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Alex Summers stars at record breaking Doune double-header

Photo by David Baxter

Championship leader Alex Summers had a fantastic weekend at the Doune double header breaking the outright hill record three times, as he extended his lead in the 2022 British Hillclimb Championship (BHC) presented by Avon Tyres, to eleven points over defending Champion Wallace Menzies. Only a run-off win by six times former Champion Scott Moran, as temperatures cooled on Saturday evening, prevented Alex from having the perfect weekend. With Summers now having extended his Championship lead, the signs are ominous for Menzies, Moran and the chasing pack. In a busy July with rounds at Harewood, Bouley Bay in Jersey, Les Val des Terres in Guernsey and Wiscombe Park, the chasers will have to produce something special to halt the momentum that Summers has built. After a strong Doune weekend Trevor Willis now holds fourth, by a single point from Matt Ryder, who for once had an inconsistent weekend in the big Gould and now sits in fifth.

The first run-off of the weekend saw the outright record broken by Alex Summers as things started with a bang. Once again, the top three Championship contenders really were in a different league to the rest with nearly two seconds separating third place finisher Scott Moran from the other qualifiers. Moran’s time of 35.31 seconds, just over six tenths outside Sean Gould’s 2021 outright hill record was good, but was quickly bettered by second fastest qualifier Menzies, who set a time of 35 seconds exactly. The pressure was then on Summers, as Menzies time was a full half a second faster than he had qualified. A stunning 1.94 seconds for the first 64 feet off the start line set Alex on his way. His Cosworth XD engined DJ Firestorm was unmatched all weekend through the lower reaches of the hill, carrying massive speed through the confines of the tunnel section and out into the Meadow. He was already nearly three quarters of a second up to Junction and flashed through the finish line with a new outright record time of 34.38 seconds, a massive six tenths of a second ahead of Menzies. The rest were left a little breathless. Paul Haimes put in a storming run in the turbocharged Gould to finish an outstanding fourth. Four tenths behind in fifth was Dave Warburton in the motorcycle engined Gould GR59. This was particularly impressive when you consider that this was Dave’s first event back from his Shelsley accident only two weeks before. Sixth was a slightly disappointed Matt Ryder in his Judd engined Gould GR59 who finished nearly three tenths of a second ahead of seventh placed Stuart Sugden in his 1585cc motorcycle engined GWR Raptor. Shelsley Walsh run-off winner Dave Uren was a mere three one hundredths of a second back in eighth in his Nicholson McLaren engined Gould GR55B, who in turn was a just sixth hundredths of a second clear of a delighted Jonathen Varley, who scored BHC points for the first time in 2022 in his V8 motorcycle engined GWR Predator. Fourth fastest qualifier Trevor Willis lost a lot of time in the upper reaches of the hill to finish a very disappointing tenth. Finishing out of the points were Les Mutch (GWR Raptor 01) and Richard Spedding (GWR Raptor 2) who like Willis lost significant time between East Brae and the finish line.

Due to time lost during the early afternoon the second run-off was held a little later in the day than expected. With cooler temperatures it proved to be a different challenge for everyone. The Championship top three qualified in the top three places once again. Third fastest qualifier Alex Summers set a great time of 35.38 seconds for the others to chase. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be for second fastest qualifier Wallace Menzies who lost small amounts of time everywhere to post a time of 36.10 seconds, nearly three quarters of a second slower than Alex. Fastest qualifier Scott Moran then came to the line. Despite being nearly a quarter of a second down on Summers at Junction, Scott was excellent through the upper reaches of the hill to stop the clocks at 35.03 seconds. Victory by over three tenths of a second was just reward for Scott. The rest were headed by Trevor Willis who posted a much improved time of 36.54 seconds to finish nearly a second clear of Dave Uren in fifth. Dave Warburton continued his good form, finishing less than two tenths of a second behind Uren in sixth. Just six hundredths behind was Richard Spedding in seventh who in turn was fifteen hundredths of a second clear of fifth fastest qualifier Matt Ryder. Paul Haimes finished ninth ahead of Jonathen Varley who scored points once again in tenth. Finishing out of the points by just one hundredth of a second was Stuart Sugden with first time qualifier Simon Mackay in his GWR Raptor finishing twelfth.

Sunday dawned dry and a little warmer than the previous day. Would we see the outright record broken again? There was no doubt that Summers, Moran and Menzies would be trying to do just that! The Championship top three once again qualified as 1-2-3. Third fastest qualifier Wallace Menzies was first of the ‘big three’ to run. Fast off the line and a mind bending 120mph through the speed trap showed just how determined Wallace was. The clock stopped at 35.01 seconds, throwing down the gauntlet to both Moran and Summers who now would have to get very close to the 2021 outright record to take the win. Next to the line was second fastest qualifier Scott Moran. His best start of the weekend of 1.93 seconds for the first sixty four feet and a little ahead of Wallace at all points resulted in a personal best time of 34.61 seconds. This being six one hundredths of a second faster than the 2021 outright record meant an extra point for Scott too. Fastest qualifier Alex Summers now knew that his run needed to be near perfect to take the win. A brilliant passage of the lower reaches of the hill resulted in Alex being over half a second clear of Scott at Junction. An amazing 121mph through the speed trap and the clocks stop at 34.28 seconds for the win. Another new outright record and the extra point that goes with it being the icing on the cake. This really was Hillclimbing at its very best, with the three Championship contenders pushing each other into places that even they did not think they could go! Of the rest both Trevor Willis and Dave Uren got down into the 35’s with Trevor coming out on top with a time of 35.82 seconds. Dave was just fifteen one hundredths of a second behind in fifth and nearly nine tenths of a second clear of Matt Ryder. Stuart Sugden produced a personal best time of 36.87 seconds to finish in seventh just clear of Richard Spedding in eighth. Paul Haimes faded a little to finish ninth with Jonathan Varley securing the last point in tenth. Dave Warburton finished outside of the points by three one hundredths of a second in eleventh just clear of Lee Griffiths who had qualified his OMS 28 for the run-offs for the first time in the weekend.

It was then time for the final run-off of the weekend. Taking place a few hours earlier than on Saturday, track temperature were a little higher. What we would see this time around? The ‘big three’ qualified in a different order this time, with Menzies fastest from Summers and Moran a little detached back in third. What would be the order when the chips were down? Moran set the benchmark with a great time of 34.82 seconds. His speed in the top reaches of the hill being particularly impressive. Summers was next to the line. The best start of the entire weekend of 1.86 seconds for the first sixty four feet set Alex on his way. This time the lower section speed that he had shown all weekend was married to a super top section too. The clock stopped and what a time it was, 34.21 seconds and another new outright record for Alex – wow! Fastest qualifier Wallace Menzies then came to the line. This really was a vital run. With no run-off victories to his name since Harewood in May, Wallace just had to produce. A great start and things were looking promising. Nearly four tenths slower than Alex to Garden Gate however turned into half a second slower by Junction. The pressure looked like it was telling. A scrappy run in the upper reaches of the hill and the time was gone. 35.29 seconds meaning a third place finish and disappointment for Wallace but ecstacy for Alex with a third run-off win of the weekend. This time Dave Uren finished best of the rest in fourth just ahead of Trevor Willis. Richard Spedding finished on a high with his best run-off performance of the weekend in sixth. Drama struck Stuart Sugden as he broke a chain as he came to the start line. Some super-fast work resulted in a fix being completed within the time allowed and another personal best time of 36.83 seconds secured an excellent seventh place finish. Fifth fastest qualifier Paul Haimes again faded to finish eighth ahead of Matt Ryder. A delighted Lee Griffiths completed the point scorers in tenth. Sadly there was drama for Jonathen Varley who hit the barrier at Garden Gate. An unfortunate end to what had been the best weekend of the season so far for Jonathen. Dave Warburton was also an unfortunate non-starter in the run-offs due to experiencing some overheating problems in qualifying.

It was all change once again in the overall positions in the class based BHC Cup presented by Classic Car Insurance Broker Footman James. Four class record breaking runs over the weekend by Alex Coles in his Formula Ford Van Diemen RF86 resulted in him taking a clear overall lead in the Cup for the first time this season. Eleven points behind in second place is Richard Spedding in the GWR Raptor 2. His four class wins, two with new class records, over the Doune weekend saw him jump up the rankings. Jonathen Varley also had a great weekend in the GWR Predator and now sits in third place overall. With dropped scores soon to come into play it is still wide open with no obvious favourite for the title.

A delighted 2022 BHC Championship leader Alex Summers said “ I am absolutely buzzing after a fantastic weekend. The car was unreal through the lower section of the hill. Massive thanks to DJ once again for constantly perfecting the car. Scott pushed me really hard on both days, which is great fun if a little stressful! Another fun weekend with a good atmosphere which really makes it for me. It’s nice to have a little lead now but things can easily swing and there’s still a long way to go! Harewood in a couple of weeks is next. Wallace was very strong there back in May. I will have to be at my best once again!”.

The Championship now moves onto the challenging Harewood Hillclimb in Yorkshire for a one day event on Sunday 3rd July. Will we see another meeting like we did in May when the outright hill record was beaten by four different drivers? Will Alex Summers stretch his lead in the Championship or will Wallace Menzies, Scott Moran, Matt Ryder or perhaps Trevor Willis and Dave Uren get into the mix? Competitive action is scheduled to start at 9.00am and will continue for the majority of the day. Tickets can be purchased on the gate.

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