Defending British Hillclimb Championship (BHC) presented by Avon Tyres Champion Wallace Menzies took the outright lead of the 2023 Championship by winning the final run-off after a superb drive to third place in a dry-wet opening run-off. With rain falling during the first run-offs and the track being at best damp for the rest of the day, results were a little mixed up. After difficulty finding speed in qualifying Matt Ryder managed to end the day with a second and fourth place run-off finish and now holds a clear second place overall in the Championship. Scott Moran had a challenging day. After co-driver Graham Wynn had a car damaging off at the fast final corner in practice, Scott was kindly offered a drive in Will Hall’s brand new and very similar Judd engined Gould GR59. Third and seventh place run-off finishes leave Scott in third place overall in the BHC after Craigantlet but with work to do before Harewood next weekend to rectify the rear wing and floor damage sustained in Graham’s unfortunate off. Alex Summers’ difficult start to the 2023 BHC continued. With throttle issues in practice limiting his track time he still produced a great run in first qualifying to be ‘rewarded’ with top qualifying spot for the first run off. The weather however ensured that this was not the place to be, resulting in a sixth place finish. A good run in drying conditions in the second run-off gave Alex a second place, leaving him in fourth place overall in the BHC after two events. Trevor Willis was another to be adversely affected by track conditions. His ninth and fifth place run-off finishes leaving him in fifth place overall.
The first run-off produced a ‘surprise’ first BHC win for a delighted Will Hall. In only his second event in his brand new Judd engined Gould GR59, Will took advantage of the better track conditions available to him to take a clear victory from fellow early runner Matt Ryder in the similar works Gould GR59J. This was Will’s first BHC run-off victory since Gurston Down in May 2021. The drought is over Will – congratulations! A fabulous run by reigning BHC Champion Wallace Menzies (Gould GR59M) on slicks when track conditions were at their most slippery, resulted in a third place finish for the talented Scotsman. A second back was an absolutely over the moon Darren Gumbley driving his 1600cc motorcycle engined Force TA with verve. Qualifying twelfth Darren took advantage of favourable track conditions to good effect to take a best ever fourth place BHC run-off finish. Well done Darren! Richard Spedding (GWR Raptor 2 Mistral Suzuki) was another to take advantage of dryer track conditions to take fifth place just under half a second behind Darren. After qualifying first with what turned out to be the only sub forty second run of the day, but running in very difficult track conditions, Alex Summers (DJ Firestorm Cosworth XD) must have been disappointed with his sixth place finish. Your luck will change soon Alex! Scott Moran, sharing Will Hall’s Gould GR59J, finished just fifteen hundredths of a second behind Alex in seventh. It just shows Scott’s talent as this was only his second run in the car, having only completed one morning practice run in his own car. It was also a very kind gesture by Will when you consider that this was only his second event in his brand new car. I am sure that Scott gave Will some very useful feedback about the car’s handling characteristics though! Just eleven hundredths of a second back in eighth place was Sean Gould in the Gould GR59J that he shares with Matt Ryder. After qualifying fourth Trevor Willis (OMS 28 – RPE V8) was another driver affected by the worsening conditions, resulting in a disappointing ninth place finish. Final points scorer was Paul Haimes (Gould GR59 Hayabusa Turbo). Paul was suffering from a bearing issue in the differential which was getting worse as the day went on. The run-off turned out to be Paul’s last run of the day in what has been a difficult start to his 2023 BHC season. Paul has decided to withdraw from the Harewood BHC round next week in an effort to find a lasting solution to the issue. Dave Uren (Gould GR55B) was another to struggle in the worsening conditions. His fine third place qualifying time ultimately counting for nothing. Tenth fastest qualifier Dave Warburton (Gould GR59 Hayabusa) lost time towards the top of the hill as he too finished out of the points in twelfth place.
The second run-off took place on a damp but drying track. Most runners however chose slick tyres as there was little or no surface water to remove. The track remained very tricky though. After qualifying first Wallace Menzies put in a great run to stop the clocks at 42.01 seconds for victory. His speed at the top of the hill was impressive to say the least. Alex Summers was six tenths of a second back in second place. At least this was some reward for Alex in what has proven to be a very tricky start to his 2023 BHC season. Scott Moran was getting much more confident in Will Hall’s Gould and took an excellent third place, nearly two seconds clear of Matt Ryder. Matt’s relative lack of experience on the fast sweeps of the Craigantlet road course were no doubt holding him back a little. Five hundredths of a second back was Trevor Willis is fifth place. He in turn was nearly three quarters of a second clear of Sean Gould in sixth. Dave Uren got some points on the board with seventh, four tenths of a second clear of first run-off winner Will Hall. Richard Spedding scored points once again with a ninth place finish, half a second clear of Dave Warburton who scored the last point available for tenth. Missing out this time was Darren Gumbley. After his first run-off heroics, he still had a big smile on his face though! After qualifying for her first BHC run-off of the 2023 season Nicola Menzies (Gould GR55B) was nearly a second back in twelfth place.
Winner of the first run-off Will Hall said “ Although I would have liked to win the run-off on merit, I am delighted to take my first win in the new car. Before today I had only driven the car at Prescott last week and for less than five minutes testing at Curborough. The win was therefore very unexpected. We still have a lot of work to do as the car is suffering from an intermittent gear change issue which is not good for confidence. We also need to work hard on the handling characteristics at high speed. I will take the win though!”
Last words go to second run-off winner and current 2023 BHC Championship leader Wallace Menzies who said “The Craigantlet organising team certainly rattled through the programme, for which they should be congratulated. Track conditions throughout the day were very tricky. Even when it was not raining the track remained slippery, particularly at the final corner. I was delighted to win one run-off and take a third place in the other. It’s very tight at the top with five or six potential winners. I am convinced that third place finishes will become really important as the season progresses. It’s now on to Harewood for the final weekend of three successive weeks of a very busy start to our season. It should be a good one!”
As Wallace says the Championship moves onto Harewood this weekend, Sunday 7th May. After last year’s Harewood heroics started with four drivers breaking the record in the first run off in May and ended with Matt Ryder finally leaving the hill record at a stunning 46.39 seconds in July, what should we expect this time? More of the same is my guess. With Wallace, Alex, Scott and Matt all capable of victory and Will Hall, Trevor Willis and Sean Gould waiting in the wings it could get very tasty! After a frenetic opening round of the class based BHC Cup presented by Classic Car Insurance Broker Footman James, battle resumes at Harewood. This will all add to what should be a great day. So get yourself to Harewood and see it all live.