The slightly shortened HERO Challenge Cup was concluded last Saturday, as the flag fell on HERO Challenge Three, the concluding round. Originally to be contested over three separate events, it would eventually be fought out over just two, after the Covid pandemic forced the cancellation of the first round, due to take place in March. A special effort was required to realise even these two events, Challenge Two taking place in Bicester at the Start of September and Challenge Three running out of Taunton this past weekend, but tribute must also be paid to those competitors that turned out in their droves, filling both events and displaying a hunger for classic rallying that even Covid couldn’t supress.
But to the victors must go the spoils, even in a shortened championship. In this case Darren Everitt won the battle of the pedallers, in his often exuberantly driven Triumph 2000. Always a favourite to watch on the tests, it is fair to say that Darren enjoys his driving and has the ability to make the Triumph dance around the cones, whilst also knowing when it’s best to back off the throttle and listen to instructions from navigator Susan Dixon. After leaving Bicester as outright winner of Challenge Two, and taking a maximum 18 points, Challenge Three proved more difficult and in a close contest on the Somerset lanes a finish of 16th overall and 2nd in class gave hope to nearest challenger Elliot Dale. The Atlantic rower finished 4th overall at Bicester and 1st in class and charged down a triumphant overall win in his familiar Bentley Derby Special, with just 31 seconds of penalties compared to Everitt’s 2 minutes. It would not be enough however for Damon Green, finishing with a point total of 26, 5 points behind championship winner Everitt but tied with Elliott, who would concede second spot to Dale based upon overall finishes across the two events.
It was better news and one place higher for Elliott Dale’s navigator, Charlotte Ryall, who triumphed in the battle of the maps, plotting a route to the top of the championship with 10 points from round one and 18 from round two. Chased all the way by second place finisher Mike Cochrane, navigator to Angus McQueen who narrowly missed out on the championship podium himself, who equalled Charlotte on points, but dropped to second by virtue of Ryall’s better finishes overall across the two rounds. Susan Dixon would find herself just two points behind in third place, a close-run thing indeed.
Despite the championship only making two thirds distance, its inaugural year must be seen as a great success and provided extra spice to two already competitive rallies. Considering these events are aimed at beginner and intermediate crews the standard was high and the level of experience within the field vast, leading to the close finishes seen at the top of, and throughout, the championship tables. It is with some sadness that we must conclude the HERO Challenges for this year, but we will all look forward to more closely contested competitions in the seasons to come. Until then, congratulations to all the competitors involved, and especially the winners.
*The Shires host Round Two as the Challenge Increases