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A Novice Trial

A hands on approach to learning how to tackle classic car rallying

Congratulations to everyone who took part in and completed A Novice Trial 2024


The overall winners of A Novice Trial 2024 are:

1. Christopher Day & Claire Day - 1968 Mini Cooper S

2. Andrew Dent & Michael Dent - 1981 BMW E12 M535i

3. Charles Eve & Andrew Eve - 1964 Alfa Romeo 1750 GTV

Rally Report

A Novice Trial 2024 Concludes!

Plenty of Rain, But Spirits Not Dampened in the Least

Mighty Mini for the Win

The 2024 A Novice Trial concluded today, with the traditional mini rally. HERO-ERA’s training weekend, which consists of a mixture of classroom-based and practical sessions for newcomers to the sport, closed out with an opportunity for the 54 crews entered into the weekend to put all they had learned into practice and test their newfound skills against the clock. Whilst this isn’t the hardest road rally they will ever do, it was certainly a challenge, and a task made all the more difficult with relentless rain following the cars seemingly wherever they went in Buckinghamshire, Northamptonshire and Oxfordshire.

The 120-mile route through the lanes and villages surrounding HERO’s Bicester Heritage HQ featured four speed-controlled regularities for the crews to practice their navigation on, with a pair of speed tests bookending the road sections, giving the drivers an opportunity to strut their stuff on the tarmac of the airfield at Bicester Heritage. The drivers of the Vintage pre-war machines led the field away, on an entry that featured cars from 1925 through to 1990, showcasing the range of eras that these rallies can be contested in. There was great admiration I’m sure from the drivers and navigators in the newer tin-top machines, for their peers in the open-top pre-war machinery, as the rain bucketed down, ensuring difficult driving conditions and even more oppressing circumstances for the navigators to operate in.

Tests navigated and no doubt some nerves exercised through vigorous use of the accelerator pedal, and it was out onto the open road for two regularities, before a coffee stop at the midway point of the day. For newcomers, these regs were certainly plenty long enough, particularly in the unpleasant conditions, but for anyone who might have needed some encouragement, there was plenty of support from locals out on the route, with many householders braving the precipitation to clap and cheer the cars as they came through, actions reciprocated by the competitors, hopefully a good sign that they were enjoying themselves.

At Whittlebury Hall, within touching distance of Silverstone Circuit, the crews had an opportunity to take on board some refreshment, whilst in the presence of hundreds of photographs of motorsport history, with the walls of the Hall adorned with pictures of many of the greatest Grand Prix drivers ever to take to four wheels. Inspiration perhaps for anyone who had found the morning overwhelming, although all seemed in good spirits, irrespective of any errors. Mike and Aoife Dreelan were enjoying themselves for sure, despite the crew of the 1927 Type 37 Bugatti being soaked to the skin, and with novice nav Aoife doing the job without a working trip meter. Young navigator Danielle Pool, this year’s Bob Rutherford Scholarship winner was also going great guns, even pointing out some officiating errors on her timecard.

This event is of course about learning, and nobody in the field ought to be too concerned about positions. That being said, nobody does this sort of thing without a small element of competitiveness about themselves and with today being timed the midway results showed that car 55, the Peugeot 205 navigated by 16-year-old George Elkins had made the best of the morning, with the Mini of Christopher and Claire Day in second and third occupied by Andrew and Michael Dent in the big BMW E12.

Trundling out into the grim late morning the second half of the competition could begin, looping back west and south towards the finish at Bicester, where we could crown this year’s winners.

In the end, the Elkins challenge would falter, and the Mini of the Days would win by an impressive 23 seconds, with first-time Father and Son duo Andrew and Michael Dent in second. Third place would be taken by car number 41, the Alfa Romeo crewed by brothers Charles and Andrew Eve. Charles had won last year, with a different navigator, but revelled in the fact that this time out he had been able to compete with his brother finally.

But it would be Christopher and Claire’s day, in the white Cooper S, and whilst they used the weekend to focus the experience they have gained on other events, up until Thursday this week it was looking unlikely that they would make the start at all, with the Mini having no power plant until the eve of the competition. Of their unlikely win Charles said “The engine was out of the car until Thursday, almost a complete rebuild was needed and a week ago we wouldn’t have dreamed that this would be possible. Thank you to the whole team, the help and backup has been phenomenal, the mechanical assistance crew will do anything to keep you in the rally. Thank you too all.”

Winning aside, this weekend is about the lessons learned and the knowledge and experiences are taken away, and hopefully provides a springboard for the next adventure, whether that be a one-day Challenge event, or, as some of the entrants are doing, a Peking to Paris. The final word of the event must go to Clerk of the Course Andy Pullan, who has headed up the extensive team that has put this event together – which of course has included countless marshals who spent so much time standing in the rain and helping the crews with their timecards. “It has gone really well, a strong entry and a large number of total newbies who have been able to compound their existing knowledge and learn plenty of new skills. The weather hasn’t played ball, but it didn’t dampen the spirits at all, and everyone has got stuck in regardless. It’s been great to see all the smiley faces and hopefully there have been plenty of educational lessons learned. I look forward to seeing them all in the future.” So do we Andy, so do we.

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