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The HERO Challengers Gather at Exeter Racecourse

*66 cars assemble for the start of the HERO Championship year

*Teams from as far as Arizona and Italy enter, keen to learn their craft

*HERO Challenge One also becomes a shakedown for London to Lisbon and P2P

The HERO Challengers Gather at Exeter Racecourse

Cars and crews assembled at Exeter Racecourse for the start of the fifth HERO Challenge Championship, eager to begin their championship campaigns as the series grows in stature.

It is not just a learning ground but also a springboard to other rallies on the HERO-ERA calendar, there is even a crew who have come all the way from Arizona in the USA to learn about regularity rallying as they are going to enter the Peking to Paris Motor Challenge 2025!

Teams will face six regularities and six tests, the first and last of which will be right under their nose bags at Exeter Racecourse, appropriately called the Final Furlong.

Phil Cottam, whilst a regular on HERO Challenges, is also shaking down his new car for the London to Lisbon to be driven by Dave Smith whilst he navigates; “Phil; We are now using a 1972 Alfa Romeo 2000 GT Veloce, we used it once on HERO Challenge Two last year but we're going to use it a lot more this year. This weekend we're shaking it down as we are doing London to Lisbon in four weeks’ time.

“I think the one-day HERO Challenges are really helpful, especially coming to an event and getting home. It's easy like that. Also, from a navigational point of view, they're structured in such a way as it makes it easier to understand. They start off slowly, then they get tougher as they go on, I certainly noticed with Challenge Three last year, that was a little bit different. A little bit more to think about!”

Jim and Josh Ransco have come all the way from Arizona in the USA to learn about regularity rallying in preparation for their assault on the Paris to Peking Motor Challenge in 2025.

Jim; “We're from the Western United States, Arizona and Utah. We have come over here to practice right before we sign up for the 2025 Peking to Paris, so it’s important to learn. It's the rules, the regulations, the challenge and the fact that everybody's setting out to challenge you as a driver and as a navigator, so it’s important to try. So that's why we're here to give it a whirl.

Josh; “So yeah, I'm going to attempt to look after the navigation, fortunately, with HERO-ERA, you guys put on a great training seminar that we went through earlier today. And due to that, we have a little bit of a handle on what we need to do, then tomorrow here on a one-day rally will really help us kind of establish learning what we need and find the faults that we need to improve on. Then we can go back to the US and continue practicing on our own and see what we can get in trouble with!”

Jim; “There's a lot of areas we have to practice in the US but it's interesting to see how limited space there is here in the UK to really go out and, and stretch the legs, if you will.

“You know, tomorrow's a one-day rally so there's challenges in just proving yourself quickly and succinctly and you only have one day to make it happen. When you talk about a bigger rally like Peking to Paris, it's 37 days so the challenge there is just the duration and being able to keep up with that day in and day out, but we are excited about tomorrow and of course the big one.”

Josh; “I got a phone call a couple of years ago from Jim, saying, hey, this is something we're going to do. I immediately went to my wife and told her, then I went to work, and I said, I'm going be going on vacation for about 40 days, in about four year’s time and they just laughed. Sure, sure they said, but now it's a reality and I can't be more excited than I am right now.”

Danielle Pool is the 2024 Bob Rutherford Historic Rally Scholarship winner for Young Navigators paired up with Dave Alcock in his Datsun 260Z for her second prize rally out of four on the HERO Challenge One. However, Danielle is petite and was having trouble seeing over the dashboard, quite an issue if you are trying to navigate.

Danielle; “Dave has got me a whole new seat so I could see. He made changes like new belts, and even put new cushions in to lift me up a bit! It is a left-hand drive car so I am on the wrong side, but it will be fine!

“We learned a lot on the Novice Trial because we finished sixth overall within the class. So it was what we expected, we did have a few moments like my stopwatch stopped working, but it went fine.”

Paul Day and Alun Jones are here in their MGB to have a final practice before the 2024 Peking to Paris Motor Challenge which starts in May, they are both feeling a bit nervous.

Paul; “This event is to remind ourselves of what a few tests and regularities are all about which will hopefully put us in good stead for the biggie in China, only a slight difference of 37 days compared to this one!

“It just seemed like one of those things that was always going to be on the bucket list to do and if there was an opportunity to do it we would. I didn't want to get to 80 years of age and think I wish I'd done it. The Peking to Paris is the number one long-distance endurance rally in my view. Ask me afterwards, maybe I'll think differently, but it's been a long time coming.”

Alun; “It seems to have been sitting on our shoulders for a little while now, and yes, the nerves are beginning to rise as we constantly try to think have we got this, have we done that?

“We haven't been in the MGB for months, almost a year and it is a lot different to our 1939 Ford Coupe P2P car! So it's always that little bit of a slow start but when you get going I think it's just about getting back to feeling comfortable, which we will do tomorrow. But over the 37 days of P2P, hopefully, we get to feel comfortable as soon as possible and it will yield something when we're there. We are both nervous and excited.”

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