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Wiscombe Park HillClimb

This was a hill that I had vowed never to go back to following my thoroughly miserable experiences of 1993.  I was in my first season of speed hill climbing, I knew nobody and spent 2 very wet meetings sat in the car between each run thinking what the heck I was doing there.

I have been under pressure from some very good friends for the last couple of seasons to take the car down to compete at what they described as one of the best and most satisfying hills in the country and had run out of excuses not to go so entered the national round in July.

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We arrived at the venue, which is a country house about 6 miles outside of Honiton, Devon and set about unloading the car. I then walked up the hill to remind myself of where the course went and try to identify braking points and which gear I was going to approach and exit each corner. Having a bit of experience and some very wise words of advice from the bullies that had made me enter this event, I could now see that there was going to have to be a radical change in the way I drove the car as this was a very technical course unlike Gurston which is far more of a power hill.

Saturday morning dawned with the sun threatening to split the tarmac even at 7am, and it was with some trepidation that I took the car down to the start line and lined up for my first practice run and the first run at this venue in this car. The first problem came as I let out the clutch, there really was very little grip and it was almost like trying to leave the start line at Gurston in the wet. I got the car moving and before there was time to change into 2nd gear I was at the first corner which is a 90 degree tight left hander. I just missed clipping the bank on the exit and stood on the throttle, into 2nd then 3rd gear and then realised that the little rise ahead of me, Bunnies leap, was actually not only more of a hump than I thought but also the road turned left as the car crested the rise. I had thought that I would be able to take a straight line over the leap when I walked the course the previous day.

Back onto the throttle and then hard onto the brakes and down a gear for the right handed ‘Gate’. This was actually between 2 very solid gate posts that had a straw bale strapped to each of them to soften the blow if you got it wrong!
I was now into the ‘Esses’, staying in 2nd gear and building up speed as we crested another rise and dropped slightly downhill before climbing again, where I grabbed 3rd gear. Within a couple of seconds the tight right handed ‘Saw bench’ corner was in front of me and braking hard I dropped down into 1st gear. Far too much throttle on the exit meant that the rear wheels lost traction and fought a losing battle to regain grip. Easing of the throttle and then grabbing 2nd gear got the car launched up the ‘Castle straight’. I had been told to stay on the power until over the bump before ‘Martini hairpin’ which was the final corner.

As I approached, I lost the battle with my self preservation and braked. Needless to say as the car went over the bump it all went horribly light and the rear wheels locked under braking. Off the brakes, down into 2nd then 1st and turn into ‘Martini’. As with the start line there was not much grip on the line that I had taken and also there was no time to change into 2nd before I was over the finish line and cruising to the top holding paddock. I had just done the 900 yard course in 53 seconds, was breathing as though I had run up the course on foot, had made mistakes on pretty much every part of the course and was about 8 seconds slower than the leader of the class. I could also understand why this hill was so liked. The challenge of getting it right was compelling.

The class consisted of me, 2 Morgan V8s and 2 Porsche 911s. The other drivers were on a hill that they knew well so I was at an immediate disadvantage which actually let me have a relaxed weekend just concentrating on my own driving and times. Having said that one of the 911s found the bank on the entry into the Esses on the first run getting away with a minor bit of damage and one of the Morgan’s found a tree on the entry to the Esses on the first run causing more than a minor bit of damage and finishing his weekends racing before completing 1 run. I made steady progress throughout the weekend and ended with a time in the 47 seconds which I was immensely pleased with as the class winning time was only 43 seconds. Although I was getting braver on leaving my braking till later and later each run, I still could not make myself leave the braking till after the rise on the approach to ‘Martini’. There is so much more to come from this course.

Mark and Elaine arrived on Sunday morning and basked in the sunshine for a few hours with us, and it was good to be able to take the opportunity to show Mark around the car in dry weather. I was self conscious at not producing a better result class wise for them as a reward for their much appreciated involvement with the car this season but feel sure that that will come with time.

Having competed at 2 meetings without touching the car, I shall now have to do a complete spanner check. It really amazes me what manages to work loose during the short running time on a hill climb.

The next meeting that we shall be attending is at Santa Pod drag strip, where Dee is going to run the car on the 16th August. Then back to Gurston for the national round on the 23rd/24th August, followed on the 14th September by the final at Gurston.

 

 

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