On a topsy turvy day, Wallace Menzies took second and sixth place run-off finishes to creep ever closer to being crowned a four times British Champion. After his Shelsley Walsh accident a fortnight earlier, a massive amount of work was needed to repair the Gould and get it ready for Loton Park. The hard work, led by Wallace’s crew chief Tom New, was certainly not in vain, as Wallace added some hard earned points to his already impressive tally. The Gould’s tub needed some work, as minor issues were spotted when the chassis was stripped down the Monday after Shelsley. This vital work was completed within a week by Sean Gould and the team at Gould Racing. The points that Wallace secured at Loton, now mean that it will take an amazing series of results by Scott Moran at the two remaining events, to prevent Wallace being crowned 2023 British Hillclimb Champion (BHC) presented by Avon Tyres. It’s never over till it’s over though! After winning the first run-off convincingly and qualifying fastest for the second, Scott Moran must have thought that he was on for a double win – that is until rain decided to spoil the fun! A fifth place finish in the second run-off now make things very difficult for the six-times BHC Champion, as he sits nineteen points adrift of Wallace. Matt Ryder holds third place overall. He too had a frustrating weekend with a fourth and a rain affected eighth place run-off finish. He did at least have a more positive weekend than Alex Summers. Throttle motor failure, a repeat of an issue first seen at Prescott in the season opener, resulted in a blank weekend for the 2015 Champion. Good points for third and seventh place run-off finishes have put Will Hall in a great position to secure fifth place overall in the 2023 Championship.
The first run-off saw Scott Moran (Gould GR59J) take what looked like a relatively easy victory. His margin of nearly nine tenths of a second a very unusual occurrence, in a sport where we are used to margins being considerably tighter. Wallace Menzies (Gould GR59M) dug deep to take a fantastic second place. When you consider that the reassembly of the Gould only started on the Wednesday leading up to the event, this really was a remarkable achievement by Wallace and his team. Will Hall (Gould GR59J) was just thirteen one hundredths of a second behind Wallace in an excellent third place. Proof, if it were needed, that Will really is getting both good speed and results, from what is still a relatively new car. Matt Ryder (Gould GR59J) will have been very disappointed with fourth place. A one second penalty for knocking out a course marker prevented Matt from taking second place and setting a personal best time – very unlucky! A mere six hundredths of a second behind Matt in a strong fifth place was Trevor Willis (OMS 28 – RPE V8), who in turn was a quarter of second clear of Dave Uren (Gould GR55B - Nicholson McLaren) in sixth. Paul Haimes (Gould GR59 Hayabusa Turbo) faded a little from qualifying, but still took an excellent seventh, just six one hundredths of second ahead of Jack Cottrill (Dallara Cosworth). Jack’s time of 44.96 seconds was in fact a personal best. Johnathen Varley (GWR Predator) had done well to qualify. His run-off time of 45.31 seconds was in fact not only a personal best, but was inside his own class record too. You could not ask for anything more. David Warburton (Gould GR59) was under pressure to score points in his quest to hold onto a top ten number. Having qualified well a one second penalty for knocking out a dreaded course marker did not help. A point for tenth was scant reward for the effort that David was putting in. Out of the points were both Alex Summers (DJ Firestorm Cosworth XD) and Sean Gould (Gould GR59J). Alex’s throttle motor failure while going up Cedar Straight ended his day, while Sean’s scrappy passage of the early part of the hill resulted in his retirement before Triangle. Sean’s day would get better though!
The final run-off of the day was then upon us. A darkening sky and threat of rain was not what the doctor ordered! Graham Wynn (Gould GR59J) had qualified for the first time since Shelsley in June and as he shares the car with Scott Moran ran first. Drizzle was starting to fall but Graham put it all together to set a time four one hundredths of a second faster than he had qualified. It turned out that this would be good enough for a magnificent BHC best ever second place run-off finish. Loton has proven to be a happy hunting ground for Graham as he has secured two third place run-off finishes over the years. This really is an outstanding result though, as it should be remembered that Graham is not the youngest driver in the paddock! A best ever result by a septuagenarian – probably. Well done Graham! Sean Gould then came to the line in the car that he shares with Matt Ryder with track conditions not really having deteriorated too much. Good speed throughout the run and Sean stopped the clocks on 44.57 seconds. With the two shared cars returning to the start line the rain was now falling steadily. Although slicks were still the best option, times set earlier in the day were just not possible. Victory therefore went to Sean; his first run-off win since he broke the hill record at Shelsley Walsh back in 2021. Well done Sean! With track conditions deteriorating the early runners would have an advantage. After qualifying tenth with a personal best time, Eynon Price (Force TA) used all of his excellent car control skills to take third place with a time of 48.54 seconds. This is Eynon’s best result since 2016 and will hopefully give him renewed focus and determination for the future. Jack Cottrill was another to take advantage of the track conditions, finishing less than four tenths of a second behind Eynon in fourth place. Fourth place was again a best ever result for Jack. With decent results at the last two events of the season at Prescott and Loton Park, Jack may just squeeze into the top ten overall. Go for it Jack!! Fastest qualifier Scott Moran had the worst of the track conditions. His run to fifth really was a great run and in the circumstances as good as he could do. Wallace Menzies was a further four tenths of a second behind Scott in sixth ahead of Will Hall in seventh. After qualifying second Matt Ryder found conditions difficult and faded to finish eighth just two tenths of a second clear of Johnathen Varley in ninth. Trevor Willis struggled a little and took tenth, ahead of Paul Haimes and Dave Uren who both finished out of the points, having not found track conditions at all to their liking. A different and difficult run-off for everyone.
It’s all kicking off in the class based BHC Cup presented by Classic Car Insurance Broker Footman James! After two class wins, both with new class records, Johnathen Varley (GWR Predator) left Loton in the joint lead of the Cup. Moving into the last two rounds of the 2023 season Johnathen now shares the lead on 141 points with Duncan Barnes (Norma M20FC) and Allan McDonald (Force SR4). Both Duncan and Allan had great weekends at Loton, securing two class wins each. It looks like it will be between these three to decide who will win the 2023 Cup. New class records could well be the deciding factor. All three had unbeaten weekends at Prescott back in April too. It really couldn’t be closer. The battle for the 2023 Cup will be worth the trip to Prescott all by itself!
The final words go to first run-off winner and six times BHC Champion Scott Moran who said “I really couldn’t have done any more. I knew that I needed to keep ahead of Wallace and ideally win both run-offs. This looked on until the rain started to fall just before the second run-off. I tried my hardest but it just wasn’t to be. Realistically I now need to win all four remaining run-offs and break the existing hill record in each one as well. No matter what I do Wallace needs only a few additional points to win the BHC for a fourth successive time. I live in hope, but it looks very unlikely!! I like Prescott, so as usual will give it my best shot next week. Prescott and Loton Park at the end of September will be my last drives for some time in a top single seater. I want to spend more time with my family who are growing up fast. I would like to thank Graham Wynn for giving me the opportunity to fight for the Championship over the past couple of years. I will not be leaving the sport completely though. You will still see me around BHC paddocks. No doubt I will have the odd drive too, but for the foreseeable future they will probably be in something with a roof over my head!”
The Championship now moves onto Prescott near Cheltenham over the weekend of 2nd & 3rd September. Will Wallace Menzies do enough to secure his fourth successive BHC title or will Scott Moran win and take it to the final round? Advance tickets can be purchased on the button below.