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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Memories Of A Crofter

Peter Herbert's bright yellow Cosworth-powered Westfield sliding through a bend at Croft.

It would be an exaggeration to suggest that news of the opening of a new motor racing circuit close to my childhood home was greeted with unconfined joy within the Herbert household. However, for its youngest member, then still at school, this was something akin to a gift from heaven, delivered personally by the Angel Gabriel in the boot of a Group 2 Lotus Cortina. Motor racing had taken place intermittently over the perimeter roads of the former World War II airfield at Croft, five miles south of Darlington, since…

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Fifty Years Of The Cosworth DFV

The Cosworth DFV, the most successful engine in F1 history.

Fifty years ago today, the Cosworth DFV engine competed in, and won, its first race, the 1967 Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort. The people involved with it were generally very pleased (tho, but none of them could have imagined that this would in time become not only the most successful engine so far in Formula 1 but very likely the most successful there will ever be. The engine featured the word Ford on each of its cam covers because Ford paid for it. The suggestion was made internally by Walter…

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Hillclimb History At Bo’ness

Bo'ness hillclimb as seen from the original start line.

Although I still regard circuit racing as home territory, despite not having done any for quite a while, regular readers will be aware that most of my competition activity these days involves hillclimbing, a sport in which you drive as quickly as you can up a short track with no concern that anyone will attempt to gain an advantage by drop kicking your car into nearby pastures. Opinions vary on this topic, but as far as I’m concerned the first ever hillclimb took place at Chanteloup-les-Vignes to the north-east of…

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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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Brighton Speed Trials

Peter Herbert prepares to take a run at the Brighton Speed Trials in his Westfield race car.

In September 1991, racing car in tow, I made a round trip of 600 miles to drive for just over a minute in a motorsport competition. Ten years later I undertook the same journey, competed for less than half a minute as the course had been shortened, which I repeated four years later. So what prompted this apparent act of lunacy, driving a total of 1800 miles to measure myself against the clock for only two minutes? The rather splendid Brighton Speed Trials. When in July 1905 Clifford Earp, aboard…

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The Worst Grand Prix Ever

Period shot of Bugatti Grand Prix car.

One of the less jolly aspects of social media is that it allows people to broadcast their opinion – once available only to those unlucky enough to be within earshot – about how boring F1 racing is. 2016 has been a rich year for this sort of thing, since it was one of those seasons when only someone driving a particular make of car had a fighting chance of winning the World Championship or more than a couple of individual rounds. You won’t need reminding that the make in question…

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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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