Race Report Shelsley Walsh 12th August

It was a typically big entry for the class at our second visit to Shelsley and unlike May we were all sited together in the row of pit garages between the two exits from the return road.  It was an impressive line-up of our cars.   Botty had entered but somehow had been missed off the entry list but was correctly reinstated.   We also had the surprise attendance from John and Flora Rosevear that had been entered several times over recent years but had not actually made an appearance until this meeting in their very nice red (ish) S3 Elan FHC.

This meeting was again part of a two one-day weekend with the key theme being the celebration of the 70 years of the British Hillclimb championship.    These cars were going to run on both days and, uniquely I think, have four run-offs over the weekend.

We had two very interesting cars in the class for the first time.   Tony Wallen had brought his simply beautiful one litre 59 from 1970.  At first, I thought it was another 69 as the nose was like the 69 and not the twin ‘nostril’ layout of the first cars built in 1969 and I believe in this later configuration it was known as a 59A.   The car was driven very successfully in period by Carlos Pace and the car carried his name on the cockpit.   Tony’s 69 was put together fastidiously but this car takes preparation standards to another level.    It was simply immaculate.  I said to Tony that it was good fortune it wasn’t raining.  He said, “It has to get wet sometimes”.  Not if it was mine it wouldn’t!!     The engine was a Ford 109E block canted over in the chassis to facilitate a more direct  mixture entry for the very tall downdraught single choke Weber.   I remember these ‘screamer’ Cosworth engines well from my trips to Brands in my Elan S3 S/E in the late 60’s (50 years of Lotus now for me) and leaving the circuit to drive home with my ears ringing.  Of course, at that time they had no silencing which was, of course, now not an option for Tony.  It was not an ideal engine now for Hillclimbing being all revs (10,000) and not much torque but Tony got it going very well.   Also, now making its first appearance in finished condition was Malcolm Thorne’s beautiful red 35 F2 Twin Cam basically the same as Mr Matty’s.   It was a long wait after first seeing the car this meeting last year somewhat less immaculate!    You might imagine that Malcolm would take things fairly steadily first time out, but then only if you didn’t know Malcolm!   He did however have some battery issues which were sorted.

Grayham Parker was back with his sequential shifting Elise being shared with Mr Pattinson as usual this year.  The brake issue from Blyton sorted.  Steve Hopkins was making another regrettably rare appearance with business and family commitments taking preference most of the time.

Being a one-day meeting there were two practice and two competitive runs scheduled.  We were in the first batch but there was plenty of time as most had signed on and had the car scrutineered on the Friday afternoon.

This time the dual drives were in batch two.   As per usual I’ll only refer to the highlights(??) of the first run.   Chris Westwood got within a couple of tenths of his PB.  Graham Pattinson recorded a 38.99 PB. Jane Millward was going OK until a pin dropped out of the throttle linkage and left the engine revving.  She switched it off very quickly but following I was then red-flagged coming out of Kennel and after marshal’s instructions turned around there to return down the hill for another run.   The engine was very hot after that so I didn’t push it. 

Clive Buffey set a new PB with a 40.19.   Steve Millward managed to cobble a new pin from a suitable bolt and went up a bit later to set a 37.92 that was about 0.70 slower than his PB.    A little later, marshals noticed another car flick something in the air going through Crossing and handed the missing pin to this other guy on the way down.   Amazing that it should be found.

There were some issues with the timing, at least with the clock we see as we come into the top paddock.   Like many I saw my first run was a 2.67.   Definitely a new PB and hill record!     On our second runs Pete Bottrill set a 38.72 and that was then the time most of us saw as we came over the line.  Not then knowing any different I was feeling a little suicidal.  I had gone faster than that on my first visit to Shelsley in 1993!   In the end my actual time was a little more respectable 35.88.    Chris Westwood set a new 39.77 PB as did Graham Pattinson on 37.54.   I had noticed that my car was producing quite a bit of oil smoke in the paddock lining up and during the burn outs.  I know some F1 teams have been told of suspicions by the FIA of illegal controlled oil burning in the combustion chamber to enhance the power but had this been my strategy it would have been a failure!   Geoff Stallard was behind me and he is a man that knows oil smoke when he sees it!      Tony Wallen improved his time in the 59 to 35.27.   Clive Buffey set another PB with 39.11 and Stephen Palmer similarly with a 35.46.    Malcolm Thorne just eclipsed his 15 Buick best time with a 32.98.   Tony Shute was only just a tenth shy of his previous best with a 31.41.

Paul and I sat down as usual to carefully consider the target times.

We were first off after lunch for our competitive runs.    John Rosevear was a bit slower than his best practice effort but Botty went quicker for a 36.77 that was 0.52 over.  Chris Westwood having only that morning broken the 40 second barrier for the first time was pleased with his best of 38.99 that was 0.49 over. Ian Parmenter improved to 37.77 that was 0.52 over, the same margin as Botty.   Steve Hopkins 37.83 was 1.83 over.  Grayham saw a 36.56 but that was 2.56 over and a long way from his best in the ‘green’ Elise when he was well in the 31’s.   Dick exactly equalled his practice best with a 37.47 that was 0.57 over.    Jane was surprisingly slow for her and the 38.42 was 1.52 over.    Despite another attempt at a smoke screen,  I put a little bit of respectability into my efforts with a 34.82 that was 0.32 over but couldn’t keep with Geoff behind who set a 34.27 and with the same handicap as me that put him 0.23 under.    It was when I got to the top of the hill I made a decision not to risk the engine further and although I would do the second run I would not compete again this year.  Looking at the behaviour I am pretty certain that the cause of the problem is worn inlet valve guides – the head was built 10 years ago, but not being certain I think it safer to leave things for the engine rebuild I had planned for the winter anyway.  Between Geoff and me was Jonathan Bibby who was a bit slower than his best practice with a 38.04.   Graham Pattinson was 3/10ths slower than his co-driver and Steve Millward just 0.05 faster than Jane but still slower than first practice.

Tony W was also 0.05 slower than before lunch and that was 2.33 slower than the ‘finger in the air’ handicap we had set him.   Mr Matty was very conscious of the attentions of Malcolm now in the similar car and recorded a 32.60, just 0.04 slower than before lunch.   Clive Buffey was getting into his stride after having effected a cure for the sticking offside rear brake caliper and he took over a second off his practice best for 37.78, 1.03 over.   Brian Meddings improved to 34.29 that was 0.79 over.   Keith Wilford 35.04 was a very similar time to both his practice runs and was 2.04 over and about a second away from his May PB.   June improved to 33.69 that was 0.44 over and John Palmer saw a 32.17 that was 0.08 under.   The other Palmer continued to set better times and his 35.14 was just 1.14 over.   Malcolm’s 32.80 was 0.80 over with Paul keeping his nose in front that run by 0.20.    Kenny Lewis set a good time with a 33.26 that was 0.51 over.   David Gidden’s 32.63 was 0.38 over.   Our class record holder Dave Hampton, so glad it wasn’t wet, had had a big moment at Crossing on the second practice run (I think) but was really up for the continuing battle with Mr Shute and the 30.02 was just 0.08 off his 2013 record and only 0.02 over.   The aforementioned Mr Shute took a tenth off from his morning best and the 31.32 was 0.82 over.

So, after the first run it was Geoff Stallard from John Palmer and DH third.

There had been quite a few delays with, mainly, some mishaps for the single seaters in the Hillclimb Championship and we had to wait quite a while for our last run.  Anticipating it (wrongly) I got in the car to see that it wasn’t us next but a top twelve run-off.   That won’t be long I thought so didn’t unstrap everything and waited,.and waited as there were more delays.   Grayham Parker with an evening engagement beckoning couldn’t wait any longer and left the car for Mr Pattinson to use for the last run.  We were then called and started to line up for more delays to ensue.   By the time we went I reckoned I had been sat in the car for 45 minutes (some of it my fault) but it was just too long for me, and most people.  Some did improve however.  Steve Hopkins 37.39 left him 1.39 over.   I was 3/10ths slower but Jonathan Bibby was a second to the good compared with run 1 but finished 0.80 over.     Geoff Stallard did improve by over a tenth to finish with 34.13 that was under handicap by 0.37.   This was still over half a second off his PB but he explained that that was achieved with a 4.4 diff ratio rather than the 4.1 he is currently running.   It’s the usual swings and roundabouts at different tracks.

Flora improved to 50.71 but Graham Pattinson was slower that first time up.  Steve Millward got closer to his first practice time with a 37.80 that was 0.70 over.

The first driver to improve their times was Keith Wilford who set a 34.27, 1.27 over.    June also went faster and the 33.41 was 0.16 over.    Stephen Palmer set his third new PB of the day with a 35.02 that was 1.02 over   Malcolm took 0.05 off and the 32.75 was 0.75 over.  After that only Tony Shute improved to a 31.25 that also left him 0.75 over.

So, at the eventual end of the meeting (some classes were still running at 7 o’clock) it was a clear win for Geoff Stallard, with John Palmer second and Dave Hampton third.

Paul and I were quite pleased with the handicapping in that the first 22 cars were split by only 1.89 seconds

In race scratch is was DH from Tony Shute and then John Palmer.  In road scratch it was Geoff from me and then Grayham.

As usual there was a discussion about why some of us with very long standing PB’s aren’t getting close to them   Mine was 32.89 in 2007 and the track had just been resurfaced and I had new tyres.  Whether the fact I was just a callow youth might come into it.   However, one reason that I think makes me slower is now the constriction at the kink after Crossing.  I take a completely different line now with a tyre wall on the left.  I used to run across the rumble strips but it’s impossible now.

After all, the Martin Groves hill record of 22.58 was set way back in 2008.    Will Hall set the best this weekend with a 23.21 and all the main contenders looked super fast but still no-one can beat, or get near, the 22.58. 

So, this event has certainly made things very tight at the top of the championship with three drivers capable of winning.  Dave Hampton leading with 55 points now from Messrs Stallard and Shute jointly on 54!!

In the race scratch competition Dave Hampton and Tony Shute share the lead on 34 points each.   The fastest in September will be the man.  Mr Matty is third with 13.

The Road scratch result has already been decided in favour of Geoff on 36 from me on 29 and Keith Bristow hanging on in there with 14. 

So just one meeting to go, the final Shelsley on the 15th September.   Though I won’t be competing I will be there to help Paul with the handicapping as it is all going to get rather tense.   Just to mention that this will be the last opportunity for brown envelopes.     Just one rather sad result of this is that I will have to make Marion redundant.   I was going to award redundancy pay commensurate with her normal wages but since she lost my treasured 50p ballpoint at the meeting I’m afraid that award will be forfeited.  Replacing it with a pencil was no consolation.  I have told her however that providing I receive a convincing CV from her before the start of next season employment can continue at just the same salary she receives now.   I like to give an incentive.