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Summer Trial


21st-23rd July 2023

HERO Summer Trial 2023
Winners: Paul OKane/Iain Tullie (Porsche Carrera)
Photograph: HERO-ERA/Will Broadbent

Organiser: HERO-ERA

Date: 21st-23rd July 2023

Clerk of the Course: Seren Whyte

Deputy Clerk of the Course: Guy Woodcock

Route: 343 Miles, 13 Regularities & 6 Tests

Base: Grantham

Starters: 74

For the second year in succession Grantham was the base for HERO-ERA's Summer Trial. The 74 crews who took the start faced a 343 mile route, which included 13 regularities and 6 tests. The event started at 14:00 on Friday and finished at 12:00 on Sunday.

The Trial is designed to give crews, who may have sampled one day Challenge format events, an introduction to multi-day events. Master crews could compete but weren't eligible for overall awards. In fact, just one Masters crew started, this was the Porsche 356B of Stephen Owens/Nick Bloxham. Unfortunately, they were to have a short rally as their car succumbed to transmission problems halfway through the first afternoon.

The Summer Trial was run for a large part in traditional British Summer conditions - heavy rain, with short sunny intervals. The downpours made life difficult for both competitors and marshals, however it did reduce the number of cyclists, horse riders and tractors that could get in the way of the competition.

From the start at the Belton Woods Spa Resort, it was under six miles to the first test of the event; this was at the Ancaster Kart Track, just beside Barkston Heath Air Base. Following a number of heavy showers, the circuit was very slippery.

Fastest time here was shared by the Lotus Cortina of Chris Howell/Robert Ellis and Paul OKane/Iain Tullie who were debuting Paul's new and very orange Porsche Carrera. These two cars were three seconds faster than the Volvo Amazon of Pete Johnson/Jo Johnson.

The opening regularity used Jogularity navigation and started at Leadenham, it was 15 miles long and contained three timing points. It finished at Ashby Lodge. Dick Baines/Harry Baines, who had been fourth fastest on the opening test, cleaned the regularity. This performance was matched by Bron Burrell/Suzanne Barker (Austin Maxi).

Having been quickest in their class on the test, Baines/Baines now held the lead, having dropped no time at all up to this point. They maintained the position on Regularity 2, dropping just one second, over sixteen miles on the section that ran between Coleby and Beckingham.

Mike Dixon/Liz Dixon (MG B GT) also picked up a single second in this reg. This was part of a consistent performance that put them in fifth position at the end of the day.

The second test of the event was at the Fulbeck Kart Circuit, where traction was at a premium. Baines/Baines had trouble keeping their Mini heading the correct direction and were only fourth fastest in their class, therefore picking up a penalty of five seconds.

Fastest, by five seconds, were OKane/Tullie; this put them into a lead that they weren't to lose. David Ward/Sally Ward threw their Lancia Fulvia 1600HF around with gay abandon to record the second fastest time.

The third and final reg of the day started at the circuit exit and finished, after ten miles, Long Bennington. Richard Worts/Nicola Shackelton (MG C GT) zeroed the section and this put them in tenth place at the day end.

Competitors arrived back at Belton Woods Hotel with OKane/Tullie holding a slim lead of two seconds over Ward/Ward. Baines/Baines were in third, taking the place on a tie breaker from Nick Maris/Ian Canavan (Datsun 240Z); Mayris contesting his first event since the 2022 London-Lisboa, where he had finished second to the Baines Mini.

HERO Summer Trial 2023
2nd Placed: Nick Maris/Ian Canavan (Datsun 240Z)
Photograph: HERO-ERA/Will Broadbent

While Friday had been a series of heavy showers, interspersed by light drizzle, Saturday provided consistently heavy rain.

The opening regularity ran just south of the Test 1/1 venue, taking crews from Welby to Swarby, via an 11 mile circuitous route. It didn't task most of the competitors greatly, with 28 crews dropping less than six seconds over the three timing points.

In the battle for the lead, Baines/Baines did best, they added just one second and were now on the same total as Ward/Ward.

There was a reversal in fortunes at the following test, which was at Tattershall. Once again Baines/Baines struggled to get their Mini heading in the correct direction. They were third fastest in their class and therefore added four seconds to their penalties, this dropped them behind both Ward/Ward and Maris/Canavan in the overall standings.

OKane/Tullie shared fastest time with Pete Johnson/Jo Johnson and maintained their lead at three seconds.

After a coffee break at Woodhall Spa, Regularity 2/2, which started at Wood Enderby, was tackled. It finished ten miles and three timing points later at Winceby.

Maris/Canavan cleaned this and this moved them level with Ward/Ward, while OKane/Tullie extended their lead to four seconds, having dropped a single second on the reg. Baines/Baines continued their bad patch and added seven seconds to their total.

Another regularity followed; it snaked its way from Tetford to Claythorpe and had three timing points. It had little effect on the lead battle, although Maris/Canavan did sneak a second ahead of Ward/Ward.

Two tests at Stubby Airfield completed the competition for the morning. The first was a Jacob's Ladder test, where crews could decide their own route around two rows of cones, each row contained five cones. To complete a correct test a car had to cross an imaginary line that ran between each cone, although each line should only be crossed once.

The bogey for the test was 20 seconds and, in a magnificent drive, Chris Day/Claire Day (Mini Cooper S) beat it by one second. Impressively Archie Holt/James Holt (BMW 325i), who had swapped their usual seats for the Summer Trial, matched the bogey in their large car. Baines/Baines were third fastest on the test, which was scored on scratch time, rather than by class improvement.

The second test at Stubby was more conventional; Ward/Ward shared fastest time here with OKane/Tullie.

HERO Summer Trial 2023
3rd Placed: Dick Baines/Harry Baines (Mini Cooper S)
Photograph: HERO-ERA/Will Broadbent

The lunch halt was taken at Little Cawthorpe. At this point OKane/Tullie held a lead of seven seconds over Ward/Ward, while Baines/Baines were six seconds further back in third, but had Maris/Canavan only a second behind.

Holt/Holt were in fifth, winning a tie break with the MG B GT of Dixon/Dixon. Johnson/Johnson were in seventh with total penalties of exactly a minute.

The mechanics were kept busy here with many cars encountering wiper problems, as they fought of the rain. Owen Tyson/Jill Tyson (Mini Cooper S) were forced to stop with total wiper failure on the regularity after lunch, and, with additional fuel feed problems, cut the remainder of the day.

Regularity 2/4 started near Louth and ran to West Ashby; navigation was by a speed table. There were three timing points and the second of these, sited on a triangle, caused issues for a number of crews. Most notably, second placed Ward/Ward missed it completely and incurred a two and a half minute penalty for so doing; this put them out of contention as they dropped to 33rd position.

Suzanne Barker, navigating for Bron Burrell, had held the lead in the Clockwatchers competition up to this point, but 15 seconds lost here knocked off the top spot. The Clockwatchers Award is given at the end of the event to the navigator with the lowest penalties on all regularities. On the Summer Trial, Master navigators, which included Tullie and Canavan, weren't eligible for the award.

The Joker system was being used on the event; this reduced the largest lateness penalty during the event at a timing point to 15 seconds. A large number of Jokers were used at the tricky timing point. These included one for Holt/Holt who were 18 seconds late finding the correct route.

Baines/Baines and OKane/Tullie shared the best performance over the section, along with Mark Liington/Jon Harvey, this put Harvey at the top of the Clockwatchers table.

Two more regularities and another test at Tattershall completed the day. The latter test saw Michael Moss/Barnard Northmore wallop the tyre barrier with their VW Golf GTi, but they continued with unabated speed.

By the time that the cars arrived back at Grantham, OKane/Tullie had extended their lead to 14 seconds. Maris/Canavan held second place, three seconds ahead of Baines/Baines.

Dixon/Dixon were now 30 seconds behind the leaders in fourth place, while Johnson/Johnson were six seconds further back in fifth.

Seventy-two cars made it back to Belton Wood Spa; Nigel Grice/Peter Stratford had been forced to retire their glorious Aston Martin DB2/4 during the day.

HERO Summer Trial 2023
Concourse d'Elegance: Edward Vandyk/Henry Vandyk (Alpine A110)
Photograph: HERO-ERA/Will Broadbent

The weather had improved for the final day, with scattered showers sporadically appearing. The first cars left the start at 08:00 to tackle four regularities. Two five timing point regs booked ended two two timing point regs during the morning as the route headed south to Stamford and back.

Baines/Baines took time off Maris/Canavan on Reg 3/1 and moved passed them to hold second place by one second. OKane/Tullie were one of three crews to share the best performance here; the others being Nigel Woof/Sally Woof (Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint) and Nick Timpson/Ed Spencer (Peugeot 205 XS).

A Secret Check at the end of the reg caught out three crews, who failed to follow the correct route and therefore missed the control. These included Holt/Holt, who dropped out of the top ten as a result.

Neil Lawson-May/Neil Cosburn retired their Lancia Fulvia at this point with a failed engine.

Baines/Baines and Maris/Canavan were back on level terms after the next regularity, but the Mini crew pulled back ahead as the cleaned the penultimate reg; they were now two seconds ahead of the Datsun.

The final regularity was 18 miles long; it started at Grimsthorpe and finished near Old Somerby.

OKane/Tullie picked up a total of five seconds at the five timing points and came home to give the driver his maiden rally win. Their margin of victory at the Finish was 18 seconds. OKane also took the Test Pilot Award for the best total times on the six tests, he had been 14 seconds faster than David Ward.

Maris/Canavan dropped five seconds on the reg and this allowed them to overtake Baines/Baines once again to secure the runner up spot. The Mini crew had added ten seconds to their total over the final section. Harry Baines however still took the Clockwatchers Award.

Just five seconds covered the three crews fighting for fourth place at the Finish and it was Johnson/Johnson who took the place, finishing three seconds ahead of Les McGuffog/Henry Carr (Austin Healey 3000), with Dixon/Dixon falling to sixth.