Championship leader Wallace Menzies stretched his lead over his nearest challengers with some top class attacking driving in dry but dusty conditions as the British Hillclimb Championship (BHC) presented by Avon Tyres, visited Shelsley Walsh for the first time in the 2023 season. On a warm and sunny weekend the battle at the top was tight once again, often being settled by a tenth or maybe a few hundredths of a second. A weekend punctuated by a number of dramas resulted in only one points score for Matt Ryder, who has now been overtaken for second place by the consistent scoring of Scott Moran. Alex Summers remains in fourth place and has now pulled a gap over fifth place Sean Gould, who like co-driver Matt Ryder only had one points score from the weekend.
With Trevor Willis (OMS 28-RPE V8) suffering a major engine issue crossing the finish line during Sunday morning practice and Matt Ryder (Gould GR59- Judd) failing to qualify due to his engine cutting out as he exited Crossing Corner on his qualification run, the first run-off of the weekend was without two drivers who have regularly scored good points in the season to date. Second fastest qualifier Wallace Menzies produced an attacking but tidy run in his powerful Cosworth XD engined Gould GR59M to stop the clocks on 22.93 seconds and take the win. This turned out to be the fastest time of the whole weekend as the track remained a little slippery throughout. Will Hall (Gould GR59- Judd) got his head down with an aggressive run to finish just nine hundredths of second back to take a fine second place. Scott Moran (Gould GR59- Judd) looked like he had it won. An incredible 146mph on Ess approach and there or thereabouts on the clocks as he entered the Esses, he unfortunately had a big sideways moment and clipped the bank with his rear wheel on the exit of the corner to end up third, just three hundredths of a second behind Will. Hopefully Scott won’t regret this error later in the season? The winning margins are tiny and the Championship is very tight with every point being of vital importance. Fastest qualifier Alex Summers could not live with the top three and took fourth place in the Cosworth XD engined DJ Firestorm, fifteen hundredths of a second behind Scott. Dave Uren was showing his usual good Shelsley form in his Nicholson McLaren engined Gould GR55B, and took fifth place just five hundredths of second behind Alex. A delighted Paul Haimes continued his fine form of the past couple of events in his turbocharged motorcycle engined Gould GR59. His 24.34 second run was excellent, particularly when you consider that the engine is only 1300cc. Ok the turbocharger makes it a bit special but the result really was good when you consider that he is giving away hundreds of horsepower to the big V8’s. A delighted Dave Warburton Gould GR59- Hayabusa took a fine seventh just thirteen hundredths of second behind Paul. This really was a massive achievement as the engine had only gone back into the car on the Thursday night, after a frantic week solving the gearbox output shaft issues that had ended his Gurston Down the previous week. A great drive from outright Shelsley Ladies Record holder Nicola Menzies in the Gould GR55B-NME saw her finish a seasons best eighth. Her time of 24.91 seconds left her just two tenths of a second away from her own record. Surely, she would break the two year old record once again later in the day? Just three hundredths behind Nicola was Jack Cottrill who continued the fine form that he had shown at Gurston by finishing in a solid ninth place in his Cosworth XD engined DJ Dallara. He in turn was just over half a second clear of Allan Warburton who shares the little 1600cc Gould GR59 with son Dave. Allan’s first BHC point of the season was just reward for the many hours that he put in fixing the car in the week leading up to the event. And what of seventh and eighth fastest qualifiers Richard Spedding (GWR Raptor 2) and Sean Gould (Gould GR59-Judd)? Sadly Richard suffered a return of the electrical gremlins that he had experienced at Gurston the previous week. This resulted in a failed run and no points as the car continually stalled as he attempted to leave the start line. Sean Gould suffered driveshaft failure on the approach to the line. A non-score and the fitting of a replacement driveshaft made for an exciting few hours for the team! Unlucky Sean.
Such was the efficiency of the running of the meeting the second run-off was upon us before we knew it. Although the sun was still shining, shadows were starting to be cast onto the track as the sun got lower in the sky. Track temperatures were therefore getting a little lower. Final runner Wallace Menzies managed to string it all together again to take the victory by thirteen hundredths of a second. With brilliant starts all weekend, Wallace this time scorched through the first sixty four feet in 1.94 seconds. This put him up on the clocks which he maintained all the to the top to complete his weekend double and consolidate his position at the top of the BHC table. Second place went to a relieved Matt Ryder. With the driveshaft replaced and a temporary fix in place to try and prevent the Gould cutting out, Matt was determined to score well. A trademark silky smooth passage of the Esses in a run-off best 7.40 seconds formed the foundation of Matt’s time. One tenth back in third was Scott Moran. After a weekend which promised so much, Scott was probably a little disappointed to go home with ‘only’ two third place run-off finishes. Fourteen hundredths further back was Alex Summers. An amazing 140mph Ess approach speed certainly showed how committed Alex was! Another fourteen hundredths back was Will Hall. His aggression and speed through the Esses were there for all to see. Will is certainly getting on top of the new car with surely much more to come as the season progresses. Sean Gould managed to score points this time around. An incredible 163mph over the finish line took everyone’s breath away! Considering he was only seven tenths of a second off the winner, Sean was probably a little disappointed to finish ‘only’ sixth. It just goes to show how competitive it is at the sharp end of the 2023 BHC. Paul Haimes was smiling from ear to ear as he got into the 23 second bracket once again. Paul has got good momentum in the BHC which should hopefully continue at one of his favourite hills Doune in two weeks’ time. Dave Warburton was left a little breathless. The little Hayabusa was working overtime as Dave put everything on the line to finish a delighted eighth, just eight hundredths of a second ahead of Richard Spedding, who had managed to work out a fix to his electrical issues and set a competitive time. The final point went to Graham Wynn who managed to get the big Gould that he owns and shares with Scott Moran into the run-off this time. A storming 162mph across the finish line helped him to a time of 25.42 seconds and another precious BHC point. No doubt the most unfortunate drivers to qualify for the second run-off were Nicola Menzies and Dave Uren in their shared Gould GR55B. A gearbox breakage as Nicola warmed the tyres as she approached the start line resulted in no-scores for both of them and a considerable amount of work to do to get the car ready for Doune. Good luck team!
Maximum points for two class winning runs in the class based BHC Cup presented by Classic Car Insurance Broker Footman James by both Duncan Barnes (Norma M20FC) and Allan McDonald (Force SR4) maintained their close battle at the top. A class win and a second place for both David Tatham (DJ Firehawk) and Sarah Bosworth (Formula Ford Van Diemen RF85) kept them in touch with the two leaders. It will be interesting to see what the results table looks like after the next round at Doune in a couple of weeks’ time.
The final words go to 2023 BHC Championship leader Wallace Menzies who said “ To get the double at Shelsley Walsh really was a pleasant surprise. It has not always been a happy hunting ground for me in the past and I am delighted to take maximum points from the weekend. It was good to see Will Hall getting in amongst us at the weekend. With three different winners and five different drivers finishing in second place over the last two weekends you can see just how close it is in the fight for wins. The next few events are sure to be close affairs too. I am really looking forward to Doune as I love the track. With it being close to home it will be nice to do a little less travelling too!”
The Championship now moves on to the ‘King of the Hills’, Doune, Nr Stirling in Scotland over the weekend 17th & 18th June. Both Alex Summers and Scott Moran were in record breaking form at last years’ event. Who will take the honours this time around? Can Scott Moran or Matt Ryder take a win or maybe two? Both probably need a good weekend in order to close the gap to Wallace. If you can make your way to Scotland why not see for yourself. The hill is amazing with high speed action at close quarters, all in the beautiful Scottish countryside. It has to be seen to be believed. Tickets are available on the gate on the day.