The 4th Alpine Trial 2018

3 - 5 September, 2018

The 4th Alpine Trial 2018 - Rally Reports

The 4th Alpine Trial 2018 - Rally Reports

Visit the 4th Alpine Trial Photo Gallery to find Gerard Brown's event photographs.

Link to the comprehensive 4th Alpine Trial Results Book 

Day Three - Annecy to Annecy

Wednesday 5th September 2018

If at first you don’t succeed.

The day of reckoning finally arrived and word had somehow got out that today was going to be even tougher than the previous two and certainly, when the navigators opened their route books this morning they saw nothing to disabuse them of this.

There were five Regularities, two Special Tests and an Alpine Section to get through before the finish line, and all in 287km.

The Kartparc Test opened proceedings some 21km from the hotel, after which it was back into the hills around the Col de Plan Bois for the first Regularity which combined a stiff climb and a helter skelter descent. Upon hitting the valley floor though the road sent the cars upwards almost immediately  towards the Col de l’Epine and the road to Ugine and one of our favourite stomping grounds, the Col de l’Arpettaz with its to ‘die for views’ over Mont Blanc.

As well as drinking in the views, the crews made full use of the refreshments available and over coffee on the terrace, Jim Gateley and Wilfried Schaefer - first and second place overall - enjoyed a conversation about their experiences of leading a rally and then having the misfortune to either break down or to have victory snatched away at the last minute.

Both men know this feeling only too well and today both were also hoping upon hope that today would be their day.

Jim spoke for them both when he said that he was simply “taking it one Regularity at a time. We climb a mountain we do a test and we then repeat”.

The Mont Charvin Regularity which followed this mid morning halt then delivered the cars down into the valley and the subsequent Alpine Cup Section around the Col de la Forclaz. Naturally, this was a tough piece of road which caught out many crews and sadly, it was here that Urs and Maxime Mezger lost their Alpine Cup.

There was much to talk about therefore once the lunch halt in the La Belle Metairie in Lachat arrived and, thanks to the fantastic setting and food, anyone feeling a little disheartened would have had their spirits lifted.

There were three more Regularities at Bisanne, Bonvillard and the Col de Leschaux, as well as another track Test which had to be tackled in the afternoon but, this was the final furlong and as the cars climbed up to the famous Semnoz Ridge there was a feeling a job well done.

All that was left now was the descent into Annecy and the passage under the finish arch on the lakeside where HERO Chairman and Managing Director, Tomas de Vargas Machuca and Patrick Burke waved them in and handed out their finishers awards.

The Gala Prizegiving soon afterwards was all that was left on the agenda and with the leaderboard finalised it was announced that Jim Gately and Tony Brooks had held on to take their first win after so many near misses.

This result was well received and, Jim was delighted. Naturally reticent he claimed that “this means an awful lot to me, so much so that I can’t actually put it into words”, before going on to give a lengthy and heartfelt speech in which he thanked his wife Dawn for “allowing me to come across the pond and play with my cars and thanks also to Tony Brooks, my navigator. He’s a true gentleman and a friend and without him I would not be here enjoying this sport of vintage rallying”.

This event was simply brilliant. I’ve done all four Alpine Trials and this was the best yet although the roads were severe and challenging and it was a real hard for my big fat caddy - Matilda”.

He finished by echoing the sentiments of most of the room by declaring that “HERO / ERA. You’ve hit a home run with this one, Keith Baud and Anthony Preston you have done a truly excellent job”.

A standing ovation followed and then the champagne, generously provided by our sponsors Henriot was unleashed.

Wilfried Schaefer and Sandra Hubner said they were thrilled with their second place. It was their first time on the podium . . .  and Wilfried added,  “ . . . in a  British event”.

Julian Riley and Bill Hoff held on to take the Alpine Trophy for post war cars.

There were some discretionary awards as well, the Concours d’Elegance was presented to  Bill and Harri Holroyd for their Frazer Nash Sebring. The Spirit of the Rally went to the ever smiling Willy van Loon and Christine Torfs whilst the Tin Top (TT) Trophy for Alpine cars was gratefully received by Colin and Mark Winkelman.

Syd Stelvio


Day Two - Divonne les Bains to Annecy

Tuesday 4 September

High roads, closed roads and open roads.

As we did yesterday, we were set to run straight for the hills this morning, the very minute that the clock ticked over and the timecard was stamped. 

Waiting for the the off along with the other crews, our overnight leaders, Keith Wickham and Brian Spearman were in a very chipper mood. They explained that their car’s going really well and they absolutely loved the route yesterday which saw them head right to the top of the leaderboard. Additionally, Keith’s daughters car - Kate and Sophie’s “little Blue MG” is also performing nicely, benefitting from some new springs they’ve just fitted. “When everything’s going as well as this, then life’s good”, he called out as the Bentley eased off the line.

If Keith was feeling any pressure, he was certainly hiding it well, although it’s likely, that as a one time Olympic kayaker he’s well used to handling it.

The first Regularity was once again a steep one, up to the Col de Combe Blanche, where we enjoyed a fast and free passage through a thick forest with tantalising glimpses of Lake Geneva below and the high Alps beyond it.

Once out of the woods, a long run down a sleepy valley below the Monts Jura led to the second Regularity on the Combe du Collet before the crews were able to enjoy a quick coffee in the well situated Auberge Le Catray where they were fully able to appreciate the views.

Jonathan Procter and Jason Dearden were delayed slightly on the way there thanks to their exhaust almost falling off their Frazer Nash in the village of La Rivière. Some light fettling though rescued the situation and they were soon back with the pack.

After their short break then it was onwards, to the Special Test for the day, which was precisely that; special.

Permission has been granted to close down the ski station at the Plans d’ Hotonnes where a short, sharp street street style circuit had been laid out for the crews to get their teeth into. The action was fast and furious on a surface that was a healthy mixture of tarmac, concrete and gravel and the 360° pirouette which was required in the middle of the section was a real crowd pleaser even as they were showered with ‘wheelfuls’ of loose chippings

Ed Rutherford and Chris Elkins manned the start control whilst Dick Appleton and Worth Birkill, now relieved of their 48 hour car duties handled the finish clock.

Tim and Sue Fuller’s Riley broke down shorty after leaving the circuit with an electrical issue but, luckily for them, the sweep crew of Rob Kitchen and Russ’ Smith were soon on the scene and got them going again.

It was likely that by now some of the crews were getting little peckish but their route to lunch involved another Regularity over the Col de Ballon after which they were surely glad to sit down at the charming L’Auberge Campagnarde in Evosges for a little culinary diversion.

The morning session had been good but, what followed after the deserts and coffee had been cleared was simply stunning. Another tough Regularity around Ordonnaz led straight into the Alpine Cup Section on the Col de la Biche, an old Alpine and Monte Carlo favourite of both Keith Baud and Philip Young. Run in the opposite direction to years gone by the rally, bathed in warm autumn sunlight, shot up through the hairpins of the Foret de Brenaz onto the Massif of the Grand Colombier where a thousand nonchalant cattle barely acknowledged our passing.

This had been an intense and for some, an unforgettable afternoon of driving and, at the coffee break at the Belvedere sur Lyand, another old favourite, there was much excited chatter, revision and analysis of the previous 80kms. The mood was that surely this section would cause an upset to the leaderboard this evening?

The day was by now drawing to a close but, after crossing the Rhone at Seyssel and on the way to the night halt in Annecy, Keith Baud and Anthony Preston - the joint Clerks of the Course - couldn’t resist throwing in another Regularity, the fifth of the day, around the beautiful hills above Droisy.

It was all downhill from here though and, after some 30km of easy driving, the shimmering blue waters of the Lac d’Annecy signalled the formal end to the second day of competition.

All that was required now was to process the results and, after a short while, we saw that it was Tony Brooks and Jim Gately who now lead the overall. Wilfried Schaefer and Sandra Hubner are still in second place but Urs and Maxine Mezger have leaped into third and are the only car left which qualifies for a coveted Alpine Cup .... but there is still a whole day left for them to lose it.

Keith Wickham and Brian Spearman had a disappointing day, eventually ending up way down in twelfth place.

Julian Riley and Bill Hoff held onto their lead in the Alpine Trophy class, with Colin and Veronica Weekley taking second from Deborah Lloyd and Simon Arscott who now sit in third place.

Wherever they ended up on the result sheet though, just about everyone agreed that this had been a truly epic day and Graham Goodwin, the Vintage Category winner of the ERA's recent Road to Saigon rally seemed to sum it up nicely, the “Alpine Trial today was one of our best days rallying ever. It was long, it was tough and the roads and views were incredible. Well done the ERA”.

Sadly one of the cars has had to withdraw. The Bentley Speed Six of Jean Vincent and Caroline Vergotte has lost its water pump so they’ll just have to sit out tomorrow on the terrace of the Hotel L’Imperial Palace overlooking the lake!

We head into the high mountains of the Alps tomorrow where there’s still much to play for.

Syd Stelvio


Day One - Divonne les Bains to Divonne les Bains

Monday 3 September 

A great way to start

At 8.01am precisely, from the heavy iron gates of the Domaine de Divonne, our thirty nine crews roared away into the Jura Mountains led by the redoubtable Super Sports Bentley of Graham and Marina Goodwin.

This is a hilly and heavily forested area, with an amazing network of little used narrow tracks, which thread their way between sleepy hamlets and tiny villages and, almost right from the gun these were the roads which the rally found itself on. The drivers were guaranteed a great day.

For the navigators, equipped with a slim route book, some marked maps, a tripmeter and a stop watch, the task looked perhaps a little more daunting but soon, everyone was into the rhythm of what was to prove to be, a very busy day of rallying.

The Col de Faucille was the first notable obstacle which led the cars straight into the first Regularity, the Haut Jura. Inevitably, there were some wrong slots and some big gaps in the field had opened up by the time the second Regularity, Les Piards arrived shortly before the coffee break at the impressive Pont de la Pyle.

Following this short break, the main event of the day got underway, the 29.2km Alpine Cup section in the hills around Sarrogna. To score well here, the crews had nothing more to do other than follow a marked IGN map and arrive at the five time controls at precisely the right time. Secret checks ensured that no-one took any shortcuts. Nothing could be simpler and, once they’d ticked this off then it was straight on to a track test at the Circuit Jurasud and then to a very welcome lakeside lunch halt at Le Regardoir.

The afternoon was almost as busy as the morning had been and two superb Regularities around Vulvoz and Bellecombe earned the rally a cup of coffee in the ominously named Foret du Massacre, so named after a bloody battle in 1535.

The final short Regularity at the Montagne due Tuffes preceded an auto test in Le Balancier before the plunge through the Foret de Divonne and, with five Regularities, one Alpine Cup section and two Special tests under their wheels since they left the Domaine de Divonne this morning the cars were parked up once again.

For some the day was done and they were happy with the most basic of spanner checks before retiring indoors for some refreshment. For others though there was still work to be done and, Bill Cleyndert and Matt Abrey, who had been running with a strange knocking sound all day set to and  stripped Betsy to her bare essentials to see what the trouble was. Once a badly fitted cabin pollen filter had been ruled out, it transpired that the flywheel bolts were loose so, along with Rob Kitchen, Russ Smith and a set of spanners they set to fixing them.

Urs and Maxine Mezger made an uncharacteristic error on the last section of the day thanks to an intermittent tripmeter fault so, as soon as they arrived they sought out Bob Harrod who threw himself manfully into the footwell of the old Lagonda armed with his trusty screwdriver and voltmeter.

By the time the results were published, most of the crews had found their way to the bar which gave them something extra to chew over before they sat down to dinner.

Keith Wickham and Brian Spearman have never led an ERA rally before so it’s great to see them at the top of the leaderboard with their Bentley Open Tourer. They’ve got the highly competitive Talbot of Wilfried Schaefer and Sandra Hubner snapping at their heels though, so tomorrow they need to be on top form.

Bill Cleyndert and Matt Abrey are sitting in third place despite their mechanical woes and if they’ve got the car sorted for tomorrow then it’s likely that they’ll be well up for the fight.

In the Alpine Trophy class, for post war cars only, it’s the new pairing of two old hands, Julian Riley and Bill Hoff who are currently in first place whilst Colin and Veronica Weekley are second. Julie and Olivia Holroyd have an excellent third best overall time for the day although Bill and Harri Holroyd in their Frazer Nash are officially in third place based on the car age qualifications.

Finally, we were pleased to see our old friend Michael Kershaw who joined us for dinner this evening. Michael drove a Ford Mustang in the recent Trans America Challenge and is definitely not the same Michael Kershaw who is also with us, driving an HRG 1500.

Syd Stelvio


Before the Start - Divonne les Bains  

Sunday 2 September - Divonne les Bains

Today was a beautiful early autumn day and, bathed in the warm sunlight, thirty nine cars were lined up in anticipation of three days of top class rallying. 

The wide variety of splendid machines cut a fine sight and, set among them, looking as if it had driven straight from the pages of The Day of the Jackal, was Tony and Pauline Mather’s iconic, and very presidential, Citroen DS Decapotable, sat low and hunkered down on its hydropneumatic suspension.

The fourth edition of the Alpine Trial, and the penultimate ERA event of 2018, is about to get underway and, Anthony Preston and Keith Baud have set out what promises to be another challenging and beautiful route through the meadows and passes of the Jura and the Savoie regions.

At the Rally HQ, the Grand Hotel Domaine de Divonne, the crews busied themselves with formalities such as scrutineering and signing on and, Eleonora Piccolo was once again in the thick of it whilst out in the car park, the sweep team of Jamie Turner, Bob Harrod, Rob Kitchen and Russ Smith checked the vehicles for safety and compliance.

There were inevitably a few teething issues to sort out as well though and Jonathon Procter and Jason Dearden were among several crews who were fitting and / or refitting Monit trip meter sensors, whilst Willy van Loon’s Bentley needed a new brake light switch. If there are two things an Alpine rally car needs, reliable brakes and an accurate tripmeter are high on the list.

This year in Divonne, it’s turned out to be quite a family affair and one of the three father and son teams on the start list include Carlos Rieder whose beautiful Alfa Romeo, last seen on the Trans America Challenge, is this time being driven by his son Melvin whilst Carlos himself takes on the navigation duties.

Bill and Julie Holroyd were savagely bitten by the Endurance Rallying bug whilst on last years Blue Train Challenge and this year's Trans America Challenge and today we see that they’re back in force here with son Harri and daughter Olivia in the team as well. The boys have a Frazer Nash Sebring to play with whilst the girls get an MG B Roadster.

Brian Scowcroft, another Trans American veteran is here with his grandson Harvey in the banana yellow Chevy Fangio Coupe for his very own baptism of fire.

The other two father and son crews, Colin and Mark Winkleman and Michael and Nicholas Kershaw are old hands however and need no further introduction. Similarly, Urs and Maxime Mezger, a father and daughter crew are no strangers to this event and will be only too aware of what’s coming up.

Pat and Tina Bridgeman on the other hand are about to start their first ever rally, in a beautiful Racing Green Bentley Sports, as are Steve and Debbie Charnock in a Porsche 356 who also had the very experienced Jim and Tanya Clarke coaching them in the car park, on the finer points of checking in and checking out of a control at the right time.

Once the sun dipped below the yard arm and the cars were tucked away for the night the crews sat down to dinner in the elegant ballroom where the Clerk of the Course, Keith Baud, gave the official welcome and whetted everyone's appetite for the three days that lie ahead.

Tomorrow the flag drops so it's likely that most crews will opt for an early night and bypass the bar on the way to their rooms.

Syd Stelvio



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