British Hill-climb Championship

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As mentioned in last month’s Motor Sport, mid-season favourite for the Shell/RAC Hill-Climb Championship was David Hepworth and so it came as a surprise to no one when Hepworth, driving his 4WD Hepworth FF, or Guyson Shotblast Special as it is now known in deference to its new sponsors, took the title with a second place at Prescott behind a very on form Roy Lane (McLaren M10B).

Although he was able to clinch the title with three rounds still to go, thanks mainly to some supreme climbing in mid-season, Hepworth has had to fight for his points. In fact his five victories (four of them record-breaking) came over a period of eight rounds, and the latter part of the season has really been a close tussle for the next three places between Sir Nicholas Williamson (Brabham-FVC BT35X), Mike MacDowel (Palliser-Repco) and Lane. Williamson failed to add to his two early season wins but kept scoring heavily even though his engine was badly in need of a rebuild by Gurston Down. Second place at the final round at Doune just made sure of second place in the Championship although it was not so easy as it seemed to be earlier on in the year.

The man who came to within one point of catching him was Mike MacDowel, whose F1 Repco engine was rebuilt by John Judd of Race Engine Services to 4.2 litres just before the second Shelsley. However, it was only at the penultimate round at Harewood that MacDowel found the answer to his season-long handling problems with stiffer springs at the front of his car and variable rate suspension at the rear. He really went quickly at the Yorkshire meeting but Roy Lane was equally fired up, for the two were level at this stage in the Championship, and on his second run turned in an even quicker time to take his second victory in as many weeks (his first being at Prescott where he had won earlier on in the year). As, both had scored at more than the necessary eight rounds they were both discarding points by this time and as Lane had to drop a higher score they were still level, with one round to go and both of them in with a chance of catching Williamson.

However, the final round was at Doune, MacDowel’s best hill, and he was able to score his fourth successive win here, his time almost two seconds faster than his old record. Williamson secured his Championship placing but Lane was only able to make fourth, which therefore became his place in the Championship.

Fifth place man overall was Tony Griffiths who, maybe not as quick as the above four, was able to turn in some very creditable performances in his 5-litre Repco-engined Brabham BT35X which included his first Championship win in his many years of hill-climbing when he proved quickest Championship contender at Craigantlet in Ireland following a class run crash by Hepworth. Local Brian Nelson, though, proved that, once again, he was fastest man on that particular hill in his F2 Crossle when he took FTD.

Sixth and really in a class of his own not being quick enough to catch the top men—yet, was Yorkshireman Richard Thwaites, who in only his second season of serious hill-climbing flung his ex-David Good Packmail McLaren M10B about with a gay abandon. Thwaites could well be the man to watch in the future once his style has matured a little. Other sizeable totals somewhat lower than Thwaites came from such drivers as Bob Rose who didn’t travel too far afield with his scruffy McLaren M10B, Mike Hawley who joined the Championship again at mid-season and who was somewhat lacking in power in his twin-cam Brabham BT35 and yet proved to be very quick (he was timed as fastest through the Esses at Shelsley during the second meeting there), Malcolm Eaves who drove steadily in his Brabham-Buick BT21C after a long lay-off and Tony Harrison who was easily the fastest sportscar driver in the Championship in his McLaren M12 (Reg Philips, a Shell leaders entrant, purchased a Chevron B19 late in the season and this did prove to have the legs on the unwieldy McLaren).

Mention, too, must be made of 11th place man Peter Voigt although he only scored 12 points, for these were gained at the wheel of a tiny Imp-power Ginetta G17B, his finest hour corning when he pipped Hawley at Doune for sixth place, his highest score. It is also noteworthy that apart from Harrison only one other point was scored in a sports car, 20 out of the 22 Championship points scorers having driven single-seaters.

Thus a very exciting and challenging season has come to an end with Hepworth taking his second title in three years. Yorkshire hillclimb men were particularly successful for another one, “Spotty Smith”, took the Shell Leaders’ Championship which is based on class success, driving primarily a TVR Tuscan but also the ex-Liddell and Cuthbert Ford GT40. At the time of writing it is also certain that the BARC’s Championship, which is sponsored by Castrol, will go to another northerner for in the lead is Blydenstein Viva pilot Jim Thomson, who is, however, being very closely pursued by Bob Speak (Escort) with one round, Scarborough, to go.—I. R. W.