At 08:01 Matt Warren / Andy Pullan led 88 crews away from the start of the HERO challenge 2016 with the knowledge that they had already secured this year’s HRCR Clubmans Road Rally Championship which is sponsored by Hagerty Classic Car Insurance. The event was also a round of the HERO Cup with EFG Private Bank and Zenith Watches – Official Timekeeper of the HERO Cup.
There were two competitions running on the day, the National B section which uses traditional navigation styles such as spot heights, herringbones, map plotting and grid lines whilst the Clubmans section is aimed at those new to regularity rallying or those who do not have a competition licence – the navigation used being straightforward tulip style diagrams in an easy to read road book. The two sections followed a very similar route for the first part of the day, leaving The Vale Golf Club the first action of the day was at Throckmorton Airfield with three tests to warm crews up. Fastest time on the first test went to Matt Warren / Andy Pullan who stopped the clocks at 2 minutes 22 seconds on the National B Section, this was a real wake up call for crews as straight into the test, the route took in some of the less used parts of the airfield with gravel and moss covered concrete meaning traction in the rear wheel drive vehicles was difficult to find with the front wheel drive vehicles finding it tricky to turn in. A three-way tie in the Clubman section on this test saw Will Calvert / Adrian Bramley, Justin & John Lawson and Nigel Perkins / Pete Johnson all tie on 2:39 seconds, the three crews all using totally different machinery with Calvert in a Mini, the Lawson’s in an MG B and Perkins in his immaculate Porsche 911 SC.
Two more tests ensued before a run out via the A449 to the west of Droitwich Spa and the village of Ombersley where regularity one started. Named ‘The Challenge’ this was 13.5 miles long with four timing points set in the testing and undulating lanes north of Ombersley, routing via Boreley and Lindholt a slot right over Lineholt Common into a loop which caused one or two crews in both categories to drop time. The final two timing points were relatively straight-forward and led to the end of the first regularity outside the Honey Bee pub at Doverdale. Heading out past the Radio Four transmitters at Wychbold the second regularity started to draw time from all crews, this was true Worcestershire lanes where the banks are steep with high hedges and although the terrain is relatively flat, the roads seem to undulate and hamper your vision in the distance. A not as map junction near Stoke Wharf seemed to hamper some of the National B crews with the Clubman section having a few less issues here due to the tulip road books, just before Upper Bentley a double junction took time from several crews on this section. A run through Holberrow Green brought this section to a close, Darrell and Nicky Staniforth were having a slow start by there standards and dropped some time on long way round triangles with Paul Crosby / Ali Procter finding their Porsche 356 a little unusual to the more powerful 911 Paul uses. Father and Son Crew Mike & Matthew Vokes got over their recent coolant hose problems to be the class of the field on this section in the National B with just 3 seconds dropped whilst Warren / Pullan displayed a rare chink in their armour dropping 11 seconds. Perkins / Johnson dropped 15 in the Clubmans with Calvert / Bramley seven behind them, this section was problematic for most of the Clubman route with the majority dropping one minute or more over its course. The very experienced Duncan Wild / Steve Skepper had a momentary lapse of reason during the second regularity with Steve zeroing the total instead of the intermediate trip – Duncan reports that the ensuing mathematics would have been more akin to ‘Countdown’ than a rally!
Coffee was served at the quirky sounding Wheelbarrow Castle Pub in the village of Radford which allowed competitors a brief respite, Patrick and Hubert Lynch didn’t make the first halt with their Mini, a transmission related (we believe) issue forced them out on the second driving test. Regularity three was aptly named ‘Splashing About’ as it used the section of roads to the north of Flyford Flavell, albeit the recent dry weather meant that the fords on this section were low, the surface underneath them incredibly slippy meaning that caution was in order when crossing them at times. Tim Lawrence / Adam Tibbs posted 11 seconds lost here with Steve & Julia Robertson recovering from an uncharacteristic lapse of concentration on reg two to post second best performance here, Crosby / Procter threw themselves back into the hunt with a fine 7 seconds dropped and they were matched by the Vokes’ once again who were increasing the pressure in their Ginetta.
The final sections headed out into the Cotswolds and this is where the route split; the Clubman section covering one regularity at 25 miles long whilst the National B crews were treated to 35 miles plus two more regularities to keep them on their toes. The topography now was totally different with the hills and valleys of the Cotswolds providing the challenge, the lanes now were slightly more open and easier of a kind, however, there was no time to relax as these final sections were designed to really test the crews. Starting out from Wickhamford and heading south and west of Broadway, a loop round Snowshill and Temple Guiting was common to both sections, Kineton saw the National B crews split off into the tree-covered and rock strewn fords whilst the Clubmen passed this by, dropping down into Guiting Wood ford both crews used Winchcombe Way which threw some of the newcomers to the sport; the road signs displaying that it ‘was unsuitable for motor vehicles’ but in reality the section leant itself perfectly to regularity rallying. The final regularity action of the Clubman section ended at Hailes Abbey whilst Nat B took in Didbrook, Stanton and two LWR triangles near Toddington before the end of regularity near Alderton. Tests four, five and six were once again on Throckmorton Airfield and provided crews with a variant on the first three sections of the morning, Paul Bloxidge / Ian Canavan were pressing Warren / Pullan for the Test Pilot Trophy in the National B’s with Lawrence / Tibbs having a monumental battle with Calvert / Bramley in the Clubman section. Two crews that were thoroughly enjoying themselves were Patrick Burke / Julianna van den Boogaard in their Arrive and Drive MG B and Father and Son crew John & Matthew Vincent, they were battling hard for 12th position and if it wasn’t for an error on a timecard by Matthew, they would have finished a very respectable seventh overall – remarkable in that this was Matthew’s first event and he is just 14 years old. A navigator to watch for in the future.
Steve & Julia Robertson were now well into their stride and some uncertainties from Perkins / Johnson on the road left them wondering if they had done enough into the final three tests back at Throckmorton, there was much nail biting and consternation but the verdict went the Porsche crews way with their best result as a crew to date and Nigel’s first ever win. However, despite being pipped to the post, this was also the Robertson’s best ever result after their fine third on the Icelandic Saga in 2015, the crew taking a well-deserved second overall and displaying the talent and tenacity that will take them to a win soon. Third went to Tim Lawrence / Adam Tibbs who went furthest cleanest to push Will Calvert / Adrian Bramley into fourth. In fifth were Dominic and Thomas Anghileri who provided arguably the drive of the day in their Sunbeam Talbot 90 MkII, despite the car being 60 years old or more, it was driven with a style and vigour that put more modern machinery to shame.
The final two regularities for the National B section were west of Tewkesbury and were a formidable challenge for the more experienced competitors, Warren / Pullan were now turning up the wick on their rivals, but nothing could stop Howard Warren / Iain Tullie on the regularities, not even a broken shock absorber on the second group of tests could hamper the Porsche 911 crew. Crosby / Procter were now at home in their 356 and posted just six seconds combined penalties over the two sections with Keith Davis / Henry Carr rounding with a bad final regularity costing them a top five or possibly an even top three finish.
The final driving tests brought both categories back to the Vale Golf and Country Club where once again, Matt Warren / Andy Pullan had pushed Matt’s Father Howard into second place with the undeniably excellent Iain Tullie on the maps; this win gave the young crew the maximum amount of perfect scores in this year’s HRCR Clubman Championship and confirmed their dominance in the series. Paul Crosby / Ali Procter held third by 11 seconds from the Ginetta of Mike & Matthew Vokes whilst Darrel & Nicky Staniforth showed they are a real force to be reckoned with to take fifth by eight seconds.
HERO would like to thank all the Marshals who assisted on the day and made the event a resounding success, without your help, we could not run events. A huge thank you.