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HERO Challenge One


13th May 2023

HERO Challenge One 2023
Winners: Simon Ayris/Kim Bannister (MG B Roadster)
Photograph: HERO-ERA/Will Broadbent

Organiser: HERO-ERA

Date: 13th May 2023

Clerk of the Course: George Mullins

Route: 156 Miles (6 Regularities, 8 Tests)

Start & Finish: Stones Hotel, Amesbury

Starters: 72

The first HERO Challenge event of 2023 used the Stones Hotel at Amesbury as its base. The event, the first in a three round championship of one day events, attracted an entry of 72 starters.

The route was 155 miles in length and used the lanes of Wiltshire and Dorset, plus the Bovington tank training grounds for its eight tests.

Competition started within 200 metres of the start arch, with the first regularity starting inside the hotel grounds. This was a 17 mile section, with two timing points. It ran past Upper Woodford, Middle Woodford and Lower Woodford, to finish near Old Sarum.

Three crews - Duncan Wild/Steve Skepper (Austin Mini Cooper), Steve Chick/Alex Chick (Datsun 260Z) and Chris Chapman/David Broome (BMW 323) - arrived at both timing point exactly on time and ended the section with zero penalties.

The second regularity was defined by a speed table and had three timing points. It was to the east of Mere and brushed the A303 at Willoughby Hedge. Wild/Skeeper emerged from it with just a second added to their total; they now held a lead of three seconds over James Holt/Archie Holt (BMW 325i), with Chapman/Broome a second further back.

This was the high point for Wild/Skeeper as, on the next regularity, a circlip retaining the drive shaft broke, causing the shaft to pop out. It was repaired by the Sweeps at the lunch halt, but this was only a temporary fix and so the Mini crew had to miss out all of the tests to ensure that they could make the Finish.

Regularity Three followed a coffee halt at the Udder Farm Shop at East Stour. The section went almost directly south, along the scarp face of the Dorset Downs, passing Ibberton and Ansty Cross, to finish near Dewlish. There were four timing points.

Four crews shared the spoils for best performance on this section; these included Chapman/Broome, who moved into the lead. They were being chased by a pair of Austin Healey 3000s, with James Ashworth/Deborah Ashworth and Ken Binstead/Sarah Binstead holding second and third placed respectively.

After a morning of motoring through leafy lanes, the action now moved to the Bovington Military Training Area, where eight tests had been laid out. Four were tackled before the lunch halt at the Red Lion, Winfrith Newburgh, and these were repeated after the break.

With the class improvement scoring system being used, cars were only battling against the others in their category; the fastest in class received zero penalties, the second two and so on until a maximum of ten had been reached.

The first series of tests saw the only retirement of the event; the MG B of Mark Lillington/Mark Bramall had a head gasket fail and the team were out.

The tests varied in length between three-quarters of a mile and a mile and a third, on a mix of concrete and, in places, sand.

Five crews added large amounts to their total by missing the split on Test 2 and arrived at the end of Test 3; this gave them two wrong tests.

HERO Challenge One 2023
Second Place at halfway: David Liddell/Ed Liddell (Triumph TR6)
Photograph: HERO-ERA/Will Broadbent

In Class 1, Mike Farrall/Zach Burns (Jaguar SS100) took fastest time on all eight times and so added nothing to their totals. Similarly, Simon Ayris/Kim Bannister (MG B Roadster) in Class 5 were quickest on all tests. They had entered Bovington in sixth place, but emerged from the eight tests with a lead that they weren't to lose.

Ayris/Bannister moved to first place on Test 4, taking the place from David Liddell/Ed Liddell (Triumph TR6), who had been in front for just one test. The latter pair were in third place after the tests and moved up to second after the fourth reg, however on the next section they made an error in navigation and lost over a minute. The competition was so fierce that, after this error, they were to finish in 18th place overall.

At the lunch halt Ayris/Bannister held a lead of three seconds. There was a tie for second place with Liddell/Liddell and Chapman/Broome both being on 20 seconds. Two seconds further back Binstead/Binstead were level with Steve Chick/Alex Chick (Datsun 260Z); the latter crew, former London-Lisboa winners, had a difficult afternoon in the regs and fell to eighth at the Finish.

After the tests, three regularities remained as the route made its way back to the Stones Hotel. Ayris/Bannister held a thirteen second lead after the final test and ended the event with exactly the same advantage, securing a win after a number of near misses on HERO-ERA events.

The focus during the afternoon sections was the battle for second place; Chapman/Broome swapped places with James Holt/Archie Holt (BMW 325i) a number of times before claiming the runner up spot by one second. Broome also secured the Clockwatchers Trophy for the best performance on the regularities.

The father and son Holt team were very pleased with their podium finish, with James taking the Test Pilot Award for the lowest aggregate times over the eight tests.

The HERO Challenge Championship is scored for class positions, plus extra points for top three positions in the Overall, Test Pilot and Clockwatchers contests. After the first round, Simon Ayris led the Challenge Drivers' Table, while David Broome was the leader of the Navigators' category.

Two Masters crews, who weren't eligible for overall awards, entered the event. Stephen Owens/Nick Bloxham (Porsche 356B) put in the best performance of any competitor, dropping just 16 seconds over the whole rally.