Defending British Hillclimb (BHC) presented by Avon Tyres Champion Wallace Menzies kickstarted his title defence winning both run-offs with a dominant performance on the fast flowing Craigantlet road course. On a day which started wet the rain continued all day resulting in some very wet and tricky Belfast roads. This obliged Wallace and most other Pirelli runners to join the Avon shod cars and run the proven Avon wet compound tyres throughout the day. Early joint Championship leaders Scott Moran and Alex Summers both had good days, a second and third place in the run-offs for each of them keeping their Championship challenge firmly on track. Early signs are that we could have a three way fight for the 2022 Championship – this could be a very exciting season indeed!
The first run-off of the afternoon was won by Wallace Menzies by more than half a second, a country mile when compared to the tight finish in the first run-off of the season at Prescott the previous week when the first five finishers were separated by only one tenth of a second. Wallace’s pace to the ‘half way’ point at Mays Crossing was excellent all weekend, the quarter of a second advantage that he held at this point being stretched by a further quarter of a second in the fast flowing upper reaches of the hill. A great run by Alex Summers in the DJ Firestorm secured second place by a third of a second from Scott Moran in the Gould GR59 Judd. Joint Craigantlet record holder Dave Uren was a little off the pace in the wet, finishing nearly a second back in fourth in his Nicholson McLaren engined Gould GR55. He was followed by Trevor Willis in his V8 Powertec engined OMS 28 and Matthew Ryder (Gould GR59J) in fifth and sixth respectively. Richard Spedding (GWR Raptor 2), David Warburton (Gould GR59), Paul Haimes (Gould GR59) and Lee Griffiths (OMS28) completed the point scorers in that order. This was Lee’s first qualification and points score of the season. Nicola Menzies, sharing the Gould GR55 with Dave Uren, qualified an excellent ninth fastest but unfortunately faded to a non-scoring twelfth. Graham Wynn qualified again but also finished out of the points in eleventh.
The second run-off produced another victory for Wallace in his Cosworth XD engined Gould GR59-M, this time by an increased margin of just over three quarters of a second. Four tenths up at Mays Crossing, Wallace pulled further away with the best run of the weekend up to the finish line. Topping 110mph approaching the finish line Wallace finished the run in dominant style. This time the tables were turned between Alex Summers and Scott Moran, with Scott securing second place, nearly half a second ahead of Alex. Trevor Willis managed to secure fourth by the tiny margin of five one hundredths of a second from the consistent Dave Uren. Matt Ryder found himself some three quarters of second back in sixth but is sure to be satisfied that his mature drive secured a solid points scoring first visit to Northern Ireland and first drive in the wet with the big Gould. Richard Spedding and Dave Warburton secured seventh and eighth respectively once again, with Lee Griffiths improving one place to finish ninth. An excellent tenth was Nicola Menzies for her first points finish of the season. One of the unluckiest drivers so far in 2022 is Graham Wynn, who finished out of the points in eleventh place for the third run-off in succession. To rub salt in the wound he was only one hundredth of a second behind Nicola. The luck has got to change soon Graham!
The prize for the biggest effort in the lead up to the Craigantlet weekend must go to Damien Bradley in his amazing Subaru Legacy. Stave Darley and Damien broke the class record five times the previous weekend at Prescott but also managed to break the gearbox on the first timed run. This left them with only two gears! It also meant there was much to do before the trip to Northern Ireland.
Damien removed the Samsonas sequential gearbox on Monday evening on axle stands in his single garage, no mean feat! The required parts were identified and ordered with next day delivery from Euro M-Sport. This resulted in Damien leaving London on Thursday morning at 4am, heading to SD Motorsport in York to build the gearbox and refit it to the Subaru. After thinking they were done at 3pm it was then they discovered that they had no gears at all! So, after finding the issue and doing it all again the car was back together for 11pm, sadly meaning that they had missed their overnight sailing to Belfast. This meant a 5am alarm call to catch the morning ferry from Liverpool – phew!
Fast forward to practice in the rain at Craigantlet. After an exploratory first run using Avon 046 slicks Damien quickly decided that a move to 317 wet compound Avon tyres would be sensible. His times for the first 64ft were way ahead of anyone else over the weekend, including all of the single seaters. Damien had a great day and was actually really unfortunate not to qualify for the second run off, missing out by 0.37 seconds with a super time of 52.02 seconds. A great effort Damien and team!
And what of Will Hall in the ‘works” Gould GR59? Will had a character building weekend to say the least, suffering a number of technical issues that prevented him qualifying for either run-off. Will was right on the pace to Mays Crossing on both qualification runs only to suffer a wheel sensor issue that left the traction control on constantly for the upper reaches of the hill and then oil surge that put the Judd engine into limp mode. Keep the faith Will, your luck will change for the better!
Leaving Craigantlet Scott Moran and Alex Summers remain joint leaders of the 2022 British Hillclimb Championship on thirty six points, but now have Wallace Menzies ‘breathing down their necks’ just two points behind on thirty four. Trevor Willis heads a tight battle for fourth on twenty eight points with Matt Ryder and Dave Uren a few points behind on twenty four and twenty three points respectively. It looks like this is shaping up into a tasty little three way battle too! The current BHC top ten is completed by Richard Spedding in seventh on thirteen points, Paul Haimes and David Warburton with eight points each in equal eighth and the unlucky Will Hall tenth on seven points.
The last words to double winner Wallace Menzies who said “ The Avon wets were most definitely the best tyres for the conditions. After a frustrating weekend at Prescott, it is nice to kick- start the season ahead. The competition at the top is very close with at least half a dozen drivers in with a shout for the win. I am looking forward to doing it all again at Harewood this coming weekend.”.
The Championship moves onto Harewood this weekend 7th & 8th May. Will Wallace continue where he left off in Northern Ireland or will Alex and Scott have something to say about that? Waiting in the wings are Trevor Willis and Richard Spedding, both of whom always go well at the Yorkshire venue. Matt Ryder and Will Hall could get themselves in the mix too. The Avon Tyres backed Subaru Legacy of Damien Bradley will also be there. Will we see a tin top get under 58 seconds? Get yourself to Harewood and see it all live. Tickets are available on the gate.