Enjoy Yourself: Jayne Wignall’s Life in Rallying
Modesty comes as naturally as driving for this months star, but there is more to our HERO Cup champion than meets the eye
Modesty and humility are rare commodities these days, we live in an age of celebrity, but also in an age where ‘celebrity’ has perhaps lost its meaning. Even more important then, that those that really do achieve something worth celebrating, particularly if without the intervention of those that wish to laud their achievements, they perhaps wouldn’t be aware of it themselves! One such person is Jayne Wignall, a name that will be familiar to many of you now as the 2019 HERO Cup winner, an accolade that Jayne herself had no idea she was even in the running for until it was announced over the airwaves at the NEC, during the driving test that took place there during last autumns Rally of the Tests. But a contender Jayne was, and a few months later sits talking to me about all things rallying, over a cup of tea in the sanctuary of her countryside home.
“I had no idea I was even in with a chance of winning” she confesses to me, as we talk about her triumph, whilst admiring the view out to the hills beyond. “I’m also not an expert on the scoring during the LeJog rally, so there was no extra pressure to achieve a set score to win. It was never an ambition to win the trophy, but it feels very nice!” However, for someone who doesn’t enter to win, there are an awful lot of trophies and awards on display from throughout her long association with rallying and motorsport. Indeed, association might be the wrong word, obsession is possibly more accurate and her passion for driving, a passion shared with husband Paul, is on display almost everywhere throughout their home.
The spark was ignited at an early age for Jayne, as both her Mother and Father competed and it seemed almost inevitable that Jayne, a self-confessed tomboy whilst growing up, would follow in the tyre tracks of Mum and Dad and at some point in the late 60’s started entering auto-tests, hill climbs and autocross in the trusty Saab machines that her Father sold from his Bournemouth based dealership. Her Father, one of the first in the UK to see the virtues of the Swedish marques of Saab and Volvo, was initially sceptical of her involvement in motorsport, nothing to do with the danger mind you, more the unsavoury characters the young Jayne might come across (thank goodness she found Paul!) When success started to follow, he became more encouraging of Jaynes chosen hobby and local 12 car events in the west country soon turned into BTRDA events, as well as entries into the RAC Rally as the 70’s drew on.
The decade was rounded out in fine style, as Jayne was entered into the Faberge Fiesta Championship, a one make, single sex series put into place by Ford to give talented female drivers a platform to further their ambitions. Long before the W-Series existed, Jayne was in contention against some of the fastest lady drivers in the country. Indeed, even being selected was some achievement, as Ford received over 2000 applications, but at the end of 12 rounds competing on both gravel and tarmac Jayne finished the season in second place, a tremendous accolade.
The eighties would see a gap in any motorsport activities, as Jayne and Paul set up in the optical business, running things, as Paul puts it, “quite literally out of a Wheelbarrow to begin with”. They would also move to Yorkshire, to a charming piece of tranquillity they still call home today and as Jayne graciously shows me around, I am met with the history of a life that seemingly has revolved around driving and all of the treasures that come with it. Rally plates abound, as do trophies and trinkets of Paul and Jaynes travels together, not to mention a healthy number of photographs and artwork depicting memories of the adventures that have been enjoyed.
The stories and recollections abound as I’m given the run down of how the classic rallying began on the Irish circuit in the 90’s in a trusty Saab 96. Faster cars followed, as did a healthy obsession with pre-war motorcars, particularly Sunbeams and I’m privileged enough to be shown some of goodies in the garage. It is always a pleasure to see classic and vintage machines that are used as they should be, and I am delighted to hear that it isn’t just the rallies and tours that cause the dust sheets to be thrown from these venerable old vehicles.
Jayne couldn’t put a number on exactly how many events she has entered over the years, and wouldn’t be pushed into choosing a favourite either. “They all have their own identities” she says, what is certain though is that it is an awful lot. It’s an interest that has taken her and Paul all over the world and introduced them to some wonderful places, but I wonder, do they ever go back to visit without the cars? “No” is the steadfast answer, “I’m not really one for sitting on a beach and to visit these places without the driving involved would mean they just weren’t the same.” I get equally short shrift when I suggest that the events with a more competitive element must surely appeal to Jaynes love of driving fast, and, dare I say, competitive side! “I enjoy all of the elements that come together to make a great rally; cars, roads, people, scenery, it is all important. Although, I don’t enjoy the rougher ones so much, as my cars are not so well suited” Jayne says, although she adds “I do enjoy the fast tests as well.” This footnote is added somewhat quickly and with an unmistakeable glint in Jaynes eye, as close as a tell as one might get.
But what of the future? Are there any must do events still to be conquered and will the HERO Cup be fiercely defended? “Not really” is the now somewhat expected low key response from our celebrant, “I’ll continue to take part in the events that I like the look of and ones which I feel are suitable for my cars. I certainly wouldn’t do an event just because I needed to for points in a championship, that would be missing the point for me and detract from the enjoyment.” Sage words from a wise lady. I would warrant that there aren’t too many in the world that possess the kind of ability that Jayne has and, at the same time, can maintain the fine balance between enjoyment and success nearly so well. Whatever adventures you choose to undertake next Jayne, I wish you all of the enjoyment in the world.