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Per Ardua Ad Infinitum

Historic Endurance Rallying Organisation

19th December 2020

Winners Photo
Winners: Paul Crosby/Andy Pullan (Porsche 911)
Photograph: HERO/ERA

Organiser: Historic Endurance Rallying Organisation

Date: 19th December 2020

Clerk of the Course: Guy Woodcock

Route: 3 Regularities, 11 Tests

Base: Bicester

Starters: 68

HERO had continued in their efforts to run their annual Rally of the Tests up until the last moment, then, with only a few days to go, tightening CoVid restrictions forced them to postpone the event. In addition, it was clear from an early stage that the Le Jog was unlikely to take place as Welsh and Scottish rules made it impossible to run through the devolved areas.

The two events were replaced by a single day competition based at the Bicester Heritage Centre. Like the two events that it replaced, the Per Ardua Ad Infinitum would be a red category competition, designed to test the experts.

Forty-eight hours before the event the organisers were thrown a further curved ball, when it was announced that Buckinghamshire was being moved into Tier 3 of CoVid restrictions from Saturday, the day of the competition. This meant that the rally couldn’t enter the county; two tests, plus a regularity were lost.

Buckinghamshire wasn’t alone in moving to Tier 3, many parts of southern England were also affected. A ban on travelling from these areas meant that many entrants would be unable to attend. This saw the original entry of 94 competitors shrink, but still 68 cars took the start on Saturday morning.

To reflect that the Per Ardua would be a replacement for the Rally of the Tests, the test penalty scheme of that event was used - class improvement penalties were more severely graded than on standard HERO events. In addition, any test fault, such as cone faults, would be added on after, rather than before, the class improvement score had been calculated.

Competition opened with six tests which utilised the perimeter tracks of Bicester Aerodrome. After this opening skirmish, four crews shared the lead, all having been fastest in their class on every one of the tests. The crews were Dan Willan/Niall Frost (Volvo Amazon), Darell Staniforth/Nicky Staniforth (Cooper S), Darren Everitt/Susan Dixon (Triumph 2000) and Paul Crosby/Andy Pullan (Porsche 911). The latter navigator struggling having suffered from a stomach bug overnight.

An early casualty was the Volvo Amazon of James O’Mahoney/Frank Hussey; the car suffered a broken propshaft on the first test.

Crews left the Aerodrome to tackle an eight mile regularity to the north of Bicester; there were just two timing points, the section having had to be shortened as the original route finished just over the Buckinghamshire border.

The father and daughter team of Darell Staniforth/Nicky Staniforth emerged as leaders, having dropped just one second. Dan Willan/Niall Frost and Paul Crosby/Andy Pullan were one second further back, with the former crew holding second place as they had the smaller penalty at the first timing point. Owen Turner/Andy Ballantyne had moved into fourth place; they were on six seconds.

HERO Challenge Three winners, Elliot Dale/Charlotte Ryall (Bentley Derby Sport), had been fastest in Class 1, the class for pre-war cars, on five of the six opening tests; this had put them in fifth position overall before Regularity 1. However, they were 31 seconds late to arrive at the second timing point of the reg and this dropped them to 18th place. The class was now led by John Lomas/Pete Johnson (Riley Sprite).

Competitors now returned to Bicester for another five tests. Darell Staniforth/Nicky Staniforth took fastest time in their class on all of the tests; their total stayed at one second and they retained their lead. Paul Crosby/Andy Pullan were class winners on four of the tests, but were beaten by Tomas de Vargas Machuca/Nick Bloxham (Porsche 911} on Test 10, adding three seconds to their total and putting them four seconds off the lead.

Dan Willan/Niall Frost took five fastest class times, but clipped a cone on Test 9, this added 10 seconds to their total. They now lay third, just one second ahead of Dave ‘Squeaky’ Alcock/Baz Green (Porsche 924). Alcock, usually a member of the mechanic team on HERO events, was making a sensational historic rally debut in his newly built Porsche.

Sadly, Test 7 saw the demise of the oldest car in the event, the glorious 1910 Overland Type 38 of Harry Fraser/Mark Elder.

After a lunchbreak, Regularity 2 started near Blenheim Palace and finished, 13 miles later, to the south of Upper Heyford Airfield. There were five timing point. It was to be the decisive section of the event. Dick Appleton/Mark Appleton (Mini Cooper S) put in the best performance, dropping 13 seconds, four seconds better than anyone else, and moved up to twelfth place.

Crosby/Pullan took the lead after dropping 21 seconds on the section, the fourth best performance. In contrast Staniforth/Staniforth added 45 seconds to their total, largely thanks to being 26 seconds early at the third timing point. They were now in second place, 20 seconds off first place. Willan/Frost were tied with Alcock/Green for third place.

Interestingly, at this point the top nine places were held by representative from nine different classes and there were just nine classes in the event.

The finale of the event was a regularity that used two laps of the wet and slippery Bicester Aerodrome perimeter road. Crosby/Pullan consolidated their lead by picking up the least penalties of any crew on the section; they finished 41 seconds ahead of Staniforth/Staniforth.

The battle for third place was decided when Willan/Frost were forced out when the steering on the Volvo broke around a third of the way through the section. This left Alcock/Green in a clear third place, giving the driver his first ever podium finish.

Fourth place had to be decided on a tie break as Simon Mellings/Henry Carr and Colin Martin/Anji Martin finished on the same penalties, the decision going to the former crew. Appleton/Appleton continued their strong run in the event’s second half by taking the second best performance on the final regularity and moving to seventh place overall.

Le Jog Gold Medallists, the Belgian crew of Eric Michiels/Aswin Pych (Porsche 924), also finished strongly. They had been in 33rd position after the first set of tests, but finished in ninth.

The event was well received by competitors. Having endured numerous restrictions, HERO were fortunate to have got the rally running. As crews were arriving at the Finish, the Government was announcing a new Tier 4 virtual lockdown for most of south-eastern England starting at Midnight.