Welcome to our monthly update of what’s been happening in and around the Midland Automobile Club and Shelsley Walsh. And what a month it’s been planning and organising six competitive weekends into the second half of a summer when we were originally planning to do seven in a year. Busy times!
Three meetings completed, the team at Shelsley Walsh have worked very hard to run the events Covid 19 safe for competitors and thanks to additional work carried out on the hill, MAC Members were able to return to watch all the action trackside at the August Championship Challenge meeting.
Fast hill climbing at Shelsley Walsh was also watched by many people all over the world thanks to our YouTube stream. Two meetings were broadcast and many positive comments received, proving we can innovate this part of motorsport just as the competitors have done over the 115 years of the hill climb.
We are not finished yet though as we have more weekends of hill climb action coming up, entries for which are open for any car you may have and wish to compete in. With a number of Top 10 Run Offs you may want to grab your chance to be in one with a Top 10 Tin Top on August 29th, Top 10 for MAC members on September 12th and a Top 10 for Sunrise Sprint drivers on September 13th. The regular Autumn Speed Finale has some spaces remaining for entries but we’re filling up fast…! Go to ‘COMPETITION’ at the top of the page here to enter.
Our first event of 2020 was a Member’s Day on July 18th. 100 cars attended with all getting runs up the hill as part of a thank you from the MAC to members in this difficult year. Everyone enjoyed their allocated four runs up the hill but as the day ran smoothly, many were able to get extra runs in.
As this was a special Members Day, competition cars were able to take part. Sean Gould brought along his Gould Judd to bed it in after winter upgrades and although the hill had been swept beforehand, there was still a bit of dust on the surface but this was soon thrown high into the air in a huge rooster tail following the Gould up on its first ascent. For those watching up the hill and seeing road cars make their way up as fast as the dare, it was quite a shock to see a Gould shoot into view.
Our next Members Day at Shelsley is on September 25th so if you wish to book your place, click here: www.shelsleywalsh.com/members-day
90-year-old trophy found
We had a note from Hans-Joachim Stuck in July to say that he’d found a Shelsley Walsh trophy in a box of other old trophies his father had won. “I put these trophies together to take to my holiday home in France where I could then polish them up while sitting outside in the sun but I then saw it was from Shelsley.”
The trophy itself is a small replica of the main trophy we have in our archive but this smaller one was awarded to his father when he came over in July 1930 and smashed the hill record by a breath taking 2.8 seconds with the Austro-Daimler.
That same day saw Mercedes' Rudolf Carraciola, Mille Miglia winner that year already and a contemporary Grand Prix and Le Mans 24 hr winner, smash the sports car record with Alfred Neubauer sat alongside him in the Mercedes SSK, setting 46.8 seconds.
Sean Gould blitzed the first competitive weekend of 2020 by winning the Summer Spree at the end of July. Devoid of a British Championship, he is using his Gould as much as possible in 2020 as a test bed with rear suspension tweaks, instantly getting into the 23 second bracket with a 23.61. Considering the track was still a little ‘green’ this was a mightily impressive time.
The Vintage meeting on August 8th was full of excitement with many drivers out and about for the first time driving against the clock in 2020. James Baxter had a huge moment through Crossing as his inside front tyre rode up the bank on his final run, but he held it together to win on the hot, sunny day.
Reg Phillips Trophy
David Warburton took the spoils the day after the VSCC meeting in the family Gould GR59 1600cc car getting close to the 24s with a 25.12. The motorcycle Run Off was as always spectacular and won by Tom Short in a mind blowing 30.78 second climb aboard his KTM 653; that’s quick for a car!
Cars and Coffee
With no Breakfast Clubs taking place due to all of our Sundays filling up with events, we put on our first evening ‘Cars and Coffee’ for MAC Members on July 30th. There was a wonderful evening of beautiful sunset light streaming in over the paddock with a stunning array of 70 cars that created a different atmosphere from normal as people chilled out rather than having to leave in order to do something else during the day after a normal Breakfast Club. The Courtyard bar was open and people took care to sit apart but have an amusing, fun, relaxed catch up.
Thanks to Gary Hall, Chris Gittins and the crew for putting it all on to eventually see the Best Modern car prize of some Bullett polish going to Paul Jones with his Aston Martin Vantage and the Best Classic going to the Jones Family and their 1934 Lagonda that had been in their family for the past 57 years.
With two Run Offs similar to what we’d normally have at August Shelsley, Alex Summers bravely won the first in damp conditions while Sean Gould took the second victory and the spoils of Best Time of Day with 23.85 seconds as MAC Members were allowed back in for the first time in 2020 to watch from track side.
More detailed reports of each meeting can be found on our NEWS page here on ShelsleyWalsh.com while results are here
How we put on the live stream
We’ve enjoyed putting on our Live Stream through Facebook and YouTube for the Summer Spree and then Championship Challenge with a huge effort from all involved to fine tune the technology behind how the picture reach fans of Shelsley Walsh and hill climbing around the world. Rich Danby and Al Rayner pulled together the software that links all the cameras on the hill enabling viewers to see the entire run of the majority of cars. An additional camera was positioned on the finish line for the August meeting to catch the quick cars rushing past at 150mph although that viewpoint also showed the amount of mist that covered Top Ess early in the morning!
The feed was mixed in the Jack Rhorl hut at the base of the hill with Toby Moody in Vox Villa viewing the TV screen that was being broadcast but what many won’t know is that co-commentator Eddie Walder was self-isolating in Coventry but with a TV link to him. Eddie’s voice was sent back to Shelsley and then back out again on the final TV feed. What was so impressive was that all of this was done through the strongest mobile phone signal at Shelsley, EE! The signal did have its moments now and again but the strength was there to carry us through.
For the meetings that were held behind closed doors it was a way of the MAC getting Shelsley to members and a wider audience, something that was so appreciated by so many across the globe. One ex-Worcestershire resident used to attend the meetings but left for South Africa in 1971 so for him it was the first time ‘revisiting’ the hill for 49 years. David Elliot was the mechanic for AD-O in the 1970s and was watching for the first time in decades but the reach was staggering. Fans tuned in from Minnesota, Singapore, New Zealand, Germany, Portugal, Australia, China, California and a friend of competitor Rob Anscombe who works on an oil tanker and for the July meeting was watching from the South China Sea but three weeks later was watching from just off the west coast of Australia.
All of our broadcasts are held on the YouTube page so you can re-watch or pick out your run and study your lines to learn where you can trim some more time off.
Gauntlet thrown down to Max Verstappen
After Max Verstappen was asked to back off at Silverstone F1 when following the two Mercedes’, he said that ‘if he drove any slower then he’d be driving like a grandmother’ even though he then went against the wishes of his engineers and won the 70th Anniversary F1 race. Shelsley commentator Chris Drewett therefore thought it a good idea that former Ladies’ record holder at Shelsley and Grand Mother Sandra Tomlin should challenge him to a duel at Shelsley.
We got to work and within a couple of hours had a video recorded of Sandra challenging the Dutchman in the hands of the producers at Sky F1. Red Bull said yes but it would have to, naturally, be in an Aston Martin Vantage to which Sandra said, ‘No problem!” the clip was shown to Verstappen in the pre-race show for Barcelona last weekend and he remembered Shelsley and commented that his Dad should go and drive first and if Sandra beats Jos, then we can discuss. We are still pushing to close the loop in on the current Red Bull F1 driver.
Verstappen has actually been to Shelsley back in December 2018 for some secret Red Bull promotional filming alongside WEC regular Darren Turner in two Aston Martin Vantages but the day was rainy and murky, ultimately ending up with the clip not being published so this is a better chance to see him at Shelsley. We’re working on it!
Motorsport UK CEO Hugh Chambers visits Shelsley Walsh
Motorsport UK has really had a revolution over the past two seasons with David Richards and Hugh Chambers shaking up the previous template of how people, particularly new drivers, compete in UK motorsport. With 2020 being so difficult for many venues, we asked CEO Chambers to come and see how we were putting our front foot forwards at Shelsley Walsh. Visiting on the Sunday of Championship Challenge Chambers met drivers, marshals, staff and friends of the hill and MAC but he was immediately struck by the camaraderie between all hill climbers in the paddock, the technology of the fastest Top 12 runners and the juxtaposition of the latest cars and the centuries old setting of the Courtyard.
Watching the first Top 10 Run Off from Bottom Ess he said, “Hill climbing creates a wonderful relaxed atmosphere with a fantastic mix of young and old involved. It is great to see such a high proportion of women competing in such a wide variety of cars; from a Renault Clio to a Porsche 911, a historic Lotus to the latest carbon fibre single seaters. And also, drivers sharing cars, as allowed in this branch of the sport, which makes sense from the cost and shared workload perspective.” Said Chambers.
“Shelsley Walsh is one of the best places to watch motorsport in the UK, with terrific facilities and an incredible view as the cars come up the hill towards the Esses. The skill and commitment of the drivers in the fastest machinery is something to behold and it’s a massive spectacle to see them attack the clock.
“I would also like to thank the many marshals, officials and volunteers who make the events happen; it was great to see their passion and enthusiasm, proving that hill climbing is a strong sport, very much alive and well. Well done to all at Shelsley Walsh for getting back on track and I look forward to returning to more events in the future.”
Chambers was at Prodrive during the rise and then world championship WRC victory of Colin McRae in 1995 before stints at the British Olympic Association, Team Sky cycling and World Sailing.
1926 record holder at Shelsley Walsh, Spider, returned to its spiritual home for the Vintage meeting with current custodian David Leigh driving with the same bravado as Basil Davenport did in the 20s to take the record. The car and engine has undergone a large winter rebuild with new valves and springs, cracks in the head repaired, valves re-seated, new big end bearings, machined pistons and a completely rebuilt bevel box too.
The chassis was fully stripped too and as the pictures here show, it’s rather basic and simple, proving that the very essence of hill climbing hasn’t changed much over the decades. Jim Edwards did the work that sympathetically keeps all of the character and feel of what it was like nearly 100 years go.
David Leigh had some good runs on the hot day on August 8th with Spider pulling very well once it got on the cam.
See the on board of Spider attacking Shelsley on our YouTube page.
We’ve also had contact from the Davenport family who sent us some pictures of the trophies that Basil won at Shelsley in the 1920s. Wonderful pieces of art and motorsport history that we look forward to seeing ‘in the silver’ once current restrictions change so it goes without saying, we will share those pictures with you.
1982 Champion Josh Sadler returns
1982 Midland Hill Climb Champion Josh Sadler made a welcome return to Shelsley Walsh in August in - as you’d guess - a Porsche 911. Sadler was the founder of Porsche specialist Autofarm and had spectacular duels then with the Garland brothers Peter and Nigel plus Tony Bancroft also in the mix in the Modified Production class. Sadler’s trademark car was a white Porsche 911 Carrera RS with the duck tail spoiler but this year he’s returned to be a member of the MAC and drives a 911 RS replica that he’s made.
Preparing Shelsley Walsh
Following the winter of 2019/20 and then lockdown we never had chance to have our annual Working Party at Shelsley. After we concentrated on getting events running so we were sure everything could run safe and well for all competitors and officials, the spectator areas on the hill were prepared following a ‘call to arms’ for volunteers to help. We were blown away with the offers of help which saw 50 people over two days carrying out a variety of jobs that completely transformed the venue including the installation of distancing measures where there were ‘pinch points’ in the spectator area.
A new gate was installed at the top of the car park path to ensure a one-way system at the Crossing viewing area and more steps at Bottom Ess were constructed to ease the flow of spectators.
We would like to place on record huge thanks to Paul Matty for sponsoring the new social distancing signs and Nigel Pitt for sponsoring the paint and materials for the two working days - thank you gentleman!
We would also like to thank the 50 people that volunteered their time over the two days:
Willie Austin, Stephen Hopkins, Anne Ballantyne, Neale Jones, John Bateman, Tim King, Tony Brook, Simon Kirton, John Brooke, Charlie Lewis, Steve Brookes, Ian MacDonald, Allan Broome, Rob MacDonald, John Brownlie, Steve Moore, Andrew Burt, Paul Mould, Rob Clarke, Dave Nickson, Ben Cope, Melodie Nightingale, Pat Daniel, Richard Nix, Richard Davies, Jim Pawson, Mike Dockery, Andrew Poyner, Ian Fidoe, Paul Royds, Dean Fisher, Nick, Rubery, Dean Fisher, Richard Salisbury, Graham Godfrey, Andy Smart, John Goodreds, Terry Smith, John Grady, Ken Taylor, Nick Green, Mike Thirlwall, Rosemary Hart, Ian Waudby, Bernard Hart, Russell Kinson, Stephen Hawkesworth.
Four to two wheels
Steve Owen has driven and now ridden up Shelsley in 2020. After debuting his own OMS 28 with the V8 2.6 in late July he brought his Moto Guzzi Dondolino in early August. Built between 1946 and 1951 it epitomises post war motorcycling from Italy.
Empire Racing Cars’ Bill Chaplin was half way between the two disciplines as he rode the Isle of Man TT winning sidecar with Ron King as passenger in August. Bill has renovated the outfit with all of the correct stickers and colours to how it was when it crossed the finish line in Douglas 25 years ago.
Olly Wright and Anna-May Furness have embraced hill climbing over the past couple of seasons by not only competing in their Peugeot 106 GTi but enjoying everything about Shelsley Walsh. Living within earshot of the hill, Olly rebuilt the car over the winter with the aim of achieving a PB early on in 2020. Lockdown aside he soon got into the groove doing PB after PB but oh so close to doing that elusive 34 second run he craved.
In the Summer Spree meeting he got close with a 35.00 only to then do a 34.99 on his final run! Anna-May bogged her start down but quickly dipped the clutch and attacked the hill hard to make up time resulting in a 37.57 second PB! Three weeks later in August she was back in the Peugeot that so many road car journalists have said is a huge grin inducing device to then go quicker again with a 37.30 on the Saturday. Come Sunday she was marshalling for the very first time at Bottom Ess watching Olly slide past with a load of opposite lock as he guest drove a Westfield 1600.
When are you going to get into a single seater guys?
Shelsley Walsh Church renovations
The 13th century church at Shelsley Walsh has had a small make over in recent weeks with the Victorian tile floor being renovated from dusty, wobbly tiles to a neat, flat and colourful layout. For those of you who haven’t been to visit St Andrews’ at the base of the hill, we urge you to do so.