THE Pace Petroleum British Hill-Climb Championship returned to Shelsley Walsh in August for the twelfth round in a very competitive season which has seen a crop of new records at the various venues. Of the 16 rounds, only the ten best scores will count, so theoretically several drivers were vying for Martin Bolsover’s first place,
A good field turned up on a pleasantly warm morning to test their skills and their machines, of which the small-engined Special Saloons were the first to assault the hill. Although David Watson had a secure lead in the British Haynes Leaders Championship with his Maguire Imp, his last two visits to Shelsley had seen him beaten by Tony Tewson’s Greetham Imp. So it was to be again, Watson’s best being 1.2s slower than Tewson’s winning 32.83s.
In the over 1,300 c.c. class, Nick Mann’s thunderous V8 Morris Minor bettered its own record during the afternoon with 31.34s, but before long Brian Walker took over the limelight by recording 30.88s in his Skoda Coupe.
Spectators at the Esses saw Andy Waters dramatically rearrange the front suspension of his Davrian in the GT division, splaying the wheels so badly that the car had to be pushed down the hill, but another Davrian won the class, Richard Naylor well on form and achieving 34.14s in it.
Much better supported was the over-1,300 c.c. GT / Sports section, in which Josh Sadler hoped to consolidate his Midland Championship lead with the 3.5-litre Porsche 911. Flamboyant sideways driving took him to the top fastest on the first run, but in the afternoon Roland Jones displayed a very smooth approach in his 3-litre Carrera to win the class by a fifth of a second at 32.09s
Amongst the Clubmans division, Mallocks dominate the field, and as if to emphasise this, Richard Mallock brought along the latest version, the Mk 24, and proceeded to take the 1700 class victory by a full half-second from Martin Curtis’s Mk 20. Mallock had hoped to break the 30s barrier, but in the event managed a merely respectable 30.11s.
The sports racing and Clubmans up to 1600 section did provide a sub-30 second record however: Charles Wardle achieved a class best in both runs, finishing on 29.24s and frustrating Jim Robinson who put up 29.46s in the same car to take second place. Bill Wood in another Mallock could not stay in touch and his third place was almost a second behind. The 1600-plus-engined versions of these cars produced yet another record during the afternoon — Richard Jones took his very quick 2.2-litre Mallock over the line in 28.01s to win the class, while the ladies battle was resolved in favour of Margaret Blankstone, whose time of 29.45s gave her a comfortable edge over a disappointed Joy Rainey’s 31.95s in the Murrain.
The abilities of the modern racing car were put into perspective by the 500 c.c. entries, whose drivers can be seen to be wringing the best out of these diminutive machines, none trying harder than Ron Warr, who beat Pete Wright into second place.
As expected, the up to 1,100 c.c. racing cars class went to Paul Squires on 31.06, followed by Phil Kidsley, both sharing the Brabham BT28, while the up to 1600 category was dominated by the unusual transverse-engined March Austin Turbo, rumoured to produce 230 b.h.p. from its 1,142 c.c. It was certainly quick, taking first place driven by Rob Oldaker (29.42s), and third with Andy Smith at the helm (29.76s). Separating the two was Tony Southall’s March Atlantic, which turned in 29.63s.
The largest-engined class also had the largest entry, and included the most sophisticated machinery. It was of course from this section that FTD was expected, with Martyn Griffiths and Martin Bolsover hoping to fend off Alistair Douglas-Osborne despite his recent hill record of 26.52s.
Sadly, Griffiths was one of a number of competitors to suffer transmission failures leaving the line; on his first run, the crown-wheel pinion disintegrated, forcing his retirement. Four drivers got below 27 seconds, including Bolsover and Harris in their Pilbeams, and Cramer in the Toleman TG280H. ADO, however, served notice of his form by taking the Waring and Gillow Pilbeam MP47B up a full third of a second clear of his nearest rival.
Before the Top Ten, spectators were treated to the glorious sight and sound of classic cars tackling the hill, of which Tony Brooke’s Vauxhall Villiers was one of the most stirring, winning the pre-1945 class, while Peter Cook’s 3.5-litre Ginetta broke its own record with a run of 31.50s in the pre-1968 section. A separate AC class offered the handsome AC300MEs battling with the 4.7-litre Cobras, one of the latter eventually taking the honours in the hands of Peter Voigt.
A fitting climax to an exciting day was provided by the Top Ten runs, which included urgent start-line repairs, a new hill record and a spectacular crash, luckily without serious injury. Coming to the line for the first of his runs, ADO snapped a driveshaft. His mechanic replaced it in a matter of ten minutes, and the Pilbeam, as if eager to make up for the delay, rocketed away to a new hill record of 26.37s. Even before the second runs, it seemed impossible to beat, but Richard Jones was determined to try. Powering through the crossing, he clipped the inside, cannoned into the opposite bank, and somersaulted high into the air. The Mallock fell on its roll-bar and slid further up the track, coming to a rest with fuel escaping from it. Jones was very quickly extricated from underneath, and proved to have little more than scarred hands.
Since the track was now slippery with earth, there was no further likelihood of improved results, and the final placings gave Osborne FTD on 26.37s, Dave Harris took second with 27.02s, and Chris Cramer’s Toleman was third with 27.04s. – G.C.