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HERO Challenge Two


9th September 2023

HERO Challenge Two 2023
Winners: Steve Robertson/Thomas Robertson (MG B GT V8)
Photograph: © Heather Green, Acer Photography

Organiser: HERO-ERA

Date: 9th September 2023

Clerk of the Course: Seren Whyte

Route: 134 Miles (6 Regularities, 4 Tests)

Start & Finish: Kingfisher Golf Club, Milton Keynes

Starters: 73

The HERO Challenge Two was based at the Kingfisher Golf Club, near Milton Keynes. The challenge consisted of six regularities and four tests.

Conditions were hot and sunny throughout the day; meaning that the gravel tests were dusty and temperatures inside the cars were, at times, uncomfortable.

Seventy-five cars went through Scrutineering on Friday afternoon, although only 73 took the start on Saturday morning. One of the non-starters was the Mini of Challenge regulars Thiago Kathirasoo/James Thomas; this had developed a misfire that couldn't be cured.

The first test of the day was at the Bill Gwynne Rally School on the Turweston Aerodrome. Simon Ayris/Andrew Duerden (MG B Roadster) and James Holt/Chris Matthews (BMW 325i) shared fastest time here, three seconds ahead of the field. Both of these drivers had scored well on HERO Challenge One and were looking to push for top positions in the Challenge Cup.

Reigning HERO Challenge Champions, Alistair Leckie/Matt Outhwaite, had to bring their Saab 96 to the event after their usual Saab 99 was awaiting parts. The 96 had been parked in the garage for almost two years. The pair were forced into retirement as fuelling issues stopped the car before the start of the first regularity.

The Jogularity section started at Croughton and finished just outside Middle Aston; it was ten miles long and contained three timing points. Seven crews managed to complete it without picking up any penalties. However, Car 1, the glorious Lea Francis Hyper of Kurt Vanderspinnen/Valentin Charlet, came to halt halfway through with a fuel pump failure.

Simon Mills/Victoria Mills had ignition problems with their Volvo Amazon on the first test and then had a propshaft fail. They retired.

Regularity Two was also ten miles long, with three time controls, the first of which was in the farmyard just north of Radfordbridge. A number of crews lost time finding the correct entrance, but only two failed to visit the control. Others were delayed by tractors.

With the sunny weather forecast and the prospect of lanes full of cyclists, walkers and horse riders, the organisers had instigated the Joker System for the event; this reduces a competitor's largest lateness penalty to 15 seconds. This proved useful when crews were delayed by tractors on Reg 2; the affected crews included Ted Gaffney/Paul Bosdet (Mini Cooper S), who recovered from this early set back to finish in 11th place at the Finish.

A coffee halt was taken at The Gate Hangs High pub at Hook Norton. Three crews led the field at this point all with penalties of four seconds; using the least penalties at the first timing point, John King/Henry Carr (Toyota MR2) led from Rob Robinson/Peter Mellor (Audi Coupe GT), both crews were continuing good form that they'd shown on the previous weekend's Ilkley Jubilee.

The father and daughter pairing of John Lomas/Natasha Lomas (Riley Sprite) were the third crew on four seconds. They were to drop the order after struggling on the following Reg 3, which used map navigation. While other struggled on the maps, Martin Jelley/Nigel Fraser (Volvo Amazon 123GT) put in the best performance, adding just two seconds to their total.

The reg saw the demise of Car 55, the MG B GT Coupe of Robert Lodge/Alan Mills, which suffered an alternator failure.

Two tests at Shenington Kart Racing Club followed. Holt/ Matthews were fastest on Test 2 and second fastest on Test 3, while King/Carr were second to Holt on the first and fastest on the second.

The fourth regularity ran around the scene of the Battle of Edge Hill, the first major encounter in the English Civil War. Once again, it was ten miles long and had three timing points. It finished just before the lunch halt venue, the Wharf Inn at Fenny Compton.

Despite a damaged hydro-elastic suspension, the Austin Allegro of David Hemstock/Colin Readwin put in the top performance on Reg 4, sharing best time with Holt/Matthews.

HERO Challenge Two 2023
Long time leaders: John King/Henry Carr (Toyota MR2)
Photograph: © Heather Green, Acer Photography

At the lunch halt King/Carr had extended their lead to six seconds. The 2019 Summer Trial winners, Steve Robertson/Thomas Robertson (MG B GT V8) were in second place, while 2019 London-Lisboa victors Stephen Chick/Alexander Chick (Datsun 260Z) were in third. Holt/Matthews were on the same penalty as the Chicks and were in fourth place.

The fifth regularity was the longest of the event at almost 20 miles and contained five timing points. It was to have a critical outcome on the overall results.

King/Carr following the right route, met a number of other competitors, who, incorrectly, had turned around convinced that they had gone wrong; on the narrow lane King/Carr were delayed and were 29 seconds late at the following timing point. Despite this being reduced to 15 seconds, thanks to the Joker, their lead was lost. They fell behind Robertson/Robertson and Chick/Chick.

Chris Chapman/David Broome (BMW 323) had scored highly on the Challenge One and Broome led the Navigators' Table for the Challenge Cup after it. Any hopes of adding to their scores ended when an oil pipe burst on Reg 5 and they were forced to cut to the Finish.

The best performance on the reg was taken by Patrick Walker/Daisy Walker (Alfa Romeo GT Junior), who had been one of the crews who had cleaned Reg 1. Nigel Woof/Sally Woof (Volvo PV544) were one second behind, one of a series of good results, which was rewarded by Sally taking the Clock Watchers Award, for the navigator with the lowest penalties on the six regs, at the Finish.

The fourth and final test of the day was a repeat of Test 1 at Turweston. Once again Holt/Matthews were quickest and, not surprisingly, Holt won the Test Pilot Award for the event.

An eleven mile, four timing point regularity around Whittlewood Forest completed the day's competition. Chick/Chick were best here and closed the gap to Robertson/Robertson by four seconds, but they were still two seconds behind at the Finish, giving the MG pair their second HERO-ERA victory. The unfortunate King/Carr came in six seconds further back in third place.

Thanks to the extra points for the Test Pilot success, James Holt moved to the top of the Drivers' Challenge Cup Table. He was now one point ahead of previous leader Simon Ayris, who'd finished in 20th place and 4th in class on the Challenge Two.

In the Navigators' Table, Harry Baines, who finished in sixth place, with a class win, moved to the top of the chart. David Broome, despite not scoring on Round Two, still held second place.