The overall winners of the Summer Trial 2022 are:
1. Constant Busch and Najib Nakad – Volvo Amazon
2. Rodney Hanson and Clare Grove – MG Maestro
3. Nigel and Sally Woof – Volvo PV544
Under overcast Lincolnshire skies the Union Jack was waived, and the HERO-ERA Summer Trial 2022 got underway, with the number 1 Bentley of Bill Cleyndert and Emily Anderson passing under the starting gantry first. They are in the master’s category of course and will enjoy their own fight with the other masters entered, but this event is really for those crews that haven’t attained the masters classification just yet and 67 of those would pass under the arch, heading off into this three leg event, with dreams of doing well.
It was just an afternoon’s competition to be contested on this first leg, with the action beginning at 2 pm sharp and with the cars thrust almost straight into a test at the Ancaster Kart Circuit, a beautiful little track nestled into the hillside on the approach path for RAF Barkston Heath, one of many Royal Air Force bases that call ‘bomber county’ home.
The RAF have a saying, there are old pilots, and there are bold pilots, but there are no old bold pilots. Some of those might be test pilots in our midst might do well to remember that saying, as they threw their cars around the circuit. One or two over cooked proceedings, the number 12 Lotus Cortina driven by Chris Howell, that was looking particularly racy, almost had the backend overtake the front end within feet of the test finish. Still, he and navigator Chris Lines certainly seemed to be enjoying themselves, which is what the Summer Trial is about.
One experienced pilot not having as much fun was Peter Nedin, who is using this event to shake down his newly restored Sunbeam Stiletto. The barn find car seemed like it may have still had the odd mouse living in its carburettor, as it would not start again after stalling in a stop box. “The car is great”, said Peter, “It’s just the carb’s need some work. Still, we took five minutes off our time when we repeated the test later in the afternoon!”
Post test and there was a regularity to attend to and the first glimpse of what the scenery may be like over the next few days, with rolling farmland opening up into infinity, occasionally punctuated by idyllic villages or tree lined avenues between the fields. There was nothing particularly awful to catch out the navigators, although one Junction in the village of Stapleford did prove problematic for some, but any early frustrations could be unleashed on the second test of the day, at Fulbeck Kart Circuit, that quickly followed the end of the first regularity.
Whilst the topography of the countryside was a clear indicator of exactly where we were in the world, some may have been forgiven for thinking we were in Pisa as the afternoon refreshment break took place in the shadow of the St James Church in Dry Doddington, the bell tower of which has a considerable lean. Presumably it’s called Dry Doddington as the chaps that built the Church drank the place dry when constructing the tower, although the locals who were there to welcome the rally to the very picturesque public house had certainly acquired more alcohol. It was strictly coffee and tea on offer to our crews though, and then more quickfire regularity action and another test.
The sun had broken by now and the late afternoon was glorious compared to the grey beginnings of the day, although some rain still persisted. That’s probably a fair metaphor for many people’s afternoon, largely bright with the odd damp patch, but back at base everyone seemed to be smiling, even those that had managed to confuse fuel pumps and managed to put diesel into their machines had a smile on their face. Probably.
At the top of the charts Christian von Sanden and his son Maximillian were leading proceedings, having dropped just 9 seconds all day, “It’s only his first rally!” beamed father Chris.
Tailing them Paul O Kane and Henry Carr in second, and James and Steve Young in third place, but in truth you could cover the top ten, and beyond, with a handkerchief at this early stage.
Tomorrow is a full day, with the cars heading out in seed order, with the first car to take to the roads at 8am, and not returning before 5. The regularities will undoubtedly become harder, and the competition will certainly heat up, as Saturday beckons the Summer Trial 2022.
Ask anyone to describe Lincolnshire and undulating isn’t a word that is likely to be used, but as day two transported the rally into the Wolds, there was indeed the odd summit to climb, often revealing far reaching views of the second largest county in the UK. As well as the literal gains in altitude, others were making big steps up the leader board, on a day that would see an almost constant change of positions as the regularities and tests ticked by.
A long drive out to the competitive sections greeted the competitors, but in the brilliant morning sunshine it was certainly a pleasurable experience, which is what this rally is all about. Picture postcard villages punctuated the flowing roads, and the early signs were pointing towards a good day.
Despite the lengthy run to the timed sections, the route managed to squeeze in two regularities before the morning coffee halt, which ended and began in quick succession. One featured a tricky slot past a beautiful, isolated church, that caught one or two pairings out early on and by the time both regularities had been completed there had been the first shake up of the leader board, as Paul O Kane and Henry Carr took over the top spot, with the Shepherds in hot pursuit in car 74 in second and Rodney Hanson and Clare Grove now into third.
Indeed, there had been winners and losers all over the field, and the tight table didn’t much resemble the previous evenings version. If the snakes and ladders had proven anything though, it was that anything could still happen, with plenty of competition left in the day.
Another regularity awaited before the morning’s road sections would be complete, again through the beautiful lanes that criss-cross the farmland so prevalent in the Wolds. It finished in the pretty little village of Alford, with many folk choosing to watch the cars from front gardens and other kerbside vantage points, waving and clapping the competitors through, sometimes from the most unusual of spots.
Before the morning could be declared complete three tests would take place on the airfield at the former RAF East Kirkby, now home to the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre and their magnificent Lancaster and Mosquito exhibits. Before the competitors could get a look at those over lunch though, they would need to channel the nimbleness and deftness of touch of 633 Squadron, particularly on the second test, where tennis ball would need to be deposited accurately into a bin by the navigators turned bombardiers!
There were mixed results, with a fair few crews more dumb blunders than Dambusters, and perhaps thinking that the test name of ‘Ball’s to You’ was a pretty accurate reflection of their feelings! Still, there would be a chance for a second shot at the bin after lunch, and most importantly the publishing of the results at the halfway point! The lead hadn’t changed, but the top three certainly had, with Lee Clarke and son Max now into second place in the pretty Triumph TR4. “We’re amazed to find ourselves in second” said Lee, “Max only did the Novice Trial a year ago, so he’s doing very well.” Third place had also switched hands, with Constant Busch and Najib Nakad’s consistent work during the morning promoting them up to the podium.
The afternoon wold see a repeat of the airfield tests to shake off any lunch fuelled malaise, as well as three more regularities to challenge the crews, and with such a small pocket of time separating everyone at the sharp end of the table there was no time for anyone to rest on their laurels.
It wouldn’t take long for the lead to change again, as car number 60’s afternoon began with a large time penalty after a wrong test, in the end Paul O Kane and Henry Carr would drop 51 seconds across the afternoon, but with the competition on this usually placid event so stiff, it would remain to be seen who would take the opportunity to swipe top spot.
As it was, it would be car 47 that would continue to impress, with more consistency across the afternoon and improve their lunchtime third position into first by the final time control. Second remains in the hands of the Clarkes and third has been reclaimed by Rod Hanson and Clare Grove. There are many lurking just a few seconds behind though, Malcolm Dunderdale and Anita Wickins being one of the chasing pack, and Tim and Mel Green also sitting close to the podium after making big strides in their Mini across the day. John and Tracy King are also doing well, sitting in sixth spot, just 12 seconds off of third in the MR2. “The navigators doing well” said John, “I might even keep her on! We seem to not be making the same mistakes we used to make, it’s going well, but it’s so tight one small slip could see us plummet to mid table.”
Sage advice for the leaders and encouragement for the chasing pack, with half a day to go and just a minute separating the top 20, the win is still anyone’s as the rally goes into it’s final leg. There are still four regularities to contest, and plenty of miles for the competition picture to change, as the battle of Bomber County heads towards its conclusion.
Last day, last opportunity to climb the leader board or throw the lead away. Keep calm, this is supposed to be fun, after all. Four regularities to sort the final order. Keep it steady, nothing rash, you can’t win it on the first regularity after all, but you can sure as hell lose it. No time in it at the top, no time to lose, this is going to be fun…
In fact, this is fun, Summer Trial fun. An event pitched at those intermediate and beginner drivers, pushing for something more, trying to raise their game to something a little more difficult. A weekend that has so far seen some of the tightest competition all season, with the lead switching hands almost as quickly as the miles have ticked over on the trip. Whilst the positions on the leader board haven’t been consistent, the one constant all weekend has been the smile on competitors faces, as they have rattled around the Lincolnshire countryside on a very enjoyable Summer Trial.
Big smiles under big skies, skies often filled with sun that glinted off of finely polished classic rally cars. Big performances too, from new-comers and those with a little more experience. But what of the final positions? Who would finally claim the slippery podium positions? Well, before that could be decided there was still some competition miles to contest.
Heading south today, the resplendent Belvoir Castle filled the horizon as the first regularity began, although many competitors would be about to curse it, as a dog show (whatever you’re into), was causing traffic chaos as the doggy devotees had ignored the signs to use the main roads to approach the castle. It wasn’t just the canine crowds that were causing consternation, the beautiful weather had also bought out the cyclists. Malcolm Dunderdale and Anita Wickins were one such crew to fall foul of those on two wheels, and even with their joker played they had seemingly fallen out of the race for the podium, though they were now odds on for the class win.
The second regularity quickly followed the first, just a few miles form Melton Mowbray, as the rally made its way into Leicestershire. A tricky road crossing, with a classic ‘long way around a triangle’ built into it was confusing more competitors, with car 42 one of the cars falling foul of the devilish junction. Anyone that had got hot and bothered by the crossing would soon have a chance to cool off, as the road descended into a ford with plenty of water in it, something that the number 40 Triumph crew of Lee and Max Clarke used to great effect after their morning had gone array. The podium hopefuls had dropped to sixth by the mid-point of the morning, and they weren’t the only changes in position, as Tim and Mel Green had continued their upward march in the Mini, taking over in second.
Constant Busch and Najib Nakad were still out in front though, but with the longest regularity of the day still to come nothing could be guaranteed. Indeed, the times were so close that results wouldn’t be declared final by the timekeepers until after 3 pm, more than two hours after the first cars started arriving back at the finishers arch.
Constant would no doubt be nervous, as during the last Summer Trial the wheels quite literally fell off of his weekend at the death, as a broken half shaft caused one wheel on his Volvo Amazon to buckle under the car on the last test, within sight of the flag. There would not be a repeat though, as he and navigator Najib held firm until the finish, taking eventual victory by a narrow 11 seconds.
Constant Busch: “We were flabbergasted that we were even on the podium, then absolutely delighted to win. Like many others we are sharing our home with a Ukrainian family, and it is days like this that make you realise just how fortunate we are to be able to enjoy ourselves like this.”
Najib Nakad: “The last regularity it felt like we were serving for the match at Wimbledon! It was a great event all round, in a part of the country I did not know before.”
Elsewhere on the podium it was all change again, with third place finally being awarded to Nigel and Sally Woof, in another Volvo, this time a PV544. The couple had been there or thereabouts all weekend but had outperformed everyone on the final day to snatch the third-place prize, a just award for a team who have been steadily improving over the past couple of years. Second place would go to Rod Hanson and Clare Grove, beating the Woofs by just a couple of seconds. “We got held up by a white van” said Clare at the finish, “But it’s my best ever finish so I’m really happy.”
At the end of it all though, the times were still incredibly tight at the top, on a route that has embraced what the Summer Trial is all about, challenging but not breaking crews and all whilst having fun in classic cars, in the beautiful June sunshine, with the added backstory of an entertaining and unpredictable tussle for the win.