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BHC 2022 – Introducing Johnathen Varley


Photo by Ben Lawrence

Name: Johnathen Varley

Home Town: Telford

Competition Car: GWR Predator – TKD YV8


Hillclimb Background:

Being the son of a regular competitor, Johnathen was brought up in the Hillclimb world. With his Dad Peter competing during the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s & 90’s predominantly in single- seater race cars, a Hillclimb paddock was a very familiar place for him. Peter was a qualifier for BHC run-offs during the 70’s and 80’s. His best placing of second at Wiscombe Park in 1971 was the highlight, with a number of point scoring finishes at Loton Park, Doune, Craigantlet and Bouley Bay also being secured. When the time came it was therefore almost inevitable that Johnathen would compete himself.


Motorsport Experience:

Johnathen first started to compete in 1993. Being from Barnsley and still residing there at the time it was logical that his first event would be at Harewood in Yorkshire. Rather unusually Johnathen’s first drive was in a March-Pilbeam single-seater race car fitted with a 2 litre Ford engine, rather than the more usual saloon or sports car route. Success came almost immediately securing the Harewood ‘best novice’ award in his first season.


For 1994, Johnathen bought a half-share in a Crossle Formula Ford which he shared with John Williams. Fitted with a 1600cc Ford push rod engine and converted to run with slick tyres and wings, this gave Johnathen a great apprenticeship as he started to build his experience.


In 1996 Johnathen bought a March 772P from Alan Newton. At this time he only competed occasionally with his Dad. This changed in the year 2000 when a 1600 BDA was fitted to the March and Johnathen started to spread his wings a little. As well as competing at Harewood he entered the Midland Speed Championship, giving him his first experience of the Midland venues including Loton Park and Curborough sprint course.


Johnathen then entered the Midland Hillclimb Championship (MHC) and had to drive the March really hard to keep up with the motorcycle engined cars that were starting to be popular at that time. A switch to compete in the March in the Historic single seater class brought success. Johnathen was even able to get in amongst the big engined cars in his class. A major scalp was taken by beating former British Sprint Champion Rodney Eyles at Loton Park, who was driving a much more powerful Pilbeam Hart-Turbo! A 2 litre BDG engine was then fitted to the March which brought continued success in the Historic single-seater class of the MHC.


BHC Experience:

The big step up for Johnathen happened, when in 2018, he purchased the beautifully constructed GWR Predator as a rolling chassis form Graeme Wight Junior. Fitting the BDG engine from the March and entering the British Hillclimb Championship (BHC) presented by Avon Tyres, Johnathen for the first time started to qualify for run-offs on a regular basis. A best finish of seventh in 2019 gave a taste of what he and the Predator were capable of.


In 2021 Johnathen commissioned a TKD YV8 engine which is designed and built by Terry Davies. The 2 litre engine is based on two Yamaha R1 engines on a common crankshaft. Producing around 380 horsepower with the gearbox controlled via steering wheel mounted paddle shift technology, the car really is state of the art. Weighing in at 385 kilos without the driver, the lightweight car enabled Johnathen to take another step forward in competitiveness.


The 2022 season has seen Johnathen qualify for the BHC run-offs on a personal best twelve occasions. The season really came alive in June & July, with good point scoring finishes being secured at both Doune and Harewood. Johnathen’s stellar season is clearly demonstrated by his eleven class wins in the class based BHC Cup presented by Footman James that supports the BHC’s mainland rounds. With six bonus points for breaking existing class records as well, Johnathen currently sits in third place overall heading into the Prescott weekend. It really has been a fabulous season so far!


A fact that not many people know:

Johnathen badly broke his nose when he fell fifteen feet out of a tree and face planted the ground! This caused considerable damage which needed surgery to remedy. Without the quick thinking of Johnathen’s sister Samantha who took a photo of what he looked like before the accident to the hospital, the surgeon probably wouldn’t have known where to start!


Prescott Fact:

Johnathen classed Prescott as his bogey hill when he drove the March. Only since the arrival of the Predator has he started to show what he can do at the beautiful Cotswolds venue. Johnathen particularly likes the track from the exit of Pardon Hairpin. The flow from here, through the Esses and up to the finish line seem to suit both car and driver. One of Johnathen’s proudest Hillclimb achievements to date is when he broke Paul Haimes’ Prescott class record in 2021. So, come to Prescott and see if Johnathen can break his class record and get himself into the run-offs once again. Advance tickets can be purchased via the following button.


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