As the outside temperature rose, so did the heat in the cockpit as the competition was ramped up a little over Leg Two of the Summer Trial. Starting at 8.00 am until early evening, 56 cars set off to battle it out around Shropshire’s challenging lanes for nine regularities and two tests on private land.
Whisper it, but Angus McQueen and Mike Cochrane in the BMW 323i could have a chance of their first victory after twice finishing runners up, when they snatched the lead from Paul Bloxidge and 15 year old navigating sensation Oli Waldock who have dropped to fifth but are still in striking distance.
That’s how close the day has been in the top ten as one small error or a hold up has dramatically changed the order.
Rising to fifth then second by the end of the leg, Novice Trial winners Alistair Leckie and Matt Outhwaite confirmed their graduation from beginners to intermediates with a fine performance in their SAAB 600 Turbo to upset the experts. They have showed real form amongst amongst the big guns in the sport.
Riding serenely through the traffic with some great times on the clock have been the husband and wife pairing of Pete and Jo Johnson in the unlikely but effective rally Austin Maestro. Many will remember the Maestro Challenge series which was race and rally, so although it is not the most elegant car it has competition history. Pete and Jo are making the most of it.
Andy Simpson and champion navigator Roger Bricknell were left frustrated as they suffered more hold ups than most as they nose dived from a podium position last night to eighth today. However, continuing their climb have been Chris Howell and Jon Briggs in the Ford Lotus Cortina to take fourth overall in the evocative white and green coloured car, just ahead of the Bloxidge/Waldock Golf GTi and Paul Day and Alun Jones who shone in the MGB today after it suffered gearbox overheating yesterday.
It has been a great comeback so far for Michael Moss and James Ewing in the crisp sounding Fiat 2300S Coupe, they are seventh and could have been higher but for James missing an amendment. The crew were still happy with their performance although they know the heavy car is not the best on the tests!
Nicola Shackleton and Richard Worts enjoyed another consistent day, ninth in their Jaguar Mk 2 as Constant Busch and Alan Pettit slipped back into the top ten in their Volvo Amazon.
Leg Two has definitely been tougher than Friday but it has definitely been more scenic! Heading out west across the Shropshire Plain with the 1335 ft high Wrekin overlooking the plain, the towns of Little and Church Stretton lead crews across the jaw dropping Long Mynd looking down on Shropshire way below as if it was a great big green and gold coloured blanket.
The three regularities after that were set in the winding Welsh Marches before a lunch halt at the Mortimers Cross. The rally went past Croft Castle and Berrington Hall routing around the south Shropshire Hills where navigators had to work even harder with tricky junctions and lots of speed changes. At Halfpenny Green Airport two small tests proved challenging due to the dust and gravel. On one, cars had to take to the edge of the stubble field due to the logs in the middle. As a result, plumes of dust rose high into the air as cars were at full bore along both sides of the old runway.
Some of the small roads were potholed, dried mud turned to dust and many small turns called for snap decisions. At the end of the regularity seven a devious left was called for up the drive into the pub where the control was situated, this was also the end of the regularity. At least six cars never turned into the control.
Ultimately it had been a fantastic day of regularity rallying, the heat of the competition matched only by the weather as the Summer Trial lived up to it’s name. Leg three brings more heated competition but with it the chance for the leaders Angus McQueen and Mike Cochrane to keep cool and take their first ever HERO-ERA win.
Oli Waldock; “We had two good regs in the morning then one nightmare when I missed a turn, but it happens, after that it was all good!” Paul Bloxidge; “Four out of five for Oli but to be fair to him the sign was quite hidden in the long grass.”
Andy Simpson; “They took their sheep for a walk, they took their tractors out for a drive, they got their dustbin lorries out! There was even a caravan down the narrow lanes but it’s just one of those things.” Roger Bricknell; “ We lost at least a minute on one reg with a tractor and sheep, so it’s all on the final day!”
Henry Hardwick; “Just one wrong turn today so that’s a marked improvement, although apparently yesterday I jumped the start of one regularity! Just so long as we beat that lot (pointing to his father Stephen and sister Olivia in the Alfa Romeo). Thomas Fair; “I’m not sure that jump start was fair, that was our best regularity as well!”
Stephen Hardwick; “I am losing my voice, so many times I have to keep telling Olivia to slow down! It was going really well this morning, I tell her to slow down or speed up and she does it and now she is getting used to the car. She much prefers the Alfa Romeo to the Volvo!”
Rob Hendy;” This is the cars first event and it’s all holding together, we had one or two navigational challenges but we need to up the game, however they are just great roads with great scenery. Michael Joyce; “ It feels like this event has gone up a gear since last year, either we are very rusty or it has moved on. But massively enjoyable, we will be back for more. The highlight has been the spectators, the people have been waving, cheering and supporting us, it has been absolutely fabulous.”
Andy Lane; “We pulled the black Porsche out of a ditch, we couldn’t go past and leave them, up to that point we had been spot on and it was just before a control.”
Alan Wright; “We had a hiccup this morning, we spent a long time driving the wrong way but then we got it right, Dave and I are still friends. They are just brilliant driving roads. Our Ford Cortina is totally standard spec with no mods at all. The car went to Finland when it was brand new and then to Italy where I got it”.
Alan Mills; “A great day, glorious weather and dust carts! It was really good especially as it’s our first time together and Martin drove really well in the tests, very quick. I’m on the HERO Challenge in a couple of weeks then hopefully the RAC Rally of the Tests and Le Jog!” Martin Read; “The car has been running really well today it has been tight, we were also much tighter as a team today than yesterday!”
Heiko Schupp; “This is my first time, me and Matt Cook are both novices, we looked online and thought the Summer Trial looked the most adventurous and most attractive but it was perhaps a bit tougher for beginners. But we got into our stride, then the fuel pump packed in. We fixed it but ran out of time so we are out. Hopefully we will do more events.”
Simon Brown; “We hit a massive pot hole in the Frogs Gulley regularity when something got into the rear wheel and damaged the caliper, it was getting very hot so we had to keep stopping. In the end even the brake pedal was getting hot so we had to retire the Fiat X1/9. It was a pity as that was our shakedown for the Winter Challenge to Monte Carlo next year!”
Julia Robertson; “We did better today than yesterday! We lost six and a half minutes through cows and traffic, I think through the lockdowns I’ve got a bit rusty not quite as on it as I was.” Steve Robertson;” It was one of those rusty moments that we both had when we nearly missed the turn into the control at the pub. The navigator said left then hesitated, I hesitated then I drove over the bank to into where you all were!”
Sally Ward; “It has been good, Shropshire is gorgeous, it hasn’t been perfect but we have done the best we can, but it has been fun.” David Ward; “All those Table Top Rallies that HERO-ERA put on, they were great for practice and theoretically we were wonderful, but the reality……… we are getting better, we are improving which is good. The Ferrari was great on most of the roads and never missed a beat. It was a bit on tip toes as we charged round the log and stubble field though!”
*The Shires host Round Two as the Challenge Increases