Purcell takes the Championship, Gates makes History!

There are several single-venue Hillclimb Championships on the calendar these days and one of the most popular is the BARC SW Centre’s Gurston Down Hillclimb Championship and Top 10 Challenge.

Jonathan Gates Force LM

Gates added the Top 10 Challenge to the Championship he won with his Westfield in 2006.


Last weekend saw the finale of the 2014 series at the Wiltshire Hill and as always the host club’s Press Officer Simon McBeath has sent us a cracking report from the deciding round of a very tough battle for the 2014 championship.

In a dramatic season finale at Gurston Down on September 7th and in glorious early Autumn conditions, Champion-elect Simon Purcell hung onto his season-long lead to become the 2014 Gates of Brockenhurst Gurston Down Hillclimb Champion with another faultless display in his self-developed supercharged 1.4 litre Lotus Exige. It was just reward for Simon’s dogged persistence after his car was severely damaged in a close encounter with the Gurston scenery a few years back. The only two drivers who could have challenged for the title, Ritchie Gatt (2.0 Westfield) and former champ Mike Rudge (2.3 Westfield) both added to their scores but couldn’t quite close in on the Exige driver.

Simon Purcell Lotus Exige

Simon Purcell took the Gurston Championship title with his Mod Prod class Lotus Exige.


And there was drama too in the Top Ten Challenge after early runner in the up to 2000cc sports libre class Jerry Bailey (1.1 Mallock Mk 14) inadvertently influenced proceedings when his car suffered what appeared to be a transmission failure in the Karousel hairpin complex on his first timed run and a small trail of oil was left behind… This was significant as the main protagonists in the Challenge were in the sports libre classes…. After a short delay while the oil was treated the following runners did their best to drive around the problem, and the only driver to get caught out was the Challenge leader going into the event, Chris Cannell in the Force SR8, who put a rear wheel onto the narrow dusty trail and spun onto the infield. Come the second timed runs any slipperiness had all but disappeared and Cannell’s principal opponent for the Challenge title Jonathan Gates drove a storming but very controlled mid-29 second run in the 1.3s Force LM to well and truly lay down the gauntlet to Cannell. But Karousel was once again unkind to the local man as one of the Force SR8′s two Suzuki engines selected neutral on the exit of the hairpin, delaying the car sufficiently that Cannell did not add to his points tally. So Gurston’s long-time Championship sponsor became the first driver in the venue’s history to win both the Championship (in 2006 in a Westfield) and the Top Ten Challenge.

Best Time of the Day went to April’s double-BTD man Peter D. Smith in the 1.6 Force on 29.47 seconds

The details

With the TR Cars class opening proceedings, John Weedon took his revenge on son Jonathan for last September’s result with a half second margin in the family TR5, the pair both well under 39 seconds. In the Big Healey class Pat Cooper came from behind after a tardy first effort in the 100/6 to win from first run leader Huw Edwards in his 3000 Mk 3. And local man Murray Wakeham was only 0.38 seconds away from the class record as he took the Austin Healey Sprite class in his 1.4 litre Sprite from Paul Baker’s 1.4 Sebring GT Sprite. James Carter’s turbo 2.5 Scimitar GTE had the legs on the rest in the Reliant Scimitar and Sabre Cars class as he dipped well into the 38s, with Richard Carter just going sub-40s for second spot in his normally aspirated 3 litre variant.

Adam Greenen missed a gear at Karousel on his first climb but came through for the win in the up to 2000cc roadgoing series production class in his 2.0 Honda Civic Type R with a disciplined second effort. First run leader Miles Horne had to make do with second on the day in his 2.0 Peugeot 306 GTi but wrapped up the season-long class Championship.

Stephen Moore set a blistering sub-34s second run time to win the over 2000cc roadgoing series production class in his 2.0t Mitsubishi Evo 6 from Lewis Fanner’s 2.5t Impreza, and Moore also claimed the class Championship with this result, finishing10th overall in the Championship.

After the mechanical failure of his gear shift sensor on his first timed run Piers Thynne bounced back once again to take the roadgoing specialist production class in his turbocharged 1.3 Westfield Megabusa. Piers had already put the class Championship beyond anyone else’s reach in the previous round and he ended up in eighth place overall. Martin Watson (2.0 Westfield SEiW) thus had to settle for the runner up spot on the day, but only by a hundredth from Terry Luff’s 2.0 Westfield SE, and in the class Championship too.

In the up to 2000cc marque sports class Simon Purcell did what he has done all season, setting a pair of consistently quick times to take the class (and the overall Championship) in the Exige. Behind him the scrap between mother and daughter Dee Stapley (Gurston’s treasurer) and Steph Limb took a new turn as Steph found a bucketful of extra speed into and through the Karousel complex to set a new PB and perhaps shift the goalposts in this particular ongoing battle!

Simon Purcell Lotus Exige

Simon Purcell has used his Lotus Exige at the Wiltshire hill for many seasons.


Graham Beale edged another hundredth closer to the class record in the over 2000cc marque sports car class in is turbocharged 2.0 Ginetta G33, his winning time just two hundredths from the class mark! Graham won the class Championship and finished seventh overall. But it was close on the day as Tim Painter set two identical times just another four hundredths behind Beale in the 3.6 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, with co-driver Andy Fraser six tenths adrift in third.

Neil Turner once more set the pace in the up to 1400cc modified series production class in his 1.4 Mini Cooper ‘S’ with a storming second effort only just shy of the 35s to leave former champ Derek Mullis two full seconds behind in his Cooper ‘S’.

Former double Gurston Champion Paul Webster finished his season on a high with a win on 37.01s in the up to 2000cc modified series production class in his 1.9 Mazda MX5. Behind him Jim and Steve White had a relaxing day in the ‘T Car’, a 1.8 Peugeot 306 with a standard engine being used while transmission issues were being resolved on their usual Mini. Steve shaded out his Dad by a third of a second.

Adrian Flagg flew (that old pun again…) to the win in the over 2000cc modified series production saloon class in his 2.0t Subaru Impreza STi to consolidate his class Championship win and sixth overall. Six tenths behind on the day was Andy Trayner in the fabulous 2.1 Audi Quattro who edged out his co-driver Tim Clark by just 0.18 seconds.

Ritchie Gatt knew his Championship chances were remote but that didn’t stop him charging to two low 32s times to win the up to 2000cc specialist production class in his 2.0 Westfield SEiW as he consolidated the overall runner up spot in the Championship for the second successive year. Ian Parr’s nimble mid-engined Sylva Riot looked quick and could well be a factor in this class with more events on the hill.

Mike Rudge had one of those days in the fleet 2.3 Westfield SEi, with his personal best time of the day being set on his first practice run! As ever though, he absolutely charged the hill on the timed runs but couldn’t get down to the record he needed to have any chance of the Gurston Championship title. So for the third year running the 2007 Champion ended up third overall…

In the Historically Interesting class Hugh Kemp brought his lovely 1.6 Palliser WDF3 in for the win, a result that tied up the class Championship for Hugh and elevated him to fourth equal in the overall standings. Mike Broome brought his Elden Formula Ford into second spot on the day.

The sports libre classes were always going to be crucial because of the situation in the Top Ten Challenge coming into this finale, but spare a thought for poor Jerry Bailey whose 1.1 Mallock Mk 14 played a role in the final outcome he would certainly not have wanted as it suffered an internal breakage and deposited a thin trail of oil from the entry to Karousel to just over Deer’s Leap. The ensuing dust treatment always makes the problem look worse than it really is, but it undoubtedly affects the drivers’ thoughts as they attempt to navigate around and over it. Peter Sexton benefitted from running the 1.3s Force LM in the previous batch as the co-driver of Jonathan Gates, the man most likely to topple the Challenge leader coming into the event, Chris Cannell. So Sexton led at half time as Gates, like the others in this batch, tiptoed through the middle section of the course. However, Gates put in a typically controlled but aggressive final run to take the class win. He then had to wait three cars for Challenge leader Chris Cannell to run…

Jonathan Gates Force LM

Venue sponsor Jonathan Gates was delighted to claim the Challenge title at the last moment.


To say that Chris Cannell had bad luck at Karousel this day would be a major understatement. His first attempt saw his outside rear wheel directly on the oil slick at the top of Karousel and throttle application immediately put the car into a half spin and onto the infield for a ‘failed run’. But there were the second runs to come… This time the slipperiness had all but disappeared, and Cannell charged through Hollow, into Karousel, avoided the oil line and… one of the SR8’s two Suzuki engines selected neutral, something that he said afterwards ‘had never happened before.’ The problem was untangled in a second or so, but the time had already gone by then. So former two-times Challenge winner Chris had to be content with runner up spot this time, just a point clear of Peter Sexton in third.

Keith Diggle had been in second spot on the Top Ten Challenge coming into this final round in his 2.0 WEV HCS and with a decent second run effort he won the over 2000cc spots libre class on the day and tied up the class Championship too, but got elbowed all the way down to fifth in the Challenge!

The 500 Owners Association’s historic single seaters entertained as always and Andy Forsyth took the winner’s medal here with the only sub-42 times in his father John’s Alfa Dana with a couple of spirited runs. John Dent’s Cooper Mk 8 was second ahead of Finlay Mackintosh’s Cooper Mk 6.

In the 1100cc racing car class Bradley Hobday came through from third position after the first timed runs to win with a really excellent second climb in his 1.0 Jedi Mk 4. James Moore also improved second time up to finish second just fourteen hundredths behind in his 1.1 OMS 2000M, also taking the class Championship.

In the Formula Ford class Andrew Abbey set another personal best in the ex-Roger Labbett 1.6 Jamun M91 he now shares with fellow ex-Westfield driver Chris Burley to win the class and the class Championship and jump up to fourth equal in the overall Championship, a fine effort in his first season of single seater racing.

After a necessarily cautious first run Peter D. Smith was on a charge to wrest BTD back from Jonathan Gates on his final effort of the year, and a super smooth climb did the job by just 12 hundredths to also win the 1600cc racing car class in the Force by six tenths from co-driver Richard Gaylard. Despite netting another 10 points in the Challenge, Peter D. missed third place just one point.

The final class of the year then was for racing cars up to 2000cc, and Tregrehan Hillclimb Academy prime mover Andrew Dinner made the trip from Cornwall worthwhile with the win in his 2.0 Pilbeam MP82 ahead of the older 2.0 Pilbeam MP54 of Gurston’s friendly builder Roger Cock. Hard-working BARC (SW) committee member John Forsyth had a holiday from the Alfa Dana to share Dinner’s Pilbeam and he enjoyed carving chunks off his times on each run to finish third.

Thanks as always for this cracking report Simon, we are already looking forward to the 2015 championship!


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