Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Fun and games down on the farm

When I first said to a friend of mine that I was going to "Gurston Down Hillclimb" she was a bit puzzled -' how can you have a downhill climb?' she said. All became clear quite quickly, when I spelt it out, until I then said that in fact the first part of the 'climb' was actually downhill!! Exit confused party heading for the bar!!

While not unique in having a downhill section (see Harewood) the scale of the plunge from the start line at Gurston is something else - and, while most of my readers will have been there, here are a couple of pictures for those unfamiliar with the location. Firstly looking from the start towards the finish which is at the gap in the trees on the skyline

and secondly from halfway up the hill at Ashes back to the start:

On a flat sheet of paper the hill looks fairly straightforward -

What the map cannot show of course are the difficulties posed by the speed of descent towards the compression at Hollow (up to 130mph), the sharp rise up through Karousel, the jump at Deers Leap (though fewer these days have wheels of the ground) and the right angle bend at Ashes whichit  is critical to get right to carry the speed up the long ascent to the finish. It is the third fastest hill in the British Championship and definitely favours the more powerful cars so that Ed Hollier's 1600 did very well to qualify for the run - offs though he finished both in 12th place in contrast to his 6th and 8th at the twistier Harewood two weeks previously.

The marshalls at the Gurston startline also have a unique challenge - to stop cars without handbrakes from breaking the timing beam while waiting for the green light - as you can see from the pictures two of them hold onto the rear wing or rear suspension of the cars as they get ready to go and then remove their hands as the car accelerates:

Obviously a fair bit of co-ordination is required and below you can see that this has been achieved with a display of synchronisation that would probably impress the judges though they might lose marks for the variation in hand height on release!

And I think a bit of overcompensation on the right this time.

Elsewhere in the paddock the Welsh synchronised tyre-scrubbing team were getting in a bit of practice

although I think Tim just fell off the beat a bit here.......

The Gurston venue runs through a working farm and sometimes the drivers try and give the owners a bit of a hand by helping with the harvest  - here is Mike Broome having a "Jackie Stewart at the1973 British GP" moment

fortunately without harm to his lovely Alexis Mk17 Formula 3 car shown below immediately afterwards. No apologies for showing this car at a larger scale as it was one of my favourites from the meeting.

And there were also a few animals about the farmyard as well - John Oxborrow and his self-built Ox -7 is a regular on the hillclimb scene now, John having previously built a series of successful Formula Ford cars and having great success at Brands Hatch in particular. The car features its own version of a cow-catcher at the front and I reckon it would also have more success with the harvest than the Alexis!!

John picked up a fine 8th place in a very competitive class where a couple of tenths less would have seen him on the class podium. Positions 3rd through 7th in that class were covered by just 4/100ths of a second.

This little chap was spotted on the back of Oliver Wright's Caterham 7 - he does not look very happy - maybe he should have a helmet to go with his trendy leather jacket! The things you have to do to sell insurance!!

Oh and how do you explain to your friend (see first paragraph) that while it is the Lotus 7 Championships all the cars are Caterhams!!

Ties for first place in top 12 runoffs are rare. In the first run-off at Gurston Alex Summers and Scott Moran both got the Gould GR61X to the top of the hill in 26.25 seconds and while there have been ties for first before (see below) this is the first time that the same car has been involved.

In recent years (that is since 1970!) there have been just 5 other ties for first place in a run-off. Scott Moran and Chris Merrick, also at Gurston, in 2010, and then a few weeks later they tied again at Shelsley Walsh (Chris Merrick's only 2 run-off wins in fact). There have been two at Wiscombe - Tim Mason and Graeme Wight Jnr in 2001 and Trevor Willis and Martin Groves in 2007, and one at Val des Terres - Scott Moran and Jos Goodyear in 2012. What is interesting is that they have all come in the last 15 years when the previous 30 years produced none - any mathematicians out there want to comment on the whole probability theory behind this??

Also on Sunday in the first run-off there was a tie for 5th place between Dave Uren (going extremely well all day) and Will Hall. So 57 points awarded instead of 55 - another uncommon happening to have two ties in a single run-off - previously at Harewood in 2014, Gurston in 2012, Wiscombe in 2003 and Prescott in 1999. While researching this I came across the triple tie at Wiscombe in 2010 which involved Will Hall, Scott Moran and Roger Moran - so the GR61X has been involved in a tie with both drivers before - just not for the win!

Enough numbers for the moment - a quick question for you - what is the connection between this car -

 and this car

The eagle-eyed among you may have spotted that Piers Thynne's Westfield Megabusa sports a Scottish numberplate - SK03 ARU and it is in fact the first car that Wallace Menzies, seen in the Gould at Craigantlet, built for hillclimbing way back in 2002 /2003. Old hillclimb cars never die - they just get new engines!!

I have already identified one of my three favourite cars at Gurston last weekend, Mike Broome's Alexis. Ian Sydenham's Nissan Micra is number 2 - just for the fact that it looks immaculate and you do not see too many of them rushing up hills!!

and the last one is chosen for its lovely colour!! James Moore's OMS

As is the case everywhere we go the marshalls at Gurston do a fantastic job in all conditions - in my younger days I was one of them when the snow threatened at Doune and there was nary a spectator in sight -you can never praise them highly enough and, as we have seen at Prescott earlier this year, they can be the first on the scene and immediately have to manage a life or death situation. There are also the lighter moments and the sight of one of them on Sunday haring down the track to collect a piece that had fallen off a car just after the start, and then returning a bit more slowly uphill through the spectator enclosure raised a few smiles especially when somebody asked if they should have the ambulance on standby with the oxygen!! This member of the orange brigade was spotted with his feet up at the weekend but he was the exception!! Where did he got those boots!!

So after 4 rounds it is Alex Summers leading the way in the British Hillclimb Championship on 70 points, the only driver actually to have scored in all the rounds so far. Scott Moran and Trevor Willis are tied for second on 58 and Will Hall is 4th on 46. Wallace Menzies is next on 37 while Alastair Crawford is having his best season and lies 6th on 32. Jos Goodyear comes next in the best of the smaller engined cars.

In the Leaders Championship Colin Satchell won his class for the third time, though for the first time this season not with a class record and so just 9 points for him but he leads the way on 29 points. Ed Hollier has also had 3 wins but no records and so has 27 while Alex Summers was beaten to the class win by co-driver Scott Moran and has slipped back to third on 25 points.

I used to think of the Leaders Championship as being for the non single-seater classes - a chance for the saloons and sports cars to grab a bit of glory but in fact the last non single-seater to win the title was Simon Fidoe back in 2008 with the sports racing Pilbeam MP43, Ed Hollier won in 2007 with the OMS sportscar and before that it was Paul Haimes in the 2.0litre Mallock - Millington in 2001.

Is there a case for banning single-seaters from the Leaders Championship to try and get some more interest in the saloon and sports car classes where there are too many classes in which a shortage of entrants makes record-breaking performances an irrelevance on the scoreboard. Thought for the day!! Discuss.

On to Shelsley Walsh next - if  Doune is the King of the Hills then Shelsley is the Grand Old Lady of the Hills - wearing extremely well and not averse to biting back when provoked! See you there.

1 comment:

  1. John

    I have been reading your various blogs on your 2015 tour. I find your "take" on what you are finding to be quite fascinating reading. Keep them coming!