Shelsley Walsh

One of the great things about sprinting has been the opportunity to visit wonderful places, and the Shelsley Walsh Hillclimb is one of them. Starting in 1905 it is the oldest motorsport venue in the world still in continuous use.

Matthew and I competed here last year, and were lucky to get places again in 2009. I’d done reasonably well last year, getting second place to Malcolm Hickey with a time of 37.55. I’d loved the place then, and hoped for a time this year in the 36s.

We were some of the last to be scrutineered, so we were quite late getting our first practice run. The other Class 1 runners were all in the 38-40 second area, and I was pleased with a 37.68 for a first go. Matthew, running his own car, came in just over 40 seconds, which he was quite disappointed with.

While we were at the top waiting for the rest of the cars to have their runs there was a long gap – a car had gone off at Crossing. We learnt it was a lovely Austin-Healey 3000, and after over half an hour it was brought up the hill on the recovery vehicle, on its roof and totally wrecked. It was a massive relief when we heard the driver was OK, but what a sad end for such a lovely car. Practice was curtailed, so several of us only had the one practice run.

The timed runs in the afternoon went very smoothly, cars going through without incident. My run was 37.78 after a slightly stuttering start, and I was beaten by Ian Keen and Alistair Gibbins who both posted times of 37.69 seconds. Matthew improved his practice time with a 38.44. I just prayed that the rain clouds would be kind and give me a chance of another dry run.

About half an hour before we were due out again it started raining quite sharply, but, luckily, it was dry by the time we went out.

My start this time was much better, and Kennel and Crossing went well, apart from a panicky split second when I thought I’d gone from second to fifth gear. The Esses went well and I was quite pleased with my time of 37.26 – a personal best.

I parked the car at the top hoping that it was good enough to beat Ian and Alistair. I was met by Alistair who said we’d both been beaten by Ian, who’d got a 37.16. Alistair pipped me by 2 hundredths, getting a 37.24. Matthew improved his time to get a 38.11, as did Michael Burnham with 40.43.

I’m a bit disappointed not to get to my target time, but pleased with a new personal best. Looking at the video I can see where time was lost (that fluffed gear-change didn’t help, nor jinking left when changing down just before the Bottom ‘S’.). It was great for Ian to get his first class win, though – there have now been 6 winners in Class 1 this year, showing how close the competition is.

I just want to get out and do some more!