|All too often speed-hillclimbing is simply
referred to incorrectly as hillclimbing and naturally enough is confused
with trialling, which is an endeavour to drive a car or motorcycle up a
steep muddy track. Speed-hillclimbing is, as the name suggests, a fast
controlled ascent of a pre-arranged course and although not quite as old
as the hills, is certainly as old as the motor car, having been first staged
at the turn of the century. In those days, of course, it was sufficient
to simply get the car to the top of the hill, but as road surfaces improved
it became apparent that an alternative method of scoring was necessary
and the stopwatch was introduced into the competition and nowadays timing
is conducted to the nearest 100th of a second.
Originally the competitions were held on public roads; thus any decent hill could be used for the assault, but in 1924 the RAC put an end to this practise and the participants were forced to find private roads to continue their sport. As you know, need will always provide, and hillclimb courses on private and military land have come and gone ever since. The modern speed-hillclimb course is usually approximately 1000 yards long, is reasonably steep, has a good surface and contains at least one decent hairpin bend. Here in our region we are fortunate, mainly because of the geography, to have a number of venues which have all the attributes necessary for providing exciting competition with the modern car.
The RAC Motor Sports Association is responsible for the administration of the rules and regulations of the sport and events are run by an RACMSA-associated club usually local to the speed-hillclimb venue. The format of the sport is quite straightforward - each driver is entitled to two practise and two competition runs during the event, and, because the meeting can contain a huge diversity of motor cars, the entry list is split into a number of sections, thus avoiding the possibility of a road-going saloon competing directly against the single seater racing cars.
The nature of these sections or "classes" can vary from district to district, but most events follow a simple formula. There are classes for road cars, both saloon and sports; modified (not street-legal) saloons and sports; sports racing cars and single seater racing cars and these sections are quite often further split by engine cubic capacity. Here in the South West, our major championship - co-ordinated by the Association of South Western Motor Clubs (see www.aswmc.org.uk) - has a total of 17 classes.
With all these classes, therefore, we have the potential for a lot of winners and that is exactly what happens. Each class has a winner at the end of the day and each winner receives an award. There is also a major award for the fastest climb of the day but rarely any prize-money - speed-hillclimbing has remained a purely amateur sport even at national level!
Occasionally an event will be held over two days but more often a meeting is confined to a single day and the practise runs mentioned earlier are taken during the morning with the main competition battled out after a break for lunch. With so little time on the race-track and an awful lot of time spent in the paddock, speed-hillclimbing has a very strong social side.
Listed at the side of this page are the courses that I was priviledged to commentate or write about during the 70's, 80's and 90's. Each is linked to it's own unique web page.
of British Speed Hillclimbing