The fight for the HERO Challenge Champion Navigator’s title took another little twist on the eve of the finale as Alan Pettit’s Volvo PV544 spluttered to a halt half a mile from HERO-ERA HQ at Bicester Heritage.
Alan, who stepped in kindly to provide his car as a platform to keep Mike Cochrane’s title hopes alive after Angus McQueen had to pull out, has been furiously searching for parts so they can start the rally.
Meanwhile, championship protagonists Alistair Leckie and Matt Outhwaite went smoothly through scrutineering and were ready for the fight;
Alistair, “ It’s a tough field. We know Angus isn’t here and we hope he gets well again and comes back to join us soon, but there are some tough crews on the event. Paul Bloxidge and Oli Waldock are due a good result, Malcolm Dunderdale and Anita Wickens were leading the Scottish Malts last week, we could have a really good rally and maybe finish in the top ten. I think it’s a big ask for me to overcome Angus’ 12 point lead, I am also under pressure from Simon Ayris right behind as well but it should be a really good day’s rallying. In fact it’s been a cracking year’s rallying, Angus and Mike have been fantastic. On the last event, Angus was there the night before giving us tips on the course!”
Matt; “We will give it everything we’ve got but Mike is with an unfamiliar driver. I think I would struggle to lose second but I will do everything I can to get that top navigator’s spot.”
Simon Ayris and Kim Bannister are the crew to put pressure on the SAAB team chasing the title. Simon who is third in the drivers championship is just four points adrift of Alistair Leckie. In fact he put his MGB right behind the Leckie SAAB in the scrutineering queue!
Simon; “Just mind games! But who knows what’s going to happen, it’s such a shame about Angus because those two crews have been fighting really hard at the top whilst we’ve been quietly doing our own thing just at the back of them, but when we checked the leader board recently we were surprised to see where we actually were. It could be all change but who knows it’s never over until it’s over.”
David Brabham former Grand Prix driver and Le Mans winner was an interested visitor to scrutineering. His Brabham Automotive supercar company is based at Bicester Heritage.
David; “The great thing about having an office here is that you can see a lot of great cars going past the window! I thought there was something going on so we came over to take a look. The great thing here is not just the cars, it’s the people and their enthusiasm.
“It would be a great challenge to do an event like this, I have done a couple of rallies similar to this with all the route finding. I can see they have got all their navigational equipment in the cars, and everything has to be timed, I know it’s not as easy as people think, but wow there are some great cars here.”
Mike Farrell is just back from riding his motorcycle in the Barry Sheene Memorial Trophy race at the Goodwood Revival, sharing his bike with Superbike star and ladies TT lap record holder Jenny Tinmouth, but now it’s back to four wheels for him in his 1936 Jaguar Tourer at the HERO Challenge finale.
Mike; “She was fastest lady of the weekend, she’s a stunning rider. She was fastest lady around the Ilse of Man and this weekend she is riding at the BSB finale at Oulton Park. My usual navigator Charlie is not here, although he managed the bike team at Goodwood he has backed out of this event, so Zak Burns is back in the hot seat! Charlie decided there needed to be some younger brains in there.”
Zak; “This is only my second ever rally so I do feel the pressure is on a little bit. We are hoping to do the Flying Scotsman, so this is a little bit if practice for me before then really, although at the minute we have absolutely no trip working at all!”
Junior World Rally Championship contenders Jon Armstrong and Phil Hall arrived to meet their HERO-ERA Mini Cooper for the first time as they make their debut in classic regularity rallying to try another discipline of motor sport.
Jon; “OK we did the navigational sessions online but we are being thrown in at the deep end a little bit, Phil has done these previously, but a long time ago. It’s going to be an exciting day, it will be lots of fun but we want to try and do our best at the same time.
“I’ve just driven the Mini round the block and into scrutineering, it’s so small but nimble at the same time, I can already tell that. The tests will be really interesting, of course no power steering as we have in our JWRC rally car, so that will be a good work out for my arms!”
Phil; “I think it’s going to be a really good team development opportunity for me and Jon to work together, we are going to be doing something a little bit different, but I think we can transfer some of that over to stage rallying, especially from the team work and coordination side.
“It’s going to be good for me to relearn it all again, the course was really useful, I just went straight back to basics and just said I’m going to treat this like I’ve never done anything like this before. It was really good, but I will have to see how that translates to a live performance tomorrow!”
For Phil Hall as an Elite Athlete with the RAF it is of great interest for him to be at Bicester Heritage, a former WW2 bomber base.
Phil; ”I love coming back to places like this and exploring the heritage of the Royal Air force but also the heritage of our motor sport and car industry.”
Mike Cochrane and Alan Pettit finally arrived back at Bicester around 8.40pm with a car that sounded like it was firing on all cylinders. But it was still not a great start for Mike Cochrane’s championship tilt;
Mike; “I’m tired and ready for bed! Although we might have a running car now, Alan has very kindly brought an interesting car today which we have been limping around the country in. By a miracle he has got it working again. Alan has done me proud, it’s fantastic, he has moved heaven and earth to be here with me, so we will do what we can tomorrow.”
Alan; “It only went in for exhaust work but when I got in it this afternoon the fuel pump had broken so I put another pump on, then it conked out on the motor way about thirty times! Every time it went about thirty yards then stopped – I’ve had all the ignition to pieces – and put it all back together again. I didn’t bring any spares with me as it was such a last minute effort. A real rush job, then Dave and Rob of HERO-ERA Tech Assistance helped when we got here, then we found a bolt had come out of the bottom of the carb. We have fashioned a stud and it seems to be working so fingers crossed! At least the car sounds alright now.”