I am sure most people, if they feel compelled to read this, will be at least broadly familiar with the concept of the Race of Champions.
First organised in 1988 by former works Audi rally driver Michelle Mouton and Frederik Johnson using a format that would now be recognised as a head to head rally super special stage (only in the same car). In the 1990s it established its reputation by being held on sunny Gran Canaria. As end of term bashes go, it’s not a bad one.
The idea has evolved over the past 28 years, and now instead of being between rally drivers exclusively, the wider racing world has been dragged in. Drivers involved in 2015 will include F1 stars Sebastian Vettel, Daniel Ricciardo, Romain Grosjean, Fellipe Massa and Nico Hulkenberg. But its not just F1 either as multiple Motorcycle World Champions Jorge Lorenzo and Mick Doohan will compete alongside tin top drivers Susie Wolff, Jason Plato and Le Mans Legend Tom Kristensen, amongst others.
In short, it’s kinda a big deal.
The location has changed, with the sunshine and sangria exchanged for the glitz and noise of a packed Olympic Stadium in London. But the event is bigger than ever and will test the drivers across several road and racing cars, from Ariel Atoms and Audi R8 LMS’s, to the sand buggy like ‘ROC Car’ and Stadium Super Truck (basically a pick up on a LOT of steroids).
The drivers all race in a round robin format, with the top 8 drivers heading in to a knock out competition to decide the Champion of Champions.
This is all well and good you may say, but what exactly does it have to do with us? Well I was just coming to that.
This year, the organisers have created that rarest of beasts – a worthwhile talent competition. They have launched something called ROC Factor, which is designed to increase exposure to drivers from less well known series – and give them the chance to test their mettle against the best.
The link to the website is here, and anyone who has attended a British Hillclimb Championship event in the past 10 years will be very familiar with finalist number 6.
They are asking us to vote for a winner by commenting on the video on their Facebook page . Seeing as we all know how good a peddler Scott Moran is, and will all be dead keen to see him racing against world class drivers at this event (especially given the trash talk that the other finalists seem to be indulging in on their profiles)
It would be great for him and also great for our sport nationwide – it’s time to use social media to share the hell out of it!
The end of the summertime in the English Countryside always puts you in a good mood, and this good mood abounded in Shropshire over the weekend of 26th/27th September. With Alex Summers having secured his first British title the previous weekend at Doune in Scotland an end of term atmosphere had descended over the paddock, despite there being the serious business of the runner-up spot to decide, as the de-mob happy British Hillclimb Championship circus rolled into Loton Park for the concluding rounds of the 2015 season.
The enduring appeal of the British Championship is that it embraces all of the parishioners of the broad church of British Motorsports. Entrants include anything from a Proton Coupe in the road going class; to the high-tech, carbon tub single seaters running in the ‘racing cars over 2000 cc’ category, (to which some have given the rather more snappy sobriquet ‘unlimited class’).
Racing conditions improved as the morning wore on and temperatures increased, which meant that with the earlier runners especially battles were principally confined to the second runs producing an entertaining ‘one shot showdown’ situation in the classes for road going cars.
These road going classes are in many ways the purest form of motor sport you can get. Buy car, apply number, drive up hill faster than anyone else. Easy.
This means that the two classes, one each for cars below and above 2 litres, attract a varied entry and result in very competitive sport. In the smaller class, it usually takes something very special to match a Lotus Elise on the day, though Richard Brant in his Clio Sport very nearly pulled off a shock. He led after the first runs, using his trademark attacking driving style to good effect meaning Clios were in fact running first, second and fourth at lunch. However, the usual order was restored in the afternoon with Paul Jones stroking his Elise home to a class win in 61.86 seconds.
There was a closely fought battle in the larger engine class as Nigel Burke in the Subaru Impreza lead after the first runs, a little over a tenth ahead of the Porsche 911 of Robert Lancaster-Gaye. After the break Lancaster-Gaye lowered the marker in the class leaving Nigel Burke to chase, and whilst the Subaru man was able to improve his first run time, it was not by quite enough and the Porsche was victorious by 0.1 of a second.
The competition was equally robust in the Specialist Production Car category, which has come to be dominated in recent years by those pedalling their ‘Caterfields’ (Caterham or Westfield 7s). The 1997 British Champion Roger Moran has been enjoying a season driving in the (only slightly) less frenetic class in a ‘7’ having stepped away from the Gould single seater driven by son, Scott and Alex Summers at the end of 2014.
He took the fastest time in the class in the morning and after lunch lowered his class leading mark to 54.21. However it was David Warburton who, on the very next run, improved his morning effort by 4 seconds to 53.67 to snatch the class away from the Ludlow man.
The single seater classes at British Championship events seldom disappoint, and a bumper entry of 21 drivers in the under 1100 cc class show just how accessible and competitive the entry rung into wings and slicks hill climbing is becoming.
Simon Fidoe made up for a failure to record a time on his first run of the day by taking the class in his dramatic looking Empire Wraith with his second effort garnering a slender 0.16 of a second advantage over Steve Marr who had improved his first run time to lead the class prior to Simon’s effort. Simon Andrews completed the podium with a time around half a second behind Marr, though the leader at the lunch break, Tom Poole, unfortunately fell out of contention as he could not improve on his first run.
The main business of the day however, was to decide who would be the runner-up in the British Championship behind runaway winner Alex Summers. First blood went to Wallace Menzies as he was fastest in the Saturday practice runs with the Scot pushing the ex-Martin Groves Gould up the hill faster than his rivals for championship runner-up, Trevor Willis and Scott Moran.
However in the first qualifying class runs, it was the local hero and 5 times British Champion Moran who recorded the fastest time in the qualifying class runs with a time of 44.60 seconds, 4 tenths ahead of Wallace Menzies and champion elect Summers in third.
However during the Round 33 run off it was the champ, Alex Summers, who posted a time of 44 seconds dead to take maximum points during his lap of honour. It was in fact the first time he beat the quickest time he had done in the DJ Firehawk he ran in the class below – a warning shot to his rivals that there is so much more to come from the Summers/Gould combination. The battle for the runner-up spot in the standings heated up very quickly as Menzies took second, Moran third and Willis fourth with all 3 separated by a little over three tenths of a second, keeping the battle alive into the final round.
After lunch it was Scott Moran who once again took the honours in qualifying, with Menzies and Summers once again in hot pursuit. The star of the final round was out-going champion Moran. He flirted closely with his hill record of 43.52, by recording a time of 43.66 – by far and away the fastest time of the day. Alex Summers took second, cementing another all-conquering season for the remarkable Gould GR61.
Another podium position for Wallace Menzies wasn’t quite enough, and he remained tied with Scott Moran on 205 points (taking third in the Championship on countback however) with Trevor Willis’ brace of 4th places being enough to retain the number 2 on his OMS for next season.
Next year will see an even more engrossing battle for honours, what with Will Hall moving from car to car towards the end of this season as his Force XTec is repaired following his shunt at Shelsley and the always spectacular Jos Goodyear’s injuries leaving him looking on for the final third of the season having taken them out of overall contention in 2015.