This branch of the sport has always been a popular pastime particularly among the less wealthy motor sporting enthusiasts, for it is possible to do well in many classes for a comparatively modest outlay.
In the pre-war years, the amateur would compete in his home-built special alongside the works entries, and would often achieve considerable success — names like Basil Davenport and John Bolster spring to mind. Nowadays, the development of the competition car has come on such a long way that the car assembled from various boxes of bits is unlikely to take outright honours, but there is still room in hillclimbing for those who do not have financial backing. It is common to see elderly Sprites and Morgans coming well up in their class before being loaded up with the picnic basket and crash helmet and being driven home.
There are those who argue that the cost per mile of competitive motoring is extremely high, whatever vehicle is used, and who prefer the discipline of circuit racing or the excitement of rallying where there is considerably more driving for rather more money. But there is no question amongst the hillclimbing fraternity that the skill and precision required to cheat the clock of every last hundredth of a second brings immense satisfaction which cannot be found elsewhere.
The popularity of the sport is highlighted by the eighty events scheduled to take place in 1981 at the 35 different venues in the UK and by the ten championships which are to be contested. These range from the local Inter-Club Championships, which often include a couple of rounds at sprint venues, through regional championships such as the one in the Midlands or the Scottish Championship, to the RAC British Hillclimb Championship.
The further up the scale one goes, the more professional the approach has to be to keep ahead and some contenders in the British Championship now have an entourage which would have done justice to a Formula One team fifteen years ago. In this class, competition is extremely fierce, and that magic hundredth of a second or so can make all the difference between a champion and an also-ran — this happened last year when 1979 Champion, Martyn Griffiths was in the lead right up until the last but one round at Wiscombe Park when he was beaten by second placed man Chris Cramer. In the last round at Doune, Griffiths smashed the record, but Cramer pulled out all stops and equalled Griffiths’ time to take the title.
For 1981, the rounds of the championship will be as shown on the table below. Points are scored at the rate of 10 for first place, 9 for second and so on down to 1 for tenth and an individual’s best ten scores count for the final reckoning. Motor Sport hopes to be able to report on the season as it progresses. — P.H.J.W.