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A Novice Trial

A hands on approach to learning how to tackle Classic Car Rallying

Congratulations to all the crews that took part in the 2019 Novice Trial


1.  Duncan Hopkinson/ Kay Hopkinson – MG C GT

2. Roger Fildes/ Dave Stocking – MG B

3. Robert Clifton/ Julie Clifton – Saab 96 V4


Rally Report

Encouragement for beginners

Brian Whyte, Operations Director of HERO Events explained; ‘The Novice Trial is to allow people who want to get involved in the sport a more thorough understanding. Essentially we have deconstructed the HERO Summer Trial event with the aim of giving participants an immersive experience so that they come out with an understanding of how a classic Regularity rallying works, also so that they can go out and enjoy themselves. We can give direction to people who own or have access to a classic car and want to do something with them, we can show them how to use them. Many of the crews found scrutineering Interesting, as it gave them a good guide to car preparation for classic rallies. The key to delivering the event is that we have two competitors delivering the lessons and not the organisers, it comes across so much better from experienced rally competitors.’

After a Friday evening of talking about classic Regularity rallying and the main areas to get to grips with, the fourteen crews were already making progress by just after lunch the next day. Seren Whyte commented; ‘We talked about it last night and after some general lessons it was time to go out on the road for a couple of practice Regularities, four crews just went straight out without checking out from the control! After a working lunch with some more lessons and plenty of questions, all crews checked out on their minute. That was a result, they were starting to understand, it’s very rewarding when that happens.’

The Whyte sisters have been able to share their knowledge and experience for the benefit of the novices who in turn have been eager to learn.

Elise Whyte was able to give some great tips and advice on the timing in which the crews will be experiencing tomorrow, ‘On average at a give way junction, you will lose around ten seconds, so you have to go a little bit faster after each, in order to make it up. The control locations are secret, but in the UK they can’t be closer than two miles unless it’s a test.’

Naturally there were many questions after the classroom sessions, such as ‘what happens when you arrive at a control and there are a couple of cars there already?’ (meaning, how do you get your time?)

Elise answered; ‘there could be five cars, they could have all been stuck behind a farm vehicle and you all arrive at once. You beep politely if the marshals are not looking but don’t get too frustrated as they do their best, they try to click the watch as you arrive.’

Some great cars turned out for the Novice Trial. Chris and Jen Woodhead started as car number one in their 1957 Austin Healey 100/6, ‘we are both very happy, This is Chris’ third ever event after two attempts on the Three of Legs of Mann which were both the result of an idea by his original navigator after an enjoyable wine-fuelled evening. They hadn’t gone that well which prompted Chris’ navigator to make the request that ‘no matter how much we enjoy the next evening we are not going rallying’. Step up Jen Woodhead who has made a brilliant start to her navigating career.

Matthew Todd and Jo Turner were in a stunning Mercedes 280SL ‘Pagoda’ whilst John Yates and Joan Gee took part in a 1965 Ford Mustang Coupe. Robert and Julie Clifton’s 1967 SAAB 96V4 looked great down the lanes as they completed the two practice Regularities in the morning. Jo was really enjoying it, buoyed by her early success ‘although I’m better in action than sitting here, some people learn by doing, that’s me. We are in my Dad’s Pagoda, we weren’t sure which car to use as my brother and father co-own a Volvo PV544, that was the one we originally entered in. But we are here to learn as we are competing in the Adriatic later this year!’

Duncan Hopkinson who was being navigated by his wife Kay said that ‘It has been excellent, really enjoyable. This will help enormously, although we have tried a few events we are largely beginners.’

Navigator Kay was still enjoying the event in the afternoon; ‘it was really good, especially as we seemed to cope with the re -route. It was very useful although our blue MG is now mud coloured.’

Joan Gee who is navigating John Yates in a 1965 Ford Mustang Coupe agreed that there was lots to do but are here to help them learn before they enter the Adriatic Adventure later in the year; “I find it easier with the Tuilps and reading the description, although my driver John was getting a bit excited at times so I had to slow him down. I drove the Mustang later, it’s so heavy, quite a big car for the lanes. I am totally new to this but it’s been a valuable experience.’

Malcolm Dunderdale and Anita Wickens are on the third ever event having bravely taken on the Three Legs of Mann, their second event this March in their Mercedes 190E 16v. Malcolm; “we are here to learn about the intricacies of timing and speed changes, although we would have lost a lot of time today whilst we were stuck behind a herd of cows on one of the Regularities!”

The scene is now set for the Novice Trial mini classic car rally, so crews can now put all their valuable lessons into practice for the final day.

“On Sunday you are going to use Cumulative Tables which is a little bit more complicated, we are testing you all as this is how you learn! Just remember if you have a problem but you think you are right, just go with your gut feeling!” The words of Seren Whyte as she and top navigator Elise Whyte wrapped up the final instructions before the actual Novice Trial competition.

Welcome To The World Of Regularity Rallying - Competition Day

The day started with a short run out to the first Regularity of the morning where there were three Timing Points to visit. Robert and Julie Clifton and their Saab 96 V4 were off to a great start, dropping only 4 seconds and being the most accurate out of all the crews to match the ideal times for the first Regularity. They were closely followed by Duncan and Kay Hopkinson in the MG C GT who dropped five seconds and then Malcolm Dunderdale and Anita Wickins in the Mercedes 190E 16V who dropped eight seconds.

After the first Regularity, crews took to Rednal Kart Track for two Tests. Also used on last year’s RAC Rally Of The Tests, Rednal Kart track would allow crews a chance to really stretch their cars legs. A lap of the track for the first Test and another lap plus a gravel section for the second. It was the Porsche 911 of Robert Clarke and Clara Stone that were victorious in the first, with a time of 1 minute and 4 seconds, two seconds ahead of joint 2nd and 3rd place, Chris and Jen Woodhead and Roger Fildes and Dave Stocking. The Mercedes Benz 190E of Malcolm Dunderdale and Anita Wickins claimed the win for the second test and posted a time of 1 minute and 40 seconds, a second ahead of Robert Clarke and Clara Stone in the 911 Targa and five seconds ahead of Timothy and Melanie Green in the Austin Mini.

After the two Tests at Rednal, competitors went on to tackle another Regularity before a welcome coffee halt at The Green Inn. Malcolm Dunderdale and Anita Wickens were at the top spot here dropping only 21 seconds, 13 seconds less than the rest of the field.

Results at lunch showed that Malcolm and Anita were leading by an impressive 39 seconds. Duncan and Kay Hopkinson were sitting in second place and Robert and Julie Clifton were in third.

After coffee, the 16 crews would tackle a further two Regularities as they made their back towards the main Time Control at the Lion Quays hotel. Regularity three would see the competitors take on some incredible welsh lanes that are often used on night events. Duncan and Kay Hopkinson would be the most accurate here, closely followed by Chris and Lynette Whitby and then Peter and Clemency Upton.

The final Regularity of the day was map based and was dominated by the number 5 crew of Roger Fildes and Dave Stocking in the MG B. Experience in road rallying possibly giving them an advantage here, but still remaining as novices in the world of Regularity rallying.

All 16 crews made it back to the Lion Quays hotel and enjoyed a well-deserved lunch. Stories of wrong slots, drivers not listening, and navigators spending more time looking at the countryside than at the instructions could be overheard, but everybody was smiling and congratulating the other competitors for finishing the event.


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