Thirteen-year-old Natasha Lomas has become the youngest ever navigator to finish an official HERO-ERA regularity rally. Navigating her father, John, in a 1936 Riley Sprite – the oldest car on the event – Natasha’s record-setting achievement also marked her endurance rallying debut.
“I was very nervous at the start, but I think everyone was,” says Natasha, who took part in HERO-ERA’s three-day ‘A Novice Trial’. Designed as an introduction to classic and historic car rallying, the event gave Natasha the opportunity to learn and refine her navigation skills with a combination of classroom and on the road training sessions, before tackling her first competitive trial. Natasha adds: “Being the youngest navigator made it a bit more challenging, but everyone was so nice, it made the experience a lot more fun and enjoyable than I had expected it to be.”
Competing against 40 other crews, Natasha and John tackled four regularities and four tests. To successfully complete these two disciplines, trust and team work were crucial. “It was a great bonding experience, even though dad didn’t listen to me a few times,” says Natasha. “It was only our first event, so there’s no need to be upset about that. If anyone else is thinking of doing this I would 100% recommend it. It’s for absolutely everyone, at any age.”
HERO-ERA’s Tony Jardine, hopes this milestone will inspire others to participate in historic rallying: “We have been developing a funnel of ‘newbies’ in the sport and helping them advance, especially the young,” says the Communications Director. “It is not unusual to see family combinations such as John and Natasha on an event as the enthusiasm of the parent can sometimes rub off, what is unusual is to find a female so young who is enthused by rallying when there are so many other hobbies or sports that may be attractive.“
Impressed by Natasha’s “great competency and maturity beyond her years,” Tony was pleased to see her confidence grow during the event. “She had faith in her ability to the point that she was critical of her father, John, the driver, for taking a wrong turn when she had expressly indicated the correct road. She was calm and collected, great traits required for this intense form of navigation.”
John, who has clocked up thousands of competitive miles as both driver and navigator on rallies including the Monte Carlo Classique, the Flying Scotsman and Royal Automobile Club 1,000 Mile Trial, describes his daughter’s achievement – in spite of his mistakes – as “phenomenal.”
“I think Natasha is looking for another driver now,” says John, who was convinced his daughter was on the incorrect page and needed to turn over during the second regularity test. The page contained no directional instructions.
John continues: “At the tea halt I went to make a complaint saying you’ve missed an arrow off, but it was pointed out that it was me who had made a pigs ear of it. I had told her to turn to the speed table page. Thus, we missed a control and picked up 2.30 of penalties. The moment was captured by Will Broadhead and our faces are priceless. Then, there was a left turn and I just didn’t follow Natasha’s instruction. The car didn’t miss a beat, the navigation was spot on, but sadly, the driver wasn’t really at the races. Of course, it’s all about getting round, doing it and enjoying it, but there are a lot of people who are older and wiser who didn’t manage to get round and who missed the control, so I couldn’t be prouder.”