Tuesday, 23 June 2015

I think I have been here before

For the third weekend in a row the BHC circus hit the road - this time to Doune in Scotland, where I first saw a hillclimb back in 1968. The first programme I have in my collection is from June 1968 but I know that I was at a test event in April 1968, but maybe there was no programme for that day - presumably the picture on the cover of the June programme seen below was taken in April - interesting that the numbers on the nose and on the side are different (!!) - the picture is of either Gray or Agnes Mickel I think!!

Inside the programme is a fascinating piece entitled "Hill Climbers", obviously written to inform the new spectator - I quote from it:

"What sort of people travel considerable distances, towing trailers or driving transporters, sometimes to stand about in wet conditions, to spend a mere minute or so actually competing in a speed hill climb?"

"Where else in motor sport can you find drivers from the youngest novice to veterans with over forty years' experience....competing in one meeting? Where else do you find, in one paddock, modified Minis, Vintage models, recent Grand Prix cars, latest GT and Sports cars (similar to those at Le Mans) and 'specials' of all types and sizes?"

"The atmosphere at a hill climb compares with a garden party rather than a serious motoring event. This is not cut-throat motoring and regular hill climb drivers are friendly people who compete for enjoyment rather than reward....make no mistake however - hill climb competitors are very fine exponents in this specialised form of motor sport - the effort and concentration required is very considerable indeed."

I can still recognise some of that - and I would love to see a Porsche 919 tackle Shelsley Walsh!!

There were just 50 competitors at that meeting - and the Best Time of day went to Sir Nicholas Williamson in his 1.6 Brabham BT21C at 48.84 secs. Sir Nicholas of course went on to become Champion in 1970 and 1972. Also appearing but only managing one run at 51.99 secs was David Hepworth, who was to be Champion in 1969 and 1971,  in his magnificent 4.5 litre Brabham Traco - and this fascinated me at the time as I had no idea what a "Traco" was! By the time of the September meeting his self-built Hepworth FF was ready and so it was my only chance to see this ex F1 BT19 (?) in action.

Other familiar names and points scorers in the BHC who were competing were Mike MacDowel in a lightweight Jaguar E type, Kenny Allen in a Mini Cooper, Iain McLaren in a Lotus 7 and the Mickels in their Lotus Buick. The Fisher GT, the predecessor of the Fisher Spyder currently climbed by Peter Speakman, was there as were a small class of Vintage cars including a Nardi Danese and the slowest runner, M J Mutch in a Darracq (83.19 and 83.05)!

Before I got to Doune last weekend I took a trip over to the Rest and Be Thankful which was opened as a hill climb in 1949 when a crowd reckoned at 12,000 covered the hillside above the course and as you can see in the photo below (in typical Scotch mist), they would have had a magnificent view of the cars climbing up to the final hairpin (off to the right in the photo).

The Rest was added to the BHC in 1950 and was a round until 1969 after which the 1970 round was cancelled owing to safety concerns, and the last meeting was held in September 1970. I will cover the Rest in more detail in a later blog, but now let's get down to the business in hand.

In 1992 Graeme Wight Jnr featured in his first BHC run off at Fintray in a 1.6 Pilbeam MP52-BDA and with a time of 29.30 seconds he racked up an 11th place finish.  The car seen below in father Graeme's hands at Doune in 1994.

Two years later at the same meeting, but this time in a Hillclimb Super Sports Vision V85, he scored his first BHC point with a 10th position in 28.77 seconds. In 2001 and 2002 he won the BHC in a Gould GR51, though ironically he clinched the first of those titles in a borrowed car -  Karl Davison's Gould GR37 at Loton Park. (This was one of Jerry Sturman's trick questions a Xmas Quiz a few years ago!!).

In 2004 he scored 10 second places in the first 14 rounds to the dominant Adam Fleetwood (28 wins in a season!!!) before an accident at Loton Park but he returned in 2005 with the sensational looking and sounding V10 engined Predator which eventually gave him a win at Doune in 2008 (with different engine). In 2009 the first of his Raptors appeared with a 1.6 Suzuki engine and driven by Lee Adams it finished 6th at the September Doune. More mid-order places for Lee followed at Doune in 2010 and Graeme then scored his last BHC points as a driver at Loton in September of that year. In total he scored 52 run-off victories out of 154 appearances averaging at just over 7.4 points per run.

In 2011 and 2012 Lee Adams finished in the top 10 of the BHC (5th and 6th) giving the Raptor its first victory at Harewood 2011 and following up with 6 more over the 2 years.

And now there are three of them and they were all together at Doune which must have made Graeme proud. I missed the official photocall on Saturday but as they were lined up next to each other in the paddock I was able to get them poised and eager to be unleashed to make their appearance in the second run-off - just to add the icing to the cake they had all qualified and then Jos Goodyear set BTD on the last run.

So what do you call a group of Raptors - a 'flight', a 'velocity' (veloci(ty)raptor) or how about a 'Brunel' (but maybe I am getting my GWRs mixed up there!!).

There was one other raptor at Doune on Sunday as well but he was staying well away from the noisy ones down below.

Cornishman Geoff Twemlow is a regular visitor to Doune though this year tow-car problems left him stranded near his home, but we had several long distance travellers with us - the Le Cheminants from Guernsey had had a short break after Loton Park but were due to head home after Doune - via Peppa Pig World and maybe the West Midlands Safari Park (must get animals mentioned in the blog somewhere), Derek Kessell had made the trip up from Saltash, where Devon meets Cornwall, for the first time with his Maguire Mini

while Alex and Jenny Howells were there with their Hillman Imp (Jenny pressing on across the Meadow here)

Although it is road-legal they had trailered it up as it would have been a bit noisy to drive all the way from their base in Lymington in Hampshire, but they did take it on a trip to Tesco while here! They were also about to go off and explore Scotland for a week but leaving the Imp in the care of Jock Ramsay.

Talking of animals, some of you will no doubt recognise that this is a Reliant Kitten Estate (this is one I used to own)!!!

And some of you may also recognise this as a Reliant Kitten Estate - obviously they are the same model of car!!

But don't blame current driver Richard Mattosian for how it looks as here is the same body back in 1983 at the same race meeting as the David Enderby VW Karmann Ghia pictured in my last Loton blog.

I was interested to see that the signwriting on the bonnet of the car now is similar in colour to the whole car when Ginger had it - I meant to ask Richard whether or not that was deliberate?

Ginger Marshall is still racing, these days in the Open Sports Car Championship in England where he drives the Bowlby clubmans car designed and built by Ben Bowlby who is chief designer of the revolutionary front-engined Nissan LMP1 car that raced at Le Mans this year.

There was a different look to Doune this year of course with the new wooden barriers on the outside all around the Meadow section and up and over East Brae following Wallace Menzies' off last year and ironically it was wife Nicola who tested them with a big off late in the day which punched a substantial hole in the wooden barrier. Fortunately she was not hurt and was quickly out of the car and walking. I have not been a frequent visitor to Doune recently, only in 2002, 2013 and this year and I was amazed at the transformation at the top of East Brae.  Here is a picture taken of Simon Durling having gone off at the top of East Brae in 2002 - I think the track is actually somewhere between the vegetation in the foreground and the car!!

And here is a picture this year of a very similar car - a red Gould GR37 (but this is #5 as opposed to #1) - of Ross Napier taken from roughly the same location

The trees have grown a lot in 13 years but more noticeable are the conditions in the vicinity of the track and obviously the larger run-off area that helps wayward drivers carry on up the hill rather than find themselves buried in the undergrowth.

There were a number of 'offs' during the day as well as Nicola Menzies' one - Simon Jenks had an argument with a barrier and bent the front of his Caterham and this also led to a half hour wait while the barrier was fixed (in the case of Nicola's off they took out the broken bits of barrier and pushed a couple of giant straw bales in to plug the gap); Donald McCaskill went into the barrier on his second run and apparently the big splitter on the front of the Mitsubishi got jammed in the barrier. Maybe a good job he did not go in backwards as I reckon a whole family of rabbits would have set up home in his diffuser as quick as you could say 'Mitsubishi Lancer Evo V supported by Dyce Carriers Ltd. and Barratt Homes'!!

Late in the afternoon Mike King's Renault Clio was not looking quite so pristine as it did earlier below, as his father Jim bunny-hopped across the Meadow, as Mike managed to spin it through 180 degrees between Oak Tree and Garden Gate and, much to the amusement of watching friends and relatives left an 'X marks the spot' set of tortured tyre marks on the tarmac. Not sure who was going to drive it home later!!

I don't know whether the long day was getting to drivers, or maybe a little damp was seeping up through the surface, but just a few cars later and it was Stuart Sugden's turn to do a wall of death along the barrier at Oak Tree and come to a halt, but this time without the spin and so ended up facing the right way. After a quick turn at Garden Gate he crabbed his way back down the track - I think left handers were a bit of a challenge - his pristine GWR Mini was a bit ragged at the edges and the beautiful carbon splitter at the front (seen here pre-shunt) was hanging at an odd angle.

Among those watching was the afore-mentioned Donald McCaskill who would probably be on hand to give Stuart advice on the size of his diffuser - obviously not man-enough for the job compared to his!!!!

Favourite cars of the day - well I have mentioned two already - the McCaskill Lancer and the yellow peril of a Mini - more views below:

There were a lot of candidates for the third one - but I have always liked the clean lines of the Pilbeam MP43 and so the David Seaton / Doug Thompson one gets my vote.

A final link to the past - this 1976 photo shows Doug Thomson with his 250 cc Motus Mk7 which he took to the top in 49.97 secs! Looks similar-ish to the Pilbeam (4 wheels and a hole in the front) - do you think he just stuck it in a Gro-bag for the last 39 years!! Look at the size of the timing strut!

And you probably thought (or hoped) that that was it for this post but I cannot go without mentioning yet again the Multi Car Hillclimb Challenge of David Finlay and Alisdair Suttie - this week they were in a Ford Fiesta ST with Mountune engine tweaks and we caught up with them in the paddock with Brian Fraser, one of the Blood Bike riders, and his Honda.

Brian is an ex-lifeboat coxswain and he has spent two and a half years getting the blood bike on the road and has a file of paperwork 2 - 3 inches thick dealing with all the red tape / insurances etc that he has had to get cleared before being able to start. It is not just blood by the way that they will volunteer to collect as in remote areas it could be paperwork or medication delivery that they undertake. Just a reminder that the national website for information on how to support the charity is here while the Blood Bikes Scotland website is here. Remember these guys are all volunteers and there is no funding from Government or the NHS so every little helps.

Here is a close up of Brian's Honda for all you two-wheeled aficionados.

Well that's it for a couple of weeks but then we have the double header at Barbon and Harewood, moved from May and so let's hope we get better weather than we have been accustomed to for that weekend.

Apologies if this blog gets longer and longer - maybe you now feel just like Alistair Crawford did on Sunday as he waited for the barriers to be repaired.............Bye for now.


  1. Great report and captures the spirit of the event - thanks Julian Harber

  2. Nice pic of Richard Matossians Reliant but just to put the record straight it is not the car Ginger Marshall raced but a space frame version,I think built in Cornwall by John White.The bodyshell was from the same moulds.Gingers car was an ali.monocoque chassis and is still owned by Team Mand F.- David Marshall

  3. Re. Reliant Kittens, Richard Mattosians Kitten is not the same one as Ginger raced. Ginger still has that one.It looks the same as the body came from Marshall and Fraser teams moulds.We may well rebuild it in 2017.