The Per Ardua ad Infinitum, which roughly translated means ‘always take the hard way’, really lived up to it’s moto as the new HERO-ERA Rally season opened it’s gates to an influx of snow, sleet, ice and fog across Somerset’s hills and moors.
Competitors were left in no doubt that the season had started in a good but hard fashion as they reveled in the conditions whilst facing a difficult red coded two day event.
Guy Woodcock, Clerk of the Course and HERO-ERA Competition Director commented; “It was a great start to the season. The first two regularities went through a couple of farm yards which put the cat amongst the pigeons, unfortunately the third regularity had a really steep descent and a massive snow fall. By the time we got there in the Course Car, there were cars trying to get up that were stuck and modern cars trying to get down so we had to cancel that regularity.
“After that the crews have battled through fog, snow and now it’s starting to freeze so it has been a proper January rally, a hard one so far as the title of the event suggests, but it’s not over yet! Leg two is a day of tests, 14 of them at venues which include Smeatharpe and Nigel Mansell’s kart track plus six more regularities to keep them on their toes!
“It’s been a great way to kick off the season, running across Exmoor at this time of year was always going to produce exciting conditions and so it proved it by the snow and ice we had. We have had great feedback from crews returning after the night section, where else can you do 45 miles at night on great roads, as we did in the Course Car, without meeting a single local car!”
2020 Per Ardua winners Paul Crosby and Andy Pullan have been mighty from the start as they not only reveled in the conditions but managed them well, leading overnight in their Porsche 911. They are determined to do the double and win this event again but another set of double champions 1m 16 seconds behind them are going to try and stop them.
Twice HERO-ERA Cup winner Paul Bloxidge and his double Golden Roamer winning navigator Ian Canavan may have been closer to the lead but for a mistake at some moorland crossroads; Ian, “We had been having a really good day and an excellent evening, a decent run over Porlock Hill then I got mixed up at a couple of junctions on a moorland road. It’s why they take you up there, it’s a challenge, but I made a mistake and we dropped a minute, but then this a red event. We are on the level of LeJog and the RAC Rally of the Tests here and this event so far is a little bit of both. We will try to pull the time back, we are good enough!”
15 seconds behind them are Thomas and Roger Bricknell, another champion navigator, as the father and son duo enjoyed the delightful handing of their VW Golf GTi in the snow. Noel Kelly and Pete Johnson’s Volvo are 11 seconds behind them whilst Clare Grove and Rod Hanson are hot on the Volvo’s trail in their MG Maestro, just over a minute adrift. In sixth place is Elliott Dale and Charlotte Ryall, sideways as ever in their Ford Escort but enjoying themselves immensely; Elliott;” We have had mixed fortunes, with our alternator for example, but that should be sorted now. It was great fun! I don’t think anybody expected snow or roads closed because of cars being stuck, but we have really enjoyed it, a little bit of the slippy slidy in the Escort, I made Charlotte squeak a few times, I think she thought we were going off the road.”
Crews were hard pushed to keep up the pace on the TC section over Moortown Barton as a mix of slush and snow started to freeze a little before they were able to take a little break at the Log Cabin diner, a brief respite from the tricky Devon lanes and Somerset hills.
Leg Two will be full on and certainly relentless as 14 tests and six regularities are packed into the final day. It should still be the second day of the champions however, as Crosby and Pullan face off against Bloxidge and Canavan, but they could well be joined by the hard charging Bricknells in the Mk1 VW Golf to make it a three way fight for the prestigious PAAI Trophy.
Whilst HERO-ERA are delighted that their rallying programme has started with a bang in 2022, it is with regret that they had to announce today (Jan 7th) they have had to postpone the 2022 Winter Challenge to Monte Carlo, until February 2023 – exact dates to be confirmed.
The decision to postpone is not one that was taken lightly, but it was the only option, so for the safety of the crews as well as HERO-ERA staff, and taking into account the current movement restrictions between France and the UK, the event is postponed.
From the information gathered on Friday, there may be the possibility of some easing of Covid-related restrictions in the coming weeks, but mainly for business related movements. With Covid figures currently in an upward trend, Covid passes required to access venues, the safety of all concerned is of paramount importance.
The ongoing restrictions mean that it will not be possible for the Competition Team to complete the final recce until the earliest date of 25 January, and that’s only possible if the current talks for easing restrictions go to plan.
Considering all of the above, the organisation will not be able to deliver an event to the standard HERO-ERA want and the competitors expect, therefore the best course was and is to postpone the event until early February 2023.
Guy Woodcock, Competition Director HERO-ERA; “Realistically we haven’t done the final recce yet, which we were hoping to complete after this weekend of the PAAI. France is obviously not going to open the borders at the moment and there is no evidence of when they are going to open for people to travel again for non-essential reasons.
“Marshals need to book flights, and make their travel arrangements, and also the fact that all the hotels are wanting full on payment for the event now, so from our point of view it is the right time to make the decision. For everyone’s safety and to act in responsible way with enough notice for all parties, we have had to put the event back to 2023.
However, we expect to run the rally at a similar time and date in 2023 over the same route, which means those people who have invested in maps for example, can still use them next year.”