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Rally For The Ages


3rd June 2023

Rally For The Ages 2023
Car 5: Anna Getley/Louisa Getley (Bentley 3-litre)
Photograph: HERO-ERA

Organiser: HERO-ERA

Date: 3rd June 2023

Clerk of the Course: Guy Woodcock

Route: 120 Miles, 4 Tests & 4 Regularities

Base: Bicester

Starters: 89

The Rally For The Ages was a concept developed to encourage younger competitors into the sport of classic car rallying. Any crews whose combined age was less than 70 would have their entry fee returned. In addition, there were awards aimed at youthful entrants.

The novice level event was based at the HERO-ERA HQ at Bicester Heritage, with a route consisting of four tests and four regularities, the latter in the lanes of Oxfordshire and Northamptonshire.

Supporting the concept, Motorsport UK issued wavers so that crews could compete in cars produced after 1991; vehicles which are normally excluded from classic events. These cars wouldn't be eligible for overall awards.

The response to the Rally For The Ages initiative was so great that the maximum entry had to be raised twice, and still the final 90 starting places were oversubscribed.

Additionally, to highlight the drive for sustainability within the sport, Coryton Biofuels, provided each competing car with a tankful of their Sustain fuel manufactured from agricultural waste.

With over half the field new to regularity rallying, there was morning training session before the competition began.

After the start, two tests were tackled; these were at the Bicester Aerodrome and were scored on a class improvement system, where the fastest in a class received zero penalties, while others in the class were penalised the number of seconds that they were slower than the fastest.

Three cars managed to take fastest class time on both tests and therefore embarked on the regularity sections with zero penalties; these were Oliver Gatland-Pendleton/Philippa Keir (Jaguar E-Type), Federico Gottsche Bebert/Virginia Sodi (AC 16/80 March Special) and Freddie Evans/Poppy Ralph (BMW 325i).

The first road section started at Bucknell Lodge and snaked its way generally northwards to finish at Croughton. A number of crews were misled by a Landmark/Information note at Stoke Lyne which said "Road on left"; this was just for information, but a number of cars took the road and became lost. Fortunately for them, the maximum penalty at any timing point was capped at a minute, and this limited their losses.

Christian von Sanden/Maximillian von Sanden (Porsche 356) put in the best performance on this section, dropping just a second. However, it was Jon Harvey/Jack Harvey (VW Golf) who took the lead, hiving dropped three seconds on the regularity.

In second place were Jonathan Sheppard/Imogen Sheppard (BMW 325i); they were four seconds off the lead, while Tim Sawyer/Isobel Holman (Ford Escort Mexico) were in third two seconds further back.

It was on this section that the Triumph Stag of Jack Havard Taylor/Freddy Fontannaz came to a halt with overheating problems. They were forced to retire.

The route skirted past Banbury as it headed to the second regularity; this started in the Lower Boddington and Upper Boddington area and finished just short of the mid-point coffee halt at Hellidon.

Harvey/Harvey extended their lead to six seconds as they hit both timing points exactly on time and therefore didn't add to their total. Sheppard/Sheppard remained in second place, having dropped two second. Piers Barclay/Beatrice Barclay (Alfa Romeo GTV) moved into third place, one second ahead of Sawyer/Holman.

At the halt Gottsche Bebert/Sodi were forced to retire as a water pump failed on their AC 16/80 March Special.

After the Hellidon break, the route headed back South to Bicester, via two regularities. Competition ended with two more tests at the aerodrome.

Harvey/Harvey pulled away from the field as they put in the best performance over Regularity Three, which ran from Newnham to Woodford Halse. They now held a lead of 13 seconds, having dropped just six seconds themselves.

However, their advantage was cut to just four seconds as Sheppard/Sheppard were best on the final regularity to close the gap drastically.

The two battling crews both end the third test four second behind the fastest in their respective classes, but the matter was decided on the final test, where Harvey/Harvey picked up a penalty of five seconds, while Sheppard/Sheppard dropped nine. The VW Golf pairing them came home to secure the win.

During the afternoon von Sanden/von Sanden moved steadily up the leader board and finished in third place. This meant that all three of the leading navigators were aged under 18 - clearly the event had fulfilled its aim.