After three classroom navigation and timing sessions from Friday evening through to Saturday afternoon, interspersed with practical sessions on the road, the 37 crews entered are easing their way towards the actual competition, A Novice Trial, on Sunday 26th March.
The practical instructions included walking tests so that entrants can learn to run on proper speed tests on private land in their rally cars in the heat of battle against the clock. Crews linked arms as the navigator called the directions from the course map across both the roof patio of the HERO-ERA HQ and later around a course with hidden checks circulating the building on Bicester Heritage.
Simulating the test experience should help ease inexperienced competitors into running the right route around a test course as fast as possible, which they will need to do at the end of ‘A Novice Trial’ on Sunday as the finale to the event on the airfield at Bicester Heritage test track. The bulk of the event however will be regularities which Clerk of the Course Seren Whyte and her sister Elise were helping prepare the eager crews for.
Amongst the crews are two young Swiss navigators, Alexander Leibundgut aged 14, and 16-year-old Nils Geigy who have both travelled from their native Switzerland with their respective fathers, Philipp and Nicolas, to learn the art of regularity navigation.
Alexander; “I think we’re here for this rally to basically learn how to navigate, anyway I think we’re trying!
“My father and I have come from Switzerland as he has already competed on LeJogs and now he is teaching me as I want to learn. On one side I want to be a driver but it’s a bit too early for that!”
Philipp and Alexander are using the HERO-ERA Arrive and Drive Triumph TR4A, one of nine A+D cars out for hire on the event and Alexander is enjoying it. “I love the sound, it’s great. I like the trip meter, I have found all the buttons to reset it so now I am looking forward to the rally, but I’m not sure if I will get every turn right, so we’ll see.”
Nicolas and Nils Geigy (16 yrs) from Basle, Switzerland. Nicolas; “Nils is doing a perfect job, it’s his first time navigating and he is doing very well. There were certain problems in the beginning, but that’s normal.
“We have an Arrive and Drive Austin Healey Sprite which is huge fun, it was much better to hire a car as it would have been a very long drive in our car from Switzerland!” Nicolas has competed in LeJog four times, the 1000 Mile Trial and the RAC Rally of the Tests in 2017, most as a navigator, but this time he is happy to be driving and keen for his son Nils to learn the art of navigation.
Nils; “I think after time you’re thinking, what is Seren or Elise telling me? But when you’re driving you realise what they are telling you makes sense! I like regularity rallying although I prefer jogularity, which is much nicer in my opinion, but I like both.”
Paul and George Nichols, father and son. Happy Birthday George! “Thank you, I’m 14 today and really enjoyed myself, although the navigation was tough. I think I understand it quite well now, the lessons were really helpful.”
Paul; “We’re going to go out for a nice dinner this evening, I’ve booked a good restaurant nearby, so we’re going to have some fun, he will get his presents later and some birthday cake!
“He has been doing really well actually, the information sort of soaks into a younger brain, quicker than it does into an old one, so I’m glad I’ve got him with me. It’s the big one tomorrow so we need to go and recalibrate the trip in the car, we were out a little bit with the distances, so we’ll do that then we’ll go through all the information. We’ll come up with a plan over George’s birthday dinner!”
Nicolas Haycock, MGA.” This was our first event and we thought, rather than going headstrong into something, we would do a novice event first. So, we had classrooms yesterday afternoon and learned lots of good stuff. So today it’s really been about us putting some of that into use so that we get the opportunity to see what it’s like, and then hopefully we want to take things a bit further.
“I enjoy classic cars, absolutely, I love the MGA, there has been a lot of work gone into it and this is its first outing. My buddy and I retired last year, golf is another hobby of ours, but hopefully, this sport will be one of the big things and we want to enjoy it.”
There are also some great cars on the event. There are two Aston Martins, a DB6 and a glorious DB4 belonging to Nigel Grice;Nigel; “I’ve had the car for about 20 years and competed in sprints and hill climbs with the Aston Martin Owners Club and others. So, it’s used to being hurled around, but now I think something more cerebral is required, so this I hope will be the start of lots of rallying for the both of us.
“I learned about this branch of the sport a long time ago, I watched some of the coverage of the Peking to Paris and have been enthralled by the history, the amazing Fiat that won the first race in 1907 with Prince Borghese, and now we have Aston Martin doing well on the track again – this time in F1 – so it is time for a resurgence in Aston Martin rallying, they were good in the fifties!”