The results of our last online poll are in. Over 1500 of you voted for your favourite champion of 2012 and there were a few surprises.
Coming in a strong first was outgoing nine-time World Rally Champion Sébastien Loeb, proof that overwhelming success doesn’t make a driver unpopular. Maybe it was genuine appreciation of his achievements; it might also have been a sense of anticipation that made you vote for him, safe in the knowledge that even if he wins all four of the rallies he’s contesting this year, he won’t win the championship.
Another of the modern era’s most dominant drivers came in second: Sebastian Vettel. He still polarises opinion – even in the Motor Sport office we’re alternately astounded and bewildered by him from race to race – but that didn’t stop the votes from piling up.
The real surprise here was that third place was firmly taken by a write-in vote: a first for the website. We thought we were being pretty comprehensive, including most of the major series, but clearly it wasn’t enough. With 197 votes, British Hillclimb Champion Trevor Willis was a very popular man with Motor Sport readers.
Trevor took his first championship for OMS Racing, a family-run constructor who has been active since 1985. Between 1998 and 2011, Gould were the dominant constructor, taking every title over that stretch. I spoke to Trevor about what pushed OMS over the edge last year.
“Our car’s always had a weakness in the unlimited class,” he says. “It’s struggled with a lack of power compared to the Goulds. We’ve had to develop the car and make it quick in other ways than just being the most powerful. At some venues – like Shelsley and Gurston – we would struggle if the speed wasn’t there, but there were plenty of lower speed, more technical venues where the handling of the car, the aerodynamics and mechanical grip were important.
“This was the second year with the new car, and even that car was an evolution of the previous one. It was a matter of refining it, making it more consistent. Everything we did over the winter seemed to work out and the car had more downforce and grip. I immediately felt like I could compete.”
Trevor’s first BHC title has come at the age of 50. He chuckled at the suggestion that he might be able to move on to bigger things off the back of his success. “I’d love to try other things, but I enjoy hillclimbing, it’s very much where I want to continue. At my age I don’t see it as a stepping stone and you can carry on doing it for longer than other motor sports. It’s very enjoyable; not just the driving, but the social scene and the technical aspect as well.
“Because it’s an amateur sport it’s very liberal and we can do some radical things. It’s all about having that last tiny bit of set-up, whether you put an extra turn on the left front damper or design a whole new floor. I do a lot of work myself.”
Trevor’s enthusiasm is obvious and you can tell he loves where he is and the people that inhabit the BHC’s modest corner of the sport. Of the fans who voted him into third place above the likes of Jorge Lorenzo and Ryan Hunter-Reay, he was quick to say how impressed he is.
“The fans are generally quite knowledgeable because it’s not a mainstream motor sport. You get quite a few who can run through all your history for you and tell you whether that was a personal best or not and what you did two years ago. It takes you by surprise at times; I can’t remember any of that stuff!”
That’s Trevor Willis for you: a modest bloke who also happens to be one of the fastest in the country.
The BHC season opens at Prescott in Gloucestershire on April 27.