Rear View Mirror
 A Gold Leaf year – or was it?
The 1988 ASWMC Speed-Hillclimb Championship
The SHELL OILS Association of South Western Motor Clubs speed-hillclimb championship proved to be the region’s most popular motorsporting pastime during 1988 with 120 contenders scoring points at the various venues. As was the custom in those days, the series was contested on a class record bogey system, thus enabling the eventual winner to emerge from any of the 12 classes.

Each year the challenge commences at the popular steep and hairpin-abundant climb at Oddicombe. Thus in March everyone (except the large single seaters which are not allowed under the terms of the track licence) gathered in torrential rain, in an effort to put some points on the scoreboard. As expected, Tony Wiltshire, the previous year’s third place man, was the top points scorer; driving his then familiar Gold Leaf liveried 1.6 Lotus Elan in the also familiar spirited manner. Excellent results were also credited to veteran John Turpin (incredible that I was calling him a veteran as long ago as 1988!!) with his Porsche 911T, Mick Bell driving the Newton Self-Serve Mallock and Roy Bray in his Mk1 Escort; but the star of the rain-soaked show was Land’s End resident Kevitt Payne who took fastest time of the day with his 1.6 Ensign LNF3 through the torrents ON SLICKS!

Round 2 took the contenders to the scenic 600-yard hill at Tregrehan House near St Austell on Easter Sunday. Once again it was Tony Wiltshire who continued to shine – the Elan driver the nearest to his class record on the day. Roger Jordan was the happiest man at the meeting, however, gaining the FTD award he had been chasing since first visiting the hill in 1975. 

Werrington Park, near Launceston, one of the longest and most difficult “clubbie” hillclimb courses in the country, played host for the third round of the series. In glorious weather, all but two of the class records were broken, as too was the outright hill record which finally rested in the hands of Ian Cameron and his trusty Ralt RT3 after a day-long battle with the previous holder, Kevitt Payne.  Top points scorer on that occasion was Falmouth engineer David Harris whose immaculately prepared 2.3 Chevette HSR took almost 2 seconds off the class record.  Good results were also achieved by Ron Datson’s spaceframe Metro, Tony Michael (TR7/V8) and Mike Lee (Bridgestone Tyres Mallock Mk16).

Saturday April 30th and the whole Southwest circus assembled at Wiscombe park the day before the national round. Once again it was Tony Wiltshire who continued to top the leaderboard, scoring yet another class victory. By now he had opened up a lead of some 6 points over Tony Michael of Bristol.  FTD on the day, in the slippery conditions, went to the masterly driving of Steve Allen in his Dragon Kitchens 2.8 Pilbeam Hart MP40; a feat he was to repeat the following day against the “big boys” when the National Championship battle was in full cry.

Tony Wiltshire came away from round 5 at Gurston Down with a massive 10 point lead over his nearest rival Tony Bond, the latter’s consistent driving of his 1.7 Lotus Europa keeping him just ahead of Andy Pegg’s similar machine. Lying fourth was Dave Harris, but North Devonian Mike Brend was waiting in the wings, holding fifth spot and was a driver well worth keeping an eye on at this point in the proceedings.

After the usual long summer interval, round 6 saw a second visit to Tregrehan on 28th August. At this event, a disappointed Tony Wiltshire had to settle for second in class behind a determined Andy Pegg, whose handling of the Europa was a pleasure to witness. Mike Brend continued his climb up the leaderboard with an excellent result in the Caterham 7 and was looking increasingly like a potential candidate for the title.

The second visit to Wiscombe Park in September began to throw a whole new light on the championship, for it was at this point that drivers start to drop low scores (the series was decided on the best 6 of 8 rounds) and the permutations were innumerable. Tony Wiltshire was not happy with his day’s efforts and began to see his lead slip away to the severe challenge from Dave Harris and Mike Brend. We were looking forward to a “Good, Bad & Ugly”–style shoot-out and we were not disappointed.

At the final round at Oddicombe in October, Mike Brend excelled himself, even by his high standards and put up a very quick time to win his class and the title.  Dave Harris allowed the HSR to run out of road in a last-ditch effort and even though a despondent Tony Wiltshire scored well on the day, he was blaming earlier poor results for his eventual relegation to third place.

Final Positions
1 Mike Brend (1.8 Caterham Super 7)        65.76pts
2 David Harris (2.3 Chevette HSR)             64.34pts
3 Tony Wiltshire (1.6 Lotus Elan)               64.21pts

Postscript:  Mike Brend also took the ASWMC Sprint Championship (becoming the second driver in history of the ASWMC to do the Speed double) with Dave Harris in the runner-up spot once again.

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