The Winter Challenge to Monte Carlo 2016 rally was staged 21-25 February. The Historic Endurance Rallying Organisation (HERO) event featured 40 entries, ranging from Volvo PV 544 models from the 1950s to Porsche 911 models from the 1980s. Per tradition, crews departed from two locations, either starting from Echternach, Luxembourg or the Royal Automobile Club’s Woodcote Park at Epsom, UK, before making the journey to Monte Carlo.
In an epic battle won and lost on the final day, Charles Colton and Ryan Pickering took victory on the 2016 Winter Challenge to Monte Carlo with their 1966 Porsche 911. Competitors took part in an event that focused on endurance and accurate navigation rather than on speed, however the roads utilised by Clerk of the Course Bob Rutherford kept crews on their toes for the majority of time. There was a wide mix of wide open and owing lanes in the north of France where the south of country gave way to intricate and demanding sections, with many ‘Lacets’ or hairpins visited along with Cols and Puys as well. Traditionally the event is run on snow in the latter days, while this running encountered a tiny smattering but nothing to trouble the crews.
The first day saw John Abel and Leigh Powley jump into the lead. A last-minute switch from a Sunbeam Tiger to an Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint due to mechanical issues seemed to indicate it wouldn’t be a straight-forward event for the pair. In fact, Leigh admitted that he probably had one of his weakest performances on this event in the first few days, but the last two days saw him return to his usual high standard with the pair posting best performance of the day on Wednesday as the rally overnighted in Sisteron.
On the second day, 2014 winner Jan Ebus took control of the event with the ultra-experienced Bart den Hartog as his navigator in their 1964 Porsche 356C. They led for the duration of 2016 Winter Challenge until the very last day where an error on a time card meant they picked up a two-and-a half-minute penalty, dropping them to second in the final standings. Another crew in contention were Dermot Carnegie and Paul Bordet’s 1959 Volvo PV544 who were always snapping at the heels of Ebus and den Hartog. The time control section of Tuesday night gave them some problems as they picked up a one minute and 45 second penalty for checking in 17 minutes late to the start of the Time Control section, relegating them to third overall.
The drive of the event has to go to Paul Crosby and Andy Pullan in their 1970 Porsche 911, a truly imperious performance from Andy gave them lowest penalties incurred throughout the event. If their Porsche was one year older, they would have taken the overall win by a huge margin. Charles Colton and Ryan Pickering sat quietly watching in the wings, with a consistent performance from the Porsche 911 mounted pair kept them in touch with the leaders. Going into the last day they thought that victory was out of reach. After learning that they had taken the win after the error from den Hartog, the look on Pickering’s face changed from one of disbelief to one of joy as the news hit home. It was a well-deserved victory for the Cheshire=based crew.
This was the first round in the HERO Cup in association with EFG Private Bankers and Zenith Watches where the prize for the winning driver of the series includes a Zenith El Primero Open Chronomaster 1969 HERO Cup Edition alongside a week’s complementary sailing on board the luxurious 85-foot S/Y Orianda. The victorious navigator will have entry to one of four selected HERO events such as the Three Legs of Mann, Summer Trial or RAC Rally of the Tests, as well as this they will also receive a Zenith El Primero Open Chronomaster 1969 HERO Cup Edition timepiece.