Championship leader Alex Summers retained his narrow two point lead over nearest challenger Wallace Menzies with some mature driving in very tricky conditions as the British Hillclimb Championship (BHC) presented by Avon Tyres, visited Shelsley Walsh for the first time in the 2022 season. Drivers had to use all of their skills to keep control of their cars on an unseasonably cold and damp day. Third place in the BHC overall is Scott Moran, who despite being on the pace all weekend could not get the win that he needed, and now finds himself ten points adrift of Alex in the Championship. After another mature and consistent weekend Matt Ryder further consolidated his fourth place overall and now holds a five point lead over Trevor Willis who sits in fifth. Unluckiest driver of the weekend was Dave Uren, who after taking a fine first run-off win of the season, caught a sprinkle of rain as he took his second qualification run. Some understeer through the first left hander at Kennel resulted in him drifting wide and making contact with the Recticel barrier. The resulting wing and front right suspension damage unfortunately brought an early end to what was Dave’s most competitive weekend of the season so far.
With Will Hall having pulled out of the rest of the 2022 BHC season due to work commitments and Dave Warburton unfortunately damaging his Gould GR59 at Kennel corner on his first qualification run, the first run-off of the weekend was without two drivers who have regularly scored points in the season to date. The tricky conditions were a great leveller too with the powerful cars struggling to get all of their power down onto the road. The top three of Summers, Menzies and Moran still qualified well but had Dave Uren firmly in amongst them in his Nicholson McLaren engined Gould GR55B. Trevor Willis and Matt Ryder were snapping at their heels too. Sixth fastest qualifier Ryder set a great benchmark with a 25.65 second run in his Judd engined Gould GR59J, over a second quicker than his qualifier. Willis was next to go in his V8 motorcycle engined OMS 28. Fast off the line all weekend and carrying good speed up to the Esses he pipped Matt by just two hundredths of a second with a time of 25.63 seconds. Having qualified an unaccustomed fourth, Championship front runner Menzies was next up in his powerful Cosworth XD engined Gould GR59M. He dug deep, stopping the clocks at 25.29 seconds to set his best time of the weekend so far, exactly equal to Summers top qualifying time – interesting! Scott Moran was next to go in the big Gould, his 129mph speed on the approach to the Esses showed just how committed he was. Maybe too committed, as he lost time between the left and right handers of the Esses to finish back in fourth on 25.54 seconds. Dave Uren was next to the line, having qualified a seasons best second. Dave really was trying very hard. Fastest of all to Crossing corner and 135mph on Ess approach laid the foundation to what turned into a fantastic time of 25.22 seconds and the lead! So, what could fastest qualifier Alex Summers do about this in the Cosworth XD engined DJ Firestorm? Fastest to Kennel corner after a great start, tidy into the Esses and things were looking good. Time lost through the Esses section and the win was gone, a time of 25.29 seconds, ahead of the rest but seven hundredths of a second slower than a delighted Dave Uren. Dave’s first run-off victory of the season showing everyone that his speed in practice was no flash in the pan. Outside of the top six things were also pretty intense. Paul Haimes, his Gurston Down engine related gremlins remedied, finished an excellent seventh in the supercharged motorcycle engined Gould GR59, just over a tenth of a second clear of Richard Spedding in his little 1600cc GWR Raptor 2. Jack Cottrill continued the fine form that he had shown at Gurston, by finishing in a super ninth place in his Cosworth XD engined DJ Dallara, just over a quarter of a second clear of the final points scorer Lee Griffiths in his motorcycle engined OMS 28. Both Jonathen Varley (GWR Predator) and Graham Wynn (Gould GR59) must have been disappointed to finish just a few tenths behind and out of the points in eleventh and twelfth respectively.
The second run-off was yet another classic in what is proving to be a fabulous BHC season. Moran qualified fastest, taking advantage of what were probably the best track conditions when he did so. Matt Ryder also took advantage to qualify second, Summers third and Paul Haimes an excellent fourth. Menzies was back in fifth catching the beginnings of the sprinkling of the rain that was to claim the unfortunate Dave Uren with Trevor Wills qualifying sixth. With the drying conditions favouring the big engined cars Haimes faded a little to finish sixth. His time of 26.06 seconds being only two one hundredths of a second faster than he had qualified. Trevor Willis finished fifth with his best time of the day of 25.04 seconds. Trevor even had two goes at setting a time, with the first ‘spoilt’ by a glitch in the timing system. Fifth qualifier Menzies again upped the ante, setting the fastest time of the day so far with a great time of 24.30 seconds. His stunning 1.99 seconds for the first sixty four feet off the start line setting him up nicely. Third qualifier Alex Summers then came to the line. Fast away carrying good speed up to the Esses. A clean exit and very early on the power probably made the difference as he stopped the clock on 24.23 seconds, just seven one hundredths of a second clear of Wallace – a fantastic effort in very difficult conditions. Second qualifier Ryder then attacked. Despite the big Gould looking a little ‘pointy’ and nervous at high speed Matt kept his foot in. With 139mph on Ess approach and a mighty 161mph over the finish line, Matt proved that he was on maximum attack. It was not to be though, a time of 24.60 seconds just over three tenths of a second away from a first run-off victory. Fastest qualifier Scott Moran was last to go. A great start and good speed in the lower reaches of the hill left him just one hundredth of a second down on Alex to the Esses and the win looked on. An untidy exit from the Esses, including a little brush of the bank, compromised speed on the finishing straight and the win was gone, as Scott posted 24.60 seconds to finish equal third alongside Matt. Alex had taken the win and the watching crowd were breathless. This was a great example of the fine margins between winning and finishing second or even lower at the sharp end of British Hillclimbing! To complete a good weekend after a less than perfect Gurston, Richard Spedding finished seventh over half a second ahead of Graham Wynn who finished the day in eighth. Jack Cottrill again finished ninth and is now firmly in the battle with Graham to finish in the top ten overall. Lee Griffiths secured the final point with another tenth place. With performances like this Lee could battle his way into the overall top ten reckoning too. Johnathen Varley again finished out of the points in eleventh. This is his fourth eleventh place run-off finish in succession, very frustrating! After qualifying an excellent tenth Eynon Price faded to finish twelfth. His decision to run wets at the front end of the Force and slicks at the rear was definitely not the way to go.
Maximum points for two class winning runs in the class based BHC Cup presented by Classic Car Insurance Broker Footman James by both Alex Coles (Formula Ford Van Diemen RF86) and Richard Spedding (GWR Raptor 2), have closed the gap to pre-event Cup leader Allan McDonald (Mini Evo). More detail will be provided once the overall points table has been updated.
The final words go to 2022 BHC Championship leader Alex Summers who said “ The track conditions were definitely tough today. It was really easy to overcook things and make mistakes, so it was a case of making sure that I got to the top each time. I’m really pleased for car manufacturer DJ, as the Firestorm continues to improve and shows what they are capable of delivering. I am absolutely gutted for Dave Uren though as I think that if the sprinkling of rain had come at a different time, he would have gone on to win the second run-off too. What a fantastic season we are having. I am already looking forward to the second double header of the season at Doune in a couple of weeks’ time.”
The Championship now moves on to the ‘King of the Hills’, Doune, Nr Stirling in Scotland over the weekend 18th & 19th June. Both Alex Summers and Wallace Menzies joined in with the record breaking fun at last years’ event. Who will take the honours this time around? Can Scott Moran or Matt Ryder take a win or maybe two? Scott certainly needs a good weekend in order to close the gap to the current top two. Why not see for yourself. Tickets will be available on the gate on the day.