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Summer Trial

Final report

A beautiful day greeted the forty-five starters of the 2014 Summer Trial, this year the event had changed from its south coast base of the last couple of years and moved into the beautiful lanes of south Wales. Day one was a gentle prologue to ease the competitors into the swing of things, a two hour loop that would grace the lanes to the east of Newport with some rare and exotic machinery from 1930 right up to 1981.

The event is based this year at the hugely popular Celtic Manor Resort, once home to The Ryder Cup; many competitors took advantage of the special deal secured by HERO and stayed on the Thursday night. The scrutineering area was soon full, and the atmosphere in the area was one of friendly rivalry and banter as old friendships were renewed and many newcomers were welcomed into historic regularity rallying. One of the most diminutive cars was being campaigned by Father and Son, Malcolm and Peter Speirs in their delightful Austin Seven, being their first ever event, they took advice from Competitors Liaison Officer Tony Davies, who as usual was always on hand to dispense his vast experience to novice crews. It was great to see the pair return after the first leg with huge smiles on their faces and it seems they are already hooked on the sport.

The Summer Trial 2014 is a round of the 2014 HERO cup for Drivers, in association with EFG International, and a round also of The Golden Roamer Trophy in association with the Basic Roamer Company, many of the competitors were eligible for both and the superb prizes on offer for both of these championships are obviously very popular! Favourites for the event are Howard Warren and Iain Tullie, both superb competitors with many victories in the past to their name, however, this year has seen a strong entry with some crews that may be able to pip the Porsche pairing to the win. Amongst the entries, Steve and Julia Robertson are returning some amazing results in their TR3, a fine placing on the Three Castles recently buoying their confidence. Also ones to watch, the Father and Son pairing of Chris and Fred Winter, their immaculately prepared and presented Hillman Imp drawing many admiring glances from not only rally aficionados.

At 16:00 exactly, Patrick Burke and Maxime Mezger rolled over the line, the Arrive and Drive Riley Brooklands 9HP leading the crews away from the Celtic Manor start, but not going too far for the first action. A tight and loose test was the first competitive action of the event, the loose surface keeping crews on their toes as they got used to driving in the blazing Welsh sunshine. The cones on this test were placed close, forcing even some of the more seasoned competitors into reversing at times. Test one caught a few out, including Seren Whyte and Sean Toohey, the Austin Seven they were using having problems with steering on the loose and damaging the car’s front mudguard, we are happy to report that the vehicle is repaired and will be back out tomorrow though. A gentle regularity followed and took the crews round the steelworks near Magor, this was called Llanwern and took in just under ten miles of fairly open lanes with not many slots to fool the crews. From the start, business partners Chas Colton and Howard Warren were embroiled in battle, Colton had brought out a new navigator to the event, Chester’s Niall Carroll, it looks like Niall has been taking some excellent advice has he guided Chas to the lowest regularity score over the day, a superb showing in his first ever event. Amongst the novices, Matt Johnson and Paul Philmore were starting to get to grips with things, they were out in an Alfa Romeo 1750 GTV supplied by HERO Arrive and Drive, it was plain to see that they were enjoying things with the smiles on their faces. The second regularity was a much longer affair at just over 20 miles, named Magor, this was something for the more experienced crews to assert their authority. Peter and Rayna Jackson were in fine form, and although they couldn’t match the skill of Colton/Carroll and Warren/Tullie, they had a superb start to see them lie in third overnight. Another new pairing doing well were Father and Daughter pair Guy and Claire Woodcock, using Matt Warren’s beautiful mark 1 Escort, the flamboyant style of Woodcock was exciting to watch on the tests whilst Claire had a great run on the regularities and despite being baulked by local traffic, ended the day in fourth. The success was attributed to Guy writing L& R on his driving gloves to remind him which way was what! The route of this regularity started to show crews just what to expect on the lanes, after leaving Magor, the regularity snaked around Wentwood and took in some tricky loops to catch the unwary out. Many crews fell foul to local traffic and farm machinery, costing them dearly in their pursuit of a clean run.

Interspersing the two regularities was a purely tarmac test at a car dealership, fastest here were The Winters, however, dusty conditions on the final test of the day dropped Chris and Fred down the board a little as a wrong test cost them valuable seconds, a cone taken the wrong side that was hidden in the dust the culprit. Paul Crosby and Devon radio presenter Andy Ballantyne were as always very quick on the tests, Crosby’s skill evident as the Porsche danced round the third test of the day, most of the time sideways due to the loose conditions.

Day Two

An early start saw many crews scrambling for the alarm clock as the prologue seemed to lull competitors into a sense of false security. As much as The Summer Trial is perceived as a novice event, Clerk of Course, Peter Nedin had other ideas to keep the crews entertained. Starting out from Celtic Manor, Newport once again, the route would take competitors in a northerly loop, The test used on day one was re-jigged, a fast flowing, yet tight loop around cones on some loose gravel within Celtic Manor kept crews amused, fastest were Warren/Tullie with Colton/Carroll on the same time, however, the Porsche crews were being harried by the diminutive Hillman Imp of Chris and Fred Winter.

Leaving Newport, the event headed north-east and took in a series of regularities as it wound its way past Usk and Raglan, the scenery changing all the time as the high hedges of day one gave way to panoramas across the Wye Valley. It was clear that crews were under pressure as many didn’t get the chance to stop for their allotted coffee break, a quick check in at the Red Lion at Madley and then back into Wales via a regularity at Knighton and finally before lunch at Abbey Cwm Hir, a short regularity named Ysgwd-Fford. Abbey Cwm Hir is a small village, sat in the middle is the house that belonged to the Abbey the village derives its name from. The current owners have been in this amazing property for seventeen years and opened this stunning piece of architecture to the public ten years later. To call it a museum is an injustice, there are fifty-two rooms, all themed differently, every single one has a unique flavour to it, a tour will take you around two and a half hours. The rooms have artefacts and nick-nacks from around the world, there is a strong motoring theme throughout and this is echoed by a number of car clubs that stop there for refreshments.

The competition was hotting up, Warren and Tullie took first due to a mistake by Colton/Carroll, a slip also came from the Jackson’s who were in third at lunch, their errors dropping them down the order to fifth. Guy and Claire Woodcock narrowly hold on to fourth from the charging Paul Crosby and Andy Ballantyne. The afternoon saw a real change in the placings lower down. A broken oil pipe at afternoon coffee saw the retirement of Patrick Burke and Maxime Mezger, not even the skills of the HERO on event mechanics could repair the fracture as it was close to the engine block. Similarly, HERO’s other director, Tomas de Vargas Machuca had problems with the newly acquired AC March, a sticking float bowl costing Tomas and navigator Ryan Pickering dearly as the fell down the order.

A solid performance from Paul and Guy Tomlinson rocketed them up the order, holding a fine third overnight, the beautiful Martini-liveried 911 should be in its element today as we hit some tarmac tests. A regularity across Glasfynydd saw some real challenges for the competitors, some cleverly sited controls catching a few out as they skirted the Usk Reservoir, this led crews into afternoon coffee at Pen Y Cae where many spoke of the tight nature of the lanes and the traffic on them due to the amazing weather. Newcomers to the sport of regularity rallying are Anna Fabri who drove the vastly experienced Alan Pettit, Stuart Bray and Emanuelle Saidi who have taken the challenge of the Summer Trial by the scruff and are showing some regular competitors the way to go. Holding 24th and 20th places respectively, they are enjoying their first foray into regularity rallying immensely. Dilwyn Rees is having a superb event partnered by the ever cheerful Chris Newman, enjoying some of the finest roads from his homeland, the mighty Healey looking and sounding sublime as it rumbled through the Valleys.

We are all set for a fantastic finish to what has been a wonderful weekend here in Wales, the weather has been perfect and we’re sure the amount of sun block sold has helped the local economy!

Day Three

The final day of Summer Trial 2014 started, once again, with amazing weather, a later start to the day eased crews into the competition. The loose test at Celtic Manor woke the crews up; a run down through Newport and Caerphilly took them to the first test, close to Tredegar House. This was a re-organised test, the original venue having to withdraw permission at the last moments before Summer Trial due to a double booking by them at their premises. Fortunately, local ASDA manager, Stuart Goldspink stepped in and made part of his stores car park available for a tight and twisty test, HERO would like to thank Mr Goldspink and his wonderfully friendly staff for their help and assistance in making the event a success. This test caught many out with its compact and tight nature, with only one stop astride and many turns to navigate, several crews decided to pick up penalties, or to quote an Irish rallying joke, “went shopping” as they got lost in the test. Heading further south the first regularity of the day was named St Hilary. Starting just outside the Hamlet of Moulton, this saw a return to the traditional Welsh lanes, tight and twisty with high hedges that make progress tricky and the slots difficult to find. Passing through the village of St Hilary, the close spaced junctions of the village proved problematic for some crews, causing them to drop seconds in penalties.

Three tests followed at Llandow Race Circuit, a huge crowd was there to witness all forms of motor sport, to complement the competitors’ cars, a gathering of classic motorcycles was interspersed with kart racing and even a model aeroplane display was there for all to see. The tests took in various forms, a fast, flowing first offering led to a slightly more compact test, this had a three cone slalom involved. One crew who appeared to be struggling were actually one of the heroes of the event. CRA Event Director Jeremy Dickson had chosen the Summer Trial as special weekend to share with daughter Jess; coming across a competitor in difficulties on Saturday morning, they selfishly gave up their event to stop and assist, they returned later in the afternoon, but with the penalties incurred, they could not challenge for any awards. The final test at Llandow was centred on four main cones the competitors had to drive around. The spectacular style of Paul Crosby/Andy Ballantyne delighting the spectators as the 911 spent most of its time sideways and plumes of smoke billowed from the tortured tyres. Michael Weston and Jeremy Boadle took great delight in opening up their Bentley, as did Peter Holmes and Graham Clifton in their stunning PV544 Volvo.The all-lady team of Clare Nedin and Rachel Wakefield had a minor hindrance when the speedo cable of their Austin Healey Sprite cried no more, leaving them without a speedometer or a trip meter, the Le Jog 2013 class winners experience kept them going and in the hunt for a placing on the Summer Trial.

Following on from Llandow, Monkton regularity wound its way around Saint Donat’s and St. Brides Major before the finish at Southerndown. Newcomers Mike Rands & George Haxby were thoroughly into the swing of things now and enjoying the thrill of driving the HERO Arrive and Drive Cortina, Paul Kirtley & David Jones took the A&D TR4 out for a run in the Welsh lanes, it was difficult to take the keys back from them and when asked if they would re-join us in the future, “Definitely!” was the reply.

A link section from Southerndown took crews out on a tour of the roads around the beautiful Ogmore-by-Sea and headed out over Mynydd Baedan, Maesteg and the stunning roads into The Rhondda Valley displaying the heritage and history of mid-Wales before heading back via Cwmcarn to Celtic Manor. First back were Seren Whyte and Sean Toohey, closely followed by Steve and Julia Robertson in their TR3a, a loud cheer rose up as the orange Porsche 911 of Warren and Tullie came into view and crossed the line at the finish, the navigator pronouncing they had no major problems and that they felt they had held onto victory after taking the lead on day two. Their closest rivals, Charles Colton and Niall Carroll came over the line soon after and the win was confirmed.

The Summer Trial 2014 has been amazingly well received, with locals lining the lanes and villages as the event has progressed through Wales, we have been incredibly fortunate with the weather and have had some of the finest scenery in not just Europe, but the world for the crews to take in. A final ‘Thank You’ to every single last marshal and official that made this event a success, without your help and perseverance there would be no motor sport.

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