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Classic crews conquer epic Winter Challenge

In an epic battle that was won and lost on the final day, Charles Colton and Ryan Pickering have taken victory on the Winter Challenge to Monte Carlo 2016. Kev Haworth reports.

Classic crews conquer epic Winter Challenge

Setting off from Echternach, Luxembourg and Epsom in the UK, competitors took part in an event that focused on endurance and accurate navigation rather than on speed. However, the roads chosen by clerk of the course Bob Rutherford certainly kept crews on their toes. A broad mix of wide open and flowing lanes in the north of France gave way to intricate and demanding sections in the south of country, with ‘lacets’ and hairpins interspersed with Cols and Puys. Traditionally the event is run on snow in the latter days, though this year’s event only suffered a tiny smattering – nothing to trouble the crews.

The first day saw John Abel and Leigh Powley jump into the lead following a last minute switch from a Sunbeam Tiger to an Alfa Romeo Giulia due to mechanical issues. The change seemed to indicate it wouldn’t be a straight-forward event for the pair, and Leigh admitted that he probably had one of his weakest performances on this event in the first few days. The last two days saw a return to his usual high standards with the pair posting the best performance of the day on Wednesday before overnighting in Sisteron.

On the second day, 2014 winner Jan Ebus took control of the event with the ultra-experienced Bart den Hartog as his navigator. They led for the duration of Winter Challenge until the very last day when an error on a time card meant they picked up a two-and-a-half-minute penalty, dropping them to second in the final standings. Another crew in contention was the pairing of Dermot Carnegie and Paul Bosdet, who were always snapping at the heels of Ebus and den Hartog. A time control section on Tuesday night gave them some problems as they picked up a 1 min 45 sec penalty for checking in 17 minutes late, relegating them to third overall.

The drive of the event went to Paul Crosby and Andy Pullan in their Porsche 911. A truly imperious performance from Andy gave them the lowest penalties incurred throughout the event and if their vehicle was one year older, they would have taken the overall win by a huge margin.

Charles Colton and Ryan Pickering sat quietly watching in the wings, a consistent performance in their Porsche 911 always keeping them in touch with the leaders. Going into the last day they thought victory was out of reach, and after learning that they had taken the win after the error from den Hartog, the look on Ryan’s face changed from one of disbelief to one of joy. It was a well-deserved victory for the Cheshire-based crew.

The Winter Challenge represents the opening salvo in the battle for overall victory for this season’s HERO Cup, which is sponsored by EFG and Zenith watches. As well as picking up a Zenith El Primero Open Chronomaster that has been specially commissioned for the competition, the winner will enjoy a week’s sailing on board the 85-foot Orianda. The victorious navigator will also win one of the coveted timepieces, as well as free entry on another HERO event.

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