Ottery St Mary driver Ed Hollier impresses at Wiscombe Park
PUBLISHED: 07:33 03 August 2019
Picturesque Wiscombe Park hosted Rounds 23 and 24 of the Avon Tyres / Wynn Developments UK British Hillclimb Championship over the final weekend of July, writes Nigel Cole.
The 1000 yards / 0.57 mile Devon course is a favourite with the competitors - although a very short sprint, it nonetheless challenges even the most experienced drivers. It is a narrow course with two very tight hairpins. To get a good time at Wiscombe and arrive in the top paddock still with four wheels on the car takes an immense amount of skill as well as outright speed. The weekend brought the UK's best drivers to Wiscombe competing for the National Championship - currently being led by Wallace Menzies from Alloa.
Wiscombe was also hosting Rounds 5 and 6 of the 9 round Wiscombe Tillicoultry Quarries Hillclimb Championship - these rounds being administered by the local Woolbridge Motor Club. This championship attracts the best drivers in the South West. Current Championship leader is Rod Thorne (Pilbeam MP43) from Martyn Pike (Ford Escort) and Adrian Lewis (Westfield Busa).
The weather was absolutely perfect on both days - very hot and sunny. The type of conditions to produce record times and hopes were high that the hill record, shared by Trevor Willis and Will Hall, set at 33.79s in 2014, would be beaten. And it was! a number of times - 3 times during the first Run Off on Sunday. Honours would eventually stand to Wallace Menzies with a new record of 33.13s - beating the old record by 0.66s.
Wiscombe had attracted probably one of its biggest ever attendances....and those fans were treated to some spectacularly fast hillclimbing and new records!
Not only was Wallace Menzies in fine form, Exeter based Olivia Cooper was in record breaking form too. In practice on Saturday she set 13th quickest time of 37.78s setting a new Wiscombe Ladies Record. This time qualified her for the Second Run Off on Sunday when she lowered the Ladies Record again, recording a time of 37.74s - 11th quickest but unfortunately out of the points - only the top 10 of the 12 drivers in the Run Off score points. In another run Olivia eventually lowered the Ladies time to a new record of 37.03s.
Olivia is the founder of Agri-hub specialising in journalism and PR for the agricultural and rural sectors. She has been hillclimbing for a number of seasons all over the UK. This season competing in a very fast Force-Suzuki TA chassis - purpose built for hillclimbing with a motor bike engine. It was a great achievement for her to qualify for the second Run Off against a large entry of the best drivers in the UK. Hopefully more Top Ten Run Off appearances for Olivia in the future.
Another rapid local was Ed Hollier from Ottery St Mary. He set a time of 36.79s in Saturdays qualifying in his Pilbeam MP62 - 11th quickest. As usual, he was being pushed hard by Andrew Forsyth from Poole - his time 37.72s in his OMS CF04 - 13th quickest. Both Ed and Andrew's times were quick enough for them to qualify for the National Run Off's - however, they had not registered to compete in that section of the event, and therefore were only eligible for the national SBD Motorsport Hillclimb & Sprint Association Speed Championship (Rounds 21 & 22) and the local Wiscombe Championship.
On Sunday it was Ed Hollier who took the honours with a time of 36.41s from Andrew Forsyth, 37.88s and Rod Thorne, 38.24s.
Both Run Off's for the National Championship were highly exciting, close affairs. Wallace Menzies clinched Run Off 1 in the morning with his record breaking 33.13s time from defending 2018 Champion Trevor Willis and Sean Gould.
Run Off 2 in the afternoon saw the same three drivers at the top - but in a different order. Sean Gould topped the session with a 33.46s from Wallace Menzies and Trevor Willis. The understeer that Sean was suffering in Run Off 1 was dialled out over the lunch break - it worked!
This was Sean's first ever win at Wiscombe. The Gould family own Gould Racing Cars headed by Sean's father, David. Hillclimbing is in their blood - their first championship winning car secured the 1985 Championship, and from 1998 to 2016 a further 18 championships were won in Gould cars - 14 in consecutive Championships. Gould broke the hold that Mike Pilbeam used to have - there was once a time when you needed a Pilbeam chassis to stand a chance of being a British Champion.
It has been a tough year for defending Champion Trevor Willis, but after some mid week testing, performances at Wiscombe left Trevor feeling more confident that he may be able to haul himself into the top three by season end.
Some drivers will not look back on their visit to Wiscombe 2019 with fond memories. Richard Spedding in the Raptor-Suzuki pulled out of Run Off 2 after some strange noises were coming from the engine when it was fired up. Dave Uren had been suffering fuel vaporisation issues, although these were resolved to secure a brace of fourth places. Will Hall managed to activate the "kill switch" in his efforts to get around Sawbench Hairpin in Run Off 2 with the car dying on the exit and into retirement.
With Wallace Menzies now enjoying a 40 point lead from Alex Summers, it is on to historic Shelsley Walsh. Although the Championship could not be secured there, it is possible that Wallace could be crowned Champion at Gurston Down. There would still be 3 venues to go - Prescott, Doune and Loton Park (2 rounds at each venue)
The last few months have seen an interesting development in British hillclimbing - perhaps the most significant for years. Avon, the Championship sponsors, have been supplying rubber to the majority of the competitors for some years. However, Pirelli are now supplying some of the top drivers, including the Championship leader, Wallace Menzies. Pirelli shod cars have now won 8 Run Off's back to back and set 3 new records. Could a tyre war be on the horizon? It has been seen in Formula One in the past....perhaps British hillclimbing will now witness its own tyre battle for those vital tenths of a second.
Run Off 1
Wallace Menzies - Gould GR59M 33.13s (New Hill Record)
Trevor Willis - OMS 28 33.55s
Sean Gould - Gould GR59J 34.02s
Dave Uren - Gould GR55B 34.07s
Will Hall - Force WH Xtec 34.12s
Run Off 2
Sean Gould - Gould GR59J 33.46s
Wallace Menzies - Gould GR59M 33.49s
Trevor Willis - OMS 28 34.03s
Dave Uren - Gould GR55B 34.13s
Alex Summers - DJ Firestorm 34.31s
Wallace Menzies 217
Alex Summers 177
Richard Spedding 147
Dave Uren 140
Trevor Willis 126