Wallace Menzies took another large step towards an historic fourth successive BHC title on a weekend of varying track conditions at Wiscombe Park in rural Devon. A new outright record on Saturday was followed by an unfortunate no-score on Sunday as track conditions remained tricky throughout the weekend. Wallace now holds a thirty point lead in the British Hillclimb Championship (BHC) presented by Avon Tyres, as we head to the last four events of the season. Scott Moran managed a fourth place finish on Saturday and a very close second on Sunday to consolidate his clear second place in the Championship. Realistically Scott is now the only driver who can stop Wallace winning the 2023 BHC crown and will need an amazing run of form in order to achieve this too. Matt Ryder took a brace of third place run-off finishes and now holds a slender one point advantage over Alex Summers. Alex had his strongest weekend since Gurston Down back in May. His nineteen point haul for a second place on Saturday and win on Sunday made him the highest BHC point scorer over the entire weekend. Will Hall took seventh and fifth place run-off finishes to consolidate his fifth place position in the Championship.
Saturday’s run-off saw the pace really hot up as track conditions continued to improve on the newly resurfaced track. After qualifying a lowly eighth, due almost entirely to a poor start, Wallace Menzies had a lot to do to get a good result. A fabulous fully committed run saw Wallace break Alex Summers year old outright record by one hundredth of a second with a time of 32.93 seconds in his IndyCar engined Gould GR59M. Alex Summers (DJ Firestorm) took second with an excellent run of 33.23 seconds. Matching Wallace in the early reaches of the hill, Alex only saw victory slip away in the section from Sawbench to Martini. A great drive and good result all the same. After qualifying second Matt Ryder (Gould GR59J) ran first in the run-off due to his team mate Sean Gould out qualifying him by just one hundredth of a second. With his best tyres available now fitted, Matt shook everyone by setting a stunning personal best time of 33.37 seconds, nearly three quarters of a second quicker than his qualifying time. Ultimately this was good enough for an excellent third place run-off finish. Scott Moran (Gould GR59J) gave his all. His early run pace was faster than anyone and a new record looked possible. A small error in the upper reaches of the hill pegged him back though and left him with a fourth place finish. Trevor Willis (OMS 28 – RPE V8) was on a charge too. An error at Martini cost him time though and he took fifth place with a time of 34.04 seconds. Just three tenths of a second behind was a super smooth Paul Haimes (Gould GR59 – Hayabusa Turbo). This was a personal best time for Paul and secured him six vital Championship points as he tries to retain his eighth place overall in the BHC. Will Hall finished a further four tenths behind in seventh. 2022 BHC Cup Champion Alex Coles was delighted to have qualified for his first ever BHC run-off. Having spent the first half of the 2023 season getting used to the slicks and wings of the motorcycle engined OMS 28 that he shares with his father Neal, recent events have seen nineteen year old Alex come on in leaps and bounds. A fabulous run saw him stop the clocks in 36.07 seconds to take a stunning eighth place. A real star of the weekend and perhaps a first sign of what might be in the future? Congratulations Alex!! Lee Griffiths (OMS 28) was pleased to qualify for a BHC run-off for the first time in 2023. An early season accident at Prescott had set Lee back. His ninth place finish, just five one hundredths of a second behind Alex and the resultant two BHC points will have put the smile back on the face of the man from Burton on Trent. The final point scorer was Adam Greenen (Empire Evo 3) . This was Adam’s third BHC run-off qualification of the season but his first points finish. Well done Adam! Sean Gould (Gould GR59J) finished a very disappointed eleventh and out of the points. Sean was right on the pace for the majority of the run. He was however another to make a mistake at the final corner Martini which cost him lots of time and of course good BHC points as well. After a very productive trip to the Channel Islands Darren Gumbley (Force TA) qualified for his fifth BHC run-off in succession. A big mistake under braking for Martini and a trip up the escape road however resulted in a failed run, a twelfth place finish and no score.
Sunday dawned and we were greeted with a wet track. At least this saved the drivers any thoughts on tyre choice though. It was definitely wets! The track was considerably more grippy than it had been when damp a day earlier which was a relief to all. The tricky conditions made it difficult to get the power down and played into the hands to those with finesse and good traction. It gave us some interesting qualifiers for the run-off too! Alex Summers carried excellent speed throughout his run and also made the fewest mistakes. His 39.81 second run giving him his third BHC run-off victory of the season. Just six one hundredths of a second behind Alex was Scott Moran. Scott tried slicks on the back of the Gould and wets on the front. This combination certainly gave him an advantage off the line and very nearly outright victory too. This resulted in a strong second place fourteen hundredths of a second clear of Matt Ryder who in turn held off co-driver Sean Gould by nearly two tenths of a second. Four tenths of a second back in fifth place was Will Hall who held off Trevor Willis by just eight hundredths of a second. Paul Haimes finished the weekend strongly with seventh place, nearly three quarters of a second behind Will. Eighth place was secured by an absolutely delighted Stuart Bickley (Force TA). This was Stuart’s first ever BHC run-off qualification and in an up to 1100cc racing car too – quite an achievement. The three points scored being the icing on the cake. Three quarters of a second back in ninth was another first time BHC run-off qualifier Tom Weaver (Empire Evo). The little Empire runs a 1000cc bike engine and is therefore down on outright power when compared to the V8’s. This did not hold the Ludlow based youngster back one little bit though. The whole Weaver family were absolutely delighted with the result! Saturday’s star of the show Alex Coles qualified for a BHC run-off once again. The final point for tenth means that Alex ended the weekend a magnificent eighteenth overall in the BHC. Did we witness a little bit of history with the three talented newcomers Stuart, Tom and Alex scoring their first BHC points? My guess is that with the right equipment they can compete at the very top. A sensational eleventh was Steven Darley in the incredible Subaru Legacy. It should be remembered that not only was Steven driving a saloon car but it was his first ever visit to Wiscombe Park too! Quite incredible. This was the first saloon car to qualify for a BHC run-off since Damien Bradley did so in the same car at Harewood in 2021. Damien finished eleventh on that day too. And what about Wallace Menzies? Well shock of all shocks Wallace made a mistake and finished out of the points with a failed run. On the pace all the way to the final corner at Martini Wallace locked up under braking and had to take to the escape road. This is the first time that Wallace has finished off the podium in the twenty two BHC run-offs of the 2023 season. An absolutely remarkable achievement which is testament not only to Wallace’s skill as a driver but to the way that he and his team have professionalised the sport of Hillclimbing.
In the classes it was all change at the top. With BHC Cup current leader Duncan Barnes (Norma M20FC) electing to miss the meeting, the door was open for others to take advantage. Allan McDonald (Force SR4) did not refuse the opportunity. A class win on Saturday followed by third place on Sunday now give him a six point lead in the Cup. In second place is David Tatham (DJ Firehawk). A great win on Saturday was followed up by third place on a wet track behind Tom Weaver and Stuart Bickley on Sunday. Still a great result. Duncan Barnes now sits two point adrift of David in third and just one point clear of a charging Paul Haimes (Gould GR59 – Hayabusa). Paul had a fine Wiscombe weekend with class wins on both days. Dropped scores come into play after the next round at Shelsley Walsh in a couple of weeks’ time. It will be very interesting to see what the order is after a visit to a venue where power is at a premium.
Damien Bradley brought his monstrous fire breathing Subaru Legacy to Wiscombe with the sole intention of breaking the outright ‘tin top’ record for the venue. He faced stiff opposition not only from his teammate Steven Darley but from Jim Herbert who was sharing local driver Clive Stangles impressive Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 5. Jim was the first to break the record with a time of 40.41 second run on Saturday. Stephen Moore wasn’t too shabby either. A 40.66 second run in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 5 showed just how close it was amongst the tin tops. Damien then came to the line. A fine 2.21 second launch and he was three quarters of a second up on the clock at half way. It all looked like good until Martini when a gear selector issue occurred, resulting in Damien coasting through the final corner and across the finish line. His time – 40.35 seconds and a new tin top record – just! Surely it would have been a sub forty second run but for those gear selector issues? Next year Damien! As mentioned previously Steven did of course go on to qualify the Subaru for Sunday’s run-off. It was quite a weekend for the Subaru pair!!
Current BHC Championship leader Wallace Menzies said “Track conditions were tricky. In my opinion unless it was fully dry the wet was definitely the correct tyre to run. Despite Saturday’s wet start I was not surprised that times ended up being so quick. I am just pleased that I was the one to set a new record. It was full attack and full commitment but all in the right places. Sunday’s result was disappointing, but I honestly wouldn’t change a thing. I was a little surprised to lock the front left when I braked for Martini followed very quickly by the front right. I came off the brakes three or four times as I tried to get the car slowed down to turn into Martini, but ran out of space. The escape road ended up being my only choice! I am absolutely delighted to see some new names in the run-offs. Alex Coles had a stellar weekend. Tom Weaver looks like he could be a star of the future too. With Steven Darley also managing to qualify the Subaru for the Sunday run-off it really was a weekend to remember. Congratulations to the Wiscombe team for once again putting on such a great event. It’s back to Shelsley Walsh in a couple of weeks’ time. A repeat of my two run-off wins in June would be incredible. I am sure that Alex, Scott, Matt, Sean and a few others will have something so say about that though!”
The Championship now moves onto Shelsley Walsh over the weekend of 12th & 13th August. Track action is sure to be hot as Wallace, Alex, Matt, Scott, Sean and probably a few others attack Sean’s outright record of 22.37 seconds. With the second round of the BHC Tin Top Top Ten Challenge also taking place there will be something for everyone. Will Damien or Steven score maximum points in the tin top run-offs or will Simon Bainbridge have something to say about that in the big SBR Crono V8? Make your plans to be at Shelsley its sure to be a fantastic weekend! Advance tickets can be purchased below.