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British Hillclimb Championship - Focus on the Tin Tops - Part 1

Damien Bradley and Steven Darley shatter the Gurston Down tin-top record!

Photo by Stephen Lister - Damien Smashing the Gurston Tin Top Record

The British Hillclimb Championship (BHC) Organising Team announced back in March that, for the first time, a three event Tin Top – Top Ten Challenge will run during the 2023 season alongside selected rounds of the BHC presented by Avon Tyres and BHC Cup presented by Classic Car Insurance Broker Footman James.

The inaugural Tin Top – Top Ten Challenge will take place over three BHC event weekends during the 2023 season, starting at Harewood on 1st/2nd July. The second qualifying event will take place at Shelsley Walsh on 12th /13th August with the final round being at Loton Park on 23rd/24th September. As eligible cars are based on those driving on UK roads, spectators will be able to recognise and relate to them.

This is the first of a series of articles focussing on the tin tops and what you can expect to see a little later in the BHC season. This article features the incredible Subaru Legacy of Damien Bradley and his record breaking trip at the BHC Gurston Down weekend at the end of May. As you will see it was quite a weekend!

Damien at Craigantlet in 2022

Only two weeks before Gurston disaster struck when Damien’s engine let go while competing at Blyton Park, taking with it the awesome Xona Rotor turbocharger. Thankfully his engine builder Mike was at home after three months at sea in the Merchant Navy. He dropped everything and rebuilt the new engine with parts from Roger Clark Motorsport in record time. A very intense week for Damien putting everything back together, working into the early hours, whilst balancing family and work commitments followed and was very challenging. In addition to the engine damage the AET Turbos supplied Xona Rotor turbocharger was obliterated but Andy and his team from AET had everything repaired and back together in just a couple of days! Incredible service from AET.

Damien at Loton Park in 2022 - Photo by Mark Dudley

Arriving at Gurston completely exhausted and with an untested car left Damien feeling less than optimistic, however with Paul Blamire on remote engine mapping, Steven Darley and Damien sharing the driving and a team of Calin, James and Justin on hand for support, they had things covered. Practice runs went well and nothing fell off! The first timed run came around and with everything turned down “just in case” both Damien and Steven managed decent times but were still a chunk away from the existing record. Some remote adjustments from Paul and they were allowed 2.4bar of boost (max 2.8bar last year) so well down on the power that they are used to.

Steven then went to the line on brand new BMTR Motorsport supplied Avon Tyres and smashed the record by a massive 0.9 of a second, which is an absolute lifetime on a short Hillclimb like Gurston. Great friend and fellow competitor Jim Herbert of Team Rapid Evo also managed a crazy fast 31.40 second run which was mighty impressive too.

Then it was Damien’s turn and the bar was set pretty damn high, even stringing together the best of all previous sectors wouldn’t be enough to beat Steven’s new record of 31.08 seconds, but running on adrenaline Damien approached the start line and staged for launch…. a 1.78 second time for the first 64 feet and the car was flying. This was the fastest ever 64ft time by the car and in fact the fastest of any car throughout the entire event. A speed of 115mph down the hill into Hollow Bend was still some 4mph down on Steven’s best. Through Karousel to Ashes the car was blisteringly fast, even with a wheel or two onto the grass due to power oversteer. The Syvecs Ltd ecu doing all it could to keep the car straight with Damien doing all that he could to control it and keep momentum. 108mph over the finish line was pretty tame in comparison to Steven’s insane 114mph but Damien felt that “the run felt ok-ish”. Into the top paddock and the digital display showed a time of 30.69! A record that the team have been chasing for some time was well and truly shattered. A very emotional end to Saturday.

Sunday dawned dry and warm and it was time to do it all over again. Each competitor in Damien and Steven’s class was on their A-game. Times were super competitive with a number of drivers being under the old record, even in practice. To cap it all Steven even managed to exactly match the 30.69 record set by Damien on the previous day. How’s that for team work!!

Damien said “The event was fantastic and a real credit to the BHC and Gurston Down. The intensity of the competition between the monster tin tops was pretty spectacular and gives a glimpse of what’s to come in the new Tin Top - Top Ten shootout, which has its first round at the glorious Harewood Hillclimb in Yorkshire on July 1st & 2nd.”

Take a look at the in car footage from Damien’s record breaking run. The torque steer on the way down the hill from the start line at approaching 100mph certainly grabs your attention. Damien’s hands are rarely still – even in a straight line. Apparently, you just have to ignore it!!

Watch out for more articles over the coming months as we lead up to the opening round of the BHC Tin Top – Top Ten Challenge. Advance tickets to the three events can be purchased via the buttons below.


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