Crews of every level of experience rolled into the Bicester Heritage site, home of historic motoring and aviation, to pass through scrutineering in preparation for the final HERO-ERA event of the year, Per Ardua Ad Infinitum – a full red coded event.
Such is the eagerness of teams to get the chance to compete, that there was a clamour for entries with people determined to blow 2020 out of their exhaust pipes in the last of five events HERO-ERA have managed to run in this COVID affected year.
Some took the opportunity to brush up on their navigational skills before the event, alongside others trying to acquire the skills, from Elise and Seren Whyte in their HERO-ERA Training Academy Webinars. Such was the demand that an extra night had to added to cope with 94 people online!
The change of tiers affected some competitors being able to travel plus a few parts of the route which Guy Woodcock and his Competition team adjusted accordingly, whilst the rally is being run in full compliance with Government and Motorsport UK COVID regulations. There are still 11 tests around the fast, tricky airfield sections of Bicester Heritage with all its surface changes, plus three challenging regularities to give the event its red code. The action promises to be ‘full on’.
The last chance 2020 rally blast has lured out the cream of regularity rallying, determined to make up for the lack of action and the inevitable postponement of the RAC Rally of the Tests and Le Jog.
The list is like a Roll of Honour: four time consecutive HERO Cup Champion Paul Crosby running number one in his Porsche 911 with twice Golden Roamer Champion navigator Andy Pullan alongside him. 2018 HERO Cup Champion Paul Bloxidge is at number six in his VW Golf GTi navigated by 2018 Champion Golden Roamer winner Ian Canavan. 2019 HERO Cup Champion Jayne Wignall is at number nine on the entry list with her championship winning navigator Kevin Savage in their Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint.
Just for good winning measure, in at 27 navigating for Nigel Barnett, is the 2019 Champion navigator and Golden Roamer winner, Roger Bricknell.
There’s Le Jog Gold medal winners Kevin Haselden and Gary Evans, London to Lisbon winners, father and son pairing Stephen and Alex Chick. Scroll down to car 21 and you find ace navigator and six times RAC Rally of the Tests winner, Mark Appleton just ahead of Summer Trial winners Steve and Thomas Robertson, another father and son pairing, this time in their MGBGT V8. 2020 HERO Challenge Three second place finishers, Angus McQueen and Mike Cochrane in their BMW 323i are a bit further down the illustrious list.
It is also great to see one of the most successful parings ever in classic regularity rallying at number three in their 1974 Ford Escort, Howard Warren and Iain Tullie. There’s Mini expert and winner Darrell Staniforth and Nick Staniforth in their Mini Cooper S at number five, Iceland winner Owen Turner with top navigator Andy Ballantyne on the maps in a 1973 Chrysler Gallant. Le Jog Gold medal winners Stuart and Emily Anderson are looking to embarrass the younger cars once again in their fabulous 1937 Bentley Derby.
We can’t leave the Roll of Honour without mentioning two crews who pulled off first time wins and who are competing on Per Ardua Ad Infinitum. Charlotte Ryall and Elliott Dale who captured a brilliant victory on October’s HERO Challenge Three based in Taunton, which was also a huge strike for the Vintage brigade as Elliott and Charlotte hurled their 1937 Bentley Derby Special around to defeat the hoards of younger machines snapping at their 83 year old wheels. Can they do it again?
Or could it be the second success for Susan Dixon and Darren Everitt after they took a popular victory on the 2020 HERO Challenge Two in their rorty Triumph 2000?
Then there are the come back team. Dave Bryan and Tony Brooks in the Ford RS2000; Dave; “On the 2018 Le Jog a Porsche unfortunately reversed into us and put us out of the event. We were about halfway through, we couldn’t carry on so we marshaled instead! Finally she is back together all in one piece now after a lot of work, but the car is a lot better than it was. Even so, we are going to bed her in gently.
“I am really pleased to have a great navigator beside me, an absolutely top man, Tony Brooks, we have not been together since 2016.” Tony was in fact out navigating at the last HERO-ERA event at Bicester Heritage, the HERO Challenge Two in his own superb Renault Alpine. The pair were due to compete together in the RAC Rally of the Tests and Le Jog in the RS2000, so they are hoping that this final blast of 2020 will go some way to compensating for the postponement of those two major events until 2021.
“I certainly hope so” said Tony Brooks, “I did a 12 Car rally last week end, the navigation was completely off the wall, I couldn’t do it. Two weeks before that I did another 12 Car and the engine blew! The one before that was in a Skoda Superb Estate car with Derek Almond and we won it!”
Paul Crosby was trying to remember the last time he was out on a rally! “Oh my god, doing a proper rally? I think it was near the end of March, so I’m really looking forward to it, it’s nice to be back amongst the family again. In the downtime I have been messing around with old cars, I’m lucky I’m retired.”
On the subject of this event being dubbed ‘The Rally of the Champions’ Crosby had this to say;” I am sure because of the entry list it’s going to be very competitive, there’s a half dozen or more people who could win this event so I’m not underestimating anyone. It’s a one day event as well, the problem being that if you make one mistake you have probably lost the whole day, it’s not like a three or four day rally when you can get the time back. So it’s going to be tough, and boy it’s good to be out rallying – anything to get out of the house!”
Guy Woodcock; HERO-ERA Competition Director and Clerk of the Course, Per Ardua Ad Infinitum; “When we made the decision to postpone the RAC Rally of the Tests and Le Jog we thought we’d better give our competitors an alternative. It’s been a bit of a challenge to put it together but we have managed to compress a red event into one day, although it will be relentless.
“We start at 9.30 am and finish at 2.30 pm, they have 75 miles of route and 11 tests so there won’t be much hanging around. It’s a bit about speed on the tests, because we are going to try something new on the rules, the drivers are going to be penalised quite heavily if they hit a cone. They need to be quick but also neat and tidy, the last regularity around the airfield will no doubt throw out a few surprises.
“A red event, quite tough, but when you look at the top fifteen crews on the entry list it is as you say, like the ‘Rally of the Champions.’ Darell and Nicky, Paul Crosby, so many top winning drivers, all of them all with good navigators. There are so many, it’s going to be close at the top.”