According to Chinese culture, 2020 is the year of the Rat, something that the entire globe may be inclined to agree with considering the animals intrinsic links to the plague. Jesting aside, it has of course been a devastating year for so many people, and really puts into perspective just how minor postponements and cancellations to sporting events are. It also puts into sharp focus how fortunate we have been to run any historic rallies this season, but the late summer seemed to be just a gap in the cloud as infection rates began to rise once more and the sad decisions to cancel both Rally of the Tests, Le Jog and then the Winter Challenge to Monte Carlo had to be taken.
In short, it was the only sensible course of action, as the barriers to events mounted, not to mention the responsibilities to public health. Never one to take anything lying down though, behind the scenes the HERO-ERA team went into overdrive, to put together a last minute event that would, if it was safe to do so, allow those with a passion for regularity rallying to end their 2020 on a high and head into the festive period with a belly full of rallying cheer.
Per Ardua Ad Infinitum, which translates to Through Endless Adversity, is a red level event that will be fought out over an intensive 6 hours, featuring 13 tests and 4 regularities condensed into a time-scale that will offer no let up and punish the smallest lapses of concentration, from navigator or driver. HERO-ERA Competition Director, Guy Woodcock, even describes the planning process as intensive, telling me how it was put together inside a week. Despite the intensity of the planning though, he is bubbling with enthusiasm. “The best way to describe it is intense” he tells me, “the Drivers and the Navigators are really going to have to be on their game, and the crews that perform the best will be the ones that work together. It could easily be won or lost on the tests, but the regularities will present their own challenges.”
The tests that he speaks of will be at familiar venues for those that have enjoyed the recent events that have been based at Bicester, and fully utilise the Bicester site. “We’ve had to make best use of the facilities available to us at Bicester Heritage” says Woodcock, “Normally I wouldn’t run a red level event in an [built up] area like this, we just don’t have the kinds of roads that we would usually encounter in Wales or Scotland.” Competitors need not worry though, there might not be stunning vistas hung in front of the windows, but there will be challenges aplenty, as well as the prospect of one regularity taking place off the public highway on the Bicester site, a reg that Guy describes as being “flat-out”.
It’s a salivating prospect, one made all the more fascinating by the strength of the entry, which features a whole host of crews who could be capable of winning the event, many of whom who have yet to appear on a HERO event this year. As well as those at the top of the seeding, there are plenty of crews who are stepping up to a red level event for the first time, and with up to four novice events completed this year for some of them, it will be a fabulous opportunity to benchmark their skills against some of the very best.
It isn’t just about the competition though, ‘tis the season to be jolly after all, so all competitors will be encouraged to spread a little Christmas cheer and decorate themselves and their cars accordingly, within the parameters of scrutineering of course!
2020 will be a year that many of us will want to send packing and forget about, and what better way than to put the loud pedal to the metal and fire it into oblivion from the tail pipes of historic rallying machinery, whilst four-wheel drifting into Christmas and the New Year. Expect exciting test action, expect plenty of mistakes and expect high pressure on this absolute sprint of a rally, but also expect plenty of festive fun. Who will finish the day with the warm fuzziness of a win, and who will be left out in the cold remains to be seen, what is guaranteed is that when the mud settles, we will likely have witnessed a tight and tricky competition and finish the season ding-dong merrily on high.
Photos by Will Broadhead and Blue Passion
*The Shires host Round Two as the Challenge Increases