The Avro Vulcan is an iconic British plane - the example below was photographed at East Fortune Museum near Edinburgh just last year.
- first delivered to the RAF in 1956 a total of 136 were built but only 1 is still flying, based at RAF Finningley in Yorkshire. Unfortunately this is the final year when she will be flying and she will make a number of appearances on this farewell tour.
On 6th June, on my way to Shelsley, she flew overhead as I was driving near Alcester and I now know that she was putting on a display at the Throckmorton airshow. On Sunday 14th June her schedule consisted of the Cholmondeley Pageant of Power in Cheshire, the Welshpool Air Show and Festival of Transport and the RAF Cosford Air Show and, if you know your geography, you will realise why she suddenly appeared in the skies over Loton Park.
At that point I felt sorry for the competitors who were driving up the hill because I do not think anybody was watching them as the Vulcan flew around! Later in the afternoon the Battle of Britain fighters flew over, a couple of biplanes were seen for a long time as they plodded across the sky and, if you were really sharp-eyed (though you could not miss the noise), a Eurofighter Typhoon lit up its after-burners as it climbed into the heavens.
We have had a number of animal references in this blog so far but I was not quick enough to grab a photo of the deer that made its appearance as Clive Austin was making his first run in Sunday - not sure if Clive saw it either and he did not get a re-run, so maybe it was just chasing him away from its territory, but it gave the marshalls at the exit of Keepers a bit of a shock. It reminded me of the time at Shelsley Walsh when a Porsche (I think) braked hard as a pheasant ran across the track. In that case a re-run was awarded - to the Porsche, not the pheasant!!
There were loads of Porsches at Loton at the weekend for 2 rounds of their Championship - one on Saturday and one on Sunday - in total they got 8 runs altogether which must have made a few of the others a bit envious as there were only 2 practice runs on offer for everybody on Saturday owing to the dreadful weather conditions. I got there at about 1430 and, apart from the Porsches, everybody else had gone off to get dry or were working on their cars under their gazebos.
David Hilton's bright red 996 lit up the gloom for me as times ranged up into the high 70second mark.
Clear winner (on scratch) of the Porsche class on both days was record holder Paul Howells who lowered his record to 56.62 on Sunday, having been 7 seconds slower in the damp conditions on Saturday.
The first thing I saw on Sunday morning was another Porsche which had decided that it did not want to play and had decided to hide in the grass on the approach to Triangle.
As you can see the marshalls easily spotted him and returned him to the straight and narrow but one lesson I hope it learnt was that there is no point trying to hide unless you are camouflaged as this clever little Force showed later on in the day, though even it was quickly found and returned to its owner!
One driver who has impressed on his visits to the Midlands climbs this year is former Maltese hillclimb champion, Zach Zammit who has been using one of the very effective Empire Evo chassis.
This is the last time we shall see Zach in this car as he was due to be sending it back to Malta to prepare for the season over there. His previous mount was a Ralt RT36 with a 2.2 Honda in the back (see picture here) and he told me the roads were a lot bumpier over there and all were public roads with all the elements of dropped fuel etc. like we have to contend with on the Channel Islands and at Craigantlet.
He does, however, hope to come back later in the year and maybe share a car at some of the climbs.
As in all forms of motor sport the deciding element in finding out who has won a hillclimb is speed, or to be more precise, average speed over a set distance, but of course it is not always the car which has the highest top speed which wins if that speed cannot be used effectively by linking the quick stretches together with effective and efficient cornering. At Loton I spent a while at Triangle Corner which is where the original hillclimb began when it was opened and which really marks the start of the final ascent to the top of the hill after the twists and turns and rises and falls of the loop through Hall Corner, Loggerheads and Fletchers Dellow have been negotiated.
Hitting the apex at Triangle proved to be remarkably difficult, though some got it pretty much spot-on.
For others, however there was a wide margin of error!!
While Will Hall showed what to do if you were just a little bit quick!
And in the saloon and sports classes there was a variety of styles!
Understeer from Tony Batterbee who won the tyre-squealing award for the day and a touch of oversteer from class winning Mark Spencer.
While even if you got Triangle right there was always Keepers waiting to trip you up
Walking around the paddock at a hillclimb these days one is aware of many smells - the burger van usually being somewhere near the top of the olfactory awareness, but one other element is burning rubber as drivers use hot air blowers to soften the top layer of rubber on their tyres and scrape it off to leave fresher rubber exposed for the next run. Now the challenge must be to find the most efficient way of doing that - do you, as Trevor Willis demonstrates here, scrape across the tyre or do you, as I have seen Wallace Menzies do (sorry no photo), do it around the circumference of the tyre?
The sun shone brightly on Sunday afternoon at times and the paddock was a glorious site with the cars shining brightly, and free from the cover of the gazebos, enabling the full colour of a British hillclimb paddock to be on show.
Not so many red single-seaters in this picture but they were there still there, spread throughout the paddock. A new livery for Richard Spedding's Raptor, meanwhile, relieved its previous virginal white
while I am still trying to decide what colour can describe the livery of Nev Rollason's car!
And while we are on the subject of helmets I presume it is the Elf and Safety people who have demanded that drivers must wear their helmets in open top cars as they return down the hill - in the past it was the only way to identify drivers to the spectators and it was great to see drivers acknowledging their friends and family who were watching while the spectators had fun deciding whether the prevalence of baldness among the drivers was because their hair was being forced out as they sped down the hill or if there was another reason for the majority being tonsurally challenged!
Before I get into deep water I guess I should pick my three favourite cars at Loton. There were no Chevrons there, so that opens the field a bit, but there was the Ford Anglia of Glyn Davies.
Graham Loakes' Lola T492 - Porsche has such an interesting history
having once formed the basis of a VW Karmann Ghia Special Saloon - but NOT it seems the David Enderby one which I photographed at Silverstone in 1983. Graham has done research into the history of the car and details can be found here.
I also liked the subtle decoration on the Le Cheminants' OMS
In the Leaders' Championship, Colin Satchell made it 5 class wins in a row to retain his Championship lead but he had to come from behind to defeat his co-driver, Paul Drowne, by just 0.22 seconds, though just under a second away from Keith Murray's record. Ed Hollier got back on track with his 4th class win to remain just 5 points behind but has scored no extra points as he is competing against many of Jos Goodyear's records when the Raptor was normally aspirated - he was exactly 3 seconds slower than the record at Loton!
Alex Summers fell back a little when he was only fourth in class behind Will Hall but man on the move currently is Goodyear who has been undefeated since his noise problems at Prescott and picked up an extra point at Loton by beating Alex Summers' class record by just under half a second. His nearest rival was over 2 1/2 seconds behind him and if he keeps it on track there seems to be little to challenge him - Satchell will need to keep matching him for class wins and records.
In the BHC it was another good weekend for Scott Moran with a haul of 18 points for 2 second place finishes and he picked up a couple of points on Alex Summers who won the first run-off but slipped to 5th in the second one. Scott will not be at Doune next week, however, and so Alex should be able to extend his lead and, on current form, Trevor Willis should slip into second place. Trevor will want to get out of the rut of 3rd place finishes however. Two more at Loton made it 3 in a row, 5 out of the last 6 rounds (interrupted only by his off at Shelsley), and 7 for the season. The record number of 3rd place finishes in a season since we had two rounds per meeting is 10 and he would prefer, I am sure, not to beat that but to increase his existing overall record of 41 wins and 61 second places.
And finally an update on the Muti-Car Challenge - this week Alisdair Suttie was back co-driving with David Finlay in a Vauxhall Corsa VXR, which in its latest form seems enormous for a 'small' car which is presumably why the Viva is making a comeback to take over from the original Nova / Corsa range, but what happens when it becomes Tonka'd?
David had the upper hand on the hill with a 65.29 to Alisdair's 66.50, though I am sure they are not keeping a score......
Nest week at Doune it is going to be a Ford Fiesta ST with a Mountune performance pack for them and I look forward to seeing them and everybody else at the first hillclimb course I ever visited way back in 1968. Current plans include me taking a pilgrimage to the Rest and Be Thankful on my way there and so hopefully the Scotch mist will not prevent me getting some views of the old course.