Purcell and Cannell Feel the Pressure

Whilst British and Midland Hillclimb contenders are at Prescott Hillclimb and South West Hillclimb contenders are at Wiscombe Park, the loyal band of Gurston Down Hillclimb regulars will be out for the final time this year at the Wilstshire venue.

Simon Purcell Lotus Exige

Simon Purcell is in the pound seat for the Gurston Championship (thanks to everleyphotography.co.uk).


As always for the BARC SW Centre’s events, Gurston Press Office Simon McBeath has put together a preview for the event.

Just like the cars on the race track, the season at Gurston Down Speed Hillclimb is rushing by, and preparations are well in hand for the exciting finale on Sunday September 7th, just a fortnight after the August Bank Holiday British Hillclimb Championship event.

It promises to be a real nail-biting finish to the season too as both the Gates of Brockenhurst Gurston Down Hillclimb Championship and the BARC (SW) Top Ten Challenge are finely poised with both titles still up for grabs. With the best four from five scores to count, ‘dropped scores’ come into play so the drivers will be all out to improve their standings in this final round! It will lead to even more exciting on-track action than usual!

In the Championship, in which scores are based on positions and times within the classes, Simon Purcell tops the table in his 1.4 litre supercharged Lotus Exige with a tough to beat total of 86.00 points. Ritchie Gatt (2.0 Westfield SEi) on 85.50 points could beat or equal Purcell’s score, in which case it could come down to a tie break, depending on Purcell’s own performance on the day. And in third place is Mike Rudge in his 2.3 Westfield SEi on 83.50 points, who could take the title if he wins his class and breaks his class record! It’s his own record and he is always close to it, so it’s not an impossible outcome by any means! But he also needs Simon Purcell to falter…

The Top Ten Challenge sees points awarded at each Gurston Championship event to the fastest 10 registered contenders, 10 points for the fastest down to one for the tenth fastest. This series is currently led by Chris Cannell in his twin-engined Force SR8 on 32 points ahead of Keith Diggle (2.1 WEV HCS) on 27 points and Championship sponsor Jonathan Gates (1.3 supercharged Force LM) on 26 points. But Gates has amassed his score in just three events so he will add all the points he scores in the finale to his total and is thus in a strong position to overhaul the top two and snatch that title!

Chris Cannell Force SR8

Chris Cannell will be pushing hard with his familiar twin-engined Force SR8 (thanks to everleyphotography.co.uk)


It’s all to play for, and there will be battles throughout the entry as the class champions are decided too.

In addition to all the action in the Championship and Challenge there will also be special invitation classes for Austin Healeys, Triumph TRs and historic 500cc racing cars.

With first class catering and additional food and drink outlets on site there’s everything you need for an exciting, great value weekend of motorsport in superb surroundings!

The meeting will open with the invitation class for TR Cars and we should expect the Weedons, John and Jonathon to put their rapid TR5 at the front.

In the ‘Big Healey’ class Pat Cooper has been the quickest at Gurston recently in his 100/6 and he could be on for the win again. And among the Sprites local driver Murray Wakeham will be at the forefront.

Onto the Gurston Championship classes then, and a well-supported roadgoing series production class up to 2000cc sees Adam Greenen go in his rapid Honda Civic Type ‘R’, and although this is Adam’s debut season he has established himself not only as the man to beat in this class but also great entertainment value, as witnessed at the recent August National meeting!. Battling hard to keep up will be, among others, Peugeot tuning guru Miles Horne in his 2.0 Peugeot 306 GTi and Ian Redding in his similar machine, both attempting to overhaul class Championship leader Paul Hearne (2.0 Renault Clio 172 Cup).

The clash for the class Championship in the over 2000cc roadgoing series production cars is closer than in any other class, with Stephen Moore (2.0t Mitsubishi Evo 6) just two hundredths of a point ahead of Simon Neve in his 2.3t Mitsubishi Evo 6. So this one is virtually down to who wins on the day, except that Neve would need a minimum winning margin of a three hundredths of a second!

The roadgoing specialist production class sees some rapid cars and drivers competing, and Piers Thynne starts as favourite for the win in his turbocharged 1.3 Westfield Megabusa. Piers has already won the class Championship but Martin Watson, who currently lies fourth in class in his 2.0 Westfield SEiW, will be hoping to move up the order and Adrian Lewis (1.3 Westfield Megabusa) and Clive Skipper (2.0 Caterham 7 HPC) will be aiming to hang on to their top three spots!

The marque sports car class up to 2000cc sees the aforementioned Simon Purcell run in his self-developed supercharged 1.4 Lotus Exige, and providing he repeats the form he has shown all year he is the probable favourite to win the overall 2014 Gurston Championship title. Should he slip up or encounter gremlins that prevent him running, his Championship rivals still have a lot to do to overhaul his current table-topping score. Gurston treasurer Dee Stapley and daughter Steph Limb do battle again in Molly the MGF.

There will be a good battle in the over 2000cc marque sports car class too as Graham Beale, already the class Championship winner, pits his turbocharged 2 litre Ginetta G33 against the shared Porsche 911 GT3 Cup of Andy Fraser and Tim Painter. There won’t be much between these three, and they are joined by the lovely Jaguar ‘E’ Type of Paul Slade.

It’s Minis all the way in the up to 1400cc modified series production class, and the winner here in the August British Championship event was Neil Turner whose expertly driven Mini Cooper ‘S’ will be tough to beat. Phil Eaton and former Gurston Champion Derek Mullis will push the pedal to the metal to try and keep up!

Former double Gurston Champion and current competition secretary Paul Webster runs his trusty (for sale!) 1.9 Mazda MX5 in the class for modified series production cars up to 2000cc, and he is joined by regular Mini entrant Jim White from Southampton, accompanied this time by son Steve, in a 1.8 Peugeot 306, following mechanical maladies with their Mini in the August Bank Holiday event.

Some extremely potent machinery will run in the over 2000cc modified series production saloon class, with another former Gurston Champion Roy Barker going in his turbocharged 2.3 Mitsubishi Evo 5. He will be up against Adrian and David Flagg, son and father, in their 2.0t Subaru Impreza STi and the spectacular 2.1t Audi Quattro of Tim Clarke and Andy Trayner.

Fastest of all the production-based machines are the modified specialist production cars, and here we have the two drivers who could threaten Simon Purcell’s Championship hopes. Ritchie Gatt goes in his 2.0 Westfield SEiW and either needs to win his class and break his class record to overtake Purcell’s current score, or he could match Purcell’s total if he wins and gets within half a second of his record. In the latter case he would need Purcell to score less than 21.00 points to win on a tie breaker! Also running in this class but scoring points in the over 2000cc division is another former Gurston Champion Mike Rudge whose spirited driving of his 2.3 Westfield SEi always entertains! Mike also has a chance at the title but he needs to break his class record and rely on Simon Purcell scoring less than 20.00 points to win on the tie break rules. So the odds are stacked in Simon Purcell’s favour, but it’s not over until it’s over!

Ritchie Gatt Westfield SEi

Ritchie Gatt is still in championship contention with his Westfield (thanks to everleyphotography.co.uk)


The Historically Interesting class brings out a mix of lovely single seater racing cars and sports cars this time around. Hugh Kemp looks like the favourite for the class win in his 1.6 Palliser WDF3, and Hugh could potentially challenge for a top three position in the Gurston Championship with a good score in this final round.

In a season where the sports libre cars are heading the Top Ten Challenge, it’s great to see Gurston’s long-time sponsor Jonathan Gates in with a tilt at the Challenge title. The supercharged 1.3 litre Force LM he shares with Peter Sexton has been the fastest car in the up to 2000cc sports libre class this year and, having missed scoring in April’s opening round when an engine malady intervened, the duo will be adding all the points they score this weekend to their totals. Jonathan Gates, currently third overall, will win the Challenge if he scores well and beats the present leader who runs in the next class. Gurston’s Hon. Sec. Tim Pitfield will again field his recently acquired 1.3 DJ Firecat in this class, and Tim has picked up two third places since his July debut in the car.

Jonathan Gates Force LM

Johnny Gates will be pushing hard with his shared Force LM (thanks to everleyphotography.co.uk)


The over 2000cc sports libre class should be the domain of Chris Cannell in the twin-engined 2.6 litre Force SR8 he shares with Sue Hayes. Chris is currently heading the Gurston Down Top Ten Challenge, a title he has won before in a Pilbeam MP58, and he would be thrilled to win it again in the sports libre car he has been running for the past decade before moving on in 2015 to the new car he recently purchased. To retain his Challenge lead he needs to finish in the top five and beat Jonathan Gates’s time in the previous class. Also running in Cannell’s class is Keith Diggle in his 2.1 WEV HCS, and Keith, currently second overall, will be hoping to hold onto a top three spot in the Challenge.

Keith Diggle WEV BDG

One of our  favourite hillclimb cars, the WEV-BDG of Keith Diggle (thanks to everleyphotography.co.uk).


The single seater racing cars will take to the hill next and there’s a healthy class of historic cars from the 500 Owners Association entered. Andrew Forsyth should do well here in the Alfa Dana, and John Dent (Cooper Mk 8) will be right up there too.

It looks like being very competitive in the up to 1100cc racing car class, with James Moore leading the class Championship in his 1.1 OMS 2000M and, having been the quickest in this group over the course of the season, is the narrow favourite to win again this weekend. There is some good opposition in the class though from Bradley Hobday (1.0 Jedi Mk 4), Euan and Calum Kemp (1.1 OMS PR), John Oxborrow (1.0 OX7 and Steve Loadsman (1.1 OMS).

The Formula Ford class gets more interesting by the event, and this weekend Andrew Abbey is joined by a new co-driver, Chris Burley as the pair strike up a new car sharing arrangement in the 1.6 Jamun M91 formerly owned by Roger Labbett. Andrew Abbey is another driver who will be adding all the Championship points he scores to his current total, and he too could challenge for a top three spot if he wins the class and gets close to the class record (he was only a second away last time out).

Gurston stalwarts and now regular supporters of the pre-1986 racing car class, father and son Brian and Adrian Moody run their 1.6 Ralt RT3 once again, and there are only 0.35 points between them for the class Championship title, so look out for some family fun here!

In the up to 1600cc racing car class Peter D. Smith and Richard Gaylard share their very quick 1.6 Force again and will be in the hunt for Best Time of the Day. Indeed Peter D. scored ‘double BTD’ at Gurston’s April opening weekend events, and although neither he nor his co-driver can win the Top Ten Challenge, having missed out on scoring in rounds 2 and 3 in June, they could influence the overall outcome…

Peter D Smith Force Suzuki

Peter D. Smith will be looking for FTD in his Force-Suzuki (thanks to everleyphotography.co.uk).


The final class of the event is for racing cars up to 2000cc, and what an interesting class it is. Andrew Dinner shares his 2.0 Pilbeam MP82 with Gurston committee member John Forsyth. Running his slightly older 2.0 Pilbeam MP54 will be Gurston’s friendly builder Roger Cock. And making their competition debut with a new car, the Marsh brothers, Simon and Peter share Simon’s new supercharged 1.3 DJ Firehawk, a car which is sure to be competitive once fully sorted. Can the sons of the late Gurston co-designer and multiple British Hillclimb Champion Tony Marsh achieve success first time out with the new car, though?

This and many other questions will be settled in this exciting final event of the season at Gurston Down on Sunday September 7th. Don’t miss it!

Thanks so much for this preview Simon, sounds like there will be some hot competition…

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