Report 17th and 18th July 2021

Shelsley Walsh Report – 17/18 July 2021

Well, what a weekend that was!!  Blisteringly hot, cloudless bright blue skies to celebrate our 30th Anniversary of the Paul Matty Sportscars Lotus Hill Climb Championship at the oldest continuous motor sport track in the world.  It was wonderful to have the spectators mingling between the trackside and the paddock for the first time since lockdown and, of course, this was the Classic Nostalgia meeting which is now one of Shelsley’s main event of the year with lots of entertainment going on around the racing.

Friday Evening:

At last, we could gather as near to normal as possible and began our weekend with a meal at The Bridge just a handy couple of miles from Shelsley.  We were all in good spirits and were pleased to welcome Steve Cropley who was competing with us on Saturday in his Elan M100.  He had recently been to see the new MD of Lotus, Matt Windle and surprised Paul by standing up at the end of the meal to read a message sent from him via Steve which was extremely complementary, acknowledging the passion Paul has always had for Lotus and how he had promoted the Marque throughout the decades.  A very humbling moment for Paul!

Saturday:

We were running in batches 2 for the road cars and 3 for the race cars which was perfect, although it meant an early start for the dual drivers as they had to do their first runs in batch 1.

All went well for the first two practices for the majority of us. Malcolm was having misfire problems in his 69 and was allowed to nip home and swap the 69 for the 35 for the remainder of the weekend.  On the second practice, the hose split on Sarah’s 20/22, fortunately after she had parked up at the top of the hill following her second practice.  Paul nipped home to get a spare hose and Roy and Paul set about fitting it during the lunch break while Dave H, Clive and Tony S (standing in for Paul) worked out the handicaps.  Lucky, we live so close!  Tony Shute got two extra practices having been red flagged twice on the same run due to spectators standing too near the track!  Kenny Lewis had a big moment coming out of Top Ess but managed to avoid mounting the bank (just!) and still managed to do a 32.19.  Shame – that would’ve been a 31 without the excursion.

It was good to see Brian back with us for the first time since his big off at “Medding’s Mount” earlier in the year.

Jeremy Bouckley had a guest drive with us in Stephen Palmer’s 23B.  Jeremy was an instigator and one of the initial members of the first ever Paul Matty Sportscars Lotus Challenge as it was then called, so it was fitting that he was able to join us for our 30th celebration.  Apart from a couple of hold ups the rest of the meeting went well.

So, on day 1 results were as follows:

Scratch:

Road class saw Keith Bristow in first place with Pete B in second followed closely by JJ Bibby in third.  In the racing class it was Dave in first, Iain Stallard in second and Tony Wallen third, all within half a second of each other.

Then the evening’s entertainment began.  A huge surprise for Paul and me was the presentation from the gang of specially printed 30th anniversary T shirts for everyone and a brass plaque mounted on the end shed in the paddock commemorating 30 years of the PMSCLC with champagne to toast.  It was a very emotional moment for us.  John Palmer presented us with a CD of the Prescott Driving School Day, at which John was also present, that kick-started Paul’s venture into hill climbing and John subsequently became a competitor in the first Challenge.  A massive hug to you all for such wonderful, thoughtful gifts.  We are all now an official part of Shelsley’s noble history. A big thank you, also, to Paul (PJR) Robinshaw who has been a part of the Championship almost since its beginning, both as a previous competitor and our official photographer and generously gives us all copies of the photographs he has taken.  Cheers, Paul!

We then retired to the cottages at the foot of Shelsley to continue the celebrations with entertainment supplied by Dick Swindall and Barbara Meddings who had each composed a poem which were both very amusing and excellently performed.  With food delivered from The Bridge and a special cake from the MAC organised by Lucy Hart – it made for the perfect Covid restricted celebration, and we had another race day tomorrow. 

Sunday:

Even hotter temperatures!

Sadly, Steve and Jane had to pull out of Sunday altogether as the starter motor packed up on the Elan.  Other than that, everyone else was good to go and the practices ran without incident.  Kenny was missing too as he and Heather had a long-standing reunion with friends they hadn’t seen for many years.

On our first timed run, I followed Keith Wilford to the start line.  I was primed and waiting for the light to turn to green with Paul on the warm-up grid behind me.  I waited and waited then the red flags came out with seemingly no problem with Keith’s run.  It transpired that a spectator had been taken ill and the ambulance had to attend to him, so the track was closed until that was sorted.  I was given a brolly by the thoughtful start line martial and was given the choice of backing down the track but as no-one knew how long it was going to be, I decided to stay on the line rather than having to get kitted up again which would have delayed my run even further.  Twenty minutes later(!) the flags came in and we were off again.  Not my fastest time but we still had one run to go.

The battle between Dave H and Iain continued with Dave doing an impressive 30.86, just pipping Iain’s time by 0.03, two cracking times.

On the final run, Iain managed to squeeze 0.13 of a second more than his previous time and as Dave must’ve had a moment on his last run, Iain beat Dave’s best time by 1/10th of a second to take scratch and handicap, prompting Tony Wallen to comment that the Championship should have a minimum age of 40! 

Sarah pulled out all the stops to get down into the 32’s which resulted in her being awarded Fastest Lady of the Day with a prestigious historic silver cup to mark the occasion.  Many congratulations to her.

So, this memorable weekend finished with the road scratch positions unchanged from Saturday and race scratch 1st and 2nd unchanged but Tony S taking third place from Tony W.

Handicap:

Iain Stallard was first with Clive B in second and Paul in third.

It was wonderful to see some of our previous competitors come to see us at the weekend, John Crook and Dave Rose, both of whom were at that first Prescott Driving School Day, and Philip Rushforth who, with his wife Lisa, ran with us for many years in his stunning aluminium Lotus 6.  Also, Vanessa Lee who won the handicap and scratch championship outright for more years than I can remember in her Lotus 61, always having a battle with John Crook, along with husband Kelvin, another previous competitor, and Saffron, their now adult daughter who was a little tot when Vanessa competed.  Tempus fugit as they say!

I would also like to mention absent friends.  Wolfgang Wernecke, our German contingent, and another previous competitor, who desperately wanted to be there this weekend but had to make do with a FaceTime call.  Also, Jon and Kay Dobson, get well soon Kay and come back to be Jon’s support team.  Hope to see you both soon.

Paul Robinshaw has kindly informed me that he was also at that first Prescott Drivers School and joined the Challenge from day one and was, in fact, 2nd in class at Prescott, the second meeting of the first season, only to be equaled with a second at Loton Park years later.  Thank you for letting me know Paul.

A final gathering at the bar and then home to recover in time for Three Sisters next Sunday.  What a weekend to remember!

June