The HERO Summer Trial was established to encourage entries from people new to classic rallying or to appeal to those with limited free time whilst still maintaining a sufficiently competitive element to appeal to the more competitive crews. The concept clearly worked and each year the event attracts newcomers whilst retaining its core of enthusiastic supporters. 2017 saw the highest number of crews since the inauguration of the Summer Trial, an indication that the reputation of both the event and HERO is spreading far afield.
Summer Trial 2017 – Day 1
Sixty-five crews made the start of the Summer Trial 2017 with a very wide array of vehicles taking part. At 14:31, Michael Kunz / James Ewing crossed under the start arch situated outside the elegant Stratford Grange Hotel close to Stratford-upon-Avon to get the event underway in their 1928 Dodge Senior Six. The youngest car in the event left just over an hour later — a 1985 Porsche 924 ably piloted by Jill & Richard White.
The rain was sporadic but heavy enough to cause some of the open cars concern as they made their way out through four regularities and three driving tests situated in the Warwickshire and Northamptonshire areas. Summer Trial is designed to be fun for novices yet provide a test for the more seasoned competitors with straight-forward tulip style navigation interspersed with basic jogularity and one or two simple map-based sections for the crews to enjoy.
After departing from Stratford Grange a short link section through Charlecote and Wellesbourne took crews to the first regularity of the event, Lighthorne Smooth which was a 6.9 mile section through Moreton Morrell, Lighthorne and over the final section close to Spring Hill before finishing just outside of Kineton. Pete Dalton / Rob Faulkner were the class of the section with a magnificent zero-seconds penalties lost, they were pushed hard by Chris Howell / John Briggs in their Ford Lotus Cortina, John and Matthew Vincent and Nigel Perkins / Pete Johnson who lost a single second. A longer run out of 21 miles through Farnborough and Upper Boddington brought us to Badby and the start of regularity two, Burnt Walls. At just under 10 miles, this was a slightly more involved affair with three timing points and the terrain was more challenging with some steeper sections situated on and around the Nene Way between Badby and Norton to the east of Daventry. The second timing point was the challenging one on the section as it came after a steep hill out of Newsham and after a run up and down a part of the A45, to add to the challenge the control was just after an uphill 90 left and would take time off several crews. John & Pauline Dignan narrowly missed cleaning the section and dropped just one-second in penalties with Roger & Julia Bricknell and Andy Pullan / Paul Crosby on two-seconds.
The heavens opened as crews started to filter into Whilton Mill Karting where two tests at the circuit kept crews on their toes. Fastest times on these two tests went to newcomer pairing Chris Bearman / Ian Wallace in their Porsche 911, Wallace standing in for Frank Gaymond who couldn’t make the event until later on Friday. The Nissan Stanza of Richard Isherwood / Ian Canavan posted two second-fastest times, a testament to the preparation work of John Ruddock and proof that an expensive car isn’t needed to compete well on regularity events.
The third regularity was an easier section with several crews cleaning it or dropping ones and twos before a test at Shennington Kart Circuit. John Morgan / John Ford were FTD on this test, stopping the clocks a full six seconds in front of Isherwood / Canavan, third fastest went to Christian von Sanden / Constantin Scheibler in their Porsche 356, the little speedster obviously very well suited to the tight and intricate circuit.
Regularity four presented the biggest challenge of the day with a 10.5 mile section that took in Whatcote, Pilerton Priors and Walton before the end of regularity on the outskirts of Wellesbourne, although the navigation was straight-forward the first clever use of topography took time from many crews. However, several crews had excellent runs here with the Bricknell’s, Pullan / Crosby, Mark & Sue Godfrey and Seren & Elise Whyte all dropping just one-second. The Whyte sisters were flying today and had a great afternoon with their Standard Ten, a credit to their skill and tenacity with that second being their only penalty of the afternoon.
We have had a couple of retirements with David Stanley / Peter Blackett having water pump issues, Mike & Helen Tanswell were having a storming run but the head gasket failed on their Triumph Stag leaving them no option but to retire.
First car away tomorrow is at 09:01, we’ll bring you more throughout the day.
Summer Trial 2017 – Day 2, Shelsley Walsh
A welcome 9 o’clock start saw first crews depart from Stratford Grange and head out into the lanes around the Alcester area and to the first regularity called Coughton, With four timing points spread over 14.8 miles, this was the sternest regularity attempted by many of the novices and newcomers to the sport. Although seeming innocuous on first inspection, the second timing point was situated just after the infamous Coughton Ford and seemed to cause several crews problems. Starting southwest of Wilmcote and using the roads to the west and north of Alcester, the first timing point was situated after a left-hand bend at the side of the River Aime, one of the front-runners, Chris Howell / Jon Briggs lost time in the reg with local traffic. They weren’t the only ones though with John & Pauline Dignan encountering horses and an error of judgment from Ian Canavan saw he and Richard Isherwood drop a minute after Ian didn’t read the speed change after a ford causing the pair to arrive way too early at a control.
There are seven tests today at the wonderful Throckmorton Airfield, ‘Throck’ has been part of HERO events for some ten years now and with a shift of focus the airfield, this would be the last motorsport event that would take place there for the foreseeable future. The last word went to none other than John Dignan, the ex- Squadron Leader flying on the final ever test at the airfield to set the fastest time of the day – a fitting tribute to the history of the airfield.
Things could have been so different after lunch in the leaderboard as after checking out of The Wheelbarrow Castle at Radford, Andy Pullan / Paul Crosby suffered ignition coil failure on their Porsche 356, fortunately for them they were being followed by the HERO assist team who replaced the defective part and sent them on the way – the speedy repair meaning no time penalties were incurred. Crosby has been doing a fantastic job on the navigation and only a very competitive class is taking its toll on the pair and pushing them into the grasp of John & Pauline Dignan who are having the drive of their year. The afternoon saw four regularities and the final driving test of the event situated at Shelsley Walsh, however, the biggest test for novice crews came with the regularities. The first map-based section of the even bisected Worcester and Droitwich Spa, starting in the shadows of the Radio Four masts near Wychbold the section took in Smite Hill, Brownheath Common, Copcut and finally crossing the confluences of the River Severn and Salwarpe before the end of regularity. Reg 2/4 was named ‘Incider information’ and despite route planner Daniel Pidgeon being approached by several competitors saying that he had made a spelling error, little did they know that the Bulmer Families’ orchards would form the base of the route as we headed towards Shelsley Walsh and the final test action of the event.
The hill was incredibly slippy and those with more power found getting traction very difficult indeed, Christian von Sanden / Constantin Scheibler made an error at the steepest part of the hill and had to reverse a little way to avoid a wrong test and a similar occurrence saw Dilwyn Rees / Andrew Duerden lose precious seconds to the Godfrey’s and the Whyte sisters who were having an incredible run to lie in the top ten in their Standard Ten.
After leaving the wonderful Shelsley Walsh behind and heading back out through the orchards west of Worcester brought us to the last two regularities of the day and it was here that Pullan / Crosby drove the first clear gap between them and the Dignan’s with a six-second advantage over the six timing points on the section, it required a good deal of concentration from the crews with just under 18 miles in the section. Car 2, the stunning Bentley of Adrian Mingay / Amanda Gomersall decided to cut after the run-up Shelsley and wisely head directly back to the hotel with brake problems, they are currently being examined and we hope to welcome them back to the event tomorrow.
We start at 08:30 tomorrow and look forward to bringing you all the news as it happens.
Summer Trial 2017 – Day 3
It’s been a tough day in the office for the crews on the Summer Trial, more intricate navigation has been the order of the day along with several crews not stopping astride at timing points and handing them penalties. Simon & Jill Frost couldn’t fully finish the event after a brake problem forced them to miss the last couple of sections but they are back at the Stratford Manor Hotel and looking forward to the barbecue lunch we have in store for crews on the event.
Can Pullan and Crosby hold on?
An earlier start time of 08:30 saw crews enter the final day of Summer Trial 2017 in brilliant sunshine for the first time on the event. The navigation today would become slightly more involved and would take crews on four regularities and head to the east of Royal Leamington Spa and towards Long Itchington for the first offering of the day, ‘Itch Hiking’. Today saw longer regularities to keep the pressure on crews and this offering was in keeping with that at just over 15 miles long and with five timing points to attempt, the first of them, immediately after a left-hand bend caused three crews to gain stop-astride faults, Bent & Martin Jakobsen Patrick & Christopher Shaw and John & Janice Walker all failing to judge their brakes and gain penalties. Peter Myles / Jonathan Shepherd were bowling along well in their Saab 96 – so much so that they recorded a 46-second penalty here for being too early!
Passing northwest of Long Itchington and heading east towards Broadwell via Birdingbury and West View an easy to miss turn off the A426 and onto what appeared to be a farm track was the next weapon in route designer Dan Pidgeon’s armoury. This road has been used on several past events and is always sure to catch the unwary as it has steep hedges and almost a ‘drive across a field’ feel to it, a cleverly sited timing point after an almost 90 degree right and just behind a hedge saw 35 crews fail to stop-astride and saw Cosmo & Francis Galashan sail past the control not registering it was there. There were some great performances here though with Stuart Anderson / Catriona Rings losing three seconds in penalties along with Christian von Sanden / Constantin Scheibler and the only ‘clean’ score coming from Seren & Elise Whyte in their Standard Ten.
The second regularity of the day was named ‘Burton Beacon’ and finished close to the Heritage Motor Centre in Gaydon. The meat on the bones of this section was the second timing point which surprisingly forced a navigational error from Mark & Sue Godfrey in their MG A amongst many others. Heading over the Burton Dassett Hills and via a final timing point just before the road went over the M4 and stopped just outside the village of Gaydon as mentioned previously. Pullan / Crosby were once again putting binary performances together along with the Whyte sisters and the father and son pair of John & Matthew Vincent in their Alfa Romeo Junior GT, young Matthew is growing in confidence with every event and if he continues with the sport, he could be a great navigator in the making.
Onto the maps for the final time on the event and a section called ‘Measure for Measure’ which included four timing points and eight speed changes, Pullan / Crosby made easy work of this and a battle had broken out between von Sanden / Scheibler and John & Pauline Dignan for the second position with the MG B crew dropping 16 seconds to the Porsche crew’s nine on this section. It would mean a slender two-second advantage for the Dignan’s going into the final regularity of the event. All Pullan and Crosby would have to do is hold their nerve on the last regularity section and the win would be theirs.
The final regularity would wind its way north from Batsford Park and the Arboretum there giving a splendid display of trees in full bloom, at 18 miles long this would be a long one and would allow Pullan and Crosby to take the win with yet another great performance, they matched the Whyte sisters on just two-seconds penalties lost, best performance on this section went to the Galashans’ with just one-second lost. Other crews to post great scores were Nick Mezger / Oriana Schoeni on three-seconds and father and son team Jon & David Goodwin who posted five. The Goodwin’s as always playing the James Bond theme on their stereo as they crossed the finish line in their Aston Martin DB6.
The battle between von Sanden / Scheibler and the Dignans’ could not have been more intense, the final section taking four seconds from the Porsche pair with the flying ex-Squadron Leader and his wife posting six lost, it was a tie for second and only resolved by the furthest cleanest rule giving the advantage to the MG pair. This battle was made yet more incredible with this being Constantin Scheibler’s first ever rally – a fine performance from the young German who’s God Father, Christian, had promised him the ride as a Christmas present.
The Summer Trial 2018 will be based in the Peak District and Derbyshire.