Fortunately, fatal accidents in top class hillclimbing in the UK are rare - it is 20 years since we lost Mark Colton - but with times still dropping on roads which, in some cases, have changed little, we are definitely pushing the boundaries - Wallace Menzies' two accidents last year have led to changes at Shelsley Walsh and Doune - but Nicola's accident just last month showed that the solutions which were implemented at the latter may need to be refined further.
Jos Goodyear's accident at Bouley Bay was frightening and he now faces a long recovery for his damaged legs and we wish him all the very best. His times this year have been amazing - witness his new record at Barbon Manor and I will admit that when I saw him coming around the first right hander at Doune in June I took a step back as it was so quick. At Bouley the two spectators next to me were in awe at his commitment our of Radio Corner on his qualifying run.
The question of safety at Bouley Bay will now be an issue I am sure - I believe it took the police well over 3 hours after the crash to hand the road back to the organisers by which time the Closure Order was about to run out. Trevor Willis' accident at the last corner in Guernsey, in my mind, also raised questions about the safety of the track at that point, where only a lowish bank separates the competing car finishing its run at full chat from the previous cars returning down to the holding paddock.
Even at Shelsley - has anyone stopped to think recently about the consequences of a sticking throttle on a car travelling at 140 mph towards the Bottom Ess?
Let us hope that sensible heads will prevail and we will not lose the iconic venues from our Championship, but we must be prepared to accept major changes, I feel, to some of them.
Heading out to Jersey I thought I had discovered a new range of merchandising that Graeme Wight Jnr. had started to sell
but apparently not - the Toronto Raptors are a basketball team it would appear but I am sure that some enterprising Aberdonian could strike a deal to sell their hats etc. to hillclimbing fans!
Once the road at Bouley Bay is closed for the event it is very difficult to actually get between different spectating points because the way to do that is along the course itself and so movement is between batches. On arrival at the top of the hill all I could see was a sea of trees and a sinuous road rising through early morning mist
but I was early enough to walk right down to the bottom to the most amazing paddock where I spent the morning's practice absorbing the peculiarities of the venue. I will let a few pictures set the scene for those who have not been there before:
Looking towards the starting hut
This is the motorcycle paddock
The Waters Edge Hotel dominates the scene
No trailers, no gazebos, nothing extra because there simply is no room for them!! And where else can you sit in a hotel bar with your morning coffee and watch all the paddock activity taking place:
There was slight delay before the start as a local taxi had a customer to deliver - here he is getting ready to tackle the hill but I do not think he was timed!
As you can probably see from the photos, space is at a premium and with limited turning space the big single seaters return to the paddock in a unique manner. Down the hill to the first corner is done in the forward direction but then from there the cars reverse down - here is Tom New going up to help Wallace Menzies negotiate the last few yards after a failed run.
Now the rearward view from a single seater is severely restricted, and hillclimb ones do not have mirrors either, and so when a batch of them are coming down to the paddock this is what happens!
The driver operates the brakes and the 'passenger' does the steering. Of course if you are unlucky and do not have a helper then you might end up like Darren Warwick who seems to have the flexibility of an owl if you believe this picture!
Because of the restricted space and the time taken to get cars back to their places in the paddock, the first cars up the hill do have a long wait at the top as the only intermediate returns are the dual- driven cars and the motorcycles - so if you are competing at Bouley and are near the top of the entry list then it might be wise to take a book with you - Mark Spencer in his Porsche had an hour and a half wait up at the holding area each time. And then once he got back down it was almost immediately time to go back up again!! Maybe that is why he kerbed one of his lovely wheels:
It is also a good idea to have a comfortable place to sit I guess and so that is probably why this local Ralt belonging to Jack and Andrew Allenet has such a luxurious looking cockpit!
Favourite cars -I know the DJ Firehawk is not unfamiliar but I thought this example of Lindsay Summers and Martin Jones looked so good in its pure white livery
Yes it is another Ford Anglia - but this one has 2.4 Pinto engine and it goes like stink - a new class record on the day for Kevin Rault whose father was once the motorbike record holder at the hill.
And finally a rare beast on the hills, though Tony Bunker used to have one - this is the Mallock Mk32 of Len Amy and the paint scheme highlights well the contours of the body.
And then it was on to Guernsey - see Part 2 to follow.