Shelsley Walsh Newsletter
As the shards of sunshine spear through the trees here at Shelsley, it all of a sudden feels like summer is really not very far around the corner. We’ve had our first two events for MAC Members with Cars in the Valley and Breakfast Club with a full turn out for what we are able to take for the time being while the Working party has awoken The Hill from its slumber before the cars and bikes have another season on the hallowed tarmac.
Our first weekend of action is not far away with Speed into Spring on May 1st + 2nd over subscribed leading us to believe June will also be full to overflowing too. We had planned for spectators to be trackside in May but the government gave us a curve ball ten days ago so we have to sit tight until May 21st when the next trigger point will kick in for the path back to normality and therefore Members and non members able to be present for the British Championship on June 5 + 6. We can’t wait as that will be a great milestone to make things feel normal again.
In the meantime, we’ll be broadcasting the May Speed into Spring meeting on our Shelsley Walsh YouTube and Facebook pages in a similar move to what we did last year to make up for the fact that we are unable to have people trackside.
We’ve included a catch up with a few familiar names at the forefront of the British Hill Climb Championship to see what they’ve been up to since we last saw them so you’re primed in advance of May.
Keep in touch with our social media channels to be fully up to speed with what is happening where and when in the coming months but remember that membership of the MAC who run Shelsley Walsh is the best value over a season to get access to hill climbs, events, discounted entry fees and the opportunity to be part of the exclusive MAC Members’ Days.
The Shelsley Walsh Team
Someone we haven’t seen at Shelsley Walsh since August 2019 is six time British Champion Scott Moran who is leaving the trusty Gould GR61 that has been so incredibly faithful to him and father Roger over the years. Now he’s in the very latest Gould GR59 Judd that Sean Gould has had for the past two seasons.
Scott will be sharing with Graham Wynn of TTC so we’ve seen the car already in the 2019 season but not publicaly in 2020.
“I drove it twice at test days towards the end of the year at Prescott last year and….it’s…a bit different! That’s not to say in a bad way, it’s just a different animal to what I’ve been used to with the Nicholson McLaren engine behind me that’s just that little bit more peaky compared to the bigger capacity 4 litre Judd. I’ve just got to be not so sharp on the gas.”
“I’ve obviously seen the times from Sean last year when he was battling with Alex and it’s amazing the times we saw at Shelsley but actually I, together with others, have been out of it for a while so I have to take some baby steps to get back in the swing of it.”
His modesty shone through in our chat but I did have to remind him he’s a six time champion and a former Shelsley record holder as you’d never know his huge success in nearly all chats with Scott, but the fire is there to have another title and then be top of the pile ahead of Tony Marsh (55, 56, 57, 65, 66, 67).
The most experienced eyes in the paddock know well to never under estimate Moran.
Fastest man up Shelsley Walsh in 2019 with a 23.18 second run was Will Hall in his Force. Having been at hill climbs all his life, he knows the rhythm, pace and frame of mind needed to attack and go for wins to the point where he took the 2019 title chase to Wallace Menzies right up to the final round at Loton. Were it not for the odd piece of bad luck here and there it would’ve been close for Hall last time out, but 2021 is a different matter.
“We did a lot of work on the car in 2020 and although we’re keeping the same 2 litre engine in the back we’ve got a new turbo on it and i’m going with the new Avon tyres and their new designs.
“I think it’ll be a spectacular year so I’ve entered May Shelsley Walsh on the 1st and 2nd to get my eye back in. I can’t wait.”
Will is still using the wise mind of Ray Rowan, the 1989 British Hill Climb Champion, to engineer and oversee the car together with Ian Dayson of Force.
Unfortunately the car had a big off at Curborough on April 18th but with two weeks to get the car sorted before Shelsley on May 1 & 2, all is hopefully looking good to see Will back on the hills.
The third fastest driver up Shelsley Walsh ever, Sean Gould was narrowly pipped to the top of the pile in 2020 by Alex Summers by just 0.02 seconds, but the strength of the Gould over the DJ Firestorm is in a straight line; it’s got a more slippery shape at the top end of the aero and has a bit more power to punch that hole in the air while getting there.
Indeed, to give you an idea of the sheer speed the car can do over and above the 165mph it did over the line at Shelsley last September, Sean had previous taken it to an airfield to see what it’d do.
“It went straight up to 185mph and I ran out of gears as it was sat on the rev limiter. The aero is very efficient which is why it has a smaller rear wing to get there quicker. Arguably I need a bigger rear wing for the bottom of the hill and this small one fo the top!”
That’s an interesting comment coming from Sean considering that he took the outright Prescott record in 2019, somewhere where you need downforce.
“Last year I switched about with Avons and Pirellis but when I did that 22.73 it was on Pirellis. The time just came like that. I’m still kicking myself for the big wobble I had in the Esses as on the data I lost 0.3 sec so that was a record run right there….”
One thing that many found in 2020 were that the starts were electrifyingly quick with Sean doing 70 mph by Vox Villa and 101mph before Kennel, a quite mind boggling acceleration.
“The rears are spinning quite a bit before Kennel actually to the degree that they’re doing 25mph more than the speed of the car so they’re touching 130mph with me regulating the throttle and even then that’s with the longer gears in it at the moment too.”
Having set the 22.73 time last year there’s always development to be had with winter work being done on the car.
“I’ve played around with the anti roll bar and the pitch control towards the end of last season and I’ve done some more analysis on that over the winter. Also I have some new brake drums that will help the top speed even more, plus the downshifts will be better into Bottom Ess.”
But the work is not all in the car…. “I’m two stone lighter too. I’ve now got some other overalls!”
Three time British Champion Trevor Willis set his personal best at Shelsley last year with his very final run of the season to bag a 23.10 second run. The OMS is another car in the mix of winning cars into 2021 and Trevor is confident there is still more to come.
“The car is getting better all the time really. Sure it was a good thing that I drove so much there last year over a normal year where I would only have driven two or three times but the car is getting better.”
Willis had a new stronger gearbox in for 2019 but he admits he wasn’t quite on it himself as well as the set up being a bit not quite on point.
“I also was between Avons and Pirellis then but I’m now staying with Pirellis. Going back and forth with the feel of them and the set up changes just wasn’t working. Sure I wanted to help Avon develop their tyre too but in the end I’m the the Italian stuff now. On a warm day they’re best I’d say.”
“The engine had a rebuilt for 2020 so not much there over this winter but I’ve done lots of little bits and pieces to take a bit of weight out. I only need 0.11 of a second to get into the 22 second bracket at Shelsley! If it had been a championship Run Off with all the eyes watching you when you came the line with that different atmosphere, feeling and pressure that you have, maybe I’d have done 22 but it a a target I have for this year coming. I’m looking forward to it.”
Let us not forget that the reigning British Hill Climb Champion will reign into his second year. Wallace Menzies took the 2019 title with a great season of wins, records and consistency needed to take the crown. Taking the first title for the Gould GR59 with the 3.3 litre V8 in the back, the car was A1 when Wallace last drove it.
“It was perfect then and we haven’t made any major modifications apart from putting the number 1 on the nose to really make the car look good..! It’s much the same from when it took the title at Loton in 2019 less for putting an onboard starter on board such as Sean has got on his car and a camera system too.”
“It’s frustrating to not be able to go testing before we get to Shelsley in May but those are the rules in Scotland at the moment. Besides, it’s 6 degrees and snowing as I say this so not much will be learnt...”
Wallace is a crowd stopper when he’s on the hill and with that reigning champion element to his set up into 2021 he will continue to take wins and records throughout this year.
Fastest Man up Shelsley Walsh in 2018, David Uren will continue in the faithful Gould GR55 with Nicola Menzies sharing driving duties. The Worcestershire driver has been coming to Shelsley for many a year watching and then driving and goes well on the hill.
“The car may well be the car that holds the outright hill record at Shelsley but there’s still a great deal of grit and extermination inside me to get it to the top.”
“We haven’t done much to the car since last time with a bit of tidying up during lockdown. We looked at traction control and launch control but to get that to talk to the engine without nullifying the unwritten ‘guarantee’ with NME has been difficult so we’re going to leave it as it is.”
“We tried the Pirellis late on in 2019 and I immediately preferred the turn in, the bite that they had. It eliminated the understeer the car had; not much understeer but just enough. It reminded my of how pointy the Force was and I liked that positivity of knowing that the front was going to go exactly where I wanted it to go.”
“I’m looking forward to being back in the car but those first few runs will be getting used to the car again with hat kick in the back. I can’t wait.”
With Pirellis, Uren can get into the 22s and the car can get back in the 22s.
Fastest man in 2020 and part of the fabulous showdown between himself and Sean Gould, Alex Summers is another favourite to knock on the door of the 22.58 from Groves. Summers had his second year in the DJ Firestorm last year but his first in with the V8 in the back after a season with the V6, but the V6 wasn’t just a stepping stone, it was a pilgrimage for Alex.
“I watched Graeme Wight Jr taking those records at Shelsley when I was 11 years old and I just thought it was the coolest thing out so that’s why I went to the V6 because that’s what Graeme had when he stunned the hill climb world. It was a game changing car/engine combination and I loved it so you can sort of say it inspired me.”
Summers blitzed the hill last year with this stunning run:
Is there more to come? Of course there is as that’s motorsport, but there really is...
“There was actually a misfire in the engine at the top end last year as the power supply to the injectors wasn’t quite right with engine and that’s why you saw me shift to 6th before Crossing rather than holding it a bit more on the cam in fifth. It was going to go a bit fluffy in 5th so I shifted up. Still, it was a good run on 2019 tyres...”
Still, 0.13 seconds back of the record on an older track than Groves had is still a huge improvement over previous years but many personal bests were done in 2020 because people got their eye in with many runs.
“We all needed everyone to have a celebration of the sport last year. On the YouTube of my quick run I think commentator Chris Drewett summed it up, ‘What a treat’. It was brilliant and we must pat ourselves in hill climbing on the back with what we all achieved.”
“We hope to get the engine sorted with that misfire as power is what you need at Shelsley and Gurston. You don’t need as much at Prescott and Loton.”
“What we’re seeing here at the moment in British speed hill climbing is a huge level being raised. There are a couple of very different game changing cars all together and that’s raising the tide for everyone in the cars, the paddock and watching trackside. I remember when Sean Gould went to Doune the first time and did a 35 seconds run straight off and I thought, ‘Ahhhh...’.”
So, can he get the record?
“On the splits if you stick together my perfect run it may well be there but if you rush into Bottom Ess then you lose time in there but with some more runs I think it might be there.”
Modest and quiet Summers may seem, but his emotion when he did that 22.71 second run last September shows what the Shelsley record means to him.
Former BTD man from June 2019 Richard Spedding is back with his GWR Raptor with the supercharged Suzuki Hayabusa mounted behind him. Richard’s best is a 23.33 from August 2019 but the lockdown has given him time to iron out a few niggles.
“I’ve made some tweaks to the front suspension but the over riding things was I felt there was a problem with the power delivery maybe because the belts were slipping on the pulley. Every now and again it would produce a big kick of power the kind of which Jos Goodyear had when he was doing his 22 second runs in his Raptor.”
“Stopping the belts slipping seems to have been cured as during the Harewood weekend in early April the car felt alarmingly quick even after quite a few runs. Maybe that’s me getting up to speed but actually I was closer to Alex and the others than I thought I would be so I’m very happy with that. I was also driving the E-Type at the same meeting so braking distances were a bit different...but I don’t think that messed me up too much..”
“We’ve even got some new team gear and a number 4 over a number 5 on the nose so that’ll help too!’
Spedding echoes what many think is a classic season at our feet. “It stacks up to be a tighter season that 2019. Everyone’s done a little bit here and there, always refining and with the times we saw last year, things have moved on. It’s great.”
So, the ultimate question is can he join the 22 club? The answer was instant.
“Yes, 100% I can do a 22. With the extra power I have without the belts slipping. I can’t wait to be back at Shelsley and have another go at getting a Best Time of Day because the feeling to be part of the history of the place with all the drivers who have been there is a magic feeling I had and I want to have it again.”
Out of the little Empire/Force 1100 and into a Dallara F305 chassis with a 2.65 V8 in the back of it is 21 year old Jack Cottrill. He’s always been quick and has now the chance to get in amongst the Top 12 on a regular basis with a big engined car.
Cars in the Valley Evening
Clear skies and a chill in the air was the greeting for the first official get together of the season at Shelsley with 125 cars filling out the paddock with people then having the option of Fish and Chips, pulled pork or pizza in the Courtyard plus table service from the bar. A government imposed first for Shelsley…
Winning some Bullet Polish Carnauba Wax for Best Classic was Mike Humphries in his Porsche 356 while the Best Modern was Adrian Hunt in his Aston Martin who though that the prize note on his windscreen was a wind up from his mates…!
Our next Cars in the Valley evening will be through the sunbeams of the evening sun on May 6th. It’ll be limited to the same number of cars again and for MAC Members only so do get your reservation in early so you can be there.
Working Party for 2021
Saturday 17th April saw the Working Party with a huge number of jobs completed on a perfect spring day. Barriers, railings, marshals posts were tended to with special attention going to the kerbs that really popped with their red and white.
Huge thanks to Nigel Pitt who donated the cost of all the paint at £220 to Shelsley and the MAC. Thank you Nigel.
Others who were there working hard were:
Richard Nix, John Hankinson, Sarah Thorne, Howard Davies, Alfie Fisher, James Robinson, Gaz Jacobs, Andy Smart, Colin Moore, Martin Edwards, Brice Atkinson, James Sharp, John Bateman, Chris Bufton, Richard Homer, Jeremy Seaby, Geoff Hall, Dean Fisher, Ian Fidoe, Nick Rubery, Richard Evans, Chris Perks, Toby Moody, Rhett Hume, Melodie Nightingale, Jonathan Toulmin, David Haggerty, Mike Taylor, Steve Reed, John Grady, Clare Mudie, David Simons, John North, Sue Cobin, Simon Durling, David Whitefoot, Michael Collins, Clive Collins, Mark Davis, Andrew Burt, Al Rayner and John Stinton.