Complete newcomers to the world of classic car rallying turned out in large numbers to attend the first of four HERO seminars at Race Retro on Saturday. The very next day, 15 novice crews went straight into the start of their first ever classic car event, most of the new recruits returned thrilled by the experience.
30 cars started the Retro Classic Tour from the doorstep of Stoneleigh Park, the home of Race Retro, on a 130 mile route around Oxfordshire, putting some their navigational learnings into practice from HERO Academy seminars the day before.
With key explanations from three experts, starting with the very basics of a classic car rally including route finding and time keeping, our 15 novice crews felt prepared enough for their first event. They couldn’t have had better teachers, Elise Whyte – third place in 2017 and second place in the 2018 Golden Roamer navigator award, Seren Whyte top classic rally driver and 2018 HERO Cup winner and champion Paul Bloxidge.
With the entrant’s cars all scrutineered then lined up on the Stoneleigh Park front entrance Apron, they were ready to start. Competitors were not just going to enjoy their cars in the Retro Classic Tour but they were also part of the show! The first car over the start was a 1928 Model A Ford driven by Oscar Phillips.
Adele and Ian Hunt drove their Rover MINI Cooper on their first event, although Ian has raced Minis before, his wife Adele has previously only enjoyed driving her MINI around challenging roads in her home county of Devon. “I love driving around those roads but we were looking for something different, something more to do in the MINI.” Ian, who is also a mountain leader on Dartmoor where navigation is essential, felt the seminar sessions really helped. “ They made a lot of sense in their application, for me it was a good transition.”
Adele climbing from the MINI after the event said: “I loved it, Ian did a great job particularly as he took us around a road diversion a different way.” Ian added:” I really challenged myself as I was trying to use the map and tulips together but it worked!”
It was great to meet experienced marshal Terry More at the HERO seminar on Saturday. Although he has previous experience in stage rally co driving, he was here to learn more about the challenges inside the rally car on regularity rallies so he and fellow marshals could be more helpful out of the car in future HERO events. ”We like to help keep crews in the event, sometimes they ask for guidance or explanations, so if we know more about their timing and navigation challenges we may be able to help. I came on this course to get a better perspective by learning a bit about the other side.”
Sara and Angelo Apa attended the course and entered their Porsche Panamera in the Classic Retro Tour after being inspired watching the Endurance Rally Association’s ‘Road to Saigon’ event when it was featured in a BBC TV series called ‘Eight go Rallying’. “We were also looking at events we could do together.”
Beaming as she got out of the car after 150 miles of navigation the next day Sara said: “That was just a great fun, do I want to do more? Yes please, I loved it”, husband Angelo nodded in agreement.
Mark Illington was also taking part in his MGB as he felt it was a good way to “get a partner involved, here she can really do that unlike watching me race and getting cold, she is really involved. In fact the navigator is more important than the driver!”
David Ward has still to get off the starting blocks after the engine failed on his Ferrari 308 before the Summer Trial last year, although his wife and navigator Sally Ward didn’t attend the seminar.
“My wife thinks she has enough information, I hope she is right and we can enjoy a good first event on the HERO Challenge on the 9th March.” But before that the couple enjoyed the Retro Classic Challenge on Sunday declaring his wife’s navigation as “perfect!” Sally enjoyed the event as well;” We had the joy of following the 1934 Lagonda home in great sunshine, now we are looking forward to the first HERO Challenge in March.”
The open-topped Lagonda turned heads wherever the Thompson twins, Anthony and Peter went on the event. Commented driver Anthony,” it was a spectacular route, fantastic villages and scenery and yes people do love Larry, my Lagonda. But everyone loves Lagondas, don’t they?” Brother and navigator Peter were really impressed the way the HERO team dealt with sudden road closures; “I really thought the way we were re-routed so effectively was very professional indeed.” The Thompson brothers were using the event as a practice run for the ERA Flying Scotsman Rally in April.
Jerry Pike was certainly in full preparation mode for his debut as a navigator in an Australian Dodge Charger, the Valiant. “I followed the teaching course OK but you’d better check with me after the event”. It wasn’t driver Steve Blunt’s first classic rally, he has previously won the ERA London Cape Town endurance rally so had high expectations of his partner. The duo are going to enter the HERO Challenge in March, a step up from touring events for virgin navigator Jerry, but he acquitted himself well on the Retro Classic.
“I’m very glad to get through my first event, all went well, but we go again properly in two weeks time on the HERO Challenge, although Steve has to use me, he couldn’t find any other volunteers!”
Steve’s main concern for March 9th is getting the Charger tuned up in time as it is currently only delivering around seven miles to the gallon.
Looking for a change from scenic tours was Bill Limbrick with daughter Rachel Davies navigating on their debut in a HERO event in their Volvo 240. “We made lot’s of friends on the tours but they can get a bit repetitive, we thought that maybe there was something else out there!” said Bill.
After the event, a smiling Rachel said;” We were on really great roads, it was fab, great scenery. Now we have to work on Mum and talk about a possible London Lisbon entry.”
Tim Bosinius travelled from Germany for a combination of reasons. “My 1967 MGB GT was being rebuilt in Oxfordshire and I found HERO on the website, of course, I knew Le Jog, everybody does, but I thought I’d take in the navigational course at the same time. A long time ago I did some events with my Dad but I have never driven regularity or tests on events. I wanted to learn.”
Navigator Tim Addison said before the event that he was probably the least enthusiastic man on the event, possibly the worst man for the navigator’s role. But on arriving back at Race Retro on Sunday afternoon he had changed his tune. “I made a few mistakes early on but that was because I was talking too much, once I started concentrating it was good fun, I’d do it again!” Tim Bosinious was very positive. “We went to some beautiful places, the roads were awesome and this classic rallying is addictive, I’m now looking at the next possible event.”
Former successful racer of Jaguars and Aston Martins, Chris Scragg, was also looking at events where his wife Valerie could be more involved instead of waiting round in wet paddocks at race tracks. “If we survive the navigation course and the event then I will consider having a proper go!”
When the Scraggs arrived back on Sunday, not only had Valerie enjoyed it but Chris said he would now look for a proper classic rally car with a proper trip meter. “The wife didn’t shout at me either which was good, but now we are looking for the next rally we can take part in, unfortunately, we can’t enter the HERO Challenge on March 9th as there is a clash, otherwise we would have been there.”
Mark Zandler is an ex-stage rally driver who finished third in class on the WRC Wales Rally GB in 2016 and felt he also wanted to get his wife interested which is why Sandra joined him as the couple entered their first ever HERO event. Sandra was laughing as she alighted from their Porsche Macan S after four hours of navigation. “It was fun, the tulips were easy to read. When we had to be re-routed it was great to try and get round the problem. The next thing is to experience the timing element.” Mark added, “ We had a few little words along the route but generally I did as I was told, it was really enjoyable.”
Tracy and John King were also newbies to classic car rallying as this was their first navigational class and their first event together in their Triumph Dolomite Sprint after 37 years of marriage. Said Tracy,” this could be the quickest way to get a divorce!”
On her return to Stoneleigh Park Tracy was quick to comment;” We are just about still together! The diversions made us think a bit more so we had to use the interval sections of the road book as well.” However, the couple are now fully on board with HERO as they will be taking part in the HERO Challenge One in March and then onto the Three Legs of Mann later that same month. “ The Whyte sisters were great teachers in the classroom yesterday, we learned a lot. However, the more events you do the more you learn,” added John.
The family prize for the Retro Classic Tour had to go to the Watt family, five of whom were spread between a Mercedes SLK230 and a Porsche 911. Mum Karen was in the Merc with son Finn who has been on HERO navigational courses whilst Dad Angus took the other two Watts juniors with him. Said Karen; ”It was chaos at first with the road closures, we caught people up then we lost them again but Finn turned to the maps and he was great. Actually it was great fun when things went wrong, two cars ahead of us veered off suddenly, but Finn was adamant to go straight ahead, he was right!”
Another couple, Nicola and Benedict Thomas, attending the HERO navigation classes, had a different view as they weren’t running on Sunday. It was a question of picking the right event to do after their induction in either their MGA or Aston Martin DB6. Nicola was a bit worried about the cramped cockpit of the MG and then saw another HERO company, ‘The Classic Yacht Experience’ in the HERO rally brochure. “ That looks fantastic”, said Nicola, ‘maybe we should go sailing instead!” Benedict added, “It’s not a question of if we go rallying, but when.”
Following the success of the Retro Classic Tour, some competitors have already made entries to the first of two HERO Challenges in 2019, the first on March 9th, a one day event at Pershore Worcester. This event is an ideal follow up to the Retro for newcomers to the sport, especially as it used tulip style navigation which has proved so popular and easy to use. The second HERO Challenge is on the 28th September .