Hillclimb Engine Technology – Part 1

The exacting requirements of hillclimbing place a huge demand on the power plants used.

Judd KV4 V8

Judd KV4 V8 in Pilbeam MP88 chassis

The essential requirements of the engine are low-weight, compact size, high-power & good drive-ability. The need to work as well out of Sawbench Hairpin at Wiscombe Park as it does charging through Crossing Bend at Shelsley Walsh also means that the choice of engine is always a compromise.

The technology of the top end hillclimb engine has been remarkably stable for the best part of a decade now, which usually means that a revolution is on the way! So let’s look at the previous and current generation of engines, and maybe have a guess at what might be next…
The 1990s

After the 80s were dominated by Hart 4-cylinder F2 based engines, which were typically around 95kg and somewhere around 350bhp, the big bangers returned at the end of the 80s. The introduction of the Pilbeam MP58 saw Roy Lane & the Chase Web Team (Max Harvey & Martyn Griffiths) appear with Cosworth V8 powered MP58s, Lane with a sportscar derived 4.0 litre DFL whilst Chase Web went the whole hog with an F1 spec 3.5 litre DFR.

These big brutes were a vast step up on the Hart engine, with the DFL being around 580bhp/150kg and the DFR 630bhp/140kg, there other advantage was that they could become a fully stressed part of the chassis installation.

After starting to be slightly left behind by the sheer grunt of the V8s, top Hart-powered runner Mark Colton took a punt on a different F1 V8 and became the first customer for a Judd engine on the hills, by shoe-horning a 1988 vintage 3.5 litre CV engine into his Roman IV chassisĀ for the 1993 BHC season.

Roman Judd IV Ray Rowan

Ray Rowan in the Roman-Judd IV at Shelsley in 2007

Lane then followed suit by becoming the first to use a narrow angle EV (1990 F1 spec) for his new MP58 in 1994. Initially this was a 3.5 litre engine, but the beauty of the EV was its ability to be stretched to 4.0 litre, which reinforced its already impressive power with a healthy blast of low-down torque.

By the mid-90s, the teams of Deryk Young/Malc Orme, Roger Moran/George Ritchie, Tim Mason/Ian Stringer & Rob Turnbull had all gone down the Judd route.

Then along came the Gould GR37 to take on the MP58. Initially all but one of the GR37 V8s were powered by the DFR, although others have more recently acquired Judds as well.

Gould GR37S Paul Ranson

Paul Ranson in his Gould-DFR GR37S

David Grace stayed loyal to the Cosworth DFR throughout his top-line career and took Cosworth’s final three BHC wins in 1998, 1999 & 2000.


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