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Summer Trial starts from Telford

41 cars started from Telford this afternoon to tackle four regularities and three tests comprising Leg 1 of the (late!) Summer Trial amidst the tightest COVID-19 precautions seen yet on a regularity road rally, as HERO-ERA organisers adapted to the latest Motorsport UK regulations.

Summer Trial starts from Telford
Angus McQueen and Mike Cochrane (BMW 323i) lead from Per and Peter Neville’s Volvo 144HERO-ERA Competition Director and Clerk of the Course for the Summer Trial, Guy Woodcock and his team have ensured increased mask use, temperature checks with track and tracing methods in cooperation with the HQ hotel, are all in stringent use. Similarly, COVID-19 hospitality regulations in the Telford Iron Bridge Holiday Inn are being adhered to, whilst at the same time hotel management have proclaimed their gratitude for the business in these lean times for the hospitality industry.

Guy Woodcock has had to balance safety for all with trying to ensure there is a challenging and competitive rally for the crews who include a Swede and a German. Leg 1 has proved that the HERO-ERA’s first UK multi day event of the year has lived up to Summer Trial expectations as the first two cars are separated by just six seconds with the third placed crew of David and Edward Liddell’s quick TR4 seven seconds behind the Volvo 144 of Per and Peter Neville. The ever competitive team of Angus McQueen and Mike Cochrane have been mighty today and take a well earned lead into the tougher 2nd Leg on Saturday in their innocent looking but quick BMW 323i rally car.

The overall route took the rally cars clockwise around Shrewsbury before returning to Telford via a new test venue. The second regularity of the day was also the second longest of the event leading teams north towards Oswestry, but even that was dwarfed by regularity three which had no less than six timing points for crews not just to try and find but also clock in on their second!

Classic motorcycle racer Mike Farrall has made it three HERO-ERA events on the trot since he returned his 1936 Jaguar SS to the road in time for the Novice Trial. Although he missed one event as he was on holiday with his family in France, fellow Goodwood motorcycle winning rider Charlie Williams made a welcome return to the hot seat. Mike definitely has the rally bug now but when Charlie was asked if this meant a complete switch from two to four wheels he said; “ No way! I enjoy this sport but bike racing is the best, I’m not giving that up!”

Charlie and Mike ended up towards the bottom of the time sheets after what seems to be a major navigational error when they were spotted way off route. They were just ahead of the other superb Jaguar of Peter and Janet Fletcher who were running their beautiful green 1954 XK120 in full Drop Head Coupe mode.

Peter; “Since we got the car over from the USA I have spent five years rebuilding her down to the last nut and bolt.” Given the nature of the loose surfaces on some of the tests and the gleaming condition of the car would he be preserving the sheen? “ No there will be no holding back, it’s got to be driven hard, after all Jaguars were successful rally cars in the fifties” With that the Ian Appleyard fan sped off.

Stephen Owens, navigated by Nick Bloxham in their Porsche 911 SWB is one of three expert crews fighting in their own class but not eligible for overall awards. Stephen has been impressed with the work put into ensuring the rally is actually taking place considering the restrictions due to the pandemic. “Please pass on my major congratulations to everyone concerned at HERO-ERA for adapting and still being able to put on a rally like this in these difficult times – well done.!”

Victoria Coward and Leonie Harter have returned for their second ever rally since the Novice Trial in August in their MGB GT. Victoria; “I have got the rally bug, once you start it’s difficult not to want to go again.” Navigator Leonie Harter was not so forthcoming as she had her head down studying the road book inside the MG before the start. “I am a bit stressed out at the moment!” Victoria promised to calm her down as the rally got under way. The crew were 31st overall at the end of the day.

Stephen Hardwick has competed in every event this year that the HERO-ERA team have managed to organise against the odds. He started with a class win in the New Zealand Classic and since he has entered each of the three subsequent events in three different cars with three different navigators!

Stephen; “You know about the first car, the Volvo, that’s in the body shop after our little off in the Novice Trial and then unbelievably the Falcon broke a disc on the way back from the HERO Challenge Two, I reckon it was all the stick my son in law Ashley Bennett gave it on that rally!” Stephen has brought his South African rally winning Datsun 240Z to the Summer Trial plus a new navigator, an old friend David Moyle to navigate for him. David is on his first ever event; “Stephen has been asking me for the last three years to have a go. Although my boys have competed in MotoX and I’ve spent a lot of time up and down the country with motorsport events, this is my first ever rally.” 13th place at the end of the day is a great result for David on his first rally.

Adding a real touch of internationality to the rally are the German/Swedish pairing of Guido Fiebes and Per Jonsson. Guido’s regular rally Porsche was taken back to Germany for preparation but it all went very wrong as the technician in charge crashed his car and now it’s in bits. The solution for the last two rallies has been to hire a Triumph TR4a from HERO Arrive and Drive scheme, so how did Guido feel that has worked? “I am very happy with the preparation of the car and the service we have received, it’s the second time we have run this car, so we like it.” Guido was asked what the language of communication was inside the rally car? “ German, Per is fluent, his wife is German so it is almost perfect but he is quite a character.” Per responded; “I prefer having the one car as you get to know it so well but the Triumph is good as a back up.” Shouldn’t a Swede be in a Saab like his Swedish rally heroes? “Oh yes like Eric Carlsson, I met him once, what a man or Per Eklund, both drove Saabs but the TR will do the job.” The EU crew were 35rd overall.

A more exotic entry is car 44 the 1978 TVR Taimar of father and son Simon and William Garrett. Certainly a rare sight on stage or road rallies, but Simon and William have brought other exotic cars to the rally roads before; Simon, “Well the TVR is a bit of UK exotica and we have just finished rebuilding the engine, but previously we have run a semi lightweight Jaguar E-Type on this rally!” How did son William think they might get on?  “I think it’s the tests where I have to hold back a bit, I was a bit over eager last time!” The TVR team were 36th overall and 8th in class on the 1st Leg.

Up towards the front and in flying form, 10th in their Mini Cooper S were Amanda Johnson and Andy Ballantyne. Amanda was clearly enjoying the test at the Rednal Karting site which included a second loop taking the cars onto a loose gravel road to the finish; “It was great, especially as we could go round and do it for a second time when you went from tarmac to the loose, and it was very loose!”

Andy; “ Amanda did very well but we lost a lot of time when we met a 38 ton articulated truck!”

Tracy and John King were equally held up by traffic in their Triumph Dolomite Sprint, the mid field group seemed to get the bulk of the baulks. John;” We were on zero, zero, zero then we met three different school coaches! For all that Tracy loved the tests of the kart track; “ It was great, thrilling, just like my stock car days.” The King team were still an impressive 11th overall.

James and Archie Holt showed an impressive turn of speed on the tests in their BMW 325i, at one point they were the fastest by two seconds, James heard to say; “so long as we are quicker than that TVR!” The Holts finished the day 15th just behind a returning Andy Simpson with champion navigator Roger Bricknell alongside him in the Austin Mini Clubman GT.

Car 36 the Saab 96 V4 of Robert Hendy and Michael Joyce also had traffic hold ups,; “just about everything” said Michael, including a driver who just stopped in the middle of the road with all the doors open and his hazards on as he then decided to reverse into a drive!” The Saab crew were thought to be retired at the kart track having finished their laps but were parked with the bonnet up. “No we’re letting it cool down” said Robert, “We were having a ball out there.” Considering the crew are newbies they finished an impressive 16th overall in a car Per Jonsson should have been driving!

The final action of the day was at a new test venue on broken tarmac and loose gravel. Robert Robinson and Clare Grove were impressive in the Rover 2000TC as they chucked the Rover about as Roger Clark would have done in his early days as a works Rover driver!

Mark Lillington and Lesley Sibley had to reverse just before the stop line with a boulder lodged in their left front suspension, the backward motion plus an energetic official helped to dislodge the big rock leaving the team 18th overall in their MGB.

Robert and Julie Clifton are in an immaculate Porsche 944 instead of their usual Vauxhall Viva Magnum, they made a small error negotiating their way back onto the main runway but pulled that back to finish 23nd overall.

David and Melanie Roberts were 17th overall in their Porsche 911 Carrera, going well on the last test until they had to stop briefly at the far end of the course. David was seen to shake his head at the finish, clearly frustrated.

Piers Barclay and Nicolas Harries were a really impressive 8th overall in their absolutely stunning Triumph TR3, the car goes superbly and looks like it has just come off the Hampton Court Concours show ground! It would surely need a clean after the last dusty test…….

Leg 1 of the Summer Trial is designed to ease crews into the event with a relatively easy start. That means the scenics and contours of day two are bound to take crews to new heights, it should be a different and more challenging day.

Photos by Will Broadhead

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