For the first time since March 8th 2020 when the Classic New Zealand Rally finished in Christchurch, historic rallying resumes in the UK with A Novice Trial from 21-23 August based in Oswestry.
After months of rallying inactivity but masses of work behind the scenes by organisers HERO-ERA, the two day plus programme sparks classic rallying back into life with a mixture of classroom, regularity and a mini event spread between Friday night and Sunday morning.
Whilst observing current Government Guidelines, the event will also be run under the latest Motorsport UK COVID-19 event procedures further developed by the HERO-ERA management teams for regularity rallying. The organisers have made major efforts to make the event as safe as possible for everyone from officials to competitors and hospitality staff.
The Novice Trial falls into the successful beginner category of events alongside the popular HERO Challenges. Designed to encourage and help novices into the sport, the Novice Trial is the next stage for many newbies who have taken part in the HERO Training seminars which have been conducted to growing numbers of people keen to take up the sport. During Lockdown some even took part in the HERO Table Top Virtual Rally that was so expertly organised by Seren and Elise Whyte. Players from around the world sent in their congratulations on the game, but most importantly new people were introduced to the sport whilst established navigators were able to keep their hands in.
The Novice Trial format also works perfectly well for ‘refreshers’ too, some of whom are amongst the 25 car field. It is an ideal event for all comers to ease their way back into classic rallying.
The process of how to tackle a classic car rally, the basics of tulips, navigation and procedures will all be incorporated into an absorbing mix of classroom and ‘on road’ sessions, culminating in a competitive mini rally on Sunday morning.
The Novice Trial also represents the first opportunity in six months or more in some cases, for many historic car owners to use their vehicles in competition. Much care and many hours of work has gone into keeping classic and vintage cars fettled in ‘forced hibernation,’ so A Novice Trial also represents the chance for owners to wake up their machines and let them stretch their legs after they have been folded for so long.
The entry list contains a delightful mix of vintage and classic cars lead by the oldest car on A Novice Trial, a 1928 Ford Model A Phaeton of Oscar and Nicholas Phillips. At car two is a 1933 Singer Le Mans Prototype crewed by Christopher Wilks and David Creech, one place ahead of the 1936 SS Jaguar 2.5L Tourer of Mike Farrall and Charlie Williams.
There are two younger Jaguars to be found at number nine and eleven, both 1965 Mk 2’s of Gavin Webster and Andy Chun then Paul Bartley and Jonathan Andrew. They will both be in good company with the MG’s, Alfa Romeo’s and Porsches as many learner crews attempt to navigate their way through the scenic country roads around Oswestry.
There are 15 female competitors, 3 drivers and 12 navigators entered. Car 12 is driven by Olivia Hardwick navigated by her star driver father Stephen who recently finished 6th overall on the 2020 New Zealand Classic, winning his class with his wife Samantha navigating in their Ford Falcon. Stephen will also be competing on the 2022 Peking to Paris.
There is a link here to Faith Douglas who is navigating Richard Walker’s 1972 TR6 as they are also entered in the 2022 Peking to Paris Motoring Challenge, but the big difference is that for Faith and Richard, A Novice Trial will be their first ever event!
Stephen Hardwick will undoubtedly be part of the usual friendly HERO welcome for all the new entrants, with special words of advice for the rally newbies Faith and Richard who have a big adventure looming with P2P happening in two short years time.
Amongst the cast of ‘freshers’ eager to learn the classic rally craft is a champion. 2018 Hero Cup Champion winner Paul Bloxidge, a Gold Medal winner on Le Jog and HERO Challenge winner, is being navigated by youngster Oli Waldock who will doubtless being receiving tuition as they go, Paul being equally adept as a navigator. The pair are in a VW Golf Mk2 GTi.
Just as with HERO Challenges, A Novice Trial competitors will find from officials to experienced crews, they are all really happy to help, they are inclusive events. Many fresh to the sport have continued up the ladder and built their experience as it undoubtedly becomes addictive.
However, with crews eager to be back out there, HERO-ERA want everyone to savour the experience but equally they aim to make sure they all do so in an enjoyable but safe way.
Brian Whyte, Operations Director HERO-ERA;
“Having something positive to look forward to helps well being and mental health. Our competitors are ready; they have been polishing their cars for months, waiting patiently for us to deliver events in a safe and organised way, but we are now ready.
“We managed to keep everyone on their toes with the 12 week Table top rally which raised over £20k for charity. We have been watching the restrictions develop very closely, after months of preparation, we are bringing our first event back strictly adhering to Government and Motorsport UK advice. We will still be very careful and play ourselves in gently, which is why A Novice Trial is a perfect way to ease our way back in.
“It is essential that we get our events up and running again. We generate much needed business into the heart of the community which helps the economy. We use local businesses to provide coffee halts, lunches and overnight facilities, cars refuel at the local fuel stations and this activity is very much needed at this time”
“HERO-ERA events are coming back in a structured way. A two day novice event with 25 crews next week then a one day event, HERO Challenge 2, two weeks later. Following them the three day Summer Trial will take place at the end of September. The classics, the RAC Rally of the Tests and Le Jog are scheduled for November and December as per our calendar.
“Importantly our PR feedback so far indicates that householders along the route are thrilled to learn we are passing their property. Many householders along the planned route have been in touch with us following the delivery of our PR letters, thanking us for advising them of the event and very much looking forward to watching the cars drive past”
Guy Woodcock, Competition Director HERO-ERA;
“In preparation for the return to running events, we have all been working hard to make sure all our competitors, officials and marshals are safe, they can rest assured we as a company have left no stone unturned in designing the event procedures to minimise risks at this time. Working with Motorsport UK we look forward to welcoming the crews on A Novice Trial next weekend 21-23 August, which will allow us to evaluate what we have put in place before the remaining events we have planned for the rest of 2020”.