looking particularly racy, almost had the backend overtake the front end within feet of the test finish. Still, he and navigator Chris Lines certainly seemed to be enjoying themselves, which is what the Summer Trial is about.
One experienced pilot not having as much fun was Peter Nedin, who is using this event to shake down his newly restored Sunbeam Stiletto. The barn find car seemed like it may have still had the odd mouse living in its carburettor, as it would not start again after stalling in a stop box. “The car is great”, said Peter, “It’s just the carb’s need some work. Still, we took five minutes off our time when we repeated the test later in the afternoon!”
Post test and there was a regularity to attend to and the first glimpse of what the scenery may be like over the next few days, with rolling farmland opening up into infinity, occasionally punctuated by idyllic villages or tree lined avenues between the fields. There was nothing particularly awful to catch out the navigators, although one Junction in the village of Stapleford did prove problematic for some, but any early frustrations could be unleashed on the second test of the day, at Fulbeck Kart Circuit, that quickly followed the end of the first regularity.
Whilst the topography of the countryside was a clear indicator of exactly where we were in the world, some may have been forgiven for thinking we were in Pisa as the afternoon refreshment break took place in the shadow of the St James Church in Dry Doddington, the bell tower of which has a considerable lean. Presumably it’s called Dry Doddington as the chaps that built the Church drank the place dry when constructing the tower, although the locals who were there to welcome the rally to the very picturesque public house had certainly acquired more alcohol. It was strictly coffee and tea on offer to our crews though, and then more quickfire regularity action and another test.
The sun had broken by now and the late afternoon was glorious compared to the grey beginnings of the day, although some rain still persisted. That’s probably a fair metaphor for many people’s afternoon, largely bright with the odd damp patch, but back at base everyone seemed to be smiling, even those that had managed to confuse fuel pumps and managed to put diesel into their machines had a smile on their face. Probably.
At the top of the charts Christian von Sanden and his son Maximillian were leading proceedings, having dropped just 9 seconds all day, “It’s only his first rally!” beamed father Chris.
Tailing them Paul O Kane and Henry Carr in second, and James and Steve Young in third place, but in truth you could cover the top ten, and beyond, with a handkerchief at this early stage.
Tomorrow is a full day, with the cars heading out in seed order, with the first car to take to the roads at 8am, and not returning before 5. The regularities will undoubtedly become harder, and the competition will certainly heat up, as Saturday beckons the Summer Trial 2022.
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