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Matt Ryder ends the BHC season with a flourish with a double win at Loton Park

Matt Ryder - Photo by Paul Lawrence

A first double run-off win for Matt Ryder ended his season on a real high as the British Hillclimb Championship (BHC) presented by Avon Tyres completed its season at the challenging Loton Park Hillclimb Near Shrewsbury. This result secured Matt a fine third place overall in the BHC, in what is only his second full season in a top-line single seater. In his final event before taking a little break from the BHC, Scott Moran was denied the victory that he so wanted. Second and fourth place run-off finishes were probably not the way the six time Champion wanted to bow out. With eight run-off victories it’s been a great season though Scott. Alex Summers had a super weekend in the self-designed and built AFS P4t. Sixth in the first run -off was followed by a brilliant fifth second time out, in a car that is giving away power to many of the Gould’s that it is competing against. This helped Alex secure fourth place overall in the BHC. Will Hall’s fine form continued. Fourth and an impressive second place in the final run-off of the season, helped Will to secure a very encouraging fifth place overall in his first season in the new Judd engined Gould. And what of 2023 BHC Champion Wallace Menzies? With the Championship already secured Wallace’s team had started the rebuild process in his quest for Championship number five. The process of stripping down the Gould in preparation for the 2024 season has begun!

On a dry track after some early morning rain the qualifiers assembled at the start line for the penultimate BHC run-off of the season. After qualifying first, Matt Ryder (Gould GR59J) put it all together. Up on the clocks from the very start he was not to be beaten. His time of 43.44 seconds giving him a near four tenths of a second gap to Scott Moran (Gould GR59J). Scott just couldn’t find the pace to match Matt and had to be satisfied with second. Trevor Wills (OMS 28 – RPE) showed massive commitment. His 125mph passage of Cedar Straight speed trap, while still accelerating, showed that Trevor had not left anything on the table, as he took an excellent third place. Will Hall (Gould GR59J) was just over three quarters of a second back in fourth and only eight one hundredths of a second clear of a charging Dave Warburton (Gould GR59 – Hayabusa). Dave gave it his all in his attempt to secure the coveted tenth place and the final permanent number for the 2024 season. His fifth place finish all but making sure that he would proudly display the number ten on his car in 2024. Alex Summers (AFS P4t) was just four one hundredths of a second behind in sixth. This was the first time that the newly constructed car had scored BHC points and bodes very well for the future. After qualifying sixth, Dave Uren ( Gould GR55B) slipped a place to take seventh just under half a second clear of Richard Spedding. Richard was in fact driving Les Mutch’s GWR Raptor as his own cars engine rebuild is not yet completed. The three points scored helped take the battle with Dave Warburton for tenth place to the final run-off of the season. Paul Haimes (Gould GR59 – Hayabusa Turbo) managed to take ninth place and enough points to secure ninth overall in the Championship. This was despite the car losing sixth gear in practice. Paul’s Gould was therefore packed away in the trailer awaiting its rebuild for the 2024 season. Maltese resident Zac Zammitt (Empire Wraith – Turbo) was on good form. His time of 45.69 showing that he was still pushing on, despite having sold a half share of the car to Northern Irishman William Loughridge only a couple of weeks earlier. This could be a very interesting combination for the 2024 season. Out of the points were a slightly disappointed Jack Cottrill (Dallara Cosworth) and a hard trying Adam Greenen in the motorcycle engined Empire Evo3.

Alex Summers scored the first BHC points in his self-designed and built AFS P4t - Photo by Paul Lawrence

So the final run-off of the season was upon us. Isn’t it amazing how quickly six months passes by when you are having fun! With track temperatures cooling it was all to play for. Matt Ryder however had other ideas. Despite qualifying second, Matt produced a fabulous run to stop the clocks at 43.09 seconds, the fastest time of the weekend. What a way to finish the 2023 season, which surely sets Matt up for a Championship challenge in 2024. Will Hall was another to finish the season in style. His time of 43.66 seconds putting him a tenth of a second clear of Sean Gould (Gould GR59J) who was doing all that he could to put his first run-off non qualification behind him. Scott Moran probably tried a little too hard to secure one more win. His fourth place finish being his last BHC run-off appearance for the foreseeable future. Still with a record of 173 BHC run-off wins and six Championships behind him, he leaves us with so many good memories. Scott, you are a legend – please come back soon! Alex Summers continued his good weekend. A fine fifth place with less power than most, really was a fabulous result. Who will be driving the AFS P4t in 2024? We will see. Trevor Willis ended the season strongly just eight one hundredths of a second behind Alex in sixth and just six one hundredths clear of Dave Uren in seventh. Let’s hope that Dave has better reliability in 2024. Jack Cottrill took a strong eighth place finish with a personal best time once again. Jack’s twelfth place BHC finish in 2023 would surely have been improved upon if he had taken in a few more rounds. You know that you want to Jack! Dave Warburton scored yet more points as he finished ninth ahead of Johnathan Varley (GWR Predator TKD V8) who qualified for a BHC run-off for an impressive eleventh time in 2023. His one point for tenth would have put a smile on his face too. Richard Spedding faded a little to finish out of the points in eleventh ahead of the hard trying Eynon Price (Force TA) who qualified the little motorcycle engined car for the fourth time in 2023 and finished twelfth.

Loton Park was the final round of the new for 2023 BHC Tin Top – Top Ten Challenge. Another strong entry of the fastest tin-tops in the UK made the trip to Loton Park to take part. With Steven Darley looking favourite to win the series, a fabulous battle took place between Steven and Damien Bradley in their shared 800+ horsepower Subaru Legacy. Simon Bainbridge was on great form too and managed to muscle the massive Audi engined SBR Chrono into the mix.

After a damp first timed run on Sunday morning the qualifying order looked a little unusual. 1997 BHC Champion Roger Moran used all of his considerable skills and experience to qualify first in his potent tarmac rally spec Skoda R5. Roger was ably backed up by his son, six time BHC Champion Scott Moran who was sharing the Skoda. Or maybe, as Scott is stepping back from big single seaters for a while, this was a little practice for a bit of fun next season?! With the track drying their advantage was somewhat reduced when the first Tin Top run-off took place. Steven took full advantage of this to set a time of 52.82 seconds. A whopping 1.37 seconds clear of co-driver Damien Bradley – a fantastic drive which surely put Steven with one hand on the series trophy – or did it? Scott and Roger produced another remarkable first – joint third place in a BHC Tin Top - Top Ten run-off. Will this ever be repeated by a father and son? Simon Bainbridge took fifth. The big SBR Chrono just not suited to the slightly damp track.

So to the final Tin Top run-off of the season. Steven Darley did it again in qualifying, setting a time of 51.78 seconds, breaking the outright tin top record and leaving him fastest qualifier. The series trophy was now surely only a fingertip away. The sky was grey as the tin tops came to the line. Damien went first in the shared Lagacy. A great time of 52.21 seconds on a cooling track set the benchmark and put a little pressure on the rest. With only a few cars to run Damien still held the lead. Simon Bainbridge then brought the Audi engined Chrono to the line. A very determined start and Simon was well up on his previous best. Onto Cedar Straight he really gave the car its head. A stunning 101mph through the speed trap and still accelerating – this had to be good. And how good – an unbelievable 52.08 seconds, over two seconds faster than Simon had gone all weekend. The pressure was not really on final runner Steven though, as he ‘only’ needed a fourth place finish to secure first place in the 2023 Tin Top Challenge. Off the start line and it was apparent to anyone watching that Steven wasn’t taking it easy. Up on the clocks and his record and onto Cedar Straight and it looked in the bag. Cedar is tricky though, as it is really a series of fast curves rather than a straight. At over 100mph the Legacy put a wheel on the grass and was gone. A massive spin, which seemed like it went on for ever but Steven managed to wrestle the car to a halt, fortunately without any damage. The series win was gone though. What drama and a fitting end to what has been a super new addition to the BHC. Congratulations to 2023 BHC Tin Top – Top Ten Challenge winner Damien Bradley.

Simon Bainbridge produced a stunning second Tin Top run-off victory - Photo by Ben Lawrence

In the BHC Cup presented by Classic Car Insurance Broker Footman James, 2023 Champion Johnathen Varley (GWR Predator) had a relatively quiet weekend. Third and second place finishes resulted in nothing being added to his overall score. It was already in the bag anyway! Allan McDonald (Force SR4) took a class win and scored enough points to take second place overall just ahead of the absent Duncan Barnes (Norma M20FC), who knew that he had secured third overall. A battle royale saw Dave Warburton (Gould GR59 Hayabusa) secure fourth, just ahead on count back of Paul Haimes (Gould GR59 – Hayabusa Turbo) in fifth. A big effort from Caroline Ryder (Formula Ford Van Diemen RF86) saw her not only secure her class, but finish tenth overall in the Cup. A great finish to the season Caroline.

2023 BHC Cup overall winner Johnathen Varley - Photo by Nigel Cole

Loton Park double winner Matt Ryder said ‘What a way to finish the season. Coming into the weekend I really didn’t expect to do the double. The car felt consistent, which encouraged me to push. Considering that the track just wasn’t there I am really pleased with my times. As the season has progressed, we have worked hard to improve the car. Traction and launch control have been improved considerably. This has really helped to set competitive times. If you had asked me at the beginning of the season if third place overall was a possibility, I would have told you that my chances were slim. I am therefore absolutely delighted to have secured number three for 2024. Its more of the same next season. I will be sharing the car with Sean Gould once more, which we both enjoy, and will be aiming to finish at least one place higher! It will be strange not to be racing every weekend for the next six months. Roll on April 2024!’

So the BHC in all of its forms finishes another action packed season. Thank you for taking the time to read these reports. See you on the hills during 2024!

Stuart Webster


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