We had storm clouds, rain clouds, dust clouds and clouds of tyre smoke. We even had that rarest of happenings, Shelsley Walsh Hillclimb with no clouds at all! Yes Spring has been a season of extremes as we lugged the books round and set up the marquee at a quartet of events in Gloucestershire, Worcestershire and Cheshire. I would say there was never a dull moment, but actually there were a few of those too. But I had plenty to read, so no big deal!
Two visits to Prescott were like chalk and cheese. The early season British Hillclimb round was chilly, breezy and rather short on crowd and atmosphere for no obvious reason. It was a top notch event and there was a superb entry but somehow it was a bit flat. There was a nasty looking accident in the motorcycle classes which required the appearance of an air ambulance. That cast one kind of cloud over everything, although happily the rider’s injuries were not as bad as we first feared.
The return to Prescott a few weeks later was for the rejuvinated and very popular LA VIE EN BLEU event, loosely ‘French themed’ and this year with an Italian theme added on for a bit of much needed variety. That included Ross Brawn’s ex Rob Walker/Stirling Moss Ferrari 250 GT SWB ( top image). However the first day’s sport ground to a near 2 hour halt when someone wiped out the timing gear and no immediate replacement could be found. It spoiled the day for most people on either side of the fence. The spectators were left with nothing to watch (aside from stilt-walkers dressed as Gendarmes) while the drivers all ended up limited to one competitive run.
Most of those attending the event Sunday, which happily ran to plan, will remember it for the flame spitting FIAT L76 “Beast of Turin” recreation (top left), which rumbled it’s way up the hill , one explosion of it’s enormous aircraft engine” for every telegraph pole” (or thereabouts) or the shrill scream of an ex Piquet Benetton B191 F1 car(top right) from 1991 (can it be THAT old already ?) but for me it was the dust clouds which were memorable. So many feet tramping along the gravel path outside my marquee with a fine white powder getting in your eyes – and everywhere else. By the end of the weekend we all felt like we’d worked in a flour mill.
It was a great event for meeting people. My former PA , Sam Carroll, appeared with husband Pete for a first look at the venue. Sam worked with us in our old Shop at Lydney back in the mid 1990’s. Great to see her again. Also good to catch up with noted F1 journalist Simon Arron who appears at Prescott at least once a year . Although this was Monaco Grand Prix weekend , he said he much preferred the hillclimb to the super-yachts in the harbour. I also enjoyed talking to Mac Hulbert, the former owner of the famous ERA “R4D” (above left) which he’s just written a book about. This car is the most developed and fearsome of the breed with a massive supercharger located right between the driver’s knees (left). It also saw huge and prolonged success in the hands of Raymond Mays at Brooklands, Shelsley Walsh , Crystal Palace and various continental events like the Albi GP back in the 30s and 40s. It was in action on the hill – looking and sounding wonderful.
In between the to Prescott events the Vintage Sports Car Club held a race meeting at Oulton Park and I hadn’t been there for about 25 years, so it was tempting so see how the place now looked in reality (as opposed to on TV), and I gave in to temptation. In this case the clouds were of the dark and damp variety! It hammered down and blew a proper gale in between short spells of bright sunshine. The event itself was good and the track looks very smart now, while retaining it’s old character, There were some mouthwatering cars, a wonderfully ‘patinated ‘ Bugatti T35 (left) , ERAs, Altas and a rather cue electric powered Austin single seater (right) for the younger members of the fraternity! With a bit decent weather the day would have probably been quite a success. Sadly the storm clouds spoiled it and by early afternoon the marquee was being packed away with great haste before the next band of heavy rain came through.
And so to early June, which I guess is not really spring anyway,and the British hillclimb event at Shelsley Walsh near Worcester was held under glorious blue skies. Shelsley without a shower? Unthinkable…
The entry was very diverse – it always is – lined up for runs you’ll find a F5000 Lola (left) next to a home-built special that looks like a 6 wheeled kart, a Porsche Cayman, several Caterham 7s, a Mini and the latest purpose built Gould or OMS hillclimb single seater. There seems to be a class for anything and everything. A lot of people drooled over Richard and Amanda George’s Chevron B19, raced in period by future F1 team boss Gerard Larousse. I rather liked the bizarre sand racers from the Channel Islands (right) ; great long chassis’ with the driver sat almost between the front wheels beneath an enormous rollover bar and a big V8 in the back. They didn’t have any chance of class success against the likes of 5-time former champion Scott Moran with his Indycar-engined Gould but they had fun and brought smiles to faces. And there were a lot of faces, the weather bringing out a good crowd – but I’d have done better selling ice creams than books! There were couple of mishaps during the event. One befell the historic SPIDER II (below left) which shed it’s drive chain (like a lot of ‘specials’ of this era it has a GN transmission which uses multiple motorcycle style chains and cogs to form a gearbox ) In doing so it locked everything up so completely that the story went round it may have bent it’s own chassis!
Another incident saw a Pilbeam MP62 go end over end out of the notoriously tricky Crossing Bend before landing on track minus all it’s wheels.
But was it ever warm! The paddock, where the stall was located is like a sun trap and while people coming off the hill told us of needing sweaters at times, we were sweltering .. but doing so in style. For my part that was attempting a degree of sartorial elegance and sporting one of the HERGEST DESIGNS silk bow ties we now stock (along with scarves, travel rugs and other items from their car-themed range) . That caused a fair bit of comment.
Anyone would think I was normally a scruff !
I can highly recommend the bow ties. Very comfortable and we offer both pre-tied and tie-it-yourself versions.
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