The overall winners of HERO Challenge Three 2020 are:
1. Elliott Dale and Charlotte Ryall – Bentley Derby Special
2. Angus McQueen and Mike Cochrane – BMW 323i
3. John Lomas and Pete Johnson – Riley Sprite
A fabulous route across Somerset and Devon comprising eight tests and seven regularities in wonderful sunshine provided double cream for 84 crews as they lapped up the action packed day.
Leading at lunchtime and holding on for a sensational first big HERO Challenge win were the 1937 vintage Bentley Derby crew of Charlotte Ryall and her driver and partner Elliott Dale, a man also famous for record breaking multi crossings of the Atlantic propelled by oars!
To watch them throwing the Bentley around the final test, pushing on hard to victory, was a sight to behold. The 1937 steed was sliding and spewing tyre smoke from the tortured rubber, putting much younger and more agile machinery into it’s haze. Their nearest rival, a 1982 BMW 323i was 14 seconds behind at the finish.
Elliott; “It’s been a fantastic day, the tests have been great, I managed to get the tyres smoking a bit so I’m happy with that, but at least we were going for it! This has been a fantastic event, we’ve done Challenge Two and Three and wish we’d done HERO Challenge One now.
Charlotte; ”It’s been a lot of fun, great to be out there rallying although I was being thrown around a bit in the tests which was getting my heart racing! It was a really good route with fantastic scenery!”
Elliott; “We weren’t sure how well we had done, we dropped a few silly seconds but eventually we found out we had done it, we won! Now we are off to downtown Taunton to celebrate – until 10.00 pm!”
Clerk of the Course George Mullins who was responsible for the route which was widely praised by the competitors, summed up the day as far as he was concerned; “Yes there were a lot of positive vibes from the crews, we were lucky with the weather which smiled on us but if you add the fantastic scenery to a good day’s competition then I think most are happy. It has been safety first for HERO again.
“The hospitality was a big challenge but all the venues have done a stunning job working in concert with our Head of Hospitality Eleonora Piccolo. The crews were great but I have to thank all the officials and marshals, and there were loads of them out there, who have all done a super job.”
Moving up one place into second following their epic fight back to third on the Summer Trial were Angus McQueen and Mike Cochrane in their BMW 323i, underlining their current sparkling form after a relatively short amount of time on the regularity rally trail. Mike and Angus were ‘chuffed!’
Third, in the final podium position was another vintage car, the 1936 Riley Sprite of Blue Diamond proprietor John Lomas navigated by former driver and ace navigator Peter Johnson, the duo keeping it clean on the regularities and fast on the tests where they looked smooth and quick. Like Charlotte and Elliott, the crew showed a clean pair of heels to cars, some of which are forty five years younger! But as John added; “This is a fantastic result, Pete was superb but it also bodes well for our outing on the Flying Scotsman in 2021.”
Peter’s wife Jo Johnson was not so lucky navigating for Dave Smith on his return to the sport in his Vauxhall Nova as the throttle linkage broke early on in the event. It was also cruel luck for Christopher Wilks and David Creech in the 1933 Singer Le Mans prototype as the car broke it’s half shaft of the penultimate test.
Alan Petit and Peter Rushforth were always in the thick of the action in their Volvo Amazon taking fourth overall but also a class win. But in the not so normal rally car stakes, winning it’s class and taking a fine fifth overall was the 1971 Reliant Scimitar SE5A of Gavin Rogers and Georgina Clark, the pair finished just one second behind Alan Petit.
“On the HERO Challenge Two we had all the luck, everything went our way, but today we got stuck behind them all, and could only manage 15th” said Susan Dixon the winning navigator from HERO Challenge Two. Her driver Darren Everitt in their 1965 Triumph 2000 was really enjoying the Porlock tests along the old toll road which were pretty slippy and slimy. He was confidently power sliding his way across the slick surface. “Porlock Hill was great, I loved it, but it wasn’t quick enough for Susan she kept telling me to go faster!”
The duo were definitely fast enough for the marshals on the final test to vote the Triumph 2000 as the most spectacular car they had seen all day. ‘Broadside everywhere’ was the description.
It was a special day for Charles Andrews as he received a drive in HERO Challenge Two in the HERO Arrive and Drive Porsche 911 SWB as a surprise 50th birthday present! Charles; “The whole rally was a surprise, I had no idea but it was organised by my friends. My wife had even packed a bag for me but I missed all the pointers which is slightly embarrassing (Charles works in intelligence). But it was a beautiful surprise, I thoroughly enjoyed it. The event was superbly organised, the 911 was good to drive, very responsive.”
Charles was navigated by James Middleton who although a bit of an adventurer and car nut, was on his first ever rally; James; “ My last adventure was in the US but I was on the saddle of a bike, this was a bit more comfortable. I am a car fan, over the years I have restored a few Land Rovers and tractors which I really love, but I’ve never been rallying before. It was my first time on a rally and in the hot seat, although maybe I’m a bit dyslexic as I was struggling with my lefts and rights!
“It has been an amazing experience, I have heard a lot of people talking about the sport but the only way to properly experience it is by doing it – now I’ve done it I’ve got the bug and want to come back for more. Charlie let me drive a bit at the end so I got a bit of a taster behind the wheel, navigation is much harder! It was great, everyone was smiling, I have a big smile on my face behind this mask!”
Tomas de Vargas Machuca, the Chairman of HERO-ERA took part in his first rally for over a year navigated by Federico Gottsche Bebert who won his class last year driving in the RAC Rally of the Tests in the same Porsche 911 2.2 S they used on HERO Challenge Three. Tomas; “It’s been more than a year but it was great to get back out there, especially with all the complexities we have had to live through. It was great to see all the smiles, well you can tell from the eyes, not from the masks!
“It was a great one day event, I love the HERO Challenge format, it proved to be great enjoyment. There was some tricky stuff which caught us out as it should do, but it was just a great day out.”
How did Federico like the navigator’s seat compared to the other side? “I can tell you it’s a lot scarier! I have found out that I am a better driver than I am navigator.”
Tomas was asked about the recent postponement of the RAC Rally of the Tests until 2021 and the new event that has emerged. “Yes sadly the RAC Rally of the Tests had to be postponed but we are trying to get a new event called ‘Per Ardua Ad Infinitum’ under way, the name is HERO’s motto which essentially means ‘the hard way for the longest time possible’ to really represent the great work the team has done, and we will do it in a Le Jog format. We can’t go to Scotland but we will start in Land’s End and finish in Cumbria, it will be pacey and quite aggressive. I think it will be a good compromise and the Le Jog format will work well for our sixth and final event of the year, which will be remarkable to run six, given what the world is going through.”
There was an eclectic mix of rally cars out on HERO Challenge Three, the first of which was an Austin A35, the winner of the first HERO Challenge last year driven by Belgian Nick Van Praag. This time he was navigated by Yann Tytgadt but they had clutch problems on the first test and had to push the car back from the line. Nick; “The clutch wasn’t working, then we found that there was no clutch fluid in the reservoir from where we flipped the car on the Ypres Regularity Rally! We had forgotten to fill it again so we borrowed some clutch fluid and it was all working perfectly once more, although we were not going to win today!”
John and Lynn Ireson were on their first rally in their 1959 Sunbeam Rapier and finished 69th and 11th in their class. John; “ It was our first time out, we have never done it before but we think we did OK. The car apparently has some history as it has done the Monte Carlo Rally six or seven times.” Lynn; “It has been lovely although we were taking it one step at a time.”
John and Aileen Croft were out in an even more rare car, a 1966 Gilbern GT. John; “ I bought this car a couple of months ago and then started looking for an event to enter, luckily we got on the entry list of the challenge which was really pleasing. Out last rally was 25 years ago! Aileen added; “As you can imagine there has been a lot of refreshing going on, there were a few little glitches here and there but that was to be expected given the length of time we’ve been away!” The couple did brilliantly to take 48th overall and sixth in class after so long out of the sport!
It was also super to see Mike Tanswell back with HERO navigated by his wife Helen in their lovely burbly 1971 Triumph Stag. What wasn’t so lovely was the fuel pump failure 200 yards before regularity one. Mike had a spare and fixed it only for he and Helen to get stuck behind a tractor on the next regularity. Then the clutch started slipping………Mike; “But we made it to the finish!”
The Trilogy of HERO Challenges finished as they started, with bumper entries and very happy competitors. The format will reappear in 2021.
Photos by Will Broadhead