The overall winners of Rally for the Ages 2023 are:
1 – Jon Harvey & Jack Harvey – 1985 Volkswagen Golf
2 – Jonathan Shepherd & Imogen Shepherd – 1986 BMW 325i
The ground breaking, for the ‘Young and for Free,’ Rally for the Ages attracted an impressive 90 cars to the start line at Bicester Heritage, for a 100 mile competitive route of four regularities around Oxfordshire and four tests at Bicester. 18 crew members were aged 15 and under, two aged just 11. 55% of the field were new to regularity rallying. The purpose, to encourage young people into the sport.
The accessible ’Free’ rally concept points to the future as budding young enthusiasts who competed could grow to nurture and protect historic motoring. In addition to their interest in classic cars, they also sampled the ‘fuel of the future’ with Coryton advanced Biofuels ‘Sustain’ brand which keeps emissions to a minimum.
David Richardson, Business Development Director of Coryton Fuels said; “We had 70 cars use our fuel! I didn’t expect that, we thought we were going to handle less thinking maybe there was going to be scepticism about the fuel, but it was quite the opposite. It was a really positive response, very encouraging.
“Some came back in and were actually really positive. One said they felt that maybe the car ran a little bit smoother, which is nice, so all positive.
“The whole point of today is to get that awareness going and hopefully drive the interest that gets some people really wanting to use it going forward. Who better to do that than the younger competitors? It is going to be available at Bicester Heritage very shortly. Hopefully it will take off well and with that, we can get some politicians to take note. Our partnership with NET-HERO is important and fundamental to the success, they are another voice promoting sustainability.”
Tomas De Vargas Machuca, Chairman HERO-ERA was delighted with the day; “The Rally of the Ages has surpassed our expectations and left us all with a warm glow! We aimed to instil camaraderie and ignite the passion for classic rallying in young hearts and that’s just what I witnessed today. If we can help inspire a new era of responsible and enthusiastic participants in our wonderful sport, then we will have achieved something very worthwhile.”
The overall winners Jon and Jack Harvey (15) in their VW Golf loved the day and enjoyed being the winners of the very first ground breaking Rally for the Ages. Jon; “It was beautifully organised over a great route and we are very happy to win the first rally of this type, I am also very pleased with Jack’s navigating today – which gave us a great result!
Jack; “It was good today, the navigation wasn’t too hard and Dad drove well. I may think about taking it up as a hobby in the future.”
Jonathan Shepard and daughter Imogen (22) were an impressive second in their BMW 325i, a beaming Imogen saying afterwards; “It wasn’t easy at times but we worked well together, I really enjoyed it, it would be good to do more!”
Father and son Christian and Maximilian Von Sanden (14) were a jubilant third overall in their Porsche 356 Convertible D.
Max was smiling and confident on the podium as he said; “We could have been here before but we were disqualified from an event last year and now we are on the podium, so this is definitely a step up!”
Christian; “He did much better than me! I’m impressed with the way youngsters take to our sport and soak up all the information – Max did a great job today.”
There were three awards for the highest placed competitors aged under 18. Adam Bishop (13) was third on his very first event, navigating Dave Alcock who is a senior member of the HERO-ERA Technical Assistance Crew normally, but this time was driving his Datsun 240Z. He was impressed by Adam, “he was just so confident!”
Poppy Ralph was second in the under 18’s with Beatrice Barclay (15) an impressive winner in the category much to the delight of her proud father Piers. The father and daughter also finished a fine fourth overall in their Alfa Romeo GTV. Beatrice had seemed apprehensive earlier in the day but grew in confidence as the event progressed, smiling and saying how she had ‘loved it’ at the finish.
Motorsport UK’s Rallies and Cross Country Manager, Jonathan Jackson, flagged the 90 crews away from Bicester Heritage and was pleased with what he witnessed; “Regularity rallying is a fantastic discipline to have within rallying as a whole. It’s very popular and ever-growing as we’ve seen, and, Motorsport UK is really pleased to be here today supporting it.
“It is fantastic to find a discipline which is bringing initiatives like this, so we are really pleased to be supporting it. It’s a big thing for us at the minute within the UK rally strategy to be looking at ways in which we can get more people into the sport, particularly younger people. So, initiatives like this are fantastic, and you know, at Motorsport UK we really want to encourage youngsters into the sport.”
David Withers, Chief Executive of Starter Motor, the Bicester Heritage charity that puts young people into old cars and works closely with the Heritage Skills Academy, helped promote the event and entered five young Starter Motor Ambassadors into the event, David; “I think this is our biggest ever assembly of starter motor ambassadors at one single event, all of whom participated in five cars. Plus, we had ambassador Isobel Holman navigating Tim Sawyer in his Escort, a very experienced participant.
“To win the youngest overall crew award with Harvey Fox and Thomas Reed in the Mazda MX5 was a great result, definitely worth all the hard work these young ambassadors put in.”
“We were just aiming to have a load of fun today with stories to tell afterwards. That’s what we did, with the whole purpose of starter motor being to make these cars visible and accessible to the next generation.”
Anna (25) and Louisa Getley (24) won Class 1 for pre-war cars in their 1924 Bentley 3 litre and were certainly having fun, but looking in control at the same time.
Louisa; “We didn’t get lost, No, I don’t think we did. Yes, we were making a bit of noise on the test, but it was just communication that was required, we had a problem with a marker cone!”
Anna; “It was great to see so many young people on the rally and so many cars – 90 of them!. We were pretty pleased to win the class on our first-ever rally, we really enjoyed it so maybe we will try it again – maybe we will try to make it up there for the Flying Scotsman!”
Amongst those 90 entries were competitors from seven countries, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Spain, France, Cyprus and Canada. Jody and Mark Jackson came all the way from the West Coast, Vancouver Island and hired the HERO-ERA Arrive Drive Triumph TR4A, one of nine Arrive Drive cars out on the event.
What drew them to this event to come all the way over to the UK for a one day rally?
Mark “We were actually backpacking in Chile in 2016. We saw the rally of the Incas at San Pedro de Atacama, and I saw this rally and I love old cars. We were travelling at the time independently, but I started chatting with the drivers and hadn’t realised HERO-ERA existed. And I was like, wow, that’s what I want to do. Seven years later, having followed all your stories and videos, here we are and it was fantastic, we are so glad we did it.”
Jody; “Fantastic. You know, I think it fits really well because I tend to be the details person and Mark loves to drive, but I’m just so happy to see the smile on his face because it’s always been a dream for him, now it has come true.
“But it’s good because it’s something we can do together. We have a couple of classics, we’re into and love driving them. But to have an event like this is just fantastic, all the volunteers that have been here and doing the work is just amazing, we’re blown away.”
Mark; “We are definitely going to go for more, maybe the London to Lisbon that you guys had. I followed that on Instagram and that looks absolutely phenomenal. So something like that building up to Paris to Peking as the ultimate goal, that’s a lofty goal, but you never know.”
The Rally for the Ages enjoyed a media partnership with Classic Car Weekly with journalists Jesse Billington and Grace Bloye actually taking part in the rally in the Arrive Drive Fiat 124 Spider. There was a lot of media interest in the rally, so much so that Classic and Sports Car and Practical Classics entered teams as well.
Aaron McKay and Harry Martin drove an Opel Monza for C&SC whilst Charlotte Vowden of Practical Classics drove the Arrive Drive Mini Cooper navigated by Stephen Ratcliffe on his very first rally.
It was fitting that Jesse and Grace took the honours for CCW by winning the special Media Award.
Jesse; “We loved it, a totally new experience. We seemed to pick the warmest day of the year with a warm breeze coming through the vents, it was hot work but a good challenge, and so to win the media award was special.
Grace; “We got more confident, and Jesse’s driving was great, It’s just such good fun.
“I think we were doing all right on the tests. We had every 10th of a mile marked and we were getting pretty good at hitting those spots on regularities, we had confidence in what we did.”
Craig Goff had his youngest daughter Zara, who’s 11 and a half with him and his oldest daughter Holly who’s 14.
Craig; It’s been great fun. We were quite overwhelmed with the amount of information that we received before the rally, but actually, once you get out on the road, it all made sense and it wasn’t nearly as intimidating as we thought it was going to be! The girls are pleased that I haven’t been going too fast. They thought maybe it was the RAC rally through the woods!
“I’ve always wanted to do one of these classic rallies, I looked enviously at all the international ones, Peking to Paris and the Sahara and all that, but it’s a big leap to go to that. So when I saw the advert for this, I thought that sounds perfect. A way to do something with the children.
“We tried the Coryton Biofuel and were very impressed, that is definitely the way forward.”
It was also great to see a graceful but rather ‘large for the lanes’ Jaguar Mk 7 out on the rally driven by top photographer Amy Heynes and husband William who restores and renovates Jaguar E-Types to the highest standards. His Grandfather William ‘Bill’ Heynes was Chief Engineer and Technical Director at Jaguar and famously developed the XK engine.
With engines in mind, internal combustion engines, the final word from an ultra-successful first Rally for the Ages goes to partner Coryton Fuels Business Development Director, David Richardson.; “The one real key thing about sustainable fuels is that it gives a lifeline to the internal combustion engine. I’ve heard from students coming through that we’ve spoken to in the past, who are dropping out of courses, they just think there is no point going on these courses in mechanical engineering because they don’t think there’s a future.
“So by actually going out and using the fuel on events like Rally for the Ages, you can demonstrate there is a future. Actually, they can see the fun side of it as well, it’s a brilliant event. It really is fantastic as it is driving interest in engineering at the same time.”