Far from the Madding Crowd, that’s where you will find Senior Events Manager Nick Reeves on a rare day off.
Nick Reeves likes nothing better than a hike on his favourite SW Coastal path away from it all, although somewhat alarmingly he declares that his biggest dislike is ‘crowds’! So how does that work in his role as with HERO-ERA when dealing with all those people? His peaceful pass time pursuit seems at odds with his other love and profession as motor sport organiser.
Catching Nick as he takes a brief respite from compiling the new HERO-ERA event procedures in time for the company’s first event since lockdown lift, I asked him if his dislike of crowds could be compared to Doc Martin’s fear of blood despite being a medical man?
“The two are totally different, one is work but when I want to get ‘Far from the Madding Crowd’ as you put it, then I want to enjoy the outdoors on my own as much as I can. Working with 200 people in a room or crews on a rally is enjoyable, that doesn’t bother me, but if I was walking up on Exmoor and I came across 200 people I’d be bloody mortified”.
Nick is an experienced, senior member of the HERO-ERA team organising many key aspects of rallies from the route to regulations, officials and much more. He also has to be on his feet briefing competitors so does the communications aspect of the job help? “Yes, it’s a very important part of the job, that’s where my work experience comes in. In my previous roles working for motor manufacturers I’d go and present to 20-30 dealer teams in the conference room or whatever, so it is a natural part of what I do.” Which is exactly what Nick has, a natural way with him, communicating easily with the many officials and competitors requiring his attention on major events, talking in that ‘easy to listen to’ west country burr which further endears him to the rally community.
Fortunately for HERO-ERA, he is not just ‘fresh air fan’ but also a motor sport afficionado who loves cars! In a roundabout way his passion for the great outdoors is actually a good fit for his job, especially when he is scouting for new venues and routes.
“Personally I enjoy the outdoors, I like walking and hiking but I get motorised pleasure too. I have a motorbike which I ride up on Exmoor, there are some terrific rides on great roads up there. For walking, the SW Coastal Path is pretty awesome, you get some stunning views along the way.
“I love Scotland as well, so you can imagine how great it is to work on the Malts and Le Jog, it’s just a treat to be able to go somewhere I love with our events. Although I don’t like to bragg too much about places as it attracts people to go there, and as I’ve already told you I don’t like crowds!
“Think of all those people who go to Spain, I don’t know why they bother when you look at what we have on our own doorstep, although it’s a good a job everyone is different! I just feel that you don’t have to go outside the UK to find some of the most fantastic locations anywhere, and you always find a bit more which helps us introduce fresh routes. We as rally organisers are privileged to visit some of the most glorious parts of this country”.
Nick was born in North Somerset, although he now lives south of the county, but he also lived in Cornwall for a while. Previous jobs involved him in a lot of travel to America, Australia, most European countries, Africa, South America, all of them giving him what he loves at different times; “fresh air, the outdoors, motorsport and cars”.
So where did his love of cars and motor sport come from? “ It’s in the blood, my Mum and Grandad were both mechanics, Dad was into his cars, so I’ve always loved them. When I left school I became an apprentice technician. “Motor sport just goes hand in hand with my general love of cars, I think back to one of my boyhood heros for example was Jim Clark. I vividly remember the day Dad told me he’d died, it really was a big shock.
“My Grandad had his own workshop and he used to do what they called occasional hires, cars out to weddings, funerals and such like. He used to do servicing and repairs and my Mum used to work for him fettling the cars, that would have been in the 40’s and 50’s. She would be out there working on the cars by herself. So what with my Grandad, Mum and Dad, it was pretty clear I was always going to be involved with cars somehow!
“As an apprentice, I worked in a none franchised workshop fixing anything from MINI’s to 40 footers. I got a real solid grounding and I was pretty good at it. I did all my qualifications and management stuff, but while I was there my interest in motor sport had really started when I was still an apprentice. I stayed on there as techie for three years, but one of the guys had a Cooper S, he’d done a bit of rallying so I said ‘I’ll navigate for you! We did OK.’
“Then I moved to Launceston, Cornwall to a franchised Volvo dealership as Aftersales Manager, my first management role, I ended up running the dealership. We had a Volvo rally car that I navigated for the Dealer Principal Darrell Denning, it was the baby Volvo 360. Although it was an unusual rally car, it was competitive and became quite a well known car in the area. Darrell who owned the dealership was into his rallying, he’d rallied a couple of Volvo 240’s before that and had done the RAC Rally too, but we ended up buying this 360 GLT and using it for quite a while.
“I still enjoy a great relationship with Darrell, in fact he is helping me with the Le Jog recce plus he is thinking of entering the HERO Challenge Two in, would you believe, a Volvo 240!
“We competed in plenty of stage and road rallies, in this quite different rally car. For all that it was a well sorted machine with a lot of trick bits in it. There was guy in Germany who supplied a lot of the parts, he was about ten miles from the Czech border right down the bottom of Germany somewhere. I went out there on my own once with a diff that he was going to set up. I wondered around for a couple of days whilst he got to work, then I went back to pick it up. It was a fair old trip but it was all worth it, the diff was great after he set it up, you could really feel the difference.
“By this time we were into the 90’s recession which meant I had to leave, the dealership ended up closing but I was fortunate enough to eventually get back into full time work with manufacturers.
“I’d been enjoying some freelance work during the 90’s with Prodrive on selected events, using my holiday time whilst trying to get into full time employment with them. I had already done some work for them on various rallies running the gravel notes. It was difficult to transfer your notes over the radio before mobile phones really caught on, so I’d meet the gravel crews at end of a stage, pick up the notes and whip them back to the Service Area so the teams could amend their pace notes.
“You’d occasionally talk directly to the cars, which was quite good as it was in the McRae era, mostly dealing with Ken Reece. I worked for them off and on when I could, it was quite an effort but really enjoyable which is why I used up all my holidays doing the job!
“I managed to get a job in the Prodrive workshop, which included working on the Indonesian and New Zealand rallies but it was around the time they lost the BTCC race contract with Ford.
“It ended up there being quite a few techies in the workshop so they couldn’t offer me a full time job at that time. True to form though, the minute I was said I was off they offered me a permanent position! Unfortunately I had just accepted a role with Land Rover. I often wonder how things may have turned out should I have accepted, but ultimately I’m very happy with the way things have panned out. The management job with a decent career path was the right choice.
“I took the role with Land Rover as an Aftersales Manager then Vauxhall as a Network Q District Manager. After that I changed to employment with a supplier heavily involved with Porsche, running their used car warranty programme in the UK. Then I worked with the same company on Bentley, we were launching the Continental GT global used car programme which took me to the United States quite a bit.
“ I transferred to Aston Martin in a similar role as Global Account Manager, then just before I left them I worked on a Rolls-Royce programme.”
As Nick had worked at Network Q, I naturally wanted to know if he managed any involvement with the exciting part of Network Q, their sponsorship of the RAC Rally?
“Of course! My HERO-ERA colleague George Mullins was already at Network Q and he was involved with the rally as well as his own management role, I’ve actually known him since 1982!
“A team of us would stay in the Rally HQ hotel then we’d go through all the stages in 4×4’s erecting the sponsor banners in the right places to pick up the TV shots. Another crew would come through after the rally cars left the stage and took them all down again. That was good fun, we worked with the Sponsorship Manager Tim Foster who went on to work as an independent consultant in professional rally sport.”
Nick can’t help but smile as he talks, especially as we return to the topic of his own competition record. Although he remains modest about his competition career he has an enviable record of success, as a navigator, but did he ever try as a driver?
“I have driven lots of course cars on events but I don’t think I have ever competed as a driver, although I do have a Competition Drivers Licence which is useful to keep, you never know! The first event I won was the Taunton Annual Road Rally, that was a good event to win as the local hero at the time was a guy called Dave Pitcher who had Tony Greenwood navigating, we beat them fair and square which we really enjoyed! Then we won events along the way in a 6R4 competing in airfield and single venues events, that was a real thrill sitting in one of those Group B cars hitting 10,500 revs. Normally you can hear yourself speak through the intercom, but in the Metro you heard nothing, I just used to shout the notes and hope the message got through!
“I’ve done a lot of Peugeot Challenge stuff, quite a few rallies in Belgium with Simon Thomas a very fast local driver who suffered from the same problem as many drivers, plenty of talent, not enough funding, the usual story. We got some class wins in Belgium, once we beat Bernard Munster on the Tour of Flanders 2001. Simon was amazing, one of those drivers who drove exactly to the notes, if you said it was flat he took it flat even if he might think it doesn’t look flat – he is one of the few drivers that I worked with who drove exactly to the notes and beyond!”
Nick has been used to navigating in powerful rally cars, his success includes winning in a Ford Focus WRC on a single venue event where the high speed ‘quick reaction’ stages can take both crew to the edge as he explained; “For me, tarmac rallies and pace notes is the ultimate. The highest level of concentration is required because you don’t get much time to think, the margins are tight if you get it wrong, but then you have to take the consequences.
“I haven’t officially retired yet, although I haven’t done an event for a long time, probably back to 2012, I am just too busy.”
How does Nick feel his latest role as Senior Events Manager with HERO-ERA is going? “Great yes, it’s good, it has its challenges like all jobs but when I compare it to the demands of some of my previous roles there is no contest! You want to try launching an international warranty programme in North America grappling with the myriad laws they have there!
“I am being challenged but it’s something I really enjoy doing. I love maps, I’m working with maps every day, I love that they are part of my routine, that’s pretty cool”
On event how does he feel when it all comes off well, does it give him a buzz? Nick continued; “Of course, but you hope with the amount of preparation you put in that it gives you the confidence to know you have got it covered. That’s the really interesting part about it, you have to be ready to adapt, think on your feet. I don’t want to say too much otherwise you set yourself up for a fall!
“I have worked for HERO for years freelancing on events on and off before going full time. I used to like the unexpected because I felt we could react and I could add value to my being there.
“In my full time role now, I don’t want problems, I want it all to go like clockwork!”
As the company expands into places like USA, I asked Nick if he was happy to grow with it? “ Yeah, every role I’ve had with whatever company, I have been prepared to take the opportunities as they come along, it’s exciting times. Tomas and Patrick clearly have a plan as the company grows and I am happy to be part of that.”
Nick Reeves has proved to be another HERO-ERA asset, part of the close knit competition team under Guy Woodcock who crunch the detail together to organize some of the best rallies anywhere in the world. Nick is currently juggling work between, the Malts, Le Jog and the Trans America, he is loving the job and performing at the top of his trade, but how does he assess his contribution so far?
“Fingers crossed it’s going well, you’re only as good as your last result.”
With that he walked out of the room, clearly it was time to get far away from my madding questions, he grabbed his maps, put his knapsack on his back and took a hike.