A critical stage in the championship
With four further rounds of the British Hill Climb Championship still to come, the scene is set for a dramatic end to the season with three competitors in good positions to take the title. The scoring of the championship is simple. The ten drivers who have put up the fastest times in the class runs are each given two further climbs at the end of the meeting - the top-ten run-off - and the driver who is quickest in the run-off is awarded ten points, second fastest nine points and so on. There are sixteen rounds, but only the best ten scores are counted, making the maximum possible score 100.
Only James Thomson is in a position to notch up the full 100, but only by winning all four of the remaining rounds. The young Yorkshireman currently leads the championship with 94 points (six firsts, two seconds and two thirds), 6 points ahead of Alister Douglas Osborn whose seemingly impregnable lead earlier in the season has been eroded by a combination of Thomson's skill and mechanical gremlins. Douglas Osborn's maximum score, assuming he wins at all remaining rounds, is 98. The only other competitor with a chance is Chris Cramer, the current champion, who started the season so badly with his ex-Formula 2 Toleman but who has been making up for lost ground with impressive performances in recent rounds to amass 86 points - his possible maximum is 95 points.
Since last month's resume, four rounds have taken place - Bouley Bay and Val des Terres in the Channel Islands, Craigantlett in Northern Ireland, and Shelsley Walsh. Thomson had things very much his own way at the three overseas rounds, being harried only by Chris Cramer. Douglas Osborn was relegated to third place at Bouley Bay, fourth place at Val des Terres and fifth place at Craigantlett, the last due to running wide at one corner, causing damage to the underside of the car which was not repairable in time for the final run. Thomson's times at Val des Terres and Craigantlett set new course records, but at Bouley Bay, Martin Bolsover, driving an under 1600 cc Pilbeam, set a new outright record in the class runs, over 21/2 seconds faster than his best top-ten time. That Craigantlett is not particularly popular with the Championship contenders is demonstrated by the inclusion of two pre-war Frazer Nash sports cars in the top-ten run-off!
Practice for the Shelsley round took place on a damp track, following a shower or two on the Saturday morning, and this caught a number of competitors out. Mechanical problems also took their toll and by the time the competition started promptly at 11.30 am on the Sunday, a large number of non-starters had been declared. The day was cool, and rain during the night had left the Esses damp.
Charles Barter took the under 1300 cc Special Saloon class with his Hartwell Stiletto, equalling his own record in doing so, with John Meredith (Hartwell Imp) second some 11/2 secs behind. Nick Mann's incredibly quiet 31/2-Iitre turbocharged Morris Minor edged ahead of record-holder Barrogill Angus (Davrian Stiletto BMW) on the second class runs to take the class in 31.94 secs, 0.4 secs outside the record.
The small GT and Modified Sports car class went to David Watson's Davrian, recording 34.25 secs, ahead of Kim Johnson's MG Midget. The over 1300 cc division was something of a Porsche benefit, with the first three cars in this large class being of this make. Record holder Roland Jones was quickest with 32.44 secs, but his Carrera was harried closely by Josh Sadler's 3.5-Iitre 911 recording 32.53 secs. Third was Tony Bancroft's Carrera in 33.43 secs, followed closely by Richard Dodkins G12 Ginetta. The only other competitor to break 34 seconds was Peter Garland in his well-travelled +8 Morgan.
Charles Wardle and Jim Robinson, who shared the same Mallock U2, had the up to 1600 cc Sports Racing class sewn up, taking first and second places with 30.27 and 30. 91 sec respectively. The large capacity Sports Racing class went to record holder Richard Jones who took his Mallock to the top in 28.66 sec, followed by Graham Priaulx's Tiga with 29.21 sec.
After Ron Warr had vanquished the other three under 500 cc Racing Cars with his Cooper, John Corbyn managed 31.70 sec with his Saracen to win the up to 1100 cc Racing Class from Alan Cox, Harrison, who recorded 32.02 sec. The 1100 to 1600 cc Racing Class was decimated by problems and incidents from the previous day, but honours fell to Martin Bolsover's Pilbeam which climbed in 29.17 sec 0.73 sec ahead of David Gould's Gould Terrapin.
Ron Footitt, Peter Cook and Peter Kirby (Cognac Special, Ginetta G16 and Lotus 23B respectively) took the three classes for Classic and Historic Cars (all of which were well supported). It was not until half way through the very strong entry in the over 1600 cc Racing Car Class that a sub-29 second climb was recorded. Helped by an ever improving track, Richard Fry took his Pilbeam to the top in 28.43 sec on his first run, the only other competitors breaking the 29 second barrier on their first run being Ted Williams, who shares the same car as Richard Fry, Thomson, David Franklin (March), Douglas Osborn, fastest with 27.00 sec, Dave Harris (Pilbeam), Roy Lane (March), Martyn Griffiths (Pilbeam) and Cramer. Times were faster second time round, Douglas Osborn improving least to 26.98 sec, but still being fast enough to take the class. Channel Islander Noel le Tissier broke 29 sec with his Chevron, as also did Malcolm Dungworth (Pilbeam), Jimmy Jack (March) and Godfrey Crompton (March).
The top-ten then comprised all who had done sub-29 sec climbs on their first runs plus Jimmy Jack. Douglas Osborn's class time had been only 0.1 sec outside the class record and 0.5 sec outside the outright hill record of 26.60 sec, set by Martyn Griffiths last year, and although there was still a trace of dampness in the Esses, a new record looked likely. James Thomson was first to break 27 seconds, recording 26.96 sec. Cramer was unable to better this, but would Douglas Osborn manage to get his revenge? Using all the power of the DFY 3.6-litre Cosworth engine to its fullest advantage, he drove a clean and very tidy climb to record 26.88 sec. No-one else was in the same league as Thomson and Douglas Osborn. With tyres well warmed after the first runs, and the track that little bit drier where it passes under the trees at the Esses, the second top ten runs were a shade faster. When Thomson's turn came, he fairly flew up the hill, hardly appearing to slow up for the.Esses, taking a very clean line, to set a new outright hill record of 26.48 sec. Cramer was slower, but would Douglas Osborn manage it again? The tension in the crowd was almost at fever pitch as the white Pilbeam left the start line, Douglas Osborn climbing in a very tidy style, appearing sufficiently slower through the Esses for the crowd to sigh with disappointment. But they were wrong, for ADO had managed 26.42 sec, depriving Thomson of the record he had set only two minutes previously, and winning back some of those valuable championship points he had lost to the young Yorkshireman in the previous three rounds. - PHJW.