2017 Hillclimb Challenge: Subaru WRX STI

Subaru WRX STI prepared for action in the paddock at Doune.

I have heard people say that if a car is correctly set up for one piece of road, it will work well on any other. What follows is partly a demonstration that this is not true. The 2017 motorsport season has been more frustrating and less rewarding than I had expected. Five manufacturers (no, you’re going to have to guess) either agreed, or offered without being asked, to supply cars and then backed out of the deal. Even more annoyingly, I was denied entry to an event because the organising…

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2017 Hillclimb Challenge: BMW 540i xDrive M Sport

Marshals manouevring the BMW 540i xDrive M Sport into position at the Shelsley Walsh start line.

The summer of 2017 is not one I’m going to remember with any great fondness, at least as far as motorsport activity is concerned. All sorts of complication and nonsense created an unforeseen gap of nearly four months in the Primo plc Multi Vehicle Insurance / Nationwide Association of Blood Bikes Hillclimb Challenge schedule, so it was a relief to be back in action at Shelsley Walsh in mid August. BMW, one of the Challenge’s most consistent supporters, had kindly agreed to supply a car for the third season running….

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2017 Hillclimb Challenge: Lexus RC F

Lexus RC F at Cairnyran Harbour on its way to the Craigantlet hillclimb.

Even from the little I know of their work, I’m sure the security officers at Belfast Harbour had sized me up within seconds of meeting me, but they were doing a very good impression of being interested in nothing but the Lexus RC F I was driving. A beautiful car, they said. What engine did it have? A five-litre V8? Really! And it had been racing up a hillclimb course just a few hours ago and a few miles away? How wonderfully exciting. I hadn’t been in a bed for…

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2017 Hillclimb Challenge: Mazda MX-5

Mazda MX-5 2.0 Sport Nav in the paddock at Prescott.

To speak plainly, I had never given much thought to using a Mazda MX-5 in motorsport. The world’s most popular two-seater is, as far as I’m concerned, a car that’s fun to drive almost no matter how slowly you’re driving it. It’s all about the experience, not the performance. That was the situation up until a few months ago, when Mazda got in touch to say, “You know that hillclimb thing you’ve been doing lately? Will you be doing it again in 2017, and if so would you like an…

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Hillclimb Challenge: Skoda Superb Estate

Skoda Superb Estate parked in the Loton Park hillclimb paddock.

It had been apparent for a long time, or at least seemed to be, that the final round of the 2016 Primo plc Multi Vehicle Insurance / Nationwide Association of Blood Bikes Hillclimb Challenge would be a relatively relaxed affair, with more of an emphasis on having a jolly weekend with good chums than on going for a good result. Skoda had been kind enough to offer its Superb Estate 280 DSG 4×4, and while it’s the most powerful car the Czech arm of the Volkswagen Group has ever put…

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Hillclimb Challenge: Mercedes-AMG A 45

Mercedes-AMG A 45 ready for action in the Doune hillclimb paddock.

As the helicopter hovered, as helicopters do, over the Doune hillclimb course, I briefly wondered if a laser beam would zap down from it and cure the ill from which the Mercedes-AMG A 45 was currently suffering. Just a few hours in to an event that would last the whole weekend, this was already the sort of thing that might have been expected. The problem currently occupying my attention – and, I understand, not unknown to Mercedes owners – was the fact that the A 45 had somehow locked itself…

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Hillclimb Challenge: BMW M4

BMW M4 ready for hillclimb action at Prescott.

This is a tale of trying to compete in a motorsport event with an almost irreducible amount of preparation. BMW was kind enough to supply an M4 for the second Prescott round of this year’s Primo plc Multi Vehicle Insurance / Nationwide Association of Blood Bikes Hillclimb Challenge, and even kinder in agreeing to have it delivered straight to the venue rather than leaving it at head office for me to pick up, thereby knocking about 300 miles off my round trip. It wasn’t until I arrived at about 6:30…

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Hillclimb Challenge: Bentley Continental GT Speed

Bentley Continental GT Speed competing at Shelsley Walsh hillclimb.

The plan to compete in a Bentley Continental at Shelsey Walsh seemed extravagant when it was mooted and became more so within a few days of the event. Bentley had offered a V8 on the grounds that, though less powerful than a Continental with the W12 engine, it would be nimbler and therefore probably quicker. The prospect of driving even that car was so thrilling that I wasn’t going to argue. Then came a problem. We’ve sold the V8 to a customer, said Bentley. Could we supply you with a…

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Hillclimb Challenge: SEAT Leon Cupra 290

SEAT Leon Cupra 290 parked in the Harewood hillclimb paddock.

There’s something about competing in the British Leaders Hillclimb Championship in the Road-Going Series Production category that doesn’t necessarily apply if you drive another type of car. Single-seater drivers tend to follow the series round the country, so their classes look broadly similar no matter where you are. Road-Going competitors are more likely to stick to their local venues. The cars you encounter in Devon may therefore be almost completely different from the ones you find in Perthshire. This makes for a varied season, but there can be a downside,…

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Hillclimb Challenge: Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT

Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT exiting the final hairpin at Barbon.

Although few people in the sport know this, and they are generally very surprised (as I was) when they find out, Barbon Manor in Cumbria is the fastest venue in the British Hillclimb Championship, based on the average speed of the outright record run. It’s not immediately obvious why this should be. Barbon is only 890 yards long, so an unusually high proportion of it involves moving your car away from a standstill, the hairpin at the top is exceptionally tight, and you can’t build up to the sort of…

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