After three days of wonderful competition with fabulous weather each day, Shropshire shone on three winners who waged a great battle across the hills and dales of this beautiful county. After a tense final day comprising four regularities and three tests, father and son David and Edward Liddell triumphed in their TR4, David admitting that it was a relief to finally take the win after all the pressure of three days competition.
After a scare when failing to heed the rules on regularities such as ‘never passing a No Through Road sign, unless otherwise advised’ or Unsuitable for Heavy Goods Vehicle signs which could be misleading, Nicholas Harries and Piers Barclay survived the sign interpretation to score a convincing second place, having been in the thick of battle at the front in all three legs. The only damage to the dusty but otherwise immaculate 1957 TR3 was to the rear when navigator Nichols backed his car into Piers’ home gate post when he went to pick him up for the rally!
Suspected to be beaming through their Beemer coloured face masks at the finish, having fought their way back to the podium, Angus McQueen and Mike Cochrane were absolutely full of late summer joys as they lapped up the late afternoon sunshine which bathed their weary but sturdy BMW 323i at the finish. The car, owned from new by the family since 1983, had provided such a great platform of reliability and speed, taking them into the lead at the end of the first day before falling off their perch, stuck behind a road roller.
David and Edward Liddell, Triumph TR4, 1st overall.
David; “We are very pleased, a great weight off the shoulders. The first day was very stressful for us, we hit a lot of traffic so we were very happy to be third. The second day was brilliant losing just 60 seconds stuck behind four rally cars and a slow none competing car, but we took the lead”. Edward; “We nearly missed the correct ‘Heavy Goods Vehicle’ sign on the final regularity, we didn’t quite see it as there was another for Heavy Vehicles, it nearly caught us out but we only lost three seconds. We were both pretty nervous going into that final test, I said if we go round it at ten mile an hour it doesn’t matter because of the lead we thought we had. Then I got it wrong this time whereas Dad got it wrong in the previous test, but we did it!” David; “ It was good to win with my son.”
Nicholas Harries and Piers Barclay, Triumph TR3, 2nd overall.
Nicholas: “It is more than we expected so we are both very happy with the podium.” Piers; “There were some very tough, could we say cruel regularities today? You had to concentrate totally and we missed a sign which was hidden on the left behind some trees, you had to be further ahead to see it back over your shoulder, that set us back five minutes! But Nicholas is an extraordinary navigator, he got a zero on the next Timing Point, in the circumstances that is fantastic!” Nicholas; “ I always enjoy the navigation but I am very conscious that it’s very suitable navigation for this level but equally aware that there is lots of stuff I still don’t know.”
Angus McQueen and Mike Cochrane, BMW 323i, 3rd overall.
Angus; “The Beemer has been brilliant, it’s been in the family since 1983, she has been going really well – she was great on the tests today, any failings are ours not the cars! Mike; “ We made a couple of silly mistakes but we were lucky with horses and traffic we didn’t get caught at all so no excuses there, the mistakes were mine.” Having compared the ‘snakes and ladders’ movement up and down the leader board over the three days Angus continued; “We dropped down to ninth halfway through the second day having lead the first, then back to third at the end of the second leg. It’s been brilliant and all part of the fun, it’s about hitting those time controls right on the regularities. On a three day event like this it’s all about consistency, we came back up which was fantastic.” Mike;” We’ve only been doing it for 18 months, we’ve done a few events so this feels great as we weren’t even expecting a top ten!”
The fourth regularity of the day was a very long one but ended with a bonus for crews being able to compete through private land on the Harcourt Estate owned by sprightly 95 year old Major Hayes who was a competitor in his day. The Major was a very interested spectator as rally cars flashed past the edge of his manor house wall along the loose tracks. Major Hayes; “ Yes I am enjoying watching as I used to compete in motor rallies and hill climbs, I had a Jaguar XK150 which is probably the best car I ever had. It’s great watch them go past – I’m glad I managed to get the pot holes filled in time!
“ I was a member of the Seven Valley Motor Club, they organised the Loton Park Hill Climb and I held the course record until it was open to the general public. I used an Austin and a Rover, I did try it in a Riley, but then I saw the record book of all the times not so long ago at an open day, I wondered why the hell it had been such a slow time, then I remembered it was a 1500!”
The HERO-ERA team passed on their gratitude to Major Hayes for his generous permission to use the estate roads which proved such a highlight for teams.
The tests were also exciting for most crews although one navigator chose to sit a few out as her driver and husband took to the tarmac and loose with a bit too much relish for her liking. Italians Deirdra and Matteo Cidonio who finished 34th overall were trying the sport for the first time in the HERO Arrive and Drive Alfa Romeo GTV 1750. Deirdra; ” It has been great fun, absolutely. It’s been wonderful driving through these beautiful country roads, the weather, the whole experience. I did stand down for a few tests today, my husband goes quite fast and on the first day’s tests I felt slightly uncomfortable, so I left the test driving to him. I prefer watching him from the sidelines!”
Matteo; “The organisation is fantastic, the car is as beautiful to drive as any old style great Alfa. It’s been rebuilt recently with a new gearbox and engine so it’s incredible sharp. We may do some more rallies, (‘possibly’ added Deirdra!) I’d love to do a long one, yesterday we were talking about the Peking to Paris and the Lima to Cape Horn, those would be great!”
In fact the other two HERO Arrive and Drive cars out on the Summer Trial also finished the event. Michael and Ciara Pedley finished a competitive 15th overall in the VW Golf GTi whilst the German/Swedish combination of Guido Fiebes and Per Jonsson came home 35th overall in the TR4A, Guido hiring the car after his regular rally Porsche was damaged in Germany.
There was another Alfa Romeo in the rally, a gorgeous white 1964 Giulia Sprint GT of James and Sarah Darwent. In spite it being her first ever rally, Sarah took to the navigation like a veteran, guiding her husband to finish inside the top ten up until the final leg; James;” We went up a wrong road, we turned too early. We realised we were wrong as we appeared in a farm yard with a milk tanker trying to unload! We tried our best to retrack, eventually getting back on route and then sadly we lost the brakes. Its been a great one, her first event and she as done so well, Sarah is so well organised. Until you have someone in the cabin alongside you, you have no idea how they are going to react or panic but she has been brilliant so maybe a few more rallies to come!”
The Alfa Romeo crew were not alone in losing their way. Clare Grove and Robert Robinson had been as high as fifth in their Rover 2000TC but dramatically dropped to 14th by the finish after a mistake at the same turning as the Darwents. Clare; “Everything started off fine on Leg 3 but we had a nightmare on the first regularity. The turning wasn’t where the trip meter was so we were going round in circles, we ended up having to cut and run to the test otherwise we would have been over our time limit (OTL) and have to retire. There were half a dozen of us going around in circles so we weren’t alone.!” Robert; “It wasn’t so good but at least the Rover has been going really well and we finished.”
Another crew had who been inside the top ten but then struggled, this time with mechanical problems, were Amanda Johnson and Andy Ballantyne in their 1964 Mini Cooper S. Andy takes up the story; “ It’s been a bit dramatic, we lost minutes. We basically lost the gearbox and had to push. Every junction, every car, as we had no reverse, even the tractors coming the other way, every person we met coming the other way we got them to help us push. We got held up by a horse for 15 minutes, we’ve had it all – but still we got it home!”
Amongst the tales of woe and anguish there is the story of the father and son who were shocked to win! Simon and William Garrett in the 1978 TVR Taimar, a rare rally beast, were awarded the Concours d’ Elegance Award for their superbly prepared and turned out Car. Simon; “We were very pleased and surprised to win the award, we were also happy to get a couple of zeros on the regularities, we made progress!” The crew finished 32nd overall.
The experts were out practicing for the bigger events later in the year, the RAC Rally of the Tests and Le Jog, initially lead in this class by Steve and Thomas Robertson in their MGB GT V8, the same team who won the Summer Trial 2019 in their little vintage MG. This time they were out of luck, after drowning out in the ford at the end of Leg 2, the father and son had to make do with 3rd in class.
The winners, and therefore scoring a win on his welcome return to the sport after his injury and leg operation was champion navigator Ian Canavan sitting alongside another champion Paul Bloxidge. Ian; “ I had a lot to live up to after Paul’s grandson Oli became the youngest ever HERO podium sitter at 14 navigating Paul in the HERO Challenge Two. There was just a bit of pressure on my comeback, but at least I managed to chip off a bit of the rust and we got the class win.”
There was a great class 2 win for Peter Moore and Angus Rochford in the 1936 Riley Special, the duo gave it their all on the final test sliding the Riley expertly to 24th overall. Per and Peter Neville were also spectacular in their Volvo 144, some really spirited driving taking them to a fine fifth overall and the win in Class 3 for the under 1800 cc cars. They will however be ruing an off route excursion that undoubtedly cost them a podium.
Equally there was some great navigation and driving by Paul Day and Alan Jones to seventh overall in their red and white MGB. The pair were simply throwing the MG around the test in the cattle market in full blooded slides as they used all the road, they deservedly won Class 4 for the over 1800 cc cars.
It seems you cannot keep Stephen Hardwick away from rallying, he was back for more after outings in the Team Hardwick Volvo with his daughter on the Novice Trial, then the Ford Falcon on the HERO Challenge Two with his son in law Ashley Bennet and on Summer Trail with his old friend David Moyle on his first ever rally, this time in the Datsun 240Z! David was delighted at the finish line back in Telford to be told they had won Class 5!
As ever the organisers and officials lead by Clerk of the Course Guy Woodcock put on a superb event, aided by a wonderful team of marshals. It shows just how much this sport produces a great spirit of camaraderie and cooperation when the winners of the HERO Challenge Two from three weeks ago, Susan Dixon and Darren Everitt turn out to marshal for two days!
Summer Trial 2020 will burn bright in many rally folk’s memory as one of the best three day events for a long while. It had the weather, a challenging and scenic route but most of all it was run safely and efficiently by HERO-ERA. Now it’s all eyes towards Taunton and the final of the HERO Challenge trilogy 2020.
Photos by Will Broadhead