Championship leader Wallace Menzies won again at Doune, as he stretched his lead in the 2023 British Hillclimb Championship (BHC) presented by Avon Tyres, to twenty six points, leaving Scott Moran and Matt Ryder squabbling over second place. A run-off win on Sunday by former Champion Alex Summers with Scott Moran second, was the only thing that prevented Wallace from having another perfect point scoring weekend. With a healthy Championship lead, the signs are ominous for Moran, Matt Ryder and the chasing pack. With a busy July coming up with BHC rounds at Harewood, Bouley Bay in Jersey, Les Val des Terres in Guernsey and Wiscombe Park, the chasers will have to produce something special to halt the momentum that Menzies has built up, as he pushes on for a fourth successive BHC crown. After the Doune weekend Scott Moran now sits in second place with a two point lead over Matt Ryder. With his difficult start to the season now hopefully behind him, Alex Summers continues to make progress and now holds fourth, from Sean Gould in fifth.
The first run-off of the weekend on Saturday was unfortunately affected by rain. With precipitation starting about half way through the run-off, the fastest qualifiers were most affected by the slippery conditions that developed. Despite qualifying in only fourth place and with rain falling during his run, Wallace Menzies (Gould GR59M – Cosworth XD) showed all of his experience and determination to take a fine win with a time of 36.43 seconds. This was an impressive three tenths of a second slower than he had qualified. The mark of a true Champion and quite remarkable when you consider the worsening conditions. Seventh fastest qualifier Sean Gould (Gould GR59J) took full advantage of running first in the run-off and the dry track conditions, to finish just two tenths of a second behind Wallace and equal his best result of the season with second place. BHC season debutant Stuart Sugden (GWR Raptor) returned to the Championship with a bang to take a fine third place, just one tenth of second behind Sean. His eighth place in qualifying gave him a dry track which he took full advantage of. Just two tenths of a second back was Matt Ryder (Gould GR59J) in an excellent fourth place. Although it was just starting to rain Matt kept his head with a smooth run to set a competitive time. Paul Haimes (Gould GR59 – Hayabusa Turbo) continued his recent fine form to finish in fifth place, just fifteen one hundredths of a second clear of Will Hall (Gould GR59J in sixth place. Richard Spedding (GWR Raptor 2) was half a second behind Will in seventh. Scott Moran (Gould GR59J) finished a very unlucky eighth. After qualifying third, the track conditions when Scott took his run-off run had deteriorated to the extent that he was nearly two seconds slower than his qualifying time. Unlucky Scott! Despite a far from perfect run Johnathen Varley took two points for ninth place in his GWR Predator by just over three quarters of a second from David Tatham in his 1100cc DJ Firehawk. This was David’s first BHC point since Harewood at the beginning of May. After showing stunning qualification pace under the existing class record, second fastest qualifier David Warburton (Gould GR9 – Hayabusa) caught the worst of the conditions to finish out of the points in twelfth just behind fastest qualifier Alex Summers (DJ Firestorm – Cosworth XD). Both set times over five seconds slower than they had qualified in – an opportunity lost for both!! Two regular point scorers were also missing from the Doune run-offs. Sadly Trevor Wills had a reoccurrence of the engine related issues that appeared at Shelsley at the beginning of June. Dave Uren’s Gould GR55B was also not quite ready after its Shelsley gearbox failure. This resulted in a blank weekend for both.
Sunday dawned dry and track conditions would improve as the day wore on. This at least meant that everyone would have similar track conditions for both qualifying and the run-off. Alex Summers once again qualified fastest. Unlike the previous day running last was a big advantage, as he knew exactly what he needed to do. A stunning 1.85 start meant that he was up on the clocks, in fact by a full half second by Junction. This was eroded a little to just under three tenths of a second by the Esses. A quick run to the finish line saw Alex taking the win by just eight hundredths of a second from a charging Scott Moran. Alex’s time was in fact only eight hundredths of a second shy of his existing outright hill record set last year. Great job Alex! Wallace Menzies saved his best until last to break into the 34 second bracket for the first time ever. He was however over six tenths of a second behind the hot pace set by Alex and Scott and only sixteen hundredths clear of a hard charging Matt Ryder, who also set a personal best time of 35.15 seconds. Will Hall was another driver to set a personal best. His 35.58 second run, allied with big numbers through the speed trap was good enough for fifth place. With his disappointment from the previous day put to the back of his mind, David Warburton showed great commitment to qualify under Sean Gould’s six year old class record which Sean had set in the same car. David then put it all on the table to go faster still in the little 1600cc Gould, stopping the clocks on a stunning 35.71 seconds to take a fantastic seasons best sixth place finish. A fabulous drive by the man from Leominster. Sean Gould took seventh just eight hundredths of a second clear of a charging Stuart Sugden. His 36.07 second time not only a personal best, but like David Warburton under the 1600cc racing car record too. If Stuart can squeeze in some more BHC events this season, surely, he will be challenging for a top ten number once again. Richard Spedding took two points for ninth place, just over a tenth of a second clear of a fading Paul Haimes in tenth. Qualifying for a BHC run-off for the first time in 2023 with a committed drive was Olivia Cooper (1600cc Force TA). Although she finished out of the points in eleventh place, she was delighted, as her qualifying time of 38.23 seconds had set a new outright ladies record. Well done Olivia! Simon Mackay qualified for his first BHC run-off since Doune last year. Although his run-off run was a little scrappy, particularly in the top sections and resulted in him finishing out of the points, he was still pleased to have made the cut.
The battle at the top got a little tighter in the class based BHC Cup presented by Classic Car Insurance Broker Footman James. Despite being the only car competing in his class and as a result scoring lower points for the class ‘win’, Duncan Barnes (Norma M20FC) still maintains a slender five point overall lead. Allan McDonald (Force SR4) had a challenging weekend being beaten by both by Brian Beverley (Westfield Xtr2) on both days and also Richard Matossian (OMS SC1) on the Sunday. This has dented Allan’s challenge for the Cup a little and enabled David Tatham (DJ Firehawk) to join him in joint second place. David took two hard earned class wins over the weekend in the well supported up to 1100cc Racing Car Class. A great result which sets the Cup up nicely at its half way point of the season.
The Championship now moves onto the challenging Harewood Hillclimb in Yorkshire for a full weekend of BHC action on Saturday 1st and Sunday 2nd July. The top BHC and Cup contenders will be joined by a stellar entry of the country’s leading saloon cars battling it out in the opening rounds of the 2023 BHC Tin Top – Top Ten Challenge. We are sure to see some fantastic Hillclimbing. Competitive action is scheduled to start at 9.00am and will continue for the majority of the day. Advance tickets can be purchased here...