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A Novice Trial


26th March 2023

A Novice Trial 2023
Winners: Charles Eve/Alistair Leckie (Rover 216)
Photograph: HERO/ERA

Organiser: HERO-ERA

Date: 26th March 2023

Clerk of the Course: Seren Whyte

Route: 120 Miles, 4 Tests & 4 Regularities

Base: Bicester

Starters: 36

HERO-ERA ran its Novice Trial for the fifth time, with class based training at its Bicester Heritage HQ and a full test/regularity rally on the third day. Thirty-six crews, almost all new to the sport, started the Sunday competition.

After the full day of practice, the organisers had laid out a mini-rally of four tests and four regularities as a competition debut for the students.

The arrival of British Summer Time hadn't helped the weather and crews were greeted by persistent rain and a cold wind as they lined up for the two tests at Bicester Airfield that opened proceedings.

The glorious Lancia Fulvia Montecarlo of Francesco Valmarana/Beatrice Valmarana was fastest on both of the tests. As usual on HERO-ERA events, the tests were scored on a class improvement basis, with the fastest in each class taking zero penalties, the second in a class, 2 seconds and so on. Valmarana/ Valmarana were the only crew to be fastest in class on both tests, so took a perfect score into the first regularity.

Ben Sanderson/Alex Sanderson (Triumph GT6) were quickest in Class 2 on Test 1, but got the route wrong on Test 2 and added 30 seconds to their total. The same penalty was given to Paul Latimer/Alastair Harrison (MG B Roadster) who missed to record the code board on Test 1, however they recovered to be fastest in Class 2 by 11 seconds on Test 2.

In Class 1, Jonathan Martin/Evan Martin (Austin Healey 3000) were fastest on Test 1 and second fastest on Test 2, while Philipp Leibundgut/Alexander Leibundgut (Triumph TR4A) were second on Test 1 and quickest on Test 2.

Nicholas Haycock/Paul Heaven had been fourth quickest in Class 1 on Test 1, but became the only retirement of the event when a core plug failed on their MG A on the road section to the first regularity.

Regularity One had four timing points and, it started at Middleton Stoney and finished near Croughton. Paul Hughes/Hannah Jenkins (BMW 320), who had completed the 2022 Novice Trial, dropped just four seconds on this section. Two seconds behind them were the father-and-son team of Paul Nichols/George Nichols (MG B); George having celebrated his fourteenth birthday the previous day.

A number of crews lost time at the third timing point as they were distracted by temporary traffic lights, which were just beyond a turning that they should have taken.

One of the crews who suffered here was Tom Glover/Harry Glover (Rover Mini), but they rebounded by cleaning Regularity Two, which used tulip diagrams and speed tables as navigation.

A coffee break at Hellidon allowed competitors to rest and share experiences. Leaders at this point were Charles Eve/Alistair Leckie (Rover 216). The driver had been due to compete with his brother, but his brother wasn't available on the day, so Leckie, who'd won the Novice Trial as a driver in 2021, stepped in as he was planning to navigate on a number of events on 2023.

The Rover pairing were six seconds ahead of Hughes/Jenkins, while Nichols/Nichols were three seconds further back. Unfortunately, it was to go wrong for the latter crew as they missed two controls in the second half and they finished in 31st place.

A Novice Trial 2023
Second Placed: Paul Hughes/Hannah Jenkins (BMW 320)
Photograph: HERO/ERA

Regularity Three was a Jogularity section, from Newnham to Woodford; it saw Eve/Leckie extend their lead as they put in the best performance over the section; they were now 18 seconds ahead of Hughes/Jenkins. Another young navigator, 16 year old Nils Geigy, guided his father Nicolas, in their Austin Healey Sprite, to an eight second total on the reg, the second best performance.

The final regularity, used a speed table and had two timing points. It ran from Weston, via Helmdon, to Syresham. Tom Ebdon/Andy Ebdon (MG A Coupe) cleaned it, this helped them up to fourth place at the Finish and also the Class 1 win.

Once again, Valmarana/ Valmarana took fastest time on Test 3, but were beaten for the first time on Test 4, where they were pushed into second place by Latimer. Harrison. This time helped push the latter pair into the top ten at the end of the day. It was no surprise to find that Francesco Valmarana won the Test Pilot Award for the total times over the four tests.

In the battle for the lead, on Regularity Four Hughes/Jenkins narrowed the gap to the Eve/Leckie, but by only four seconds. On the final two tests the BMW pair added 13 seconds to their total, while Eve/Leckie were on seven seconds. This meant that they came home with a victory margin of 20 seconds. Leckie also secured the Clockwatchers Award for the best performance over the event's regularity sections.

The father and son team of Jonathan Martin/Evan Martin finished in third, just one second off the runner up spot.