Hillclimb Cars Star at Goodwood

A pair of former British Hillclimb Championship winning single-seaters were amongst the stars of one of motorsport’s biggest events of the year last weekend.

Mike Hawthorn Goodwood Revival

Tribute to Mike Hawthorn in the Goodwood paddock

 

The Goodwood Revival meeting, held each September on the famous perimeter road of the former RAF Westhampnett Battle of Britain fighter base, is surely the biggest piece of theatre anywhere in our sport.

Celebrating the period from 1948 through to 1966, when Goodwood was one of the major circuits operating in the UK, the Revival meeting holds races for single-seaters, sports and saloon cars from the period that actually raced at the Sussex circuit. There are also demonstrations, period displays on both the ground and in the sky, a highly successful auction and of course lots of fancy dress!

The auction rooms of Bonhams attracted a lot of attention, with a whole host of wonderful motor cars and memorabilia. The star lot however, was formerly a star of the hills….

In 1950 Dennis Poore won the British Hillclimb Championship in one of the most exotic vehicles ever seen in British Speed Hillclimbing, the ex. Tazio Nulvolari Alfa Romeo 8C-35 which was run for the Alfa works in period by Scuderia Ferrari.

From the Scuderia the car was purchase by Swiss racer Hans Ruesch, who debuted the car in September 1936 at The World Famous Shelsley Walsh (setting second FTD on the day) before going on to be succesful with the car on circuits and hills the world over.

This wonderful old warhorse was bought post-war by Poore and initially used the car for hillclimbing and for VSCC events (even winning the VSCCs Richard Seaman Trophy race three times), before mothballing the car in 1955 at his home. The car remained there until Poore’s death in 1987.

Since Poore’s death the car has changed hands a few times, and has been restored to its pre-war glory by marque specialist Matt Grist.

This wonderful old example of pre-war Grand Prix racing and post-war Speed Hillclimbing was sold at Goodwood for £5,937,500 including the premium!

The other hillclimb star of the Goodwood show was on the race track.

ERAs have a special place in the heart of most hillclimbers, they were built for circuit racing in the Voiturette Class but, due to marque founder Raymond Mays’ obsession with the hills, they always ran against the clock in period and have continued to do so to this day.

One of the most successful of these upright, Riley-engined chassis over the years both on circuits and on the hills has been ERA R11B, known affectionately at ‘Humphrey’ since new (named after ERA co-founder Humphrey Cook).

ERA exponent Ken Wharton owned two ERAs in the early 50s, R5B ‘Remus’ and R11B ‘Humphrey’. Remus was his circuit racer and Humphrey was his hillclimber. Success soon followed, and by using the very clever trick of having a modern Cooper-JAP for the twisty hills and the powerful ERA for gruntier hills (often using both at the same event) Wharton took four straight BHC titles (the fourth came after he had replaced R11B with the ex. works development R4D).

ERA VSCC Seaman Trophy

Humphrey & Remus together on track at Donington in 2001

 

Humphrey passed through several hands after Wharton’s ownership before ending up in the family he is still a part of today when Martin Morris acquired the car from Douglas Hull in the early sixties. Indeed, when Morris first acquired Humph there weren’t many circuit races that the car was eligible for, so he competed in BHC events, often qualifying for Top 12 Run Offs with the then thirty year old car. Incidentally Morris would tow the car to events behind his Speed Six Bentley and his gofor Stephen Curtis would compete in the Bentley (are you reading this Haimesy!?).

Unfortunately Martin Morris passed away in 2006, but the car is still in the family and his son David (who is an ex. Team Lotus race engineer and now a historic race preparer) competes occasionally in VSCC events. Having received an invite to take part in this years Goodwood Trophy Race for pre-1950 Grand Prix cars at the Revival just a fortnight before the event, he quickly fettled Humph and prepared for the high-speed circuit.

ERA R11B Wiscombe Park

Humphrey takes centre stage at the Wiscombe ERA gathering in 2007 (thanks to Tony Freeman).

 

Starting from third on the grid behind two other ERAs R2A driven by demon ERA exponent Mark Gilles and R10B driven by Paddins Dowling. Morris and Gilles made slow starts (Gilles actually retired R2A very early on with engine trouble), so Dowling lead early on. Morris and Humphrey wound him in and powered past on lap two though and was never seen again, eventually crossing the line five seconds clear.

Speaking after the race, Morris told us “it was great to have Humphrey on top form, it usually doesn’t happen at Goodwood!”. This really is one of the greatest wins in the cars 76 year competition career, right up there with the pair of BHC titles and the fifteen Richard Seaman trophy wins.

ERA R11B David Morris

Humphrey in the paddock at Donington after his 2001 Seaman Trophy victory.

 

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