Summers Sets Prescott Alight!

The British Hillclimb Championship sprang into life for the 2014 season at Prescott Hillclimb, near Cheltenham in Gloucestershire, last weekend with a cracking weekend of competition at the home of the Bugatti Owners Club.

Empire Wraith Suzuki

 

Starting where he had left off at the end of 2013, last season’s star of the show Alex Summers claimed both British Hillclimb Championship Top 12 Run Off wins in his supercharged DJ Firehawk single-seater.

Very wet weather in the days leading up to the event meant the course was very wet for early practice on Saturday morning, but dried through the day until the heavens opened just after lunch. Sunday dawned bright, but heavy overnight rain left the course treacherous, especially the tree-covered sections of the course.

Whilst there were no brand new cars amongst the heavy-hitters, there were several revised packages as the top contenders struggled to find an off-season advantage over their rivals. Several more reworked steads should appear at events over the coming weeks as the finishing touches are put to the cars.

First qualifying took place on a very slippery track, but the morning practice run helped immensely as drivers could at least have a look at the conditions before committing to a banzai qually run.

A few drivers who probably could have, and maybe should have, been in the opening shoot-out missed out on a charge for points. Jos Goodyear, sharing Steve Day’s 1600 class GWR Raptor as his own 2000cc class version wasn’t quite ready, had a shunt exiting The Esses in morning practice sidelining the car for the day. Also, the man who frankly dominated the 1100cc class on his first competitive outing with full aero on the Empire Wraith he shares with Clive Austin, Midlands runner Chris Aspinall would have qualified with ease if only he had registered for the series.

As it was, two of Aspinall’s class mates grabbed a Run Off shot with both hands. Force-Suzuki PT drivers Rob Capper and Andy Dunbar both made the cut for the first time in their careers. As a result of unreliability at the front of the field, these two both scored points on their debuts, with Dunbar grabbing ninth and Capper finishing up tenth after a scrappier run than his qually shot. Will Hall and Wallace Menzies were the unlucky duo as both suffered troubles, Hall had a starter shaft in the gearbox break after stalling on the line and Menzies had a fuel pressure issue which couldn’t be solved in time to start his run.

 

Two very different cars had a great scrap for seventh as the mighty V8 Gould of John Bradburn and the now turbo-charged Force of Dave Uren, which was finally settled in favour of the impressively tractable Mistral-built Hayabusa of Uren. The similar chassis of Richard Spedding, one man with a bike-engine who hasn’t changed class this year, was just ahead of Uren & Bradburn in sixth.

Driver of the day in our humble opinion was local driver Alastair Crawford. Crawford has had the high-revving, small capacity Nicholson McLaren V8 fully rebuilt over the winter and has done a lot of detail work on the GR55C. Fifth in the Run Off was the reward for his off-season efforts.

The now brilliant white coloured Gould GR61X of the Moran family filled the next two places, with Roger running fourth after his usual smooth effort, but son Scott looked a little at odds in the shoot-out and a couple of little mistakes saw him finish just ahead of his Father, but a long way off the battle at the front.

 

Summers rolled the little Firehawk to the line and launched into his run in determined style. The DTA Fast mapped blown ‘busa powerplant may make a lot of racket, but its power is unquestioned and the torque curve appears to be a straight line! The youngster tamed all of the grunt, despite no traction control, and was absolutely note perfect with the car to set a time nearly two seconds quicker than the reigning champ!

2012 BHC title winner Trevor Willis qualified his OMS 28 fastest, but a couple of very small tail happy moments saw the time ticking on, and although he finished ahead of Moran, Willis was nine-tenths of a second in arrears.

The second Top 12 Run Off featured significantly drier conditions, both for qually and for the points battle itself. The little cars missed out this time as Capper, Dunbar and Uren were replaced by the V8 Judds of Tommy New and Olly Tomlin, who were joined by multiple Midland Champion Rob Stevens in his blown Force sportscar.

 

Tomlin claimed the last point with his Pilbeam MP97 to get the legendary constructor on the points table very early in the year. Menzies had a poor qualifier after dropping a wheel into the gravel at Ettores on his qually run, but a scrappy points run saw him in ninth. Two points from the weekend was not what the competitive Scotsman was looking for.

1600cc class winner Spedding rang the neck of the orange Force to dip under forty seconds for eighth, just behind the GR55s of New, Crawford and Bradburn. Another fourth place saw Moran Snr secure a top three placing on the table.

 

After the agros in the opening stanza, and a tough lunchbreak for car constructor Ian Dayson as repairs were made, Will Hall secured a podium finish with the re-worked Force WH V6. The main battle was at the front though….

Summers qualified third so ran before past champs Willis and Moran. A phenomenal run from the 23 year old Worcestershire driver really repaid the hardwork the DJ team have put in over the past few weeks. Drifting the car on the power through The Esses he blasted up the hill and round Semi Circle to set FTD up to that point.

 

The now methanol fuelled Powertec V8 behind Willis was working overtime on this run as Trevor REALLY wanted the win. Unfortunately the car broke away from the former champ in the middle of The Esses, he clipped the Armco with his right rear and slithered to a stop as the rear wheel and wing were separated from the car.

Trevor Willis OMS 28

 

A lengthy delay ensued as the OMS was lifted off of the course, and all the while Moran was sat in the pre-start area waiting to run. If anyone in our sport can put such things to the back of his mind, then it’s Moran Jnr. He just couldn’t match the raw pace of the DJ though and had to settle for second place, just quarter of a second behind the delighted Summers.

It was a great start to the Championship season, and a brilliant advert for competitive hillclimbing. Roll on the Barbon/Harewood weekend, where hopefully a few of those reworked cars will appear!

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