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Matt Ryder and Alex Summers take wins at Shelsley Walsh as Wallace Menzies stumbles

Matt Ryder - Photo by Ben Lawrence

A run-off win each for Alex Summers and Matt Ryder served up fantastic entertainment as the British Hillclimb Championship (BHC) presented by Avon Tyres battle took centre stage, on what proved for many to be a challenging Shelsley Walsh weekend. The highest profile driver to suffer was Championship leader Wallace Menzies. A poor first run-off and fifth place finish put pressure on Wallace to produce his best in the end of day final run-off. A car damaging accident on Ess approach brought an end to what was probably Wallace’s most challenging BHC weekend of the season to date. Although he still leads the Championship by eighteen points Tom New and the crew have a considerable amount of work to do to get Wallace’s Gould back on track in time for the next BHC round two weeks’ time. Although Scott Moran didn’t take a run-off win his eighteen point haul for a brace of second place finishes, sets up the Championship well. Scott has closed the gap to Wallace nicely as we head for the last three events of what is proving to be another exciting season. With a fourth place finish and a fine run-off win Matt Ryder hangs on to third place overall, but is now joined on the same points by Alex Summers. Alex had a cracking weekend, winning the first run off and taking third in the second. His eighteen point haul from the weekend equalling the efforts of Scott Moran. Will Hall had another strong weekend. Second and fourth place run-off finishes consolidating his fifth place in the Championship.

After a heavy shower and consequently a wet track for Sunday morning practice, conditions had improved considerably, and but for a little dampness off line on the exit of the Esses the track was in pretty good condition for the first run-off. Alex Summers, who was showing good form all weekend, put it all together to win with a time of 23.10 seconds. Blistering pace off the start line all weekend laid a good foundation. Alex took full advantage to secure the ten points for the win in his IndyCar engined DJ Firestorm. In a season of fine margins it was a fair old scrap behind Alex. Scott Moran (Gould GR59J) looked like he had second place in the bag, just nine one hundredths of a second behind Alex. A fantastic run through the Esses and across the finish line saw Will Hall (Gould GR59J) equal Scott’s time as they shared second place. I told you that the margins were tight!! Matt Ryder fought hard. His silky smooth style was on show once again. A time of 23.34 seconds giving him an eleven hundredths of a second margin ahead of Wallace Menzies (Gould GR59M-Cosworth XD). Wallace was in fact right in the mix until the exit of the Esses, where he ran wide and lost time on the run to finish line. Dave Uren (Gould GR55B) showed strong Shelsley form once again. Back behind the wheel of the Gould for the first time since a major gearbox failure at Shelsey back in June, Dave was soon back in the swing of things, securing an encouraging sixth place finish, just three one hundredths of a second ahead of Shelsley outright record holder Sean Gould (Gould GR59J). Trevor Willis (OMS 28 – RPE V8) was three tenths of a second behind in eighth place. Eighth place and only eight tenths of a second behind the winner. It just showed how fine the margins are and how competitive British Hillclimbing is. Malta resident Zac Zammit was at Shelsley for the first time this season, driving his newly turbocharged bike engined Empire Wraith. A fine 24.81 second run and two points for ninth showed he had lost none of his speed. Final point scorer was - two people! Season long sparring partners Paul Haimes (Gould GR59 – Hayabusa Turbo) and Dave Warburton (Gould GR59-Hayabusa) could not be separated and therefore scored one point each. Two ties in one run-off. It’s those fine margins again! The ‘unlucky’ man finishing out of the points was Johnathen Varley (GWR Predator TKD V8). This was in fact the first time that Johnathen had qualified for a BHC run-off since Doune back in June. This will give him great encouragement to push on in the last three events of the BHC season.

The end of the day came and we were treated to another absolutely classic BHC run-off. And what a dramatic and potentially significant run-off it turned out to be. The drama centred around BHC Championship leader Wallace Menzies. Qualifying second and therefore being the penultimate runner, Wallace knew what he had to do. A fantastic start and Wallace was up on the clocks through both Kennel and Crossing corners. Through the kink on Ess approach the Gould snapped out of line. Wallace managed to catch it but the Gould snapped again. The front left corner made heavy contact with the tyre barrier just before the Esses and the car spun around, ending up nudging into the Recticel barriers backwards at bottom Ess. Wallace was fine but the Gould was not. The front left corner was completely removed as was the front wing. It was easy to see the damage to the front corner and wing but what else has been damaged? For sure Tom New and the team will have a big task on their hands to repair the car in the two weeks leading up to Loton Park. Wallace will be hoping that fixes can be found. Missing an event, while not a complete disaster, would certainly make things more difficult in his quest for a fourth successive BHC title. In amongst all of the drama Matt Ryder put in a great drive to come out on top this time around. A great run, the foundation of which was the fastest passage of the Esses by any driver throughout the entire weekend, secured Matt his second run-off win of the season. When you consider that Scott Moran had a half hour wait while Wallace’s accident was cleared up, he did a remarkable job to take second place, just two tenths of a second behind Matt. Particularly impressive was his 147mph approach to the Esses through the dust from Wallace’s accident. Immense bravery. Respect to you Scotty! Alex Summers took third a mere two one hundredths of a second behind Scott and just three hundredths clear of Will Hall in fourth. It’s those fine margins again! Dave Uren took fifth a ‘massive’ seven tenths of a second behind Will and two tenths clear of Trevor Willis who took an excellent sixth. Zac Zammit put it all together, setting a fantastic personal best time of 24.22 seconds to secure a fabulous seventh place. Well done Zac! Paul Haimes managed to secure eighth. Struggling a little off the line all weekend, Paul will still be pleased with this result. Just over a tenth of a second behind Paul was Sean Gould. After running wide on the exit of Kennel Sean was playing catch up for the rest of the run. Jack Cottrill (Dallara Cosworth) took the final point for tenth. This was Jack’s seventh BHC point scoring finish of the season. A fine achievement. Dave Warburton finished six one hundredths of a second behind Jack and therefore failed to score a point. It will take a big push over the next three events if Dave is to finish in the coveted top ten this season. You can do it Dave!

Zac Zammit had a fabulous Shelsley weekend in the turbocharged Empire Wraith - Photo by Paul Lawrence

Shelsley Walsh was also the second round of the new for 2023 BHC Tin Top – Top Ten Challenge. A strong entry of the fastest tin-tops in the UK descended on Shelsley to take part. A fabulous battle took place between Damien Bradley and Steven Darley in their shared 800+ horsepower Subaru Legacy. Steven took the car by the scruff of the neck and managed to win both run-offs. His final run-off win, in a time of 28.09 seconds, took him within three tenths of a second of the outright Shelsley Walsh ‘closed car’ record. Maybe next year Steven?! Car owner Damien took a brace of second places and sits two points behind Steven in the Challenge table. Stephen Moore took two third places in the powerful Mitsubishi Evo 6 ahead of Simon Bainbridge who managed to muscle the massive Audi engined SBR Chrono up the tight slopes of Shelsley in an impressive 29.55 seconds in the second run-off. Chris Berrisford took fifth place in both run-offs and sits in fifth place in the Challenge overall. Who is going to win the first BHC Tin Top - Top Ten Challenge? Steven looks well set but Damien is sure to be giving it his all. The final round of the 2023 season takes place at Loton Park over the weekend of 23rd & 24th September.

On board with Damien Bradley for the 2nd tin top run off run

Damien Bradley charged hard even in the Shelsley Rain – Photo by Ben Lawrence

In the BHC Cup presented by Classic Car Insurance Broker Footman James, both Allan McDonald (Force SR4) and Duncan Barnes (Norma M20FC) had great weekends. With two class wins each they left Shelsley in joint first place in the Cup. Johnathen Varley (GWR Predator) had a fantastic weekend. His two class wins, one with a new class record, resulted in a nineteen point haul. Johnathen now holds third place overall four points behind the joint leaders as we move into the last three events of the season. Its tight at the top!

Shelsley winner and holder of the fastest time of the day Matt Ryder said “It was certainly a challenging weekend. With the track being wet, damp and dry at various stages it kept us all on our toes. I was pretty happy with the car in all conditions. We seemed to find a good set up and the car was predictable to drive. I probably didn’t push hard enough into the Esses in the first run-off and as a result the time just wasn’t there. In the second run-off I managed to hold the throttle flat through the kink on Ess approach. The car then turned into the Esses beautifully and as a result I was able to carry good speed through the complex and to the finish line. I am still struggling to get my starts absolutely right so there are probably another couple of tenths to find to the Esses. Next year maybe I can have a real crack at Sean’s record!”

The Championship now moves onto Loton Park near Shrewsbury on the Welsh Border, over the Bank Holiday weekend of 26th & 27th August. With the Championship still in the balance it is sure to be a fantastic weekend. Will Wallace make a strong comeback and put his Shelsley issues behind him, or have we got more twists and turns to navigate? Advance tickets can be purchased below.


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