Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Harewood - records and tragedy

For the second time in 3 weekends the British Hillclimb Championships was interrupted by a visit from the Air Ambulance but this time, tragically, their efforts to get the patient to hospital were in vain as  Les Thurkettle, a well known Yorkshire hillclimber, passed away in the hospital after an incident in the paddock on Sunday. Many others, who knew Les better, have posted and will be posting their thoughts about him in various fora and websites but I will just direct you to one of his reports on the Harewood Hill history page.  RIP Les.


This was my first visit to Harewood and it will not be my last -  do not know why I have waited so long to go there - maybe it was the thought of travelling 150 miles but with it just being off the A1, as is Bedford where I live, accessibility could hardly be improved. I was originally going to go to practice on the Saturday as well, but when my proposed accommodation in York became unavailable, I went to Silverstone instead to catch some Classic Sports Car Club racing - if I say that there were 100 spectators there, I would probably be over-estimating!! There was little there with any connection with hillclimbing, but all you Lotus Elan aficionados might be interested in this example purchased from Germany with a double bubble hardtop - apparently the driver was quite tall but, as the new owner said - why 2 bubbles!! Aerodynamic balance maybe!!

So it was an early start for Yorkshire from Bedford on Sunday morning and I was able to get parked easily at Harewood in the hilltop car park and got my first view over the hill because, as most of you I am sure will know, the car parking and paddock are, unusually, at the top of the hill. This picture is too small a scale to see properly (I have made it big to make it easier to see) but the start is down to the right of the tree in the left middle distance - you can see the hut -  and the track then goes away from the viewer towards the trees at the end of the field before winding its way back up via the farm buildings in the middle to the finish off to the right of the picture. So, also unusually, it contains a downhill stretch before it starts to climb.

What the picture does show is that it is possible to see almost all of the hill from the paddock area and looking back at the skyline from the middle of the hill it was like those Western films where the Indians stand on the top of the cliffs watching the settlers' wagons wind along the trail below!!


The cars descend from the paddock by a fairly steep access road

and obviously there is no need for a return road. The whole process works extremely well and with 2, and sometimes 3 cars on the hill at any one time, the programme moved along pretty quickly unless there was an incident. I found plenty of places to take photos and there was no crowding in the lower reaches as most people seemed to get as far down as Farmhouse bend and no further. A longer walk out through the main car park also takes you to the outside of Quarry and also right down to the outside of Orchard, where like Silverstone the day before, I enjoyed almost complete isolation.

As you might be beginning to tell, I enjoyed it all thoroughly.

The main feature of the hill is of course the run through between the farm buildings as seen in this picture of Roger Moran sharing Steve Day's Caterham - I think it must look very narrow when something like Tony Bunker's Nissan goes through there - maybe he just breathes in at the right time!! (see Comment from Tony below). And I love the "Children Playing" sign - do you think they just put that up for the hillclimbers - boys (and girls) and their toys!!!

Roger was actually driving two cars on Sunday -  he was also sharing Eynon Price's new Gould GR59 which Sean Gould had debuted at Prescott. Photographs are wonderful - every one tells a thousand words they say but they can also be terrific liars - look at this one of Eynon in his Gould - has he discovered a go faster tweak for his rear wing - or they are his 'Prescott silencers'???

It was pure chance of course that I managed to take the picture just as the chimney pots acting as gate posts were lined up with the wing supports - and here is another one I like - it looks like a pretty normal picture of Tom New exiting Clark's

But if we crop it and focus on his inside front wheel you can see that there is definitely a bit of a gap between wheel and tarmac:

This was also the corner where Jos Goodyear had a spin on his first qualifying run. From the outside of Farmhouse it was quite difficult to understand what had happened - here you can see the wing of the car parallel to the road

but when you got closer the skidmarks told the tale and he had ended up sideways on the grass bank. The car was undamaged and he was able to set a new class record second time around. You really have to respect these guys!!

Although he was driving two cars, Roger Moran is not entered in the British Championship this year but it did raise the question as to whether it is actually possible to qualify in more than one car for the BHC Run-off and maybe score points in both. In August 1952 at Shelsley, before the days of a run-off,  Ken Wharton took BTD in his Cooper-Jap and second BTD in ERA R11B while also winning the 500 cc class in a Kieft,  while in June 1953 he not only took BTD and second BTD but also won the team prize with a 4th in the 500cc class!!!

There was a new Raptor at Harewood, looking unfamiliar in white, for Richard Spedding and he did extremely well to finish 7th in the first run-off, while he was heading for a higher finish in the second one until he stopped with mechanical failure at the farm.

The question must be  - what effect does this little fellow on its nose have on his performance:

and if he starts to win regularly will all the cars suddenly sprout such features as, who knows, maybe that will be the secret to his success. I remember many years ago there was talk of the purple-pole effect. Colin Chapman's Lotuses were dominating Formula 1 and everybody was trying to copy his design to get the same success and it was suggested that if Lotus turned up one GP with a purple pole sticking out in front of the car and continued to win, how long would it be before all cars sported similar appendages as that was obviously  the key to winning!!! So if Richard starts winning (or Jos who has a similar feature on his car) then I would rush out and buy up Toys 'R Us's stock of plastic dinosaurs as they will obviously become the thing to have!!

Talking of noses - the Empire Wraith's aerodynamic beauty is obviously effective

As I said above I got to a number of places to take photos and they will all be up soon on my Flickr page but here are a few examples. First from the outside of Country - Craig Moore's Rage buggy

and then the outside of Orchard -Carl Wattam's Alan Mann Racing replica Escort

the outside of Farmhouse - a hard trying Andy Birkitt

looking down on Farmhouse - Simon Moyse's Gould GR59

and finally a couple from different positions on the outside of Quarry - Simon Fidoe's Empire Wraith

and Tony Bunker's Nissan

And so to my favourite cars of the week and there is a story to the first one:

This is the Abarth 695 Biposto of David Finlay and Alisdair Suttie who at Prescott two weeks ago were driving this car:

If you look closely at the Abarth you will see this on the side:

It reads the "Nationwide Association of Blood Bikes" and David and Alisdair are supporting this charity by, hopefully, driving a different car at every hillclimb they participate in. See here. I await keenly to see what they will turn up with at Shelsley Walsh (they are not going to Gurston). I have no details as to how to support David and Alisdair by donating to the charity but I am sure they will be only too pleased to tell you! (see Comment from David below).

My second favourite car is this one - it is the Macveans' Van Diemen RF93 - and I just loved the variation in tyre wrap colour and the contrast to the red of the car - come on the rest of you - ditch that boring black tyre wrap and let's see some jazzy contrasting colours!!

And finally I am going to go for these 2 - 'His' and 'Her' Ferraris -  Jon Goodwin's 550 Maranello and Pauline Goodwin's California - built for Go as well as Show!

So there you have it - 3 down, 14 to go - and a weekend off before Gurston is quickly followed by the Coventry Motorfest and then 4 weekends out of 5 (with the Barbon and Harewood double header at the end). I do not know how the drivers do it - at least I only have myself to worry about but when you add in the car preparation etc. etc. it takes real dedication to pursue the BHC, and then to do it the next year and the next year. I raise my hat to all of you.

PS - Edition 2 - I mentioned "records" in the title - the first and last runs of the day both saw records being broken and there were others in between.

The first run saw Paul Drowne set a new Class C (ii) record in his Peugeot 205 only to then see it broken again by Sarah Bosworth in her Elise and then finally by his co-driver, Colin Satchell who after 2 rounds is looking like a good bet for the Leaders Championship.

And the last run saw Scott Moran set a new hill record as the 49 second barrier was broken for the first time with a 48.81 run. Who said that the big V8 cars had had their day??


  1. Glad you asked! You can donate to Blood Bikes via this website: http://www.thenabb.org.uk/

    Alisdair and I may end up doing as many as ten rounds, since more manufacturers are interested in coming on board, so that gives us plenty of opportunity to continue the pleasant chat we had at Harewood.

  2. Really enjoying your blog John (if not the process of trying to comment on it!). Come and say hi at Gurston if you get chance (Caterham 564). Oli

  3. Hi John - Good to meet you at Harewood, you can judge for yourself how tight the farm yard is! https://youtu.be/TwnFCp101QA