It’s been a busy few days, two of which were spent officiating at my final hillclimb of the season. I’ll still be kept busy over the next few months with another race meeting, a handful of trials and driving tests and hopefully a kart meeting or two.
Shelsley is a wonderful venue, it is the only place that gives me goosebumps even without any cars there. It is the oldest motor sport venue that has been in continuous use on its original course. The view from top paddock is breathtaking, the view in the bottom paddock has remained largely unchanged. Vintage cars have a natural home here but this weekend, with one or two exceptions, is all about far more modern machinery.
It was a slow start though. Over the years it has not been unusual for fog to descend on the finish straight, rendering marshals unable to see each other and compromising safety. For a change, the fog was drifting in and out of the full length of the hill, making the middle section by far the worse. Eventually both days were started by a cavalcade of competitors behind the course car, partly in the hope that movement would stir and clear the fog, but also to give drivers, marshals and spectators something to do or watch rather than freezing their proverbials off in the crisp Autumn weather.
I’m not about to write a full commentary of the whole weekend but I will pick out a couple of highlights and lowlights.
Firstly, one of my favourite cars is called Spider (well Spider II to be precise) which is a rather unusual looking car in modern terms but is a lovely creation. You can see it slightly less under control than usual (at the Chateau Impney Hillclimb) here. If you look carefully you can see me taking the mick out of driver Martin Spencer about the car being a little noisy. This is one of the few cars who’s times I follow, not least of all because the car has been through a long rebuild and I know Martin would really like a sub 34 second time. A 34.71 was the closest this weekend but is a step in the right direction.
Another highlight is always the motoring fraternity, I really enjoy the fact my 7 year old tags along and is happy to talk to everyone, whether they are 2 or 102 and they are also happy to chat to her. Despite there being a lot of cars around, it’s also a fairly safe environment for her to explore. Most people knows who she belongs to and if she does get separated from us, she always turns up at the bar ordering herself a blackcurrent squash. One of the local photographers, Rob Macdonald, took an excellent photo of Ellie and kindly gave me permission to use it here.
I don’t often get to watch the action as I’m usually at either the top or bottom of the hill but I ended spending 10 or so minutes with the marshals (and photographers) at the Bottom Ess corner. During that time I saw what was probably one of the best ‘saves’ of the year. A Ferrari driver carried a little bit too much speed into the corner and ended up with the back end of his car swinging side to side between the two sharp bends. Somehow he managed to get it under control and slow the car down to prevent himself stuffing it into the baskets in the top corner. All I can I say is well done that man!
The lowlights. Fortunately these are few but yet again we had a reminder that motorsport is dangerous. Thanks to a fairly narrow escape, the driver walked away unscathed having exited Bottom Ess, turning left (not of his own volition) and riding the bank before parking in the shrubbery. Most people prefer to stick to the grey stuff and turn right at Top Ess.
Another driver taking an unorthodox line was Nigel Elliott in his powerful Triumph TR7 V8. Most people don’t climb the small bank in the breaking area after the finish line but Nigel likes to be different. You can see a video of his run (including his finish paddock excursion) here.
As a final note, the British Hillclimb Championship had a round at Doune and young Alex Summers has managed to win the overall Championship. I did say at the start of the season I thought he’d do well this year and I’m very pleased to have been proved right! Congratulations Alex.