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HERO Challenge One


23rd March 2024

HERO Challenge One 2024
Winners: Paul Bloxidge/James Bloxidge (VW Golf GTi)
Photograph: © HERO-ERA/Will Broadbent

Organiser: HERO-ERA

Date: 23rd March 2024

Clerk of the Course: Nick Reeves

Route: 150 Miles - 6 tests, 6 regularities

Base: Exeter Racecourse

Starters: 66

The three event HERO Challenge Championship started with a round based at Exeter Racecourse. The one day rally attracted 66 starters for a contest that included six tests and six regularities.

Proceedings opened with two tests at the racecourse. The second one taking crews around the perimeter road of the track.

The father and son team of Paul Bloxidge/James Bloxidge (VW Golf GTi) were fastest on Test 1 and were one of four crews to beat the bogey on Test 2. They were the only pairing to be quickest in their class on both tests and this meant, that with class improvement scoring being used, they left the start venue with zero penalties and the lead.

Test 1 was, for the most part, a slalom around-the-cones affair and a dozen crews got wrong tests for taking the incorrect route through a series of cones; notably these included Dave Alcock/Danielle Pool (Datsun 280Z), who, without the error, would have taken the Test Pilot Award by a significant margin.

The VW Golf of David Roberts/Melanie Roberts were an early faller; the car mysteriously lost power during Test 2. They cut route to the lunch halt, where the mechanics diagnosed an ignition problem and fixed it. The Golf then completed the remainder of the event.

Regularity 1 started at Bickington and ran on to Dartmoor to finish at Postbridge. There were four timing points, it was a Jogularity section. There were numerous reports of cars, despite the cold and wet weather, being delayed by, mainly farm, traffic. Fortunately, the Joker system was being used, this reduced a crew's largest lateness penalty on a reg to 15 seconds.

Toby Strauss/Josh Strauss (Saab 96 v4) put in the best performance on Reg 1, adding just a single second to their total, pushing them up to sixth place overall. Bloxidge/Bloxidge were in a group of three who dropped four seconds, this allowed the pair to extend their lead to eight seconds. Nine crews were all within three seconds of each other in the battle for second place.

One of many cars delayed by traffic was the MG B Roadster of Simon Ayris/Matt Outhwaite, they were held up for over a minute near East Shallowford, this triggered their joker, but, in the close battle, the 15 second penalty kept them out of the top ten at that point.

HERO Challenge One 2024
Second Placed: Simon Ayris/Matt Outhwaite (MG B Roadster)
Photograph: © HERO-ERA/Will Broadbent

A short neutral section took the route through Postbridge before the second regularity began besides Soussons Down. It was fifteen miles in length with four timing point, the last of which was a deceptive one on a triangle, with the marshals heavily camouflaged. This was near to Whiddon Down.

Bloxidge/Bloxidge put in the best performance on this section and arrived at the Okehampton coffee halt with a lead of 13 seconds. Their nearest pursuers were Ken Binstead/Sarah Binstead (Austin Healey 3000), who had been third best over the reg.

Ayris/Outhwaite had put in the second best performance on the reg, just a second behind the leaders and this allowed them to move up to fifth place overall. Experienced driver, Tim Sawyer, was taking on his first rally as a navigator, he was guiding Steve Farmer in a Volvo Amazon, and, despite losing some time finding the tricky Reg 2 control, was now in third place.

Another experienced driver, Angus McQueen, was experiencing the left hand seat for the first time, with his long time navigator, Mike Cochrane, driving their Ford Cortina. They had been in fifth position after Reg 1, but fell down the order after being a minute early at the third timing point on Reg 2.

The route moved towards Cornwall on the third regularity, another fifteen mile section with four timing points. It started at Lydford and ran, in a linear route, to end near Horsebridge.

By their high standards, Bloxidge/Bloxidge had a poor run here, picking up a total of 15 seconds in penalties. In contrast, Binstead/Binstead put in the second best performance and closed to within six seconds of the leaders.

Steve Robertson/Julia Robertson (Triumph TR3) were now tied with Farmer/Sawyer for third place, but had Ayris/Outhwaite only a second behind.

Richard Stainer/Rob Smith (Volvo P1800E) were best on the reg, but had lost a minute finding the 'hidden' timing point on Reg 2. They later missed a Route Check in the afternoon and could only finish in 28th position at the Finish.

The event ventured into Cornwall for Test 3; this was at Werrington Park, just north of Launceston. Once again, Bloxidge/Bloxidge slipped up, they hit a cone and added ten seconds to their test time. This meant that they were only eighth in their class and added nine seconds to their total.

Binstead/Binstead were second quickest in their class, behind Farmer/Sawyer, which put them into a one second lead as crews headed for the lunch halt.

Ayris/Outhwaite were one of four crews to beat the bogey on the test, but with Farmer/Sawyer and Robertson/Robertson being quickest in their respective classes, the fight for third remained the same as before the test, the three crews were still separated by a second.

Lunch was taken at the Roadford Lake, with competitors being treated to a Cornish pasty meal. Sixty-five cars made it to the halt, the exception was the Porsche 944 of Carrie Northmore/Bernard Northmore which had retired on the first regularity.

HERO Challenge One 2024
Third Placed: Steve Farmer/Tim Sawyer (Volvo Amazon 123GT)
Photograph: © HERO-ERA/Will Broadbent

The fourth regularity had an allocated start, with competitors having their start time determined as five minutes after they checked out of the Lunch TC. The section went from Roadford Lake to Inwardleigh, with four timing points within the sixteen miles.

The best on this section were John Evans/Freddie Evans (BMW 325i), who were to go on to take the top award in Class 7. Bloxidge/Bloxidge got their campaign back on track by being second best, two seconds better than Binstead/Binstead, which put the VW pair back into the lead.

Farmer/Sawyer matched the leaders' score and were now in a clear third place, with Ayris/Outhwaite four seconds behind.

Regularity Five started south of North Tawton. Navigation, on this eleven mile section, was via a map. The format suited David Creech/Christopher Wilks (Volvo Amazon), who were four seconds better than any other crew through the three timing points.

Bloxidge/Bloxidge, once again, were second best and extended their lead to 12 seconds as Binstead/Binstead had a disaster, they were held up by a horsebox and had to play their joker; they fell to fourth place. To add to the shake up of the leader board, Ayris/Outhwaite passed Farmer/Sawyer for, what was now, second place.

The route moved back to the environs of Exeter with Test 4 at Bowhay Farm, just outside Shilling St George. Dave Alcock/Danielle Pool were quickest, three seconds faster than any other crew, on their way the Class 6 win. This was the second event that Pool had contested as part of her prize in winning the Bob Rutherford Scholarship Award.

Critically, Patrick Walker, who had been heading for the Test Pilot Award, picked up a cone penalty on the test, this dropped him behind Simon Ayris in the final scramble for the Award; Walker ended up two seconds in arrears of Ayris - the penalty for hitting a cone was ten seconds.

The final regularity started within sight of the Test 4 Finish and ran down into Haldon Forest. There were three timing points in the intricate six mile section. Alcock/Pool continued their strong finish to the event by being joint best on the section. The regularity made little difference to the top three places, as all three crews picked up total penalties of ten seconds for the section.

All that remained were two more tests at Exeter Racecourse; the first being a reverse run around the perimeter track. Fourteen cars either beat or matched the bogey on Test 5, these included Bloxidge/Bloxidge and Ayris/Outhwaite, but Farmer/Sawyer were one second over bogey; they were second fastest in their class, so added two seconds to their total.

Alcock/Pool were fastest again on Test 6, just one second ahead of Peter Myles/Louise Myles (Porsche 911); this helped Myles to finish in third place in the Test Pilot table. The Porsche was in the same class as Bloxidge/Bloxidge, meaning that the latter crew added two seconds to their total. They had matched the test time of Ayris/Outhwaite, but the MG Roadster was fastest in their class and so added nothing to their overall score.

However, Bloxidge/Bloxidge had sufficient cushion to come home with a ten second victory margin over Ayris/Outhwaite, while Farmer/Sawyer, amazed at their own performance, finished in third, nine seconds further back. Binstead/Binstead finished a disappointed fourth, 23 seconds being the winners.

As well as winning, James Bloxidge also secured the Clockwatchers Award for the least penalties dropped over the six regularities and took the maximum points in the HERO Challenge. Simon Ayris was the top scoring driver in the series, as Paul Bloxidge, being a Master, wasn't eligible for points.

HERO Challenge One 2024
Class 6 Winners: Dave Alcock/Danielle Pool (Datsun 280Z)
Photograph: © HERO-ERA/Will Broadbent