The overall winners of A Novice Trial 2020 are:
1. Jonathan Shepherd and Kay Shepherd – Porsche 944
2. Peter Myles and Louise Myles – Saab 96 V4
3. Paul Bloxidge and Oli Waldock – Volkswagen Golf GTi
23 eager crews gathered on the eve of A Novice Trial in Oswestry late Friday afternoon at the Lion Quays Resort, keen to soak up information in a pre event training session before tackling the first HERO-ERA event post lockdown.
Crews new to the sport mixed with experienced teams brushing up on their rusty skills but all were equal in the eyes of the officials as they took the temperatures of everyone before they entered the conference room.
Once inside, experienced rallying sisters Seren and Elise Whyte took the masked audience through a basic training session covering navigation, time keeping, road book use including tulip diagrams and tricky triangles! In a very graphic session, drivers and navigators were given some idea of what to expect, including the odd trick!
After scrutineering on Saturday morning, crews will head out on the road to put into practice what they learned by running in regularities on the road. On Sunday morning the cars will head out on a competitive mini rally to put all their new found skills into practice.
The Novice Trial is specifically designed for newcomers to the sport to encourage them to take up the sport and continue on up the ladder. Seren explained to the group that experienced competitors wanted to help; “the majority of competitors are really nice people, they will help and advise, it’s all about learning. Everyone is up for helping each other, even on the bigger events such as Le Jog.”
Seren continued; “My advice tomorrow is to concentrate on the navigation, try to go the right way which is most important and don’t worry about timing. You will also have your own Time Record Card which is only for your benefit, you will keep it with you and note down the times as the marshals call them from safe distance with no card transfer. They will record the time on their own time sheet before calling it out to you.”
The team of Richard Walker and Faith Douglas are about to encounter their first ever classic car rally in preparation for the big daddy of all historic rallies, the Peking to Paris Motor Challenge in 2022.
Newbie navigator Faith Douglas was a bit perturbed after getting caught up in the centre of Oswestry in their Triumph TR6 making then a bit late for the teach in, suggesting that it didn’t bode well for the big one in two years! But as she was advised there will be plenty of mistakes along the way as it is part of the learning process. It is going to be a long but fascinating journey for Richard and Faith which we plan to follow.
After some sound basic training on navigation during Friday evening, followed by scrutineering at a distance on a selective basis today, Saturday, crews were ready to hit the rally road for the first time in six months.
A Novice Trial which was devised to encourage and train newcomers into the sport, moved from classroom to the road to put the lessons from top rallyists Seren and Elise Whyte into practice.
With four none competitive regularities to sharpen team’s focus, two sandwiched before a lunch break which included a classroom session on timing, and two more road sessions afterwards, the contrasting Welsh and Shropshire roads were to prove a perfect test for learners. An in car video with Seren and Elise talking through navigation calls with digital time on screen, proved a perfect illustration of what how crews needed to navigate and keep on time all at once.
Throughout the day the mix of tight narrow roads leading to more open and sweeping tarmac kept driver and navigator alike on their toes. Some found the morning easier as they concentrated on staying on the right route whilst others found it more difficult this afternoon as the timing element was added.
However, at least fifty percent of the crews were wrong footed by a very small right turn almost immediately after a triangular junction had lead them over an old stone bridge. Cars were seen heading in numerous directions.
Roads lead out across high vistas such as along Caemor Wood into tight climbs up narrow lanes with complete covering under canopies of trees. The variety continued until the near the end of the fourth regularity at Lower Frankton where a very steep canal bridge gave the rally cars a stern test of their ride heights.
The crews tackling the transition from classroom to road today provided as much variety as the scenery. The Hardwick family were out in force with a full non competing support team. Mother Samantha standing down from navigational duties following her recent New Zealand Classic Rally success with driver and husband Stephen. Sam was enjoying the delights of the The Lion Quays Resort facilities with daughter and friends together with one year old grandson Teddy. Stephen was navigating for daughter Olivia who was driving the Volvo Amazon 123 GT, whilst son Henry was driving their Alfa Romeo Giulia GT navigated by his friend Tom Fair. A real family affair.
The complete clan gathered for a photo call before the start demonstrating just how inclusive and friendly HERO-ERA beginner events are.
Victoria Coward and her best friend Leonie Harter are on their first classic rally together in Victoria’s MGBGT, despite Victoria working in the rally world with Brantz, surprisingly this is her first opportunity. Christopher Wilks and David Creech arrived in the fabulous original ‘blue’ ex works 1933 Singer of Brooklands fame, the car was used to help develop the Le Mans version. Although they are experts they are here to brush up on their skills and give the Singer a run out, celebrating the fact that rallying is back.
Christopher Wilks; “ We actually only signed up for the rally tomorrow. We have done a few rallies before, the Flying Scotsman a couple of times and some Italian events but we have just invested in some new instrumentation so we thought let’s go back to basics and try the Novice Trial, then we thought we should know what we are doing..so we missed the classroom session, sorry about that!”
David Creech; “ It’s been a little while since we’ve actually been out on the road, all those things you think you remember all of a sudden you have forgotten! So it’s been very useful this afternoon getting our heads back into it and starting to get familiar with it all again.”
2018 HERO Cup Champion Paul Bloxidge is here in a VW Golf Gti, not to brush up on his skills but to help his grandson Oli into the sport as the 14 year old learns the navigational ropes from Grandad. Oli overslept this morning but fortunately he missed scrutineering and not the event start!
Stephen Young and Deborah Woollard are enjoying their mighty Datsun 240Z despite the odd wrong turn. Stephen; “Yes we are having a lot of fun, although we’ve done a couple before you still learn something every time. You get the tips in the classroom but it’s not the same as being out on the road.”
Deborah; “you can make a mistake and all that you have learned in the class room goes out of the window, you get the basics but you have to pick yourself up and carry on. We made a couple of mistakes today but just picked ourselves up and ended up doing really well.”
Paul Bartley and Jonathan Andrew’s Jaguar Mk 2 suffered a failed ride height check over the canal bridge, but never the less enjoyed their first day of their first event.
Paul is a racer who has taken up rallying as well! “ I’m still planning to do a bit of racing, hopefully the Goodwood Revival and maybe the Spa 6 Hours so I bought the Jaguar with the idea of making it a dual purpose car, I’ve always wanted to go rallying anyway! This is our first event, we have really enjoyed it so far and hope to do more, maybe Le Jog eventually, but after this afternoon’s performance we’ve got a lot of work to do! Everyone has been really friendly and helpful, that is a nice aspect of this sport.
“I’m going to have to have a word with my mechanic about the ride height of the Jaguar, we had a few dodgy moments with humpback bridges, they didn’t quite take the exhaust off but very nearly!”
Jonathan; “ The classroom is good but you can get baffled, once you are on the road however, and start to apply it, it begins to drop into place, you just have to persevere. In my private life I fly aerobatic planes, it’s not dissimilar in that it starts to get very baffling for a while, but you get on with it then it all starts to fall into place.
“The other cars you see out there are just great, you could spend half a day just looking at them.
“The people are really friendly and helpful, when we overheated this afternoon, crews stopped and helped us out and away we went again. But also the event has been superbly organised and very well run in terms of the safety precautions.”
Sunday is the final day of A Novice Trial but it brings with it the mini rally of four competitive regularities for the newbies and the experts to finally put all their practice into real action – against the clock!
*Event deemed safe and successful by organisers and competitors post rally
*Top three podium places split by just five seconds, with youngest podium sitter aged 14.
After classroom sessions on navigation and timing, a Saturday spent putting lessons learned into practice on the roads, today was competition time, against the clock.
22 crews, ninety percent of them novices, tackled four regularities and two tests at Rednal kart track to give the crews a real taste of what HERO-ERA regularity rallying is all about. Most agreed it was a really enjoyable yet safely run event and want to return for more. Families, younger drivers and navigators mixed with some experienced crews to enjoy a fulfilling rally.
Following positive feedback from householders along the route who had been visited by pre event PR teams or received letters, there was a healthy turn out of families waving from their gardens, some setting up chairs and little picknicks ready to watch the cars go by. Rally cars were literally passing happy smiling people.
What’s more, the classroom teaching work of former rally winners Seren and Elise Whyte paid off as there was just five seconds separating the top three podium finishers at the end of the rally!
The event was won by Jonathan and Kay Shepherd in their Porsche 944 from their friends Peter and Louise Myles in a Saab 96 V4. Just to prove that the ‘Newbie’ and young blood encouragement into the sport works, fourteen year old Oli Waldock navigated his grandfather Paul Bloxidge to the final podium place in their VW Golf GTi.
Brian Whyte, Operations Director of HERO-ERA summed up his thoughts as to the relative success of the organisation’s first event back for six months. “ I think we delivered a good event, everyone seemed very happy. A few competitors arrived being very cautious, naturally, wanting to know how we were going to deal with safety and the COVID issue and I think they were very pleased with the way we organised it. The feedback we have had has been great, we estimate there are at least 20 new participants for some of our future events.”
Kay and Jonathan Shepherd 1st overall, Kay: “ I just can’t believe it, this is the first time ever for me navigating in a rally car, I really have to thank the girls for all their work in the classroom, they have taught me all I know.” Jonathan; “I’m really proud of Kay, she did a great job. We really loved it, I particularly enjoyed the tests on the track, I’m still on such a high, we had oversteer and understeer all in one corner and the regularities were just marvellous. We are booked in for the HERO Challenge in Taunton, so we are definitely going to do more rallies, but we are going to take baby steps at a time! Congratulations to HERO as we thought the rally was superb.”
Kay also received the Clockwatchers Award for the Best Navigators Performance on Tests.
Peter and Louise Myles, 2nd overall, Saab 96 V4. Peter; “ We weren’t expecting that, we were expecting to repeat the performance of yesterday when we were dead last! The word fiasco doesn’t describe it.” Louise explained; “ I got us terribly lost and I couldn’t get us unlost! But we turned it around, I didn’t look up the whole time, I just kept my head down and concentrated. I didn’t look outside the car at all so I was surprised I didn’t feel sick, but I think it was fear that kept me going.”
Peter, “It worked, Louise was great. We came up here with the Shepherds who won, we were aiming to beat them but yesterday they were around fourth place and we were dead last! So that’s not a bad result today, second place.”
Paul Bloxidge and Oli Waldock aged 14, the youngest competitor and podium sitter ever on HERO events, 3rd overall, VW Golf GTi, Oli; “Yes I am very happy with that, to get third is great.” Paul, “To be fair I know he’s very pleased indeed but he is beating himself up over one mistake which cost a minute but it can be like that, if only I hadn’t hit the ball out of bounds on the 18th I would have won the golf match, but you know he has done very well to get onto the podium aged just 14.”
Oli; “I feel I have learned quite a lot, for example more about speed tables. The relationship in the car with my grandfather worked well so we are both pleased with the result.”
Paul; “We are back together for the HERO Challenge in Bicester in a couple of weeks time, I think Oli will be able to approach that event with a lot more confidence.”
The two HERO-ERA Arrive and Drive rally hire cars that were out on the event finished 17th and 21st. Gary Russell and Maria James seemed to enjoy themselves as they flung the MGB around the kart track at the end of the day for 17th overall whilst Ciprian Nistorica and Marcus Jones finished 21st in the Triumph TR4.
Ciprian; “The car was good, just fine. There were a few little niggles like the speedometer doesn’t work but we both enjoyed the rally.”
A great family performance by the Hardwicks as they achieved 4th and 15th places overall, Dad Stephen navigating daughter Olivia to a superb fourth place overall with Henry and Tom Fair 15th. Stephen; “We used to do a little bit of karting when they were kids and Olivia took to it as much as Henry did, in fact more so. He is a really good driver but not overly competitive. Olivia works for a car hire company so she is jumping in and out of every different kinds of cars all the time so she is quite comfortable with different machinery. When I tell her to put her foot down she doesn’t mind.” Olivia was going for it on the test and skidded into a tractor tyre on the run off of a corner.
Olivia; “ We did well until I crashed my Dad’s car into the tractor tyre! I was going a bit too fast into the bend but I do enjoy driving at speed and being in competition, it is enjoyable. Dad did a good job as navigator, he shouted at me a few times but I think we worked well as a team”.
Stephen Hardwick; “ I felt really good about the navigation all day, apart from the second to last turning, we missed it and there was nowhere to turn the car around so we lost 45 seconds but I am so pleased with Olivia she did so well. OK she had a little ding but we’ve all done it, it will buff out.”
Stephen will be driving on the Peking to Paris Motor Challenge in 2022 in his regular Ford Falcon that he used with wife Samantha so effectively on the 2020 New Zealand Classic, but Samantha won’t be navigating on the P2P. It will be another family affair though, as I am doing that with my future son-in-law, next summer they get married, the following summer we are off to the Peking to Paris!”
Henry Hardwick; “I enjoyed the regularities, they were good fun but when we got out onto the track I spun out on the first lap then on the second I missed the turning so it was null and void I am afraid. I want to have another go though and bring another of my mates along to put them in the navigators seat.”
Mike Farrall and Charlie Williams were pleased to finish their first ever rally, 19th overall in their gorgeous 1936 SS Jaguar 2.5L Tourer, a very different event for the men who are used to racing on two wheels rather than four at events such as the classic TT’s on the Isle of Man and the Goodwood Revival bike races!
Charlie; “This is the very first time we have done anything like this at all, we are motorbike men, we race motorcycles, but this was really enjoyable, we are going to do another event without doubt”. Mike; “ Between us we have a 1933 Rudge, a 1962 Manx Norton and a TZ Yamaha, we acquired the Jaguar about forty years ago but it’s been stuck in a shed so we thought we’d better use it a bit, it’s been in the family that long.”
Victoria Coward and Leonie Harter finished a great 11th overall in their first rally despite Victoria losing the keys to their MGB temporarily on Sunday morning. Both felt they had got the rally bug and worked well together and now want to do more events although as Victoria said; “I was driving a bit too fast at times but Leonie slowed me down.”
Navigator, presenter and rally coach Elise Whyte felt the mix of lessons and practical road experience really worked well on A Novice Trial. “I really feel that everyone here has learned so much. The best bit of news for me today was on the second timing point of the first regularity we had everybody in under a minute which just goes to show how successful the training and practicing the training is because they have all learned something. Hopefully they will take that on board and put it into practice on the next rally they take part in. The fact that the final results were so close is an amazing achievement, it demonstrates that people are starting to get into the competition spirit.”
A great sight on A Novice Trial was the oldest car on the rally, the 1928 Ford Model A Phaeton of driver Oscar Phillips navigated by his father Nicholas. They were spectacular on the kart track towards the end of the event, Oscar locking up on full left hand lock sliding toward the barriers; ”I managed to recover it quite nicely then the second time around I gained a bit of speed, quite good as they are summer tyres with hardly any tread.” Nicholas; “He did very well, it was full understeer then full oversteer!.”
Harry and Lorraine Shepherd, Audi 80 Quattro, 6th overall, Lorraine; “We are delighted with the result, I seem to have got the timings OK today, it was really well explained by the Whyte sisters in the class yesterday, so it started to make sense today. We ere good in the car together and Harry is learning to listen a little better!”
Harry; “The car had an awful amount of understeer on the track, it didn’t feel good but yet our time didn’t turn out too bad, we had to double back for a missed call on the last gravel section behind the track, if it hadn’t been for that we would have had a good time for the second test.”
Andrea Todd and Tony Altman, Porsche 911 SC, 20th overall. Tony; “I loved it, once I started to get the hang of it. There was nothing wrong with Andrea’s driving, it was my navigating, I just didn’t understand it at first, I had never done one before. The car was way too low for the rough bits, it was set up for hill climbing but we will change that for next time.”
Andrea; “I love driving anyway but I thoroughly enjoyed today, the roads were more of a challenge yesterday, but we were a bit more into it today and we will definitely be doing another rally.”
Mark Lillington was awarded Test Pilot Award for the best performance on the tests in the MGB navigated by Lesley Sibley. Although there were no awards presentations, one person from each crew who had won an award was allowed to pick it up from a table. However, all the winners received a nice distanced round of applause before the happy crews headed home.
With the successful and safe running of their first event back in six months, the HERO-ERA management teams will now turn to the first HERO Challenge at Bicester in two weeks time when nearly ninety cars will take part. The easing back into rallying process has started well but all are well aware and prepared for any changes in the pandemic situation as national and regional measurements are frequently monitored via government and Motorsport UK guidelines.