Wednesday, 30 September 2015

The Longest Day

Between this picture - taken at 8.15 a.m.

and this picture of the Championship Top Ten taken at 6.15 p.m.

stretched a very long day at Loton Park on Sunday.

A number of lengthy delays in the first set of runs meant that they did not finish until after 2 and, after a short lunch break, the second set started at 3.35 and fortunately there were fewer delays.

There may be a number of people reading this who do not attend hillclimbs regularly and so the faces above may be unfamiliar to you so, for the record: sitting in the car is Alex Summers (2015 Champion) and then the others from left to right are Wallace Menzies (3rd), Dave Uren (6th), Scott Moran (4th), Alastair Crawford (8th), Tom New (5th), Will Hall (7th), John Bradburn (standing) (9th), Jos Goodyear (sitting) (10th) and Trevor Willis (2nd).

Alex, of course, had won the Championship last week at Doune but all the other positions were capable of change. Wallace, Trevor and Scott all had their eyes on second but Trevor sealed this with two steady runs to 4th in each run-off. After a second and a third for Wallace and a third and win for Scott they were tied on 205 (for their 27 best scores - actually Scott only scored in 22 rounds) but because Wallace (seen here at Museum Corner) had actually dropped a score (4 scores in fact) he was placed above Scott.

Tom New came into the weekend in 5th position but could have been overtaken by Dave Uren and / or Will Hall but a 10th and a 7th confirmed his 5th place (his highest finish since he first broke into the top ten in 2006) while Dave Uren took advantage of Will's car being unavailable since Shelsley to move above him into 6th place - an event that had seemed very likely considering Dave's late season upsurge in points - he scored 83 points in the second half of the season as against 38 in the first half! Dave is seen here on Sunday dealing with a touch of oversteer at Museum Corner:

While the injured Jos Goodyear entered the meeting in 8th place he only had a 2 point advantage over both John Bradburn and Alastair Crawford who were tied on 85, and, although Alastair failed to qualify for the second run-off, a 6th place in the first compared to John's 8th and 9th meant they remained tied on 90 points, now above Jos who therefore finished 10th.

Alastair had appeared in 26 rounds and John in 28, but John's dropped score was actually a 0! The next tie-breaker is actually the number of hill records and they were equal there as well as neither had recorded any and so it went to the third tie break which says the highest number of best places - both had scored 1 4th place but it was Alastair's two 5th places as against John's one 5th place that swung it his way! When you think about it, it was John's exclusion for excessive noise from the second run off at Prescott in April which ultimately cost him as the points scored in that run-off, and he had set a time good enough for 3rd place, would have been enough for him to have finished 8th in the final reckoning.

Here is John in action at Barbon in July

and Alastair at Harewood in May

And there was of course another National Championship settled on Sunday - the Avon Tyres / TTC Group MSA Leaders to give it its full name. Before the meeting the points situation had Colin Satchell on 81, Ed Hollier on 78 and Alex Summers on 75 (though the programme, and indeed the BHC website) had Alex on 79 which caused Colin some unnecessary worry!

If Colin (below) won his class then he would increase his total to 84 (or 85 with a record), but anything else would not improve his score beyond 81 (unless in the unlikely situation he was second in class with a record!). If Ed won his class he would also get to 81 while a record would give him the extra point and give him 82. If Alex won his class with a record he would only get to 79 so in reality he was not a factor. But of course if he really did have 79 points then a class win and a record would have given him 83 - so you can see why Colin thought he had something to worry about!!

 If Colin and Ed tied on 81 then Colin would win the Championships because he had dropped scores he could add on. Overall the odds were on Colin winning - Ed (below) had to get the record to have a chance to deprive him.

In practice Colin had got to within 5/100ths of Keith Murray's record - 55.46 against a record of 55.41 and so things were looking good for him. Ed had a very difficult record to aim at - Jos Goodyear's 44.75. Ed's best at the June meeting had been 47.75 and he improved that to 47.32 in practice, second quickest behind Eynon Price.

Come Sunday morning and the track was still a bit slippery after the overnight mist and Colin recorded 56.54 to lead the class by nearly a second from Steve Bailey's Escort. Steve's second run was an improvement to 55.95 - he was really pushing on

and then disaster for Colin as a drive shaft broke in the first part of the climb! So he would finish second on the day and add nothing to his score of 81. This was only his second breakdown of the year - the gearbox went at Wiscombe but with only 2 starters there that was not such a disaster as he would only have scored 4 points for winning.

So how was Ed doing? - well in the first run he had recorded a 48.16 to lie third behind Eynon Price and Richard Spedding and still a long way from the record. He improved to 47.48 second time up but he slipped to 4th as Sean Gould overtook him - so not enough and Colin Satchell was the Leaders Champion. But of course Colin still thought that Alex had a chance owing to the incorrect total in the points table and it was only when Scott Moran won the big single-seater class, beating Alex into second place that he felt able to relax....

Ironically the points situation was exactly the same as it was at the start of the meeting - Colin on 81, Ed on 78 and Alex on 75. I will review all the classes in my next blog post in a week or so.

Sorry - I said much earlier in my blogging year that I would not be doing a nuts and bolts analysis of each and every round, but it looks like I have just done one, with washers aplenty too!!  So here is a car to break up the words:

And no - it is not the Clerk of the Course - more about it later!

Colin became the first driver to win the Leaders with a roof over his head since Tony Lambert did it in a Ferrari in 1993 while he is the first to win it in a saloon, as opposed to a silhouette on a sports car chassis, since John Meredith in 1977! He attended every one of the 14 rounds and set 5 new hill records, on hills he had never seen before - Prescott (twice), Harewood (twice) and Barbon Manor. As he is based in Holsworthy in Devon it was a marathon year for him and he reckons he covered 10,000 miles in total. And he is going to do it all again next year!!

Apart from the BHC contenders who attended all the rounds (and in fact only 5 did that - Menzies (Mr and Mrs), New, Summers and Willis), only one other driver made 14 appearances and that was Allan McDonald who had almost as long a drive as Colin from his Dalbeattie base at the other end of the country.

And then to round off his year he had a marshall standing in his way doing his best Chinaman against the tank impersonation!

What was actually happening was that Allan had conked out on Cedar Straight and the marshall was guiding him backwards into safety which he found near here:

So why was it such a long day - the first cars were on the hill at 0830 and it was still a little damp from the fog as the early classes set out and Anthony Record was the first to find this out as he begins to spin his way around at Triangle:

If I was a runner in A1 or A2 I would actually find it a bit annoying that my class was always the one to be first on the track - often damp from morning dew or overnight rain - why are the classes not rotated from meeting to meeting so that sometimes it is classes C and D that go out first or even the smaller single - seaters?

At Loton everybody who completed 2 runs in Class A1 improved on their second run - by an average of 2.75 seconds while in A2 the 14 cars out of the 16 that improved their times did so by an average of 2.65 seconds, the majority these improvements being, I would wager, owing to the damp morning track - now I am not saying that the same would not be the case if other classes went first - it is just that this kind of 'pain' should be spread around more evenly.

One of the stars of A2 was John Harding in his E Type, seen below, who came 6th beating off a few Porsches and Japanese turbos!

Thee was also a bit of English / Welsh needle of course as this was the day after the night before when Wales shocked England in the Rugby World Cup. In the first run it was Welshman Nigel Burke (below) who led the way in his multi-hued Subaru, just 0.17 seconds up on Englishman Robert Lancaster-Gaye's Porsche.

In the second runs Robert (below) posted a 59.74 to take the lead and Nigel could only respond with a 59.86 - by such small margins are national slights settled!!

From 0930 to 1030 there was no activity because of the local church service and then once we started into the runs again we had a long delay after Lee Griffiths had gone off at Loggerheads / Fletchers Dellow and apparently "uncovered a fresh piece of rock" that had to be protected by a new tyre barrier - would be great if somebody could explain this a bit better - this what we got from the commentators who sounded as baffled as I still do! Shortly after that Tricia Davis went off at Hall and there were further red flags as the track was cleaned up after people had left the track! So all in all time quickly passed and lunch was eventually taken at just after 2!

There was a rumour that a single seater had been lost under this car and the delay was caused by trying to find it

but this was found to be just a scurrilous rumour and Nick Tart's little March 708 was found safe and well in another part of the paddock

I guess it was just one of those days when we have a bad morning and certainly the afternoon was a bit quicker although Carl Jones spread his gearbox and oil all over the track and Colin Satchell had to be recovered after breaking his drive shaft, but after Allan McDonald's problem, described above, the event ran through with no more failures until the top 12 run-off when amazingly three of the runners failed to finish.

Paul Haimes was the first to go when he spun approaching Triangle to conclude his BHC campaign after a difficult season with electrical problems - his best results actually came at the very first meeting of the year at Prescott (where the car is seen below) with a class win and a 5th place in the second run-off but a whole run of problems meant that he scored no points after Barbon in early July and eventually finished 16th overall.

Then in quick succession Will Hall and Eynon Price hit problems in the lower reaches of the hill so that only 9 runners scored points for the only time this year.

But back to the car they were all talking about - and not necessarily for this reason!

The Multi-Car Challenge for 2015 came to an end with the biggest of their challenges - how to get a tow-car, sorry Touareg, up the narrow confines of Loton Park!

In the end it only took Alisdair Suttie 68.06 seconds to do it as for only the second time this year he beat his more experienced teammate, David Finlay, who achieved the ascent in 68.68 seconds. Alisdair's other victory over David came in their smallest car of the year, the little Abarth at Harewood in May, Alisdair seen here taking the last corner 'flat' in the Italian roller-skate.

 The good news for us spectators is that they will be doing the same thing again next year as they have manufacturers queueing up to offer them cars!

So for the last time - favourite cars of the meeting - there were a number cars I had not seen before during the year and so the top 3 are:

Mike Reece's Subaru Impreza

 Thomas Taylor's Mini (well that was predictable)

and Dave Watkins' eye-dazzling Triumph TR8 - I don't think many left the factory looking like this!

Then to round off the day we had Wallace Menzies' phantom record - at least for those watching the timing display at Triangle. With two cars to run Alex led the way on a 44.32 and then Wallace's time came up on the display as 43.47 - a new outright record but then we heard the commentators say 44.47 - cue derision from the crowd about blind commentators.

Scott then went up and did a 43.66 and so in the crowd's eyes Wallace had won but a telephone call to the commentary box brought the explanation that it was the timing computer that showed 44.47 for Wallace and not the sun shining in the commentators' eyes that had led them to them giving out that time.

About 5 minutes later it was confirmed that it was indeed 44.47  - the explanation for that is found on the thread on Uphill Racers which I started to seek the answer. So nothing devious - just sodding technology again!!

So the end of a long year for lots of people - I have thoroughly enjoyed it and I hope that my postings have been entertaining and informative - I hope so because I am not finished yet!

Shortly I will do my review of the year and the Hillclimb Tour awards will be announced along with an appraisal of all the classes that feature in the Leaders Championship - and for those of a more statistical bent look out for future analyses of drivers' records and performances, not just this year but in the past! Also if you read Speedscene there will be no hiding from me as I hope to do an article for that esteemed publication too!

And remember you can see lots of my photos on Flickr.


  1. Hi John, thanks for the kind words and all the coverage this year. It's been great seeing you at every event and reading your thoughts afterwards. What a great achievement too!
    Look forward to seeing you in 2016 - at every event again?!

    1. Thanks - I will not be at every round next year but will see what else is on in the circuit racing calendar and work out a programme for myself to follow. I may for example decide to follow every British GT round and fit hills in between.

  2. Thank you John, for each of the knowledgeable, readable and entertaining chapters covering the entire BHC season. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading about the events where I wasn't present as well as those where I was!
    - CompSec