HERO Challenge Three Rally 2023

October 15, 2023

Back in June I got to cover the launch of their Mustang historic rally car. This week I was really pleased to get the call to travel up to Preston to shoot Historic Endurance Rallying Organisation HERO Challenge Three Rally 2023….

Main Beam…. Ok, now dip them…

An early start for me to head over to HERO-ERA HQ at Bicester Heritage and meet up with Head of Communications, Tony Jardine. Park my car, transfer the camera gear into one of the famous red HERO Support Trucks and we were soon heading North. Destination, Preston and the motorsports section Myerscough College, venue for Scrutineering of the cars competing the final round of the HERO Challenge Championship.

Once the cars were safely through the scrutineer’s checks, it was was time for the crews to get their heads down with the maps. Ahead of them lay over 70 miles of navigational regularity sections and speed tests.

Time to get into those maps…

I come from a rallying family with a background in Special Stage Rallies. So I understand it’s very much a team effort from driver and navigator. In those rallies we navigate along public roads from A to B, arriving at B on time. At B is a special stage along forest tracks or closed roads, where we drive as fast as possible, timed to the second. At the end of B we navigate on to C and again fly through the next special stage as fast as possible. Come the finish the crew with the fastest total time across however many special stages is the winner.

The HERO Challenge Three was an entirely new form of rallying to me. The route is given to the crews in mixture of ‘Tulip’ diagrams & descriptive instructions to look out for. They would then have to navigate each timed section maintaining an average 27mph to arrive on exactly the correct second. Easy!! you may think….but a slight error in navigation or getting stuck behind a farm tractor for 200m before he turns into the farm. Hesitate for even a few seconds at a junction to double check this ‘IS’ the right turn you’re looking for…. Now you’re behind the clock…PENALTY…. go too quickly to make up time….& you’re now in front of the clock… PENALTY.

HERO Challenge 3 Rally 2023.....START
HERO Challenge Three Rally 2023…..START

08:01 the first cars were flagged away from the Start with each car following at 1 minute intervals. The dry 16 degrees weather that had been forecast didn’t arrive. In it’s place the overnight rain creating large puddles in the narrow lanes…. and lower temperatures a blanket of fog across the top of the moors

Healey 3000 splashing through the lanes
Fog on the high ground around Quernmore
Fog on the high ground around Quernmore from Jubilee Tower

It didn’t matter what the weather, the countryside was beautiful. The HERO-ERA rallies go through some stunning scenery….

classic rally car passes sheep by the road
The locals are out spectating on HERO Challenge Three
car in deep countryside valley
Simply stunning views on HERO Challenge Three
Triumph TR4 in a leafy lane on HERO Challenge Three
Mini Cooper in the wild
Volvo Amazon makes its way to next time control
Volvo Amazon makes its way to next time control

The crews however are probably too busy to take it all in. Along the Regularities are time controls, the cars must arrive and stop at on the exact second. These controls are often manned by motor club volunteers and marshals, without whom we would have no rallying!!

MGB GT approaches a time control
MGB GT approaches a time control

Running alongside the technical navigational tests of the regularities, were a couple of Speed Tests. A chance for the quick drivers to stretch their legs and have go at being fastest.

Austin Healey 3000 on HERO Challenge 3
1960 Austin Healey 3000 powers of the line
Chris and Claire Day in their 1968 Mini Cooper S tackles a speed test on HERO Challenge Three
Bron Burrell in her 1969 Austin Maxi
Bron Burrell in her London to Mexico, 1969 Austin Maxi
Chicane enter right….

The crews are all very friendly and the social side of competing on HERO-ERA rallies was very evident to see at the coffee and lunch halts. While some had chance to catch up on the morning’s events, others were busy trying to keep it all going!!

Great community spirit on HERO Challenge 3 rallies
Great community spirit on HERO Challenge rallies
Comparing their adventures at the Coffee Halt

Another difference from special stage rallying is the absence of a team of mechanics waiting in the service areas. On these rallies any spares and tools are carried in the car, with the work carried out by the driver and navigator.

All mucking in together on the HERO Challenge Three Rally
We can fix it…. if we’ve got one we’ll make it fit

On hand to assist when required are the HERO-ERA ‘red trucks’. Manned by a couple of skilled mechanics with assortment of parts to keep a car running. Crews want to beat each other on times, not because you’ve gone out after a 50p jubilee clip came off a hose!!!

HERO-ERA red truck
HERO-ERA red truck
Hi….How’s it going so far?

Lunch Halt…

Rather nice pulled pork rolls despatched it was back to the lanes of the regularity sections. Fantastic bits of road tucked away but found by Clerk of Course, Andy to test our crews once more. This lane was built across peaty ground and though it was perfectly straight…. it had sunk over the years and pitched and rolled the cars around like a rough sea….even at 27mph!!

UNEVEN ROAD…. Ya think!!!

Turning for home and the sun decided to show its face finally. The results of all the rain was still very much on display though. Even the local Mountain Rescue out training couldn’t help themselves when they spotted me with my camera…. and went for it, cos lets face it we all love a good water splash!!!

Mountain Rescue landcover having fun making a splash
Mountain Rescue team having fun making a splash
Triumph TR4 going through the ford on HERO Challenge Three
Ford splashing through a ford

All that remained was one more chance for the crews to wet me and my camera!! Congratulations to Steve and Alex Chick who in winning the rally also secured the HERO Challenge Championship in their Datsun 260Z.

HERO Challenge Champions 2023 Steve and Alex Chick in their Datsun 260Z

So that was it, my first rally for HERO-ERA. I didn’t know what to expect on this type of rally but it was certainly a lot more exciting than it thought it would be. Thanks to Tim for driving me round all day in the track, we had our own rally keeping on route and jumping ahead of the cars. I hope these gave you a taste of the event…. I for one can’t wait to get out on the next one if lucky enough to get the shout again.

By Skelly

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