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A Novice Trial


10th March 2024

A Novice Trial 2024
Winners: Christopher Day/Claire Day (Mini Cooper S)
Photograph: © HERO-ERA/Will Broadbent

Organiser: HERO-ERA

Date: 10th March 2024

Clerk of the Course: Andy Pullan

Route: 120 Miles - 4 tests, 4 regularities

Base: Bicester Heritage

Starters: 54

HERO-ERA attracted a record 54 entries for the training weekend at their Bicester headquarters, which culminated with the Novice Trial rally on Sunday.

After an introduction to the format and registration on Friday evening, Saturday was a full day of tutoring, which covered the intricacies of competing on regularity events. This included untimed practical exercises on the public highway and two timed walking sessions, one a test and one a regularity, both completed on foot. Charles Eve/Andrew Eve 'won' these competitions, beating Mark Shipman/Mike Tarr on a tiebreak.

While the weather had been clement for the training sessions, Sunday dawned with a steady drizzle; it was to be a wet day.

The 2024 Novice Trial consisted of the same format as previous editions; proceedings opened with two tests at Bicester Aerodrome, there were then four regularity sections on public roads, with a coffee break in the middle; the rally finished with two further tests at Bicester.

On the opening tests three crews showed an aggression that was reflected in the times set; Chris Elkins/George Elkins (Peugeot 205 GTi) were quickest, with Christopher Day/Claire Day (Mini Coper S) two seconds behind and Simon Lambert/Carrie Weinert (Lancia Delta Integrale) five seconds off fastest.

These three crews were also the quickest on Test 2, but this time the order was Lambert/Weinert, Elkins/Elkins and Day/Day.

However, the tests, as usual, were scored on the class improvement system, with the fastest in each class getting zero penalties. There were four crews who were fastest in their class on both tests and therefore left the aerodrome with zero penalties. These crews were Day/Day, Paul Wells/Phil Wells (MG B Roadster), Andrew Dent/Michael Dent (BMW E12 M535i) and Mike Dreelan/Aoife Dreelan (Bugatti Type 37).

The first regularity, which was defined by a descriptive table, started at Shipton Lee and ran for 13 miles through North Marston, Granborough and Botolph Claydon before finishing at Addington Manor. There were three timing points.

Dent/Dent and Mark Shipman/Mike Tarr (Sunbeam Tiger) shared the best performance over the section, dropping just four seconds. This gave Dent/Dent the lead, but by just one second from Day/Day, who had added five to their total over the reg.

A Novice Trial 2024
Second Placed: Andrew Dent/Michael Dent (BMW E12 M535i)
Photograph: © HERO-ERA/Will Broadbent

A speed table was used to define Regularity Two. It ran for twelve miles from near Thornborough to Paulerspury. It was very much to the liking of Michael Rodel/Nic Collins (Mercedes W115 230.4), who hit all three timing points exactly on time, and moved up to seventh place overall as a result.

Elkins/Elkins had dropped five seconds over the reg and this was enough to put them in first place at the coffee halt, which was taken at Whittlebury Hall Hotel, next door to Silverstone Circuit.

The father and son Peugeot pairing were tied on total penalties with Day/Day, but won the top spot due to the tiebreaker, which on HERO-ERA events is decided on the smallest penalty at the first regularity timing point.

The leading two crews were two seconds ahead of Dent/Dent, who, in turn, were six seconds ahead of the rest of the field.

The first retirement of the event occurred just before the break when the suspension broke on the Morgan Plus4 of Ross Hedigan/Ocean Schwartz; they had been in nineteenth position overall and third in Class 4 prior to their withdrawal.

Competition restarted besides Bucknell Woods, just north of Silverstone Village and went via Bradden, Blakeskey, Weston and Helmdon, before finishing at Syresham. Navigation was by a map and a speed table. There were four timing points.

It proved to be a disaster for the erstwhile leaders, Elkins/Elkins were 56 seconds late at the second timing point and then picked up the maximum one minute penalty at the two remaining controls. They fell out of the top 20 as a result.

Martin Andrew/Michelle Andrew (Volvo PV544) put in the best performance, but Day/Day were just three seconds behind and took a clear lead for the fist time; they were now 13 seconds ahead of Dent/Dent. There was a tight battle for third place with Charles Eve/Andrew Eve (Alfa Romeo 1750 GTV) now leading Rodel/Collins by two seconds.

A Novice Trial 2024
Third Placed: Charles Eve/Andrew Eve (Alfa Romeo 1750 GTV)
Photograph: © HERO-ERA/Will Broadbent

The final regularity used the lanes directly north of Bicester, bounded by the A34, M40, A4421 and A421. It was a Jogularity section with three timing points.

Elkins/Elkins put in the best performance here, and with two top times on the last two tests, they moved back up to 16th place overall at the end, with Chris Elkins taking the Test Pilot Award for the fastest total time over the four tests.

Eve/Eve shared the second best performance on the reg with Shipman/Tarr, this pulled the Alfa pairing to a clear third place, they were now eight seconds ahead of Rodel/Collins. Day/Day were fourth best and had a lead of 23 seconds over Dent/Dent at this point.

Both of the top two crews were fastest in their respective classes on the last two tests and so that difference was the final victory margin for Day/Day. A week before the event, the pair had been unsure that they would be able to compete as they awaited a new engine for their Mini. The installation of the power unit was only completed on Thursday night.

As well as the overall win, Claire Day won the Clockwatchers Award for picking up the lowest total penalty on the four regularities.

Rodel/Collins closed the gap to Eve/Eve slightly on the tests, but the 2023 winning driver, teamed with his brother in 2024, claimed the final podium place. Rodel/Collins did however take the Class 5 win.

Mike Dreelan/Aoife Dreelan overcame the constant rain in their open top Bugatti, plus a failed Monit tripmeter, to claim the Class 1 win. Michael Bailey/Karol Bailey (Ford Model A) had led the category until the final two tests, where they collected maximums at both.

Clear winners in Class 2 were Tom Ebdon/Andy Ebdon (MG A Coupe), while Bob Rutherford Scholarship winner Danielle Pool, navigated her father, Darren, to sixth place overall and first place in Class 3.

Shipman/Tarr were victors in Class 4, while Lambert/Weinert finished in seventh and won Class 6 in their Intergrale.

Fifty-two of the 54 starters made it to the Finish back at HERO-ERA's headquarters.

A Novice Trial 2024
Class 1 Winners: Mike Dreelan/Aoife Dreelan (Bugatti Type 37)
Photograph: © HERO-ERA/Will Broadbent