Based at the Woodland Grange Conference Centre close to Royal Leamington Spa, Summer Trial 2016 turned out to be an epic battle that had twists and turns right up until the final action of the day with a wrong regularity and test by one crew changing the top five totally. The Summer Trial 2016 was the third round of the HERO Cup for Drivers in association with EFG Private Bank and Zenith Watches as well as the third round of the Golden Roamer Trophy for Navigators in association with the Basic Roamer Company. Prizes for the HERO Cup include a week onboard the luxury yacht S/Y Orianda and a Zenith ‘El Primero’ Open Chronometer 1969 HERO Cup Limited Edition watch, whilst the Golden Roamer prize offers a free entry onto one of three HERO events plus the highly coveted Zenith timepiece as part of the prize for navigators.
The event is aimed at beginners or those new to historic rallying yet it allows the more experienced competitor to shake down their vehicle in preparation for other events, more so than ever, this year saw a number of husband and wife crews taking part with some excellent results between them. Summer Trial 2016 started on Friday afternoon with scrutineering and documentation taking place that morning and beyond before crews set off on the event, the first car leaving at 15:31 into a practice manoeuvrability test and regularity section to ease competitors into the weekend.
An eleven-mile link section brought crews to the first truly competitive action to the north of the town of Daventry and more specifically the lanes around Welton. Designed as a very straight forward section at just over eight miles long, this was aced by Paul Crosby / Andy Pullan, Roger Powley / Leigh Powley and in only their second event together, Chris Howell / Jon Briggs gave the top crews something to think about with a fine three seconds dropped performance. They continued this vein into the adjacent tests at Whilton Mill where they topped their class on the first run and were second quickest over the following test. Many crews commented on the flowing nature of the tests that used Whilton Mill Kart Circuit, it was so well received that second attempts were called for by some! Top performances on the kart circuit came from Stuart Anderson / Nicky Staniforth in their Bentley, Mark & Sue Godfrey, MGA, Steve Farmer / John Gearing, Jaguar XK150 OTS, Daniel Gresly / Elise Whyte, Porsche 911, Pete Dalton / Rob Faulkner, Ford Lotus Cortina Mk2, the Powleys, Porsche 911 and a great performance from father and daughter team Francis & Camilla Galashan saw them take top spot in their class with zero penalties in their TR 4.
The second regularity was very straightforward with just four junctions and two timing points to get right, passing through Newnham and Falsely before its finish just outside Charwelton. Using the local topography to its fullest, route designer Daniel Pidgeon made sure the hills and valleys surrounding the River Nene kept crews amused with many cleaning the section. The final regularity of the afternoon brought crews back north via Burton Dassett, Knightcote and Bishop’s Itchington, this was another eight-mile section but with two timing points that once again used local topography to keep crews amused, in fact, only three crews recorded ‘binary’ (zeros and ones) performances here, Stephen & Collette Owens, the Powleys and Howell / Briggs meant the difference between the top six crews was just ten seconds going into day two.
Day two dawned with foreboding clouds and a shower woke those with open top vehicles up as they left Royal Leamington Spa, this would be the longest day of Summer Trial taking in some 230 miles or so and taking in some of the beautiful countrysides of Shropshire, Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Warwickshire. Reverse seeding was applied meaning that those who hadn’t fared well on day one wouldn’t have the luxury of a lie in, today was a busier day with seven regularities and five tests, these tests were situated at the much-loved Throckmorton airfield and crews would pass most of the morning there before moving west to lunch. As the event progressed, so would the intricacy of the regularities and the navigation taking competitors through them. A new feature of the event was an introduction to basic map navigation which was well received and at a training session prior to the event, Clerk of the Course Guy Woodcock gave a detailed and thorough description to newcomers and novices alike. The first regularity of the day demanded concentration as it was the second longest of the event at just over 15 miles long, starting north east of Wooton Wawer and skirting north of the Roman town of Ancestor before finishing at Atwood bank, four timing points would divide the crews, straight into battle were Crosby / Pullan and the Godfreys’ with the latter dropping just two seconds but an amazing performance from Pullan saw him drop just one second over the section.
Regularity 2/2 (Wichenway) saw a different crew take top honours with the new pairing of Gresly / Whyte clean the entire section and the Powleys’ take joint-second with the oldest vehicle in the event, the 1928 Dodge Senior Six of Michael Kunz / Carolyn Ward with just one penalty each, the lead was still safe but Crosby / Pullan were coming under increasing pressure from the Godfrey’s as things moved towards lunch. Rahul Ponniah / Paul Maley had brought the Ponniah family’s Riley Kestrel to the event, this vehicle had been purchased by Rahul’s Great-Grandfather from new in 1937 and had recently been re-commissioned by Rahul. Despite the overhaul, the rigours of competition brought several issues to the fore and after a valiant attempt on Saturday, they retired on Sunday morning with fuel problems, something that had plagued them throughout the event. Roger & Leigh Powley had issues after coming across traffic during reg 2/3 and dropped 16 seconds relegating them down the order.After lunch at the Lion Hotel Leintwardine, reg 2/4 was the longest of the event and had no less than six timing points for crews to attempt, the Godfrey’s clawed back four seconds from Crosby / Pullan during this section, as it started close to Kingsland and wound its way through the maze of lanes near Yarpole, Orleton and Brightly Common before coming to an end close to Wigmore. Tim Lawrence / Adam Tibbs (MG TD) pressed home local knowledge here to post four seconds dropped, as did Howell / Briggs and the Galashan’s, all equalling the least penalties accrued on this section.
The Wyre Forest and surrounding areas provided the backdrop for the run back into Royal Leamington Spa which was where the first map-based regularity section was used, this was presented with a series of points marked on the route to be taken. At these points, the mileage was given along with an instruction and speed table to allow crews to easily calculate their times. Anderson / Staniforth were in fine form but couldn’t emulate the zero penalties from Crosby / Pullan, Christian & Janina von Sanden in Janina’s first ever event were equal to the Bentley pair as were Julia & Roger Bricknell who were having a great run, unfortunately the Bricknell’s came across mechanical issues on Sunday that would force them to retire.
As Summer Trial returned to base for the overnight halt things were very tight at the top, with the top two (Crosby / Pullan and the Godfrey’s) separated by just eight seconds and Gresly / White in third just 20 seconds behind them, the Powleys’ had recovered somewhat to lie one second behind them whilst Tony Sheach / Rachel Wakefield were having a fine drive to lie in fifth overall. Despite having clutch problems earlier in the day, James Mann / Tracy Mikluacich were first in their class and rising up the table. Other crews having great runs were Nigel Perkins /. Pete Johnson in their Porsche 911 SC and Keith Davis / Seren Whyte in their MG BGT.
Out of coffee in the delightful Cherington Arms in Cherington Village and the pressure was on, Howell and Briggs threw their hat into the ring once again with yet another outstanding performance along with John & James Vincent in their beautiful Alfa Romeo 1300 GT Junior. The gloves had now come off and on the final regularity of the day, an error from Mark & Sue Godfrey handed the impetus back to Crosby /. Pullan. The first timing point as a hairpin left opposite a track with a slot just before it, it would appear this instruction was misread and they turned too soon, realising their error, the reversed quickly and corrected their mistake – but this cost them 12 seconds in penalties. The siting of this control seemed to catch quite a few crews out and it would appear that only one crew – Daniel Gresly / Elise Whyte – cleaned this timing point. The final day dawned with crews once again reverse seeded, this would be a very testing day and despite being quite compact, there was a lot of action that would eventually throw up some surprises. The action today would take in the triumvirate of Warwickshire, Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire with the excellent weather showing these areas off at their very best, regularity 3/1 was Shakespeare’s Way and was a three-way tie between Crosby / Pullan, the Godfrey’s and Sheach / Wakefield – Rachel really starting to get to grips with the navigation and putting in some superb performances. The next regularity saw John & Pauline Dignan drop one second more than the Godfrey’s but take a second from the Powley’s who in turn started to edge out Gresly / Whyte. The big surprise came with Crosby / Pullan dropping three seconds here and reduce the deficit between the top two to just five seconds with two regularities and two tests to go, the event had really been blown wide open.
The final action of the day would also bring drama as a wrong test from the Godfrey’s relegated them to fourth overall but first in class, father and son crew of Chris & Fred Winter had a coupling fail within sight of the finish of the last test and they had to retire, a real shame as they were in contention for awards. This handed the victory to Paul Crosby / Andy Pullan in their recently rebuilt MG TB Supercharged, on only its third competitive event this ‘pram on bicycle wheels ‘ as it was referred to by one competitor pushed the far more modern and powerful machinery into the lower places. Roger & Leigh Powley’s query over a time on a regularity promoted them to a fine second overall, with Daniel Gresly / Elise Whyte taking third, a superb result and Elise’s first ever overall position.