Pilbeams in Hillclimbing
As you pointed out in your recent excellent article on Mike Pilbeam his cars have dominated hilIclmbing in the last few years and with reference to the RAC Hillclimb Championship I thought that you might be interested in the facts that support this superiority.
The first appearance of a car of the Pilbeam marque in an RAC HilIclimb Championship top ten runoff was at Loton Park, the first round of the 1975 Championship in the hands of Alister Douglas-Osborn, and on a damp day the combination finished first, and although no further victories came their way that year AD-O took a DFV-powered Pilbeam lathe title in 1977, the first of six victories for the marque in the Championship. Since that first appearance there have been a total of 169 rounds of the RAC Championship and a Pilbeam has won 106 of them (63%) and there have also been 90 seconds, 100 thirds, 88 fourths, 81 fifths, 73 sixths, 64 sevenths, 52 eighths, 44 ninths, 27 tenths, 8 elevenths, 4 twelfths and 8 no times. This represents 4,664 Championship points or about 50% of the total available in that number of rounds. (In 1984 in fact Pilbeam cars scored 87% of the points available.) If we look at the period when the dominance of the marque as far as numbers of chassis competing began (from 1980 to the present day) the figures are even more impressive. Of the 94 rounds since the beginning of the 1980 Championship a Pilbeam has won 75 of them (80%), 32 of them consecutively in 1982-1984. Indeed of the 15 non-Pilbeam victories in that period 12 are to the credit of Chris Cramer, the most successful non-Pilbeam user in this period with two titles, in a March in 1980 and in the Gould in 1985. The 3,729 points scored by Pilbeam in the 1980s represent 72% of the total available.
Most of the Pilbeams built for hilIclimbing are still in existence, the most prominent casualties being the two (and only) MP31 chassis which Peter Kaye and AD-O wrote off in 1979 and the 841 MP55 which John Hunt crashed at Shelsley in 1984. Alister Douglas-Osbom has been the most faithful of Pilbeam's customers having used no other make of car since 1974 and has recorded 34 victories in that time (in RAC Championship rounds), 11 of them at his beloved Shelsley Walsh (seven consecutively). He has also used a wide range of engines from a 2.2-litre BOG in 1975 up through 2.2, 2.5. and 2.7-litre Hart engines to DFV DFY DFL derivatives of capacities ranging from 3-litres to 4.2-litres.
Other users of the Pilbeam chassis have installed a 5-litre Repco, 2.3, 2.7 BMW and all sizes of Hart engine from 2 to 2.8 litres. Martin Bolsover used a 1.6 litre BDA engine in 1981 to wipe up the 1600 cc racing car class and then fitted a 2.5 and then a 2.8-litre Hart to win the Championship in 1982 and 1983, the chassis then passing to Tim Thomson who used it in 1984 and 1985. The MP40 chassis which Martyn Griffiths used to win the 1979 Championship was then used by James Thomson to win the 1981 Championship and is still active in Jim Thornson's hands to this day.
Statistics they say can be used to prove anything but one cannot doubt the fact that but for Mike Pilbeam's creations the British Hillclimbing scene would be very different. Mike is often seen in the paddock at hillciimbs taking an active interest in his beautifully constructed machines but despite his success there are probably very few spectators who know what he looks like, as he keeps a fairly low profile.
The day that his cars filled all 12 places in the RAC run-off at Shelsley it had not struck him at the time that this had happened because I remember him being genuinely surprised when tasked him to autograph the historic results sheet.
I am at present contemplating putting together a record of the hilIclimb achievements of Pilbeams and if anybody can help me with the locations of some of the chassis which have kept out of the limelight recently I would be most grateful. In particular I am thinking of the two MP22s and the converted MP42 circuit racer which became the MP46.
Bedford JOHN M.L. BROWN
How refreshing to read D.S.J.'s article on "Autographs" in the February issue. Having been a collector, purely as a hobby, of motor racing personalities autographs for some 30 years — I too am a journalist covering motor sport as pad of my job on a weekly series of newspapers — it was interesting to read Mr. Jenkinson's views on how collecting has changed.
Whereas D.S.J. stopped obtaining autographs of his heroes once he got into the "inside". I didn't and feel very privileged that I can collect autographs during my race reporting time from within the confines of the "cages" that keep the poor supporter out in the cold. However, I do agree, that part of the fun of obtaining a signature is when such obstacles are put in one's way.
Although I agree that writing to modern day drivers for their autographs is not that much of a challenge, I find writing to past drivers and receiving signed letters and pictures most rewarding. Quite often it takes years to track down a particular driver. It is a real thrill when the hunt is over and you then move on to someone else.
As D.S.J points out, German and Austrian enthusiasts possess some excellent collections, but there is a nucleus of British fans who I know have many fine autographed memories of motor sport over the years.
Perhaps the only great pity is that dealers in signed material are making it expensive by asking some quite staggering amounts for signed pictures, books and letters. Sometimes that's the only way to obtain a particular autograph, but it does take away much of the fun.
As a hobby it is an interesting way to keep a record of the sport and those of us who are involved in it seriously are grateful to drivers when they sign our photographs. It must be irritating to sign scraps of paper, but can assure drivers that many of us treasure the mementos that have been signed.
It may interest D.S.J that one of my treasured items is a menu obtained only last year to commemorate the 30th anniversary of himself and Stirling Moss winning the famous Mille Miglia... signed of course by Stirling and Jenks (who was busy covering the British GP, but not too busy to sign the front of the menu . . . thanks again!)
Perhaps other hobbyists in this area might like to contact me. Good luck with your own collecting, and thank you again D.S.J., tar your delightful little article.
Shirdley Hill STEVE HIRST
Group C Support
As a MOTOR SPORT reader of merely 10 years I was delighted to see the increased coverage being given to Group C Sportscar Racing tor which I have been an avid supporter since its inception in 1982, having attended every British and French (Le Mans) round of the series.
There have been cries in other journals as well as yours recently for a return to a production based formula. Surely such people cannot have experienced at first hand the death-throes of Gp5 in 1979-81 where a handful of eligible machinery vied with interesting but outdated Gp6 sports racers The idea behind GP5 was — we all would like to see Ferrari Boxers matched against BMW M1s and the like. The reality is that no manutacturer is prepared to spend millions of pounds just to see its product blown into the distance by a 20-year-old design — namely the Porsche 911 and derivatives.
I am also sickened by the pathetically insular attitude shown by most of the GP fraternity, particularly towards GpC: eg. Ken Tyrrell forbidding his drivers to participate for some unknown team called Jaguar! I also recall an interview with one B. Ecclestone wherein he stated "I have no interest in Endurance racing; indeed, I don't even know who won Le Mans this year".
This year's race is likely lo be attended by, amongst others, the following works or semi-works teams: Porsche, Jaguar, Nissan, WM Peugot, Sauber-Mercedes, Mazda, Tiga-Lamborghini, Tiga-Ford — hardly an insignificant bunch. Finally, the biggest raspberry of GpC so far must go to the Ford Motor Co. for chickening out in 1983 and the biggest plaudit to Jaguar for having the courage of their convictions.
Draycote, Warks R.J.K. MORTON