1936 Riley Sprite shines on blue sky day in North Wales
John Lomas and navigator Pete Johnson took a famous vintage win against a much younger field of classic rally cars in their 1936 Riley Sprite, to show that a machine with pre war provenance and a great driver – navigator combination can demonstrate that ‘age shall not wither them!’ As John added; “You win it in the workshop!”
*Hero Challenge champions Leckie and Outhwaite put in heroic comeback drive
*Guy Woodcock’s backyard provides stunning challenge for round one
Following a difficult morning which left the 2021 HERO Challenge champions languishing down in 12th place, Alistair Leckie and Matt Outhwaite got their heads down and put together an heroic comeback drive to haul themselves up to second place by the finish in their SAAB 900 Turbo.
Jon Dunning and Henry Carr were impressive all day in their 1980 Ford Escort RS2000 to take the final podium place, plus they won the Concours d’ Elegance prize, voted for by the Technical Assistance crews. Championship contenders from 2021 and now again in 2022, Simon Ayris and Kim Bannister were a fine fourth in their MGB.
HERO Challenge One Clerk of the Course, and HERO-ERA Competition Director Guy Woodcock put a great challenge together in his own North Wales backyard that left competitors grinning from ear to ear after they had completed the 140 mile course. This included 6 regularities and 10 tests across stunning terrain, exemplified by the beautiful Vale of Clwyd, Clocaenog forest rally territory and the beautiful private estate of a very generous of Anthony Hodgson, who allowed the rally to use his estate for a test. On it is a full sized Spitfire model of the original aircraft he used to have on site. Not surprisingly the test was called ‘Remembering the Few.’
From the Glan Y Gors kart track to slippery and dusty tests at Ruthin Cattle Market, the rally ended with a final regularity called ‘The Sting in the Tail’ where competitors were advised to trust their trip meters. Some didn’t and paid the price but everyone enjoyed a great rally which pleased Guy Woodcock no end.
Guy Woodcock; “Everyone seems to be pleased with the event so I am very happy! We have had great weather which sometimes, as the Clerk of the Course, can be a bit worrying as it can bring out more people on the road, but the traffic on the road today has been minimal. Everyone has been saying they had a great day, and the weather has been brilliant. It’s nice to put an event on literally in your back yard, but it can be a bit strange organising a rally and thinking ‘I know where I’m going there’, and waving to people who you know in some of the houses! The Vale of Clwyd is awesome, there are some incredible views from the top, but I think North Wales has really shown everyone its beauty and magnificence today. It’s been a great start to the HERO Challenge Championship.”
John Lomas and Pete Johnson, 1936 Riley Sprite, overall winners, HC1. Pete; “There were a few sneaky bits, there was a control on a crossroads, where you had to turn left and you could see the control but you had to go round in a loop to come back to it! Some people may have got sucked into that, but the instruction said turn left.
“It was a great start. We haven’t done a rally for nearly a year, so the idea was to try the car out for the Flying Scotsman next weekend and it really worked well, it has been a great weekend. There are half a dozen teams who could have won, but now JLo has done it – who would have thought he’d become a master!”
John; “I was a bit scrappy this morning but I don’t really like looking at the results. Pete said we were 11th at the first coffee halt but I said I don’t want to know any more, then he said ‘Oh we were second at lunch!’ It was getting used to each other this morning, but I want zeros and ones and twos, if it’s a five or ten I get grumpy but Pete just tells me off.
“Now we have this great win, and great points for the HERO Challenge Championship, it sets a high bar for my daughter Natasha who will take over in the navigator’s seat for HERO Challenge Two and Three. We are a lot down on horsepower and suspension travel compared to the younger cars so it is a really good result.
“It’s a great achievement for me personally but it is won in the workshop, its not won out here. It’s a great effort from my team at Blue Diamond (Riley) Services for prepping the car so well.”
Alistair Leckie and Matt Outhwaite, 1984 SAAB 900 Turbo, 2nd overall, Matt; “ It was a slow start, we made a few mistakes this morning but we had a really good afternoon, it was brilliant. We have just about second guessed Guy Woodcock’s tricks now, but to get second was a thrill, although it was a surprise. We really enjoyed the day, the route and the scenery were superb. Well done to John and Pete too, it’s extraordinary, as we were going up the hills in some of the lanes we were thinking it’s fine with our turbo and plenty of torque, but getting a pre war car with a pre selector gearbox up there is a really impressive feat! ” Matt also took the Clockwatchers Award for best navigation over the regularites.
Alistair; “It was a tricky morning, we went from 12th to 7th to 4th and then as we got the final results we learned that we had taken second, so we are very happy because it was really tight at the top. Since lunch Matt was spot on all afternoon, we are chuffed with second place.”
Jon Dunning and Henry Carr, 1980 Ford Escort RS2000, Jon; “It was very enjoyable, we dropped a bit of time after the speedo stopped working which made it a bit more difficult for us as we had been second at one point, but it was just a great event. We really enjoyed it and winning that Concours plate as well put the shine on our final third place.”
It was a great day for the young navigators in the sport as well as Archie Holt navigated his father to an impressive top ten finish and propelled the Holt crew to first in class as well.
James and Arche Holt, 1989 BMW 325i, 6th overall, 1st in class. James; “From a father’s point of view, Archie has done a superb job, he was top notch. He came out of school yesterday to stand in at the last moment for another navigator, Chris Matthews and has come up trumps, I am very impressed with him,”
Archie; “ Dad was listening to me most of the time! We had a pretty good morning, but it was a bit mixed this afternoon. It was very enjoyable all round, it was well organised as always, but it was also good to spend time with Dad.”
Curtis Jacoby was joined by his son Dexter the very first time in a HERO-ERA event in their Jaguar XJ-S HE to take a super 14th place overall and for both to be one of three crews to win the team award. The father and son also won their class on Dexter’s debut in the series. Dexter; “It was fantastic fun actually. We had been inside the top ten but then there were tricky parts, we missed a control point, I didn’t trust the trip so we had to back up a bit - but we got there in the end!”
Curtis; ”It was the sting in the tail, as promised! It was Dexter’s first HERO-ERA event but I was really pleased with how he coped with it, he concentrated from beginning to end, a great first event for him. We are very happy with the day and I hope he may do a few more events with me!”
That the event went so smoothly and was run so efficiently, was in no small part down to the wonderful band of offcials and marshals. As ever, the bedrock of the sport, the motor clubs from North Wales were out in force. Typically, Rhyl Motor Club, as an example, were running the test at Anthony Hodgson’s estate. Their enthusiasm and devotion to duty was typified by one of their volunteer marshals, Ian Clapham, who was involved in his second rally event of the day and was off to his third event when he finished officiating at the test!
Ian; “I was co-driving in the Mini Cooper Challenge on Rally North Wales this morning, then dashed up here to marshal and then I am off to a night rally in Telford later to co-drive again. There were four stages for the Mini Challenge which finished at lunchtime so I could then get back over here in time for the HERO Challenge.” That’s commitment.