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HERO Challenge Three


7th October 2023

HERO Challenge Three 2023
Winners: Steve Chick/Alex Chick (Datsun 260Z)
Photograph: HER-ERA

Organiser: HERO-ERA

Date: 7th October 2023

Clerk of the Course: Andy Pullan

Route: 152 Miles (7 Regularities, 6 Tests)

Start & Finish: Garstang Country Hotel, Garstang

Starters: 69

Lancashire was the venue for the third and final HERO Challenge of the year, with its base at Garstang.

Preparations for the rally were disrupted by the late withdrawal of permission to use the Weeton barracks, where six test had been planned. A replacement venue, the Preston Docks Motorcross track, was found and this, along with the doubling up of original tests, provided six tests for the day. There were also seven regularities.

The HERO Challenge Cup was still up for grabs with 11 drivers and 17 navigators in with the possibility of taking the trophies.

Sixty-nine crews took the start from Garstang Country Hotel at 08:00 on Saturday morning. The route headed north to the first regularity which started beside the University of Lancaster site and ran over Tarnbrook Fell; it was 24 miles in length.

The two time HERO Challenge winning driver, Alistair Leckie had paired up with Mike Cochrane for the event, they were competing in a Ford Consul Capri. They made the perfect start by hitting all three of the regs timing points exactly on time and ended the section with zero penalties. However, at this early stage, the competition was close, with four cars being on one second and forty being within ten seconds of the lead.

A non-competitive run through the Trough of Bowland brought the route to the second regularity; this was a 23 mile speed table section, with three timing points and finished on the outskirts of Longridge.

Mark Lillington/Mark Bramall (Mercedes Benz 280SL) were best over the section, dropping just one second. The lead was now shared between Leckie/Cochrane and David Liddell/Ed Liddell (Triumph TR4), both were on three seconds.

Two tests on the edge of Preston followed. Graeme Cornthwaite/Lynsey Procter were fastest on the first and second fastest on the second; this pushed them up to second place in the overall standings.

Quickest on Test 2 was the Mini of Patrick Lynch/Hubert Lynch. They had had a bad start to the day as, at the Start, they found that the speedo cable had broken - no speedo, no trip. They had a spare, but fitting it was a major task that including taking the radiator off. Heroic efforts by mechanic, Peter Banham, sorted the problem and allowed the Mini to start at the back of the field.

At the coffee halt, which was taken at the Derby Arms in Longridge, the lead was held by Simon Ayris/Matt Outhwaite (MG B Roadster). This position gave Ayris a lead of 11 points in the Challenge Cup, that is, if competition had ended at the halt. However, the positions at the top of the leader board were still very close, with 17 crews having penalties of less than 20 seconds.

The third regularity started less than half a mile from the coffee halt; it was ten miles long and contained three timing points. Four crews dropped just a second on this one; these included Nigel Woof/Sally Woof (Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint), who had been delayed by traffic on the second regularity, this had left them in 34th position.

'Puff the Magic Dragon', Bron Burrell's Autin Maxi developed gear selection problems as it left the halt. The problem was fixed by the sweeps and Bron and navigator Suzanne Barker continued.

There was then a run of four tests, the first two were repeats of Tests 1 and 2, while the final two were at Trax at Preston Docks. Ayris/Outhwaite were the quickest in their class on all four, so didn't add anything more to their penalties. Despite this Steve Chick/Alex Chick (Datsun 260Z) were still only three seconds behind them in the overall standings.

Cornthwaite/Procter were fastest on Test 3 and shared the honours with Lynch/Lynch on Test 4. At Trax Jon Dunning/Ian Canavan (Ford Escort RS2000) were fastest on both tests. At the Finish, this gave Dunning the Test Pilot Award, beating Patrick Lynch by one second.

HERO Challenge Three 2023
Long time leaders: Simon Ayris/Matt Outhwaite (MG B Roadster)
Photograph: HERO-ERA

The battle for both the lead and the Challenge Cup win took a dramatic turn at the start of the fourth regularity. A brake cylinder broke on Simon Ayris' MG. With the help of the mechanics, the crew managed to changed the failed part and got going again, however they were almost an hour late arriving at the Lunch In Time Control; being over their time limit here added 2m30s to their total.

Four crews, including Chick/Chick, cleaned Regularity 4, which started at Bartle and finished at Kirkham. This gave the Datsun father and son pairing a lead of four seconds at Lunch, which eas at the Thornton Lodge, Thornton.

Patrick Walker, navigated by his daughter Daisy, who was a Bob Rutherford Scholarship finalist, were in second place in their Alfa Romeo GT 1600 Junior. Liddell/Liddell were in third, one second behind the Alfa.

The heavy rain of the previous day and weeks caused flooding which led to the cancellation of Regularity Five, which should have used the lanes in The Fylde, the lowland inland of Blackpool.

This left two regularities to be completed before the Finish. Dick Baines/Harry Baines (Mini Cooper S) shared the best performance on Reg 6 with Cornthwaite/Procter and Chick/Chick.

The final regularity started at Galgate and snaked down alongside the M6 to finish just short of Garstang. It was the most demanding of the day and a number of crews were caught out by a tricky triangle. A wedding party on a horse and cart also delayed some of the earlier running crews and trigger the Joker for many of them.

Leckie/Cochrane ended the event as they had started and cleaned the section; no one else was within four seconds of them. They finished in 17th place having found the Consul Capri difficult to handle on the tests.

Chick/Chick lost ten seconds at the final tricky timing point, but did enough to hold on to the lead, as Dunning/Canavan closed to within three seconds of them at the Finish. The win meant that the Chicks also won the HERO Challenge Cup; Alex taking the Navigators' title by ten points as he scored 18 points on the event with the class win, the overall win and for being second in the Clockwatchers table.

Liddell/Liddell finished in third, finishing on the same penalties as Walker/Walker, but taking the final podium place on the tie-breaker. Ed Liddell also won the Clockwatchers Award for the least penalties picked up on the six regularities.

The only Masters crew to enter were Darell Staniforth/Nicky Staniforth in their Mini Cooper S; they were testing the car in readiness for the Rally of the Tests. They weren't eligible for overall awards, but had the least penalties of any crew until they were amongst those delay on the final reg. They would have been classified in third place if eligible.

While a Datsun 260Z headed the field home, a similar car also were the last placed finisher; the Datsun of Lindsay Dawson/Nick Dawson had its speedo cable break and they missed out the last regularity to get to the Finish.

Notably, all 69 starters finished the event.