The early days
The first climb of the inaugural series was staged at Bo'ness, near Linlithgow, Scotland on 17 May 1947. It was one of five events in that year's championship, the other climbs being held at Bouley Bay, Craigantlet, Prescott and Shelsley Walsh. All but Bo'ness still host rounds of the BHC. The inaugural championship, as well as the 1948 title, went to Raymond Mays, who proved he was still the force to be reckoned with that he had been before World War II. Sydney Allard won the title in 1949 in the self-built Steyr-Allard.
Although the 1950 championship went to Alfa Romeo driver Dennis Poore, from then on every title of the decade was to be won by a driver who had spent most or all of the year behind the wheel of a Cooper with a JAP engine. Ken Wharton started the trend, and became the only man to win four successive BHC titles. In the mid-Fifties there were three successive titles for the near-legendary Tony Marsh, a man who would still be competing at the highest level of hillclimbing as the 20th century closed. And finally, another hat-trick of championships went to David Boshier-Jones.
Sadly the decade was also touched by tragedy, when Bill Sleeman was killed at Bouley Bay, Jersey in 1955.
The final round of the decade was held at Stapleford Aerodrome on 11 October 1959, an event won by David Good in a Cooper-J.A.P. 1,100 c.c
Although the 1960s opened as the Fifties had ended, with Boshier-Jones taking the honours in his Cooper-JAP, the decade was to see a marked change in hillclimbing. One notable feature of 1960s climbing was the appearance of four-wheel drive, with several of the decade's championships being won by drivers in such cars, including two for Peter Westbury.
Mike Gray became the second driver to be killed at a BHC round when he lost his life at Barbon in 1964.
The Seventies saw two notable firsts: Roy Lane's maiden championship in 1975, and the first of 18 titles in the space of 22 years for Pilbeam drivers when Alister Douglas-Osborn took the honours in 1977.
This decade also saw the first championship to be won by a Gould driver, when Chris Cramer took the title in 1985. However, it was to be the late 1990s before the Pilbeam near-stranglehold on the BHC would be broken for any length of time.
The 1990s continued and even intensified Pilbeam's dominance of the sport, with the first eight championships of the decade being won by a driver in one of the marque's cars. By the time Roger Moran clinched the title in 1997, Pilbeam drivers had won 18 of the 22 championships since 1977, a dominance rivalled only by the Cooper years of the 1950s and early 1960s.
However, change was afoot, and the 1998 championship went to a Gould driver, David Grace. The future CEO of Rockingham Motor Speedway stamped his authority on the championship with a hat- trick of titles as the 20th century closed.
The hillclimb world was shocked in 1995 by the death of one of its leading lights, when Mark Colton was killed in practice at Craigantlet. He thus became only the third driver to lose his life in the history of the BHC.
The start of the 21st century saw a "changing of the guard" in the BHC, as young drivers in lightweight cars made their presence felt at the highest level. Graeme Wight Jr dominated in 2001, and in June he broke the outright record at Shelsley Walsh that had stood for nine years. Almost a year later he became the first driver to break the 25-second barrier at the track, winning a prize of £1,000.
The 2001 season was severely disrupted by the foot and mouth crisis that year, which caused the postponement of some rounds of the series, though only one climb - at Barbon - was actually cancelled entirely, and co-operation between event organisers and local landowners meant that spectators continued to be admitted to the meetings, albeit with precautions such as the disinfecting of cars entering the car parks.
A little later in the decade, once Adam Fleetwood had proved that he could translate his exploits in smaller cars to the top class, Wight Jr began to come under intense pressure, and by 2004 Fleetwood usually had the better of their battles. Sadly that season's championship was robbed of a classic battle for the title when Wight Jr pulled out in June to wait for the arrival of a new car - this had still not been driven in anger by the end of the year. However, crowds around the country could console themselves by watching a true master of the hills at work. Fleetwood won all but six of the year's 34 BHC rounds, breaking hill records for fun - and in turn became the first person to climb Shelsley in
under 24 seconds.
Fleetwood's announcement in April 2005 that other commitments would prevent his defending his title meant once again that the two most successful drivers of the 2000s would not go head-to-head, and the stage seemed set for Wight Jr to regain his crown, although his new V10 Predator proved unreliable, allowing the impressive Martin Groves to open up a lead at the top of the points table; Groves had the championship wrapped up by early August. With Wight Jr still nowhere to be seen, Groves retained the title in 2006, although he had to wait a month longer than in the previous year thanks to a spirited challenge from Scott Moran. Groves again held off Moran's charge in 2007 to complete a hat-trick of titles, but in 2008 Moran took his first championship win, retaining his title in 2009.
Moran has since won a further five titles, and his Gould GR61X (by far the most successful car in the history of the championship, with over 150 run-off wins) has won a total of seven. After several seasons in a supercharged Suzuki Hayabusa-engined DJ Firehawk, Alex Summers co-drove the GR61X with Moran and became champion in it at his first attempt.
Trevor Willis is the only driver in recent times to break the stranglehold of Gould racing cars by winning the championship in 2012, 2017 and 2018 in his OMS 28 chassis. 2019 Champion Wallace Menzies driving a Gould GR59 with a 3.3-litre V8 engine derived from the Cosworth XD, made it mathematically impossible for anyone to catch him after Round 27 (of 34) at Gurston Down on 25 August 2019. He became only the second Scottish driver to win the title after Graeme Wight Jr.