After three days of wonderful Shropshire lanes, airfield tests, glorious weather and scenery fitting of a Summer Trial, the podium was filled by first time winners, a future star navigator and a former champion driver and navigator.
It was natural that with a lead of forty seconds, being on the cusp of their first big win just two regularities and a test to go, that Angus McQueen and Mike Cochrane were more than a little bit nervous. They had been in this position twice before and something had conspired against them. Not this time, with a great combination of accurate time keeping and speed on the tests, the duo finally made it stick. Angus McQueen received the best of the tests ‘Test Pilot Award’ for his speed.
A tremendous final day top ten battle included a three way fight for fourth with just two seconds between the crews with one test to go. Ahead there was another fight raging for the podium as former HERO-ERA Cup champion Paul Bloxidge navigated by his 15 year old grandson Oli Waldock, hauled themselves up from fifth to second place. It was a remarkable performance by the young record breaking navigator in an event which the experts said was not easy. As a bonus, Oli took the ‘Clockwatchers Award’ for the best navigator after his stupendous efforts.
Andy Simpson and Roger Bricknell, the only HERO-ERA competitor to win both the driver and navigator titles, fought back to a magnificent third overall. They had dropped down to eighth after Leg two traffic woes in their Mini Clubman GT but took third at the expense of 2021 Novice Trial winners Alistair Leckie and Matt Outhwaite. The SAAB 900 Turbo pairing proved their novice result was no fluke and put themselves firmly amongst the experts with a great performance for fourth, plus the class win, all from a crew who are still learning the ropes, but learning fast.
There were 18 regularities and 10 tests covering 400 miles during the three days. Only the final day was blighted by early heavy rain otherwise the sun blazed down as it should on a Summer Trial. For Stuart and Emily Anderson’s 1937 Bentley Derby 4.5 litre, that meant full wet suits and headgear as they splashed away from the Leg three start, only to shed them later as the sun shone on them when they won their battle for the Masters title, beating Stephen Owens and Nick Bloxham in their Porsche 356B.
Pete and Jo Johnson were fifth in an Austin Maestro which he only drove the night before the rally, then hand braked it to test success over the three days. Richard Worts was sixth in his red Jaguar Mk 2 after a fine, consistent performance in the top ten navigated by Nicola Shackleton who felt the event was harder than labeled as a green event suitable for beginners.
Michael Moss and James Ewing were eighth in their elegant but heavy Fiat 2300S Coupe on their comeback after a long lay off for them and the car. Chris Howell and Jon Briggs finished ninth in the superb Ford Lotus Cortina having run as high as fourth on the last leg.
It’s always good to see a Lancia Fulvia Sport, but when it’s also a Zagato that runs like clockwork after just an MOT in the last year, it’s impressive. For Daniel and Barbara Weidermann there was the reward of 10th place and the bonus of a class win.
Previous Summer Trial winner Steve Robertson was partnered by his wife Julia rather than his son on this occasion. Although the pair admitted they had made mistakes as they chipped away the rust after such a long layoff, they brought the 1936 MG PB home 13th and won their class.
It was a hard luck story for Constant Busch and Alan Pettit who had been running in the top ten until the final test on the last leg when a bottom ball joint broke on their Volvo Amazon and the car fell down lurching to a stop. Patrick and Daisy Walker lost their Alfa Romeo GT Junior to mechanical issues on Saturday night but unperturbed, they drove home and picked up their Ferrari to finish the event in!
Winner Angus McQueen, BMW 323i, had been knocking on victory door with navigator Mike Cochrane a couple of times. They let slip, in their nervous moments at the Rednal Kart facility on the last day, how they had sharpened up their act. Mike; “Being on time and not being pushed is important, we like to stay on the clock and make it up if we have to, rather than have time in hand. Out tests have been fantastic, it used to be a bit of weak point for us but we were fastest on test one and second fastest on test two, so it started well.”
Immediately after taking the chequered flag Mike had this to say; “We are very, very pleased. I went a bit wrong on the last regularity although luckily we had some spare in there, but it’s all down to Angus’ driving on the tests he has been fantastic. It’s been tremendous, a lovely, lovely weekend.”
Angus;” Our level of confidence on the tests has grown, a new limited slip differential has helped too, but the more you do the better it gets, and I am loving the loose at the moment. What’s next? More wins and no tractors we hope!” I have to compliment Mike, he has been really consistent. If we have gone wrong we’ve been able to get back on track pretty quickly.”
Second place Paul Bloxidge and Oli Waldock, Volkswagen Golf GTi; Paul, “Yes it’s been a see saw battle. We were a bit patchy yesterday, partly Oli but mostly me, but today there has been a lot of concentration. Oli worked really hard doing his homework checking difficult junctions and instructions, which resulted in some good regularities today, and we kept our noses clean on the tests.”
Oli;” The navigation has been difficult right from the start, it hasn’t been easy but we really concentrated. One navigator got out of his car and said, ‘is this the Rally of the Tests?’ We are very happy, I am very pleased as this is my third podium, I have equalled my best with another second place.”
Third overall, Andy Simpson and Roger Bricknell, Mini Clubman GT. Roger; “We’ve had some good times, no wrong slots, we did all we could but there is always the possibility of getting fowled up by traffic.”
Andy; “The Mini seemed to go well, lots of marshals on the tests said we were quick, in short the car was brilliant!”
Sixth overall after a quick and consistent performance were Nicola Shackleton and Richard Worts in their Jaguar Mk 2. Nicola;” It was tough rally for what was meant to be for beginners. Yes, Richard told me about the brilliant scenery as I was busy navigating, but I’ve been to this part of the world before and I know how beautiful it is!” Richard; “It has been tricky but we are glad we came as we wanted to use this as a warm up for the RAC Rally of the Tests. As practice for that event it has been excellent. We are surprised by our result, it’ luck really, you meet the lorry or you get stuck behind the tractor or not. We had our share from which we dropped time, but we also had our lucky breaks!”
Peter and Kit Moore were 32nd overall and third in class in their 1936 Riley Special. This was Kit’s first ever rally. Father Peter commented, “We were a bit shaky on the first day, but Kit has done incredibly well especially as it’s his first ever event.” Kit; “The first test was the worst, not knowing what was about to happen, but it got better, we set some of the fastest times on the tests. Hopefully I will be able to compete on some more events in the future!”
Stuart and Emily Anderson, winner of the Masters Class on the Summer Trial in their 1937 Bentley Derby 4 ½ litre. Stuart; “It was great to be back out rallying, it was a shame about the traffic but there’s nothing you can do about it. We enjoyed our own battle with Stephen Owens and Nick Bloxham in their Porsche and I’m happy to say we came out on top!”
Emily Anderson; gold medal winning navigator; “I’m really pleased with that result. I will happily be rubbing that result into Stephen and Bloxe’s faces over the coming couple of months!”