Hill-Climb review

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British Hill-Climb Championship

In spite of an encouraging growth of new faces and machinery the top half-dozen places in the Shell/RAC Hill-Climb Championship have a distinctly familiar look about them. The 1970 Champion, Sir Nicholas Williamson, is the present leader, with his old rival the 1969 and ’71 winner, David Herworth, third, having scored in one less round. Roy Lane and Mike MacDowel who raced neck and neck for third place last year are the other two in the top four, with Lane only one point behind the leader. The above quartet’s ever-present shadow, Tony Griffiths, is again filth, with Richard Thwaites sixth.

This year the Championship has continued to grow with the reintroduction of Loton Park, near Shrewsbury, to the series and the chance for Welshmen to hold a round at Pontypool

Following a crash at Doune at the end of the year the chassis of the Champion’s 4WD Brabham-based special was likened unto a corkscrew. However, hard winter work paid dividends for at a non-Championship Wiscombe Hepworth returned to claim FTD with the Guyson Sandblaster Special looking smarter than ever before. The first two rounds fell to him with the Loton record devastatingly beaten by Hepworth and five pursuers.

Wiscombe was more difficult. Peter Varley’s old twin-cam-powered Brabham BT21C ascended in the dry, the rains came down and none of the quick men were able to beat him until Hepworth, on the last run of the day. Since then there has been an easy win at a wet Shelsley, second place at Doune and two less successful rounds. At Prescott he was stuck in one gear. Batbon was even more disastrous. Hepworth had rushed up from Silverstone where he was practising for the Interserie race in his Can-Am BRM. His first start was described by one experienced hill-climber as the fastest he had ever seen. Too fast, in fact, for the Chevrolet-powered car never rounded the first bend, where it slammed into the Armco.

Apart from Wiscombe, where he engaged the wrong gear on his drier run, the chief fireman of the village of Mortimer, Sir Nicholas Williamson, has been more consistent with wins at Barbon and Doune. His last year’s Brabham-FVC BT35X was rather underpowered for winning the Championship so this has been sold to Scotsman lain McLaren. The replacement is the first Match to be seen on the hills; still the smallest car of the top hill-climbers. It is a new F2 712S which, although hurriedly finished at first, has been back to Bicester and now handles really well. It is powered by an alloy-block, Brian Hart-tuned, 2-litre BDA giving 265 b.h.p.

Roy Lane, who rules over Prescott with a rod of iron, uses a McLaren M14D, the 1970 car which was usually fitted with an Alfa engine, although it did come third in Belgium with a Cosworth engine and Hulme at the wheel. It is now powered by an Alan Smith-tuned 5.7-litre Lucas fuel-injected Chevrolet with a potential b.h.p. of 530. Two features of this car are the remarkably light tub and the huge Can-Am-type stacks. The Championship rounds at the first Prescott were cancelled, the conditions being fitter for a sporting trial, and Lane who had scored FTD here, as usual, had to-do it all over again at the hastily reorganised Inter-Club meeting. At the other rounds consistently quick motoring has taken him to so near the top.

Mike MacDowel never seems to get a car which handles. This year he has taken a leaf out of Tony Griffiths’ book and is using a 5-litre Brabham-Repco (Griffiths is retaining the BT35X he used last year). MacDowel’s BT36X is powered by the 740-series engine he used last year which has grown yet again to 5-litres. MacDowel owns the engine while the car belongs to former hill-climber John Cussins. Just to confuse matters Cussins has sold the Palliser MacDowel used last year to the promising Peter Voigt. Instead he owns the engine of this car—an ex-Rindt Repco V8 last seen in the Le Mans Healey and now bored out to 4.2 litres. Both drivers have been unlucky so far. Voigt has had engine troubles, whilst MacDowel, on the one occasion his car seemed to handle, fell foul of the Barbon timekeepers. They claimed a number of important runs, which included an incredible record-breaking time by MacDowel, had been mistimed, which meant another run, not nearly as quick.

Of the other top men Mike Hawley has replaced the twin cam in his Brabham BT35 with a Hart FVA, and Richard Shardlow has left the circuits and is rapidly learning the ways of the ex-Lane McLaren M10B. Thwaites and Bob Rose are using the same M10Bs as last year.

Following in the footsteps of Hawley and Malcolm Eaves, two quick men of the past have chosen 1972 to make a comeback. Things have rapidly changed and they are both using cars which would have been ultra-competitive in their day but are not up to victory now. They are Peter Boshier-Jones (ex-Eaves Brabham-Buick BT21C) and Geoff Rollason (the last customer Lotus 69 built). Also back on the scene is the former Champion David Good, who is currently at the head of the Shell Leaders Championship. He has bought last year’s Martin BM8, which, with constructor Brian Martin often in attendance, has been made into the fastest sports car on the hills. — I. R. W.

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