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HERO Challenge Championship Returns

Round One Heads to Wiltshire for the First of a Three Round Championship

HERO Challenge Championship Returns

The HERO Challenge Championship makes its much-anticipated return on the 13th of May, with round one taking place in the new playground of Amesbury, in the shadow of Stone Henge, but will it be a case of being stuck in a stone circle for our competitors, or will they experience druids delight?

The Challenge one-day rallies have become increasingly popular in recent years, offering a full taste of action without taking up an entire weekend, and are aimed at those who have not yet attained Master’s status and as such are highly competitive. There is still a Master’s category, of course, and it is testament to the level of the Challenge events that despite not being able to take an outright win, there is still a good turnout of the more experienced competitors, offering those up-and-coming crews an opportunity to benchmark themselves against the best.

Those entered into round one of the three-round mini championship can expect a route of some 140 miles, packed with 10 regularities and 6 tests, plenty of action to get their teeth stuck into, but to taste success they will have to remain sharp. Last year’s champions were Alastair Leckie and Matt Outhwaite, who by virtue of the fact that they had not won a round in 2021, were defending their crown from the previous year. After a successful title defence, they have entered again, but this time they switched seats, with navigator Matt giving up the maps in favour of getting behind the wheel of a Rover 216.

Alistair and Matt are still relatively new to this game, but in amongst the entry there are plenty that would be considered to be experienced hands, such as Andy Simpson and Roger Bricknell, out in Andy’s Mini 1275 GT again, and Bron Burrell and Suzanne Barker, who are fresh from finishing second in class on the Scottish Malts rally, in the instantly recognisable World Cup Rally competing Austin Maxi.

John King and Tracy King are back for more as well, in the Triumph Dolomite that you can expect to see going mostly sideways on the tests with John’s ever-exuberant driving style that took him to fourth place in the 2022 championship, with Tracy finishing fifth in the navigator’s competition and they are certainly a pair to watch this year. Joining John in the exuberant category will be late entry Elliot Dale, who will no doubt be throwing his Escort around the tests, and the only thing louder than his car will be navigator Charlotte Ryall directing him where to go.

The cars entered into this first round are certainly varied, spanning nearly 60 years of motoring. They range from the ’30s right up to 1990 and it is certainly pleasing to see five pre-war cars on the event, including veterans of the recent Flying Scotsman event, including Mike Farrall and Zach Burns, and John Lomas and Peter Moore who will both be flying the Riley flag, as well as competing with their daughters.

But just what can be expected from round one? Well, according to route planner and Clerk of the Course George Mullins, the rolling countryside of Wiltshire as well as a test venue that will offer some very quick and exciting tests. We can’t say too much but the drivers will definitely be tanking it along whilst the navigators bellow instructions. The tests are on the long side as well, making excellent use of the space afforded by the venue. George grew up rallying in the lanes of Devon, and whilst there are one or two narrow thoroughfares on this event he has tried to avoid anything too constricted to keep the event flowing. “The narrow lanes are great,” he says, “but we want to avoid the competitors having to avoid too much oncoming traffic, so they can get on with enjoying the event rather than getting stressed about losing time.” The regularities themselves will be a good mixture of long and short and will feature some pleasant surprises in amongst the more regular roads.

George is also excited about the involvement of the businesses and landowners who have helped facilitate the rally, who he tells me have been hugely enthusiastic about the event and are just very excited to be involved, “we have had people chasing us to be involved, which is really refreshing” he says.

At the end of it all this is an event that is supposed to be fun and aside from hoping for things to go smoothly from an organisational point of view George’s biggest desire is for people to enjoy themselves. “I’m looking forward to people arriving at the finish with smiles on their faces after enjoying a really good day out,” he tells me, “First and foremost I want people to have a good time, that is what it’s all about for me.”

We couldn’t have put it better ourselves and will look forward to seeing everyone at the start on May 13th.

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