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Newsletter of The National Hill Climb Association Ltd
Edited by Tony Quinn, 3 Chard Close, Nailsea, Bristol, BS48 4QA
Tel. 01275 854789 (7pm-10pm weekdays, any time at weekends)
The Editor’s Part
Here we are again with our mid-season issue. There has been plenty of activity over the past couple of months with events at both ends of the country.
Tregrehan – 4 April 1999
The BMOC don’t run the same policy as the NHCA for writing a race report. Basically we don’t write one, full stop. Anyway, I thought it’s about time I put pen to paper to let you know what’s going on down here ‘me handsomes’.
Sunday morning dawned bright and early….. hang on, that’s wrong, it’s Easter. Sunday morning dawned to the sound of the foghorn warning the local shipping. At Tregrehan you couldn’t se the top of the hill, it was that bad. Light showers and no sun meant a wet track becoming greasier as the day went on.
With a full entry of 20 for a change practice went smoothly and carefully. Gerald Spiers debuted his new Cheney 680 Yamaha and Steve Sherbird finally coming out of his 13-year retirement, riding a home made framed XS 650 Yamaha (sounds familiar, Mr French). There was also a new sidecar, yes SIDECAR, F1 at that. Brothers Patrick and Paul Keates from Wellington have given up 4 wheels and taken up 3.
Another shower during dinner break dampened down the track at the top, which had started to dry out. But these new Michelins are fantastic, even Tregrehan’s greasy start line could be attacked with a fair few revs.
The only mishap on the first runs was Steve Sherbird locking up and stalling at the hairpin. The real fun started on the 2nd timed runs. Paul Jeffery snatched the 250s from Pete Short and Martin Palmer had it his own way in the 350s. I only had Derek Cann to overcome in the 500s and managed 22.82 to take FTD, not only beating Dickie Bird’s Peter & Paul (FLY AWAY PETER, FLY AWAY PAUL), but also the fastest car by over a second …. YES!!
The 750s are where it all happened. Alan Jolly fell off on the right hander but managed to take second on his first run. Keith Hunt survived for third. Gerald was up next. Coming out of the right he forgot to turn his petrol on, quickly turning the tap on the short straight. The hairpin loomed up and off he went with a big bang from the exhaust. Richard Bowker was next with a clean, but a failure was to follow. Around that right hander came poor old Steve Shirbird – lovely smooth line but, just on the exit, round came the rear and he was on his ass. So, after some very promising practice runs, Steve failed to register a time in the afternoon. The class spoils go to hard charging Jon Staden on his Christmas present, looking very impressive around the top end of the course.
Ian Cornwell was another rider playing with himself in the 1300 class, which just leaves the sidecars, again I say sidecars, no Trikes and no Bucklands (sorry, I couldn’t resist it).
Stu & Ginge took the honours from Bill & Jenny in the battle of the 600s, while the new boys Patrick & Paul struggled to get to grips with the hairpin …. Must have been using the same braking points as their old Mallock.
The weatherman said that the July meeting will be hot and sunny, Ha ha!
1 Paul Jeffery 23.15
2 Pete Short 23.52
3 Damian Whitley
4 Paul Jenkins
5 Jess Little
1 Martin Palmer
1 Jamie Mitchell 22.82
2 Derek Cann
1 Jon Staden 24.47
2 Alan Jolly
3 Keith Hunt
4 Gerald Spiers
5 Richard Bowker
1 Ian Cornwell
1 Stu & Ginge 27.70
2 Bill & Jenny 27.99
3 Patrick & Paul 33.00
(Taken in the paddock at Shelsley Walsh on 9 May)
Standards seemed to have slipped or maybe Wiscombe in early May was the first time out for some of you this year. Anyway,
¨ lots of loose nuts & bolts, including top yoke nuts, and
¨ no open pipes – there must be some form of silencing.
At Shelsley I noticed that
¨ there are still a few people who have not written the stroke on their engine or otherwise clearly marked on the bike.
Day licences – the purpose of a day licence is for people to try out our sport. It’s a pain in the xxxx for the secretary of the meeting to take the money and do the paperwork. The club gets no income from day licences. So can those of you who compete regularly please buy an annual licence from the ACU at the start of the year. Apart from anything else, with an annual licence you get sent a free copy of the ACU handbook so you can keep up to date with the relevant rules and regs.
(not limping so much and very mobile on a CBR600)
Bryn Bach Park – 3 May 1999
Unusually good Bank Holiday weather made for some very close racing at this spectacular strip of tarmac set in the welsh hills. The Nantyglo Club’s delightful informality took me by surprise. Practice eventually got under way and I discovered that my Velocette’s oval front brake was not the thing to use at the tightening right hander at the top of the climb. The old girl shook her head enough to scatter the marshals, and seriously de-tuned me. Fortunately, I stayed on.
As the entry was quite small, there was time for extra runs for those who had fuel, energy and enthusiasm left. Tony Quinn and daughter Cathy made spirited runs in Tony’s lovely Morgan. Dave Dunk put on a good show for his grandchildren on his delightful sounding bored-out RS 250.
When the dust had settled Nick Beale had set a new course record on his quad, Ian Fry was very close to the record on his 350 and was just three hundredths of a second behind Ian Southerton who was King of the Hill on his 750.
Porthkerris now definite
As you will have seen from the note sent round in late April, Porthkerris is ON.
Vintage / Post Vintage Championship
Motorcycle World Beaulieu
Apache leathers – one-piece with armour. Red & white, 38”chest, 32” waist. Very good condition, £75.
Brian Wills – Tel. 01392 436880 (Exeter)
Honda 250 RSA hillclimber. Rebuilt, re-sprayed, in excellent condition. Ready to race. £550 ono. Full details from
Dave Dunk – Tel. 01291 624841 (Chepstow)
Remember, if you want to send articles on disk and you use a software package other than Microsoft Word, please send me a printed copy to be re-typed just in case.
The Editor’s Part
I started off this Hillclimber with the intention of calling the September issue, but it looks as if it’s going to be headed ‘October’, which means that it’s virtually the end of another season. The all-bike Wiscombe has just passed and we have only four events or so until the engines cool down for the winter months.
Many thanks to all those who have contributed articles, comment, adverts and so on. Without you there would be no Hillclimber. We have the regular contributors, to whom I am very grateful, but it is also very pleasing to receive a piece from someone who has just thought “I’d like to do my bit”. All contributions welcome. Keep them coming.
In this issue we report the sad death of Ian Mitchell. David Childs has written in memory of Ian. We also have the usual clutch of hillclimb reports and the emergence of an underclass of which I must be a member – the sad gits of Sad Git Racing – those poor folk who just like to get oily, wet and burn some rubber just to get some strange thrill and to make up the numbers. Who’s getting the sweatshirts, or cardies, made?
We still need reports on post-Wiscombe events; there seems to be a flurry of hillclimbs at this time of the year with one a week from mid-September onwards. I still have not received any technical articles. Is it that these Japanese creations don’t need any attention? Do you just buy them, get them out of the box, read the instructions, use them and put them away after each meeting?
Finally, a message from Peter Isaac. We need another ‘Herman’. As you will remember, Herman said that 1999 was going to be his last year as general organiser and cajoler of us lesser mortals. Many thanks Herman for all the good work during the past years. Now come on, let’s have a volunteer or volunteers. Please start thinking about this now.
‘Mitch’ – A Tribute
Ian Mitchell, or ‘Mitch’ as he was affectionately known to most of us by his many friends, passed away after a long illness. Mitch was short in stature (even by my standards), but was a ‘big’ man in every other way with a twinkle in his eye, a big grin, an infectious laugh and a superb sense of humour, which he kept to the end. Mitch was one of nature’s gentlemen and very much a character whom nothing seemed to faze. Win or lose he always retained the big grin and cheerful personality. Where there was Mitch there was always laughter.
Many riders will remember the advice and encouragement he gave new (and more experienced) competitors and the vast amount of time he put into the organisation of literally dozens of hillclimbs. He acted as secretary for so many that I quickly learnt his address by heart. At some of the Cornish meetings he seemed to be doing most of the jobs and the event couldn’t start until Ian had arrived with all of the gear, plus the bikes, of course.
Mitch was always on the lookout for new hills and followed up anything he found, or suggestions from others and got many new hills ‘operational’.
Mitch was a super rider with the ability to ‘drift’ a bike through the corners on the relatively hard tyres of the early ’70s and (like son Jamie) excelled in the wet. He started his competitive motorcycle career riding shotgun for cousin Phil Williams on a trials outfit. His first hillclimb was, I believe, the Easter 1969 Tregwainton meeting and Ian started as he meant to continue by winning the 250 class on a Greeves.
Ian then switched to the 350 class and rapidly made a name for himself using a 350 Velocette model MAC. This used a pre-war type iron motor in an early ’50s swing arm frame. It went well once he had ‘looked’ inside the motor and Mitch won the 350 championship in 1972 and 1973, the last time it was won with a four stroke. Ian then concentrated on the 500 class, winning in 1974 and 1975 on the JAP-engined ‘K special’ loaned by Kes. After this Mitch returned to the 350 class with a Greeves Oulton, winning in 1976 and, jointly with Kevin Halstead, in 1977.
Ian continued racing with many successes, but no more class championship wins, until forced to retire in 1987 after a heart attack. In later years he rode Greeves, Bultaco, BSA and Yamaha machines. He went out in style with a 500 class win at his last meeting, Prescott. Thereafter he had to confine himself to organising.
Most of the older riders will have their memories and stories of Mitch. Two of mine follow.
I was watching him through the first bend at Wiscombe on the Velo. As he exited the bend the back end suddenly stepped out. Mitch promptly applied full opposite lock and continued on his way without (as far as I could tell) shutting the throttle or losing time! How easy he made it look. How I wished I had that ability!
Ian was always one for telling stories and told me this one, as usual with much laughter. He was at Brands and had won the 350 class on the Velo and was talking to the rider of an Aermacchi whom he had beaten. This chap told Mitch in an aggrieved tone that “that Velo had no right to go as fast as it does”. He got it wrong of course, it wasn’t the Velo that was special it was the man who rode it. We shan’t see his like again.
Our hearts and sympathies go out to Wendy and sons Bud (Antony) and Jamie in their sad loss.
Gurston Down – 12 & 13 June 1999
Well, we did it again, the first (and only) “off” of the meeting. Hence this report!!
Saturday – started early (we drove up that morning), nice and relaxing. Had a chat, got the outfit scrutineered and settled down to a day’s hillclimbing. First run was OK, a bit erratic but not bad. The problem was that everyone else seemed to have very good first runs!
Second practice - OK and tried a few new things, different gear change points and braking points, and decided that if the weather held we could be on for a sub-40 second run some time over the weekend.
Third practice - much smoother, but 2nd gear did not want to go in on the up change; was it me or was it the gearbox? The weather was holding, but only just. It had been overcast but dry all day.
After getting through the day without an incident we adjourned to the beer tent, had a general chat, watched a few cars etc., discussed the fact that we had a late start the next morning – 11am! And so back to the camper. Brother Paul went into his tent for a “rest”. Just about got the Barby going and the rain came down. After about an hour I called Paul (he went to sleep) and had food and a few more beers. Went for a walk up the hill and then off to bed, looking forward to a lie-in the next morning. Most of the rest went to the pub.
Lie-in, my ass! 7 o’clock the next morning the car lot had descended upon us and revving engines greeted my waking moments. Don’t they know how to be quiet when it’s supposed to be our lay in? Eventually got up and weather wonderful. First practice went well, big thumbs up at the top of the hill from Paul. Could the sub-40 sec run be on this afternoon?
First timed run into Hollow, 88mph through the speed trap and felt good out to Carousel. S--t, got the braking distance wrong again, why doesn’t it stop like the Mallock? Up onto the bank, hence this report. Got out of the outfit, saw Paul was OK, looked at each other and burst out laughing. Back to the paddock – disgrace! Confidence dented again. No sub-40 sec run.
Second timed run, much more sedately into Hollow, confidence building again, into and out of Carousel and Ashes, up to the finish. Seemed pretty good, thumbs up from Paul again (must have been OK). It was quick, but was it quick enough. NO, but only by a gnat’s whisker. Next year, perhaps.
Once again a big thanks to all the officials and marshals without whose hard work events could not take place. Congratulations to all the riders for (staying on and) putting on a good show, especially Jamie Mitchell – how does he do that?
Sad Git Racing
At Gurston Down in the summer myself and Mike Shorter had a discussion about old gits riding motorcycles up hill. A few weeks later myself and Jim Rolt had a similar talk. The outcome was that we both realised that we were sad gits.
We are not bothered about hill records because they are totally out of reach. Those young lads on their very fast machines chase records and catch them. Us sad gits just turn out to fill out the ranks and to enjoy ourselves.
Well, Jim and I decided that there should be a class for old gits like us. The rules are as follows –
1 It does matter what type of bike you ride.
2 You must not ride too fast.
3 You must never wear a flat cap (when not racing).
4 Be knowledgeable on ferrets and their keeping.
5 Be in possession of this month’s Gardening Weekly.
6 Tyres must be at least 10 years old.
The points system will be as follows
1 Fastest up the hill in the Old Gits Class – 0 points.
2 Saddle held on with masking tape or similar – 3 points.
3 Slowest up the hill – Top award, a cup of cocoa.
4 Extra points can be earned for bird watching while racing.
There will be memorabilia on sale instead of Team Filth T-shirts. There will be Sad Old Git cardigans, Sad Git plaid scarves, plaid slippers (the ones with zips up the front), woollen gloves with string may also be ordered.
So, come on, what do you think? Instead of getting pissed the night before, join in the fun with the Sad Gits. Tea & Biscuits, muffins and, on special occasions, one brown ale between us all, go to bed early or stop up with us party animals until 9.30pm.
Sad Git Racing!
Shelsley Walsh – 14/15 July 1999
Sunshine and warm air, just the recipe for a doze. Sudden change in temperature apparently woke me up, left leg gone to sleep, tried to get up, next minute on the grass. So that’s why I’m writing this report; he who must be obeyed said I had fallen out of the chair – get it?! He’ll have me buying the ice cream next.
There was a lot of activity in the motorcycle paddock. At one point a tape measure was called for, then a ruler was produced and various swing arm measurements were taken. It seemed as if most of the riders were holding Pete’s trike in the air for some modifications underneath. Someone shouted “Drop it”, but no one heard. Was it Bill or Jason?
Jon had funny noises, something to do with the flywheel mod falling apart. He was also doing some sprocket swapping. Don’t forget, Jon, no need to undo the split link.
Bill seemed to have a handful of carburettors at one time and Paul wasn’t happy with his exhaust system, but it didn’t stop either of them breaking their own records.
Doug’s 1300 is back on song. I’m sure he enjoyed not finding it necessary to tinker – or did he when I wasn’t looking? It sounded good.
Saturday evening was spent by some at a different venue too normal – a village with a lovely village green. Ideal for those camping or having had one over the eight. One rider obviously had; he couldn’t even line up his outer door with the inner one!
Apart from one very sudden short downfall of rain, it was a smashing weekend with no-one parting company with their machine.
Fastest times -
Peter Robson 33.61
Paul Jeffery 32.43R
Glyn Poole 32.10
John Staden 32.91
Paul Lumley 36.06
Robin Sims 34.41
Dave Wills 34.97
Doug Parnell 35.71
Mark French 32.68
Fifty Years ago -
Shelsley Team Picked
Although the B..M.C.R.C. has mustered a strong team for a battle with the cars at Shelsley Walsh hill-climb on 24 September, it has been impossible to obtain the full number of motorcycle entries to which the club was entitled, attributable no doubt to the fact that the Scarborough meeting and the Cadwell Park championship are on the same week-end.
The “Bemsee” team will be F. L. Frith (348 Velocette), R. L. Graham (498 Matchless) and G. Brown (Vincent-H.R.D.), with G. D. Lashmar (998 Vincent-H.R.D) as reserve. George Brown will decide whether to use a “500” or a “1,000” when he sees the hill. There are only four side-car entries, P. V. Harris and W.G. Boddice with 596 Norton outfits, J. Surtees (998 Vincent-H.R.D. s.c.) and C. F. Smith (996 J.A.P. s.c.).
Acknowledgements to Motor Cycling - 1st September 1949
Welsh Sprints Society’s Welsh Open Hill Climb Championship at Bryn Bach Park – 1 August 1999
Super warm weather, a light breeze, together with the usual Welsh welcome and a relaxed atmosphere. We enjoyed two practice and five timed runs each, the first three of which counted towards the awards.
I am not too clear how the award system works, but the following is reproduced from the results sheet.
1999 Solo Champion – Jamie Mitchell with a time of 29.67 seconds, a new overall record.
1999 Sidecar Champion – Bill Dingle / Jenny Taylor with a time of 34.96 seconds.
Solo – Jamie Mitchell –30.08
Sidecar – Bill & Jenny – 33.54
A Tale of the Unexpected
– or a Story involving two old hillclimbers, one very old
It must have been during the very early 60s that I first met Neville Higgins; it was at a Shelsley Walsh hillclimb. Practice Day had just ended and Neville had a minor problem with a 1000cc Vincent he called ‘The Heap’. Living comparatively near enabled me to go home between practice and race day and, as a result, I was able to find a replacement part for him. The item itself was so insignificant that I cannot remember what it was, but suffice to say that this episode, combined with a common interest in Vincent motor cycles, was the beginning of a firm friendship which has lasted ever since.
Ultimately, since both of us worked in the environs of Coventry we formed an alliance (some may say an unholy one!) as travelling companions to hill climbs north and south of our home base. Most of our travels were accomplished in Neville’s ghastly Austin-Morris van; only Neville could drive it. It had four forward speeds (and presumably a reverse) and these were selected by the then popular gramophone pick-up type gear lever mounted on the steering column, which he alone could master. On the rare occasions when I elected or was instructed to drive this thing I was never able to match its foibles and, as a result, had to suffer the withering criticism Neville could deliver so well.
Anyway, to the main story. My ‘senior’ partner (after all, it was his van) were proceeding northwards in the early hours of a misty Saturday morning to a well-known hill climb at Castle Howard, not far from York. This venue was patronised by most of the top car drivers of the day as well as favoured motorcyclists like ourselves. In the dim light of approaching dawn, as time and distance elapsed and dropping eyelids and boredom played tricks with our sight, we suddenly spotted in our lights what appeared to bee a body lying in the road ahead.. In horror we stopped, clambered out and apprehensively approached this ‘thing’. Our fears were allayed, it turned out to be no more than a very large sack of potatoes resting in a peculiar attitude. Obviously this object had fallen from a lorry so, abiding by natural law, we took it on board as a prize. Eventually we arrived at Castle Howard, found a strategic spot in the paddock, unloaded the bikes and the sack and set up shop selling the contents at around a shilling a capful to the other competitors and their aides. The proceeds constituted a significant help towards our expenses. We sold the bulk of our find and shared the remainder with our respective families.
In time came the dénouement. When cooked the tubers turned into a revolting evil-tasting slurry and the realisation came to us that our bounty was bad and arguably destined for pig food! We never heard what our ‘customers’ thought of their purchases – or of us!
In the recent past when I reminded Neville of this, he claimed not to recall the experience. In his modest way, he probably doesn’t remember making FTD on ‘The Heap’ and breaking the course record. Being less modest myself, I do recollect following his tracks and taking the 350 record on the 7R. These records are likely to last indefinitely as the course is largely broken up and derelict. The house itself, Castle Howard, is of great historical and academic interest and well restored; incidentally it is where a large part of Brideshead Revisited was filmed.
Vintage / Post Vintage
Andrew Bennett 24
Terry Martin 16
Roy Venard 16
Richard Coss 15
Tony Quinn 10
David Childs 24
Nigel Glover (Tigger) 19
Doug Parnell 16
Guy Ursell 9
These reflect the position up to and including Curborough.
Wiscombe Park – 19 September 1999 …… How was it for you?
With this year’s Wiscombe less than 24 hours old I thought I should contribute an article of sorts, especially after not staying behind to help clear up the course. Sorry, but I went off in a grump for reasons that will become apparent.
I suppose everyone has their favourite race circuit or hill climb course, usually associated with a pleasant memory rather than anything that can be defined objectively. My favourite circuit is Mallory Park where, many years ago, I had the privilege of coming a (long way) second to Eric Oliver on a cammy Norton outfit at a VMCC meeting during one of his post retirement guest appearances. And, you’ve guessed it, I reckon that Wiscombe is my favourite hill with Prescott coming a close second, although I expect Shelsley would be up there as a favourite but I’ve only had the pleasure of competing there this year.
I first went to Wiscombe as a spectator in 1969. I believe that this may have been the first ‘all bike’ event at this venue organised by the then Hill Climb section of the NSA. There were about half a dozen Morgans entered and I was so smitten that I entered my first competitive event at an Aston Martin Owners’ Club climb there the following April. At the time I owned and ran on the road a fairly standard three-speed Sports model with an ohv Matchless water-cooled 990cc twin. No licences were required and Mike Bell, a school friend passengered. The usual disaster occurred at scrutineering when Ernie Woods noticed that part of the brake anchorage had sheered off one of the front sliding axles. A quick drive down into Honiton ensued where a kindly garage proprietor drilled two holes in the brake backplate so that it could be secured to the slider with an exhaust U clamp.
As I recall the conditions were slightly damp and my best time was 74 seconds. The Morgan record stood to Dave Shotton who, at the NSA event had climbed the hill in 58 seconds in his Super Aero racer. At the time this was the last word in fast Morgans. It was an amalgamation of an earlier two speed vintage (i.e. pre-1930) chassis powered by an ohv air-cooled Matchless. Dave’s Matchless went as well as the racing JAPs of the day, having a hot cam, high compression pistons and two twin float dope Amals running on methanol.
Many trips to Wiscombe followed over the years and I have enjoyed some excellent dry days (yes, really!) in the early and mid ’80s. By this time the Sports model was long gone and I was running the current Mog with a revolting, or shall we say individual, black & white chequered paint job. I was still a Matchless person and ran an ohv a/c engine like Dave’s, but stroked to 1100cc with a large blower on the front. Times with this ‘plot’ were down to the mid 50s with a best run at the 1985 all bike event of 51.98 - not bad when the sidecar record at the time stood to Phil Williams in the 47s. I think that this must have been a bit of a fluke as, the next year in ideal conditions and with big valve heads fitted, the best I could manage was 53.73.
When I returned to hill climbing, Cathy and I just had to enter the ’98 Wiscombe, but getting to the event was a nightmare. On the Wednesday beforehand my normally very reliable Citroen XM developed a water leak from somewhere in the bowels of the engine. Not being able to diagnose the source of the problem, I dropped it off in Taunton where I work with Mike Chedzoy, the local independent Citroen guru. He quickly diagnosed a duff water pump. The new part arrived the next day, but without a gasket. He ordered another pump, but still no gasket. As the days ticked by I started to worry about how we were going to get to Wiscombe.
On Friday evening I realised that our membership cards and ACU licences were safely tucked away in the glove compartment of the XM, some 42 miles from home! Also, I still had no towing vehicle. My wife and I trekked down to Taunton on Saturday morning to collect the licences etc from the stricken XM. We got caught in a horrendous traffic queue on the M5 and arrived in Taunton just as Mike was shutting up shop for the weekend. With licences in hand together with a second-hand tow-bar assembly to fit to my wife’s BX, we headed back to Nailsea. The rest of the day was spent fitting the tow hitch and wiring it. We made Wiscombe by the skin of our teeth.
On arrival we carried out some belated electrical re-plumbing and got a telling off for being late for scrutineering. Still, the weather was lovely and, despite an annoying misfire at the top end – that’s 4,000+ for us agriculturally powered folk! – we managed a best time of 57.36.
This year I was determined to do better. In between events I had been planning to refit the blower. I finally got it together in time for Wiscombe, but with no opportunity for proper testing. As those of you who were at Wiscombe will testify, it was little more than a disaster. Firstly, the small motorcycle battery went flat at the start line. Many thanks to the Daves (Baker & Massam) for helping to push it back up into the paddock.
A larger car battery was fitted. The engine would start and appear to run OK, but then it developed a total ‘miss’ at the most inconvenient moments, such as at the entrance to Martini. Thinking the problem must lie somewhere in the fuel mixture department I spent most of the day playing about with the carb, setting and re-setting the float heights with no improvement whatsoever. Hence the grump and my failure to stay behind and clear up…… which is where we came in at the start of this article.
[Tailpiece - Since then I’ve sought advice and run some checks. Bearing in mind that the set-up ran fine when first fitted on the Mog 17 years ago, the only real difference then was that I had used a magneto. Now I use twin CB points and twin coils, unfortunately with no charging system as both pulleys on the engine are fully occupied driving the supercharger. So I checked the voltage at the coil – 9 volts! Then I examined the battery terminal, which was quite feggy. With a re-charged battery and clean teminals there was a full 12 volts on parade at the coil. Wiscombe 2000, here we come!]
‘All bike’ Wiscombe Results
1 Pete Short 45.01
2 Paul Jeffery 45.08
3 Peter Robson 46.05
1 Paul Jeffery 45.14
2 Robin Sims 47.61
3 Brian Wills 48.63
1 Jamie Mitchell 43.70
2 Jon Staden 44.97
3 Glyn Poole 45.33
1 Pete Short 44.64
2 Geoff Hodges 45.01
3 Jon Staden 46.95
1 Mark French 45.99
2 Terry Alderslade 47.36
3 Doug Parnell 51.19
1 Bill Chaplin & Paul Jeffery 43.03
2 Pete Short & Vicky Weight
3 Jason Reeve & Simon Blenkin 45.14
1 Harry & Carol Foster
2 Patrick Keates & Paul Keates 49.82
3 Robert Verrier & Ian Brinkley 49.90
1 Pete Short & Vicky Weight
2 Jason Reeve & Simon Blenkin 43.97
3 Jamie Mitchell 44.07
First Impressions of Hill Climbing by “Pogo Passenger”
I have owned and ridden motorcycles for longer that I am going to admit, in fact I think I was born with a twist grip in my hand, as an early photo of me on my fathers old VB Ariel confirms. I’ve trailed ’em, scrambled ’em, rallied ’em, sand raced ’em, road raced ’em and frequently fallen off ’em!!
In the early 80s I made one of my best motorcycle buys ever. A Wasp rolling chassis and a Norton Motor together cost me £200 and have given me more fun than any other machine I have ever owned. It had been used for enduros, sand racing and more distance trials that I can recall, but come the early 90s and the recession I became unemployed and a dust sheet settled over the Wasp. In April this year it was nearly sold but somehow I couldn’t bear to part with it so the dust sheet went back on.
Terry Martin, a very long standing motorcycle friend, appeared in my garage one day. He is so long standing that I even share a caravan with him and his then girlfriend (now wife for many years) during my honeymoon!! (could have worded that better). Terry looked at the Wasp and bemoaned the fact that he couldn’t afford to buy it and hill climb it! THIS IS WHERE THE ROT STARTED. Never mind said I, just borrow it. Haven’t got a passenger said Terry – yes you have, I’ll dig out the old racing leathers and passenger my own outfit (I must be mad). This is how I came to be at Curborough! VMCC membership and a day licence let me in.
I road raced Formula Bantam for many years and thought I knew a little about tarmac speed sports but most of you silly buggers seemed to be riding Moto Crossers with road tyres, if only you rode proper racing bikes you might be quicker – then I watched the start of the practice!! Then there is the subject of trikes – I used to race international 250 karts (never travelled so fast with my ass so close to the ground) – why make imitations of the real thing by enlarging it, sticking a funny motor on the front and cutting one wheel off?? Never mind, the real outfits will be quicker – how can you make so many mistakes in 5 minutes??
A word of advice to sidecar drivers – don’t ever, just don’t EVER let anyone else drive with you in your own chair. On Sunday morning 25th July I still had dark hair! – but not for long! The first practice run was interesting!! If you want to know where the “Pogo” came from try hill climbing an enduro outfit with the soft suspension and trails gearing. We flew through the twisty bits at impossible speeds until the last long right hander – we wanted to go round it; the outfit didn’t !! Opening and closing the throttle made very little difference to our speed but did dramatically alter the direction in which we were pointing. By this time I was sitting “potty like” across the rear mudguard with both feet up in the air, only held in by centrifugal force. Eventually after much crabbing we ended up both facing and travelling towards the finish. Now came the real disappointment! Did we fly – NO – we set off flat out! At our best sedate speed and set the alarm clock to wake us both in time to cross the line. (It’s surprising how slow it seems in a straight line) Our best effort just broke 60 seconds !! One of two Motor Crossers and Trikes etc seemed a little quicker. Never mind we can only improve !!
Which brings us to Wiscombe!! Now I am used to racing on air fields which gives you time to “contemplate” between leaving the tarmac and stopping!! I lament the passing of this luxury and I am going to kill Terry if he gets any closer to that bloody gate post. Walking the course it seemed quite a nice little drive, albeit occupied in several places by fishermen who were trying to clear the course for racing! As a rookie I listened to all the advice about line and where the passenger ought to be and where various predecessors had ended up by not following this advice. I am amazed that the course is not littered with “war graves” listening to all the stories (most of which contradicted each other).
Anyway the first practice run is up and we are away to improve on Curborough performances. First left after the start and we are around and screaming up the hill, through the gate (missed it – just) and through the esses. Nasty looking right at “Workmate” coming up. A word of advice – if you dive in too quickly on a Pogo Stick the rear wheel comes up (despite my valiant efforts) and doesn’t do a lot for forward motion until it comes back down again – whereupon the effort is dramatic!! Shortly after whoever thought up the name of “Martini” certainly didn’t have a dry one in mind. We did make progress during the day, we were getting into the corners much quicker, exits were another matter. There are only two sharp lefts on the course and over three runs we managed to clobber both. Can I just say thanks to the **** shovellers and sweepers who cleared up behind us and sorry to those of you who were delayed by our antics. I am not sure whether the applause at Martini on our last run was for speed, style of entertainment.
I am quite used to taking the outfit home and pressure washing it to get the mud off – bit I have never had to do it after a tarmac event!! Mind you, Herman playing silly buggers with it around the top field didn’t help. Never mind we can try again at Hartland. I might even join the club next year! Thanks for two good days sport, hopefully with more to come. We may not lead the pack with the Wasp but the “Grin Factor” is worth a lot.
Pogo Passenger (alias Martin Palmer)
KTM 250 SX – overbored to 255cc. Currently in 350 class. WP upside down forks, all mods done to make competitive. 3rd in NHCA class 1997, winner of Batley championship 1997/98, unused in 1999 due to CR 250. Lots of spares. £500.
Ian Fry – Tel. 0121 243 7779 (Solihull)
Norton Weslake 500cc hillclimber. Slimline featherbed frame, lots of alloy, good tyres. Set up for methanol. £1,450
Simon Duff – Tel. 01460 220209 (East Devon)
I will try to get something together for Christmas, providing of course that there are sufficient contributions. This will make you really popular with the family as you slope off after the Christmas pud has slid down, Hillclimber in hand, to a quiet corner of the house.
The Editor’s Part
Well, I hope that 1999 has been a good year for you. Looking back it certainly was a busy one, with a full calendar of NHCA-organised and invited events, as well as any others you may have entered as members of other clubs. From a personal standpoint, I was well pleased not to have suffered any mechanical disasters, although next year’s resolution is to get the sparks department functioning more efficiently and reliably. Highlight of the year for Cathy & myself was the experience of climbing Shelsley Walsh. I understand that Portkerris was a good ‘do’, particularly as it was very much touch and go as to whether the event would take place at all. Well done to those who made it possible.
In this issue we have a short report on Saltburn, a non-NHCA hillclimb, by Ernie Crust. It has been copied to us by Dick Pilgrim of the Middlesborough & District Motor Club. I hope you don’t mind its inclusion, but I have made vain pleas for reports of events at Baitings Dam and Barbon, so I thought that you might like to read about a Northern event.
The 19th September was a fairly busy day for hillclimbing – as well as Saltburn, there was our very own all-bike Wiscombe. Also, the VMCC Sprint section held a climb at Castle Ashby, Northamptonshire, all on the same day! The Middlesborough club is running a vintage sprint at Ormsby Hall on 11 June 2000; the Saltburn vintage hill climb is scheduled for 17 September. They classify ‘Vintage’ for these events as being up to 1972. Entries are restricted to 85 per event and Dick Pilgrim tells me that they are always over-subscribed. Not wishing to woo you away from NHCA events, of course, but if you want regs, apply early to Dick at
20 Woodley Grove,
Cleveland, TS7 9HY
or ring 01624 281367.
We’ve also got a technical article! Many thanks to Mike Shorter. Perhaps this will be an example to the rest of you.
Finally, can you please give some thought as to the format and frequency of The Hillclimber and let me know what you would like in the forthcoming year. Either have a word at the AGM in January, drop me a line anytime or give me a ring. I will be pleased to continue as editor for another year should that bee your desire, but I will not stand in the way of any keen volunteer rushing forward to take on the job!
All the best for 2000,
Late photo credit
The photos in the last issue were taken by Geoff Sims at Curborough. Many thanks, Geoff.
Sorry, the email address in the last issue was wrong. It should have had the suffix ‘.co.uk’, not ‘.com’. My fault entirely. It’s corrected now. Many thanks to Robin Sims and Jim Rolt who rang me too say they were experiencing difficulties.
As one of the older riders mentioned by David Childs in his excellent tribute to Ian Mitchell, I certainly have many memories and stories of ‘Mitch’, not that I ever knew him by that name – he was always Ian to me. Two of my memories also illustrate Ian’s incredibly quick reactions and his amazing ability to extracate himself from seemingly impossible situations with consummate ease.
At one of the last hill climbs held at Pontypool Park, Ian was bump starting his JAP-engined ‘K Special’ near the start line in traditional side-saddle fashion. Instead of starting, the bike stopped as abruptly as if it had hit a brick wall and immediately toppled to its right hand side with Ian still on board. With anyone else, bike and rider would surely have crashed to the ground, but not so with Ian. He instantly threw all his weight as far out to the left as he could and jerked the bike back into a vertical position.
Somme years later at Hartland Quay’s start line, Ian must have dropped the clutch just a bit too quickly because the bike shot sideways from between his legs and its back end executed a complete anti-clockwise circle with Ian still hanging on to the twist grip. As soon as the bike was pointing in the right direction again, Ian was aboard in a flash and on his way up the hill as if nothing had happened.. I doubt if much more than a second was lost, and his time for that run was well up with the best for the day.
Wendy told me that Ian had been a scrum-half in his younger days, and a very good one at that. For me, that last statement went without saying. With his lightning reactions, strength and boundless energy he would have been a star player in any side and I would have loved to have seen him in action. Better still, as an ex- outside half myself, I would have enjoyed playing outside him. We will certainly not see his like again – he was a one-off, and quite unforgettable.
A Good Day at Shelsley – recollections of the May event
Shelsley on Sunday was an unexpected treat. Andy had failed to get a decent entry by the closing date, possibly because the more experienced riders were encouraged to hold back on their entries to allow those who do not normally get a ride at the World’s oldest motor sport venue to have a crack at the hallowed hill. Robin Sims happened to ring me and told me they were short of entries, and a quick phone call to Andy had me in! Shelsley has not been one of my favourite hills, having crashed on my first visit (own fault, due to stupidity), the track has seen countless powerful 4 wheelers, so is, shall we say, polished.
On Sunday morning it was in a hilarious state. It was hardly possible to stand up at the esses – the braver young blades were taking a few steps and sliding down the hill 20 yards, not exactly inspiring.
Andy called a riders’ meeting and pointed out that it was only a little run in the countryside and we should all go nice and steady and give the St John people an easy time. Glazed expressions from the competitors. First run, it took over 3 seconds to reach the 64 foot mark. It was the first time I have ever had more power than I could use on the 350. (23 brake horsepower, 400 pounds in weight) Each time I opened the throttle the rear wheel spun. In any gear. At any speed. Honestly. It was quite fun to be able to “dial” the back wheel as far out of line as I wished, if only I could do it in the dry!
The smiles were short lived, however, when on return to the bottom of the hill I found I was being beaten by Brian Wills! The Young Upstart! How dare he! I found his mum telling him off for going so fast, only trouble was, he didn’t seem to be paying much attention¼.. Second practice, drying out now, times down a bit, back wheel not so much under the control of the throttle, The Y U STILL in front of me! Mrs Wills evidently on my side however. Spent lunch break pacing up and down the track, wringing hands, cursing, psyching self up, note that track is almost dry, resolve to keep this information to myself¼
First timed run, start area now reasonable, good 64 foot time, manage to get my head down a bit on the way up to the esses, and feel OK about the run. The timing repeater at the top of the hill is not working. Some, er, driver, took out the cabling yesterday, so have to wait till we return to see the times. At last have just crept in front of the Y U. The track continues to dry, although a few dark clouds menace us from above, and it is balls out for all on the last run of the day. Could have gone quicker, but am confident that this was my best time of the day. We rush downhill and jostle round the timing hut. Brian has managed to exactly equal my first run, but I have improved by 2 tenths of a second! What a triumph for four strokes over two! 18 horsepower and a 600 pound bike can still thrash Oriental techno.
Glyn Poole stuffing Terry
Ian Southerton’s lip well out when he was unable to beat Ian Fry
Charming sidecar passengers
By the way, was disappointed to be refused membership of the Age Concern Works Team of Dave Carter, Roy Venard, and Co. They said I was too young! What cheek! I even offered to get a Velocette sticker for my tank¼
Curborough – 25 July 1999
Time was, it used to rain at Curborough. And the track was the most lethal in the land, consisting of shiny polished marbles set in some kind of compo. It used to take all day to get 2 runs in, the riders seething with frustration, leading to widescale boycotting, and eventually, withdrawal from the championship. It was during those days of unpopularity that us Midlanders used to go there and feel we were quick! I won quite a few trophies for a while¼..
But one day they resurfaced the slippery bit. The running of the event perked up, the sun shone, the word got out that we were having fun¼. Of course calamity was bound to follow in the form of renewed interest from the NHCA. Our days of being big(ish) fish in a small pond drew to an end when Herman took over the day, championship status returned, the sun shone, fast riders arrived.
So, to this year’s meeting. Was roped in to help with scrutineering, made myself thoroughly unpopular with one of the sidecar teams, and just had time to trot round the course before practice began. The surface is really quite confidence inspiring now, and I set off quite rapid for my first practice run. Went well till I was approaching the hairpin. Changed down a couple of gears, let go the brakes and realised I had found a false neutral! The word that went through my mind was: “Bother”. Anyway, I thought, just pop it in gear and carry on. Unfortunately it didn’t turn out quite like that and treading on the gear pedal resulted in the back wheel momentarily locking up - engine had slowed down, 4 stroke, plenty of inertia. Normally, no problem, but when the bike’s banked over a fair way, can result in the back wheel getting a bit out of line. Well, more than a bit, actually, in fact it just kept going until I was looking back up the track the way I had come and the left handlebar was baking delicate tracery on the track. Even more unfortunately, this mistake had been noticed, and I was elected to write the report. Damn. So here it is.
The quick people went quickly, the rest of us went a bit slower. Glyn Poole rode a stormer at his “home” track, where he wanted to do well, and by golly, he did, thrashing everyone quite convincingly. Is he 500 champ this year? He will be next, you mark my words¼¼
Actually the event was such a long time ago that I cant remember much more about it, except that it went smoothly, stayed dry, nobody hurt, I missed the top 10.
Loton Park – 25 September 1999
It is my fault. Because I am the secretary of the meeting and have not delegated the responsibility of writing the report in the absence of anyone crashing, I must do it myself. You will be getting fed up of hearing from me if Hon Ed. sees fit to publish all I have sent him this time¼..
The day dawned bright and early as it does in September with the weather looking promising. Walking the hill revealed it to be in superb condition as usual. It is definitely one of the best hills there is, plenty of content, and a surface that was applied about 5 years ago which is truly in its prime. If you are going to have confidence in a track surface, this is the one!
A few riders didn’t bother to turn up on the day. Seems strange to me to put in an entry for £34, have it accepted, and then simply not bother to turn up or notify the secretary – I had a fair few reserves who had missed the entry deadline and could have competed had I known. So please let me know if you cannot fulfil your entry as I can then offer it round and probably save you your entry fee.
It was one of those rare Lotons where it all happens in one day, instead of over two. I like this as it gives us a bit more riding and a bit less sitting around. I enjoyed most of the day as I was beating my arch enemy Robin Sims all morning. (He had suffered an unfortunate and confidence rattling “off” at the top of Baitings Dam a week or two before). His strategy, however, is to moan like hell about it all and then pull an absolute scorcher out of the bag at the last minute, all the while keeping a long face and playing it down. The results, as you will see, bear this out as usual. How I HATE the man¼.
As the afternoon went on, the meeting slowed. The cars were going off all over the place in a bit of light rain¼. Eventually the clerk of the course called a meeting and announced he was going to abandon the event. I immediately put in an urgent request to run our top 6. This was finally agreed to as the last task of the day and the happy 6 went to the line while the rest of us fell over our bottom lips and went to watch. It was wet by now, and thunder. The lightning has an unfortunate effect on the timing equipment. When there is a strike, it turns off the timing clock. Ha ha! Most of the 6 had multiple runs at the hill, I think Jamie had 5 goes before he got to the top without the clock dying. Those that only got one run were disgruntled, but I have never seen it take so long to run 6 bikes up the hill! Obviously abandonment of the meeting was the correct solution, we’ll just have to pray a bit harder, or refrain from doing quite such enthusiastic rain dances¼.. It wasn’t my fault, honest!
1 Peter Robson 60.07
2 Tim Clarke 67.29
3 Emma Parnell 77.78
1 Paul Jeffery 58.30
2 Robin Sims 61.94
3 Jim Rolt 62.80
1 Glyn Poole 57.34
(New 500 record & FTD)
2 Jamie Mitchell 58.13
3 Ian Fry 60.60
1 Jon Staden 60.72
2 Ian Southerton 62.76
3 Dave Wills 63.93
1 Doug Parnell 62.22
2 Pip Moseley 71.98
3 Phil Steele 82.89
3-wheelers (2-wheel drive)
Jason Reeve & James Day
Short & Vicki Weight
3-wheelers (1-wheeeel drive)
Harry & Carol Foster
2 Stu Stobbart & Roger Andrews 69.23
3 Dick & Vera Buckland
Peter Short & Vicki Weight
Superb Saltburn – 19 September 1999
Middlesborough and District Motor Clubs 7th annual Vintage and Classic sprint hill climb was once again blessed with good weather. The paddock was bulging at the seams with a wide range of solos, sidecars and Morgan three-wheelers. I don’t think we have seen such a wonderful turn-out of real vintage machines before. Arthur Summerscales’ ex-Le Vack 1922 350cc Zenith attracted a lot of admiring spectators along with Ken Barker’s 1929 498cc Scott. Eric Whiteoak’s 1951 Douglas 80 Plus was a welcome newcomer to the event, enjoying himself immensely through the day and vowing to be back again next year.
The current course record holder, John Woods, 920cc Weslake took the FTD award overall, but was unable to improve on his 1996 time of 18.78 seconds over the ¼ mile hill.
Finally, sorry to hear about the VMCC sprint section’s disaster with the new timing equipment and hope that something can be salvaged from the wreckage.
E J Crust
Fairoak Farm – 3 October 1999
Or ‘Flying at Fairoak’
1999 has been an interesting year. It started off with a session at Three Sisters to run in a new piston and ring. That was going well until, dropping from 5th to 4thgear at the bottom of the Mountain, I was suddenly tasting damp tarmac. ‘Well, that wasn’t too bad for such a high speed crash’ I started thinking. But my optimism was cut short by a realisation that I was now travelling head first directly towards a tyre barrier at about 50mph and there was NO WAY that I was going to stop in time.
I was very lucky and even more astonished to be able to get up and walk away without any damage to myself or the bike. I even had a few more laps later to run in that piston.
Now fast forward to the end of my ’99 hillclimb year at Fairoak. After the new upstart Southerton had shown me the way to go at numerous events this year, I was looking forward to getting down to Devon to return the complement as his lack of experience down there would hand me an advantage which I seemed to be needing to settle our personal battles.
I enjoyed the practice at Fairoak; it was very greasy and slippery from the start to the yump in front of the pits, but it was good fun powersliding around and pulling wheelies. Also my CR500 which had no steering damper was handling the bumps OK with minimal shimmies from the bars.
In the timed runs I was enjoying myself and was happy with 4th in the 250 class especially as someone had admitted Jamie and he was doing rather well. 21.55 secs really was astonishing in those conditions. Well done.
The 500cc class for a change was not that fast with Glyn not competing, instead basing in the fame, fortune and glamour of a deserved new 500cc champion. He could be seen occasionally nobbing about on Pete Robinson’s CR250, thus leaving it up to Jon Staden and that hero Jamie to lead the 500s. Al Jolly was going well on the KX, managing a good third place and enjoying himself to boot. I managed 4th place, but most importantly left Ian Southerton with his lip out.
Unfortunately I did not get the chance to wind Ian up all night as at Wiscombe at the Hare & Hounds.
My top ten run was going OK, I was about to wheelie over the yump to show off when the throttle momentarily stuck wide open. I know that pulling the clutch in and hitting the kill switch is so easy, but when the heat is on and the bars (I think) started to slap I was heading towards a big hedge before I realised what I had to do.
Still on the bike I tried to ride it through the hedge, not realising that the stone wall was about to suddenly stop my progress. I remember going over the bars and seeing grey clouds, ground, then coming to a soft landing in 3 foot of mud in the field. I was face down in the mud and I remember wondering when I would see Sian and Gina. Anyway, nothing hurt so I wiggled my left foot¼. OK. Right foot¼. OK. Hands¼ both OK. I breathed a HUGE sigh of relief.
I had obviously broken my left femur as I tried to turn to the recovery position my left knee and lower leg had other ideas. My right wrist felt a bit sore, but that was it really.
The first voice was Reg’s. The laid back accent but ever so slightly concerned tone reminded me that other people were probably more shaken up than me. I had a conversation with Reg and the St Johns, pointing out what I thought my injuries were and noticed that Jon’s wife, Sandra Staden, was helping out in a very cool, business like, way.
In the ambulance I felt OK, but still asked for my leathers to be cut off because I felt some big pain would be heading my way. I enjoyed seeing everyone who popped across to see me – the look on some of your faces said a lot! Please accept my apologies for shitting you up so much.
I spoke to Gina whilst in the ambulance and managed to arrange some stuff with Ian and Herman all the time I was getting relaxed by Colyton St John Ambulance crew to whom I owe a big thank you to. How often do us lot spare a couple of minutes to have a chat with, and thank, those people? Not enough.
My ride to hospital in the air ambulance was a laugh. “We’ll pop a headset on so that we can talk”, they said. After our initial chat and formalities it went quiet. Then, across the headset I head a report of a man bleeding from his penis. I just cracked up into fits of laughter. They quickly said in a dead calm voice, “Ian, we’ll have to disconnect the headphones now”. Does anyone know if this is part of the trauma assessment?
Once into Exeter Womford Hospital I was X-rayed, drugged up and visited by Ian and Sarah. The results were a fractured left femur and right wrist. No other damage.
My op on Monday morning went well. Luckily this is one of the best orthopaedic hospitals in Britain. Now I have a titanium nail about 24 inches long in my left femur and a series of thin metal skewers, about six I think, and a plaster cast holding my right wrist together. I hope Tony can understand this!
Finally, another thank you to everyone who has visited me. I hope you hot date / shagging session was OK, Mr F. Special thanks to the Wills family for taking time to bring things in for me and for the regular visits. Lastly, I am planning next year’s return. I will hopefully be accompanying Ian to as many events as I can and marshalling where necessary. Look forward to seeing you all again.
I removed my ‘modern’ mag alloy wheel, cast iron disc and cast iron brake calliper from the front of my Triumph and replaced it with an ‘old fashioned’ drum and steel rim in preparation for the Classic class. I found that
the brakes still work, and
according to my bathroom scales, I have saved 9lb in weight.
Anyway, to get to the point, as Dave Baker pointed out I am an “old git”, so probably don’t need my YZ490 (Jamie’s) anymore and might sell it for £500 or it might have changed my mind.
Hartland Quay – 10 October 1999
The forecast looked promising, but it didn’t seem that good putting up the tents in the failing light on Saturday night. Nice to be back again, though, I always find that panoramic seascape with its huge sky, impressive rock formations, thundering waves and the sweeping blips of light through the mist an inspiring sight.
Later, down in the bar, the air is charged with re-told stories of “the time when¼..”, “nailed it in third¼.” etc, etc. The 1999 Miss Hartland was dodgily won by someone succoured on ale and fry-ups, whose only knowledge of a close shave is more to do with late braking, and had been set upon by a demonic tattooist¼.. yeah, my kinda gal!
Sunday morning started and stayed damp and grey with sea mist rolling in – quite different to this bright and sunny Monday morning, where I sit writing this report with a well bandaged throbbing right foot pointing skyward. I wonder with a sigh why the heck I didn’t roll the throttle back just a bit more on that wet, bumpy left hander at ‘Gate’? And why didn’t I invest in some new tyres?
Martin P and I had brought along two lasses from where I work who wanted to see a hill climb. Yes, my own personal nurse and physio. On Sunday, two more friends, another nurse and a vet came to see the action. All were enjoying the event until my ‘off’. Now where were my ‘team’ when I need them? The first on the scene is the vet who pronounces that I ought to be shot, but better get some ice on that fetlock! Anyone wanting a drink ‘on the rocks’ at the pub will be unlucky as they handed over their entire stock of ice – thanks and cheers.
Thanks also to all those who came around to enquire / take the piss / chat up the nurses¼.
And finally, bloody well done all you bravehearts who stormed up in some pretty impressive times considering the conditions. Season’s greetings, see you next season.
Tea with Peter Isaac
My first recollection of Peter Isaac is listening to him extol the pleasures of hillclimbing at a Velocette Owners’ Club-night at the Nova Scotia at Cumberland Basin, Bristol in 1973 or thereabouts. An acquaintance owned a Velo Venom and told me about Peter’s guest appearance, so I came along.
But how did Peter become involved in motorcycles and in particular the NHCA? I visited him at his home in Burnham-on-Sea recently to find out. Peter’s father had a keen interest in motorcycle sport in the late 1940s/early ’50s, taking his son to the Kickham Trial, and to races at Blandford Camp and Castle Coombe where he saw Artie Bell and machines such as the first Featherbed Nortons. He also recalls a short ride as a boy perched on the tank of a 1937 KSS Velo belonging to his father’s friend.
Around 1960/61 Peter was apprenticed to Lister’s at Dursley, Gloucestershire, and it became necessary to have some sort of transport for getting to work and for returning home at weekends. The paternal influence came into play; it had to be either a Norton or a Velocette. A visit to Kings of Oxford resulted in the purchase of a Velo 350 MAC springer.
At Lister’s Peter came to know fellow apprentices Arnold Gimblett and Chris Thomkinson. Chris’s father was Mike Thomkinson of Mead & Thomkinson who was well known for racing production Velocettes. By this time Peter’s interest in sport was increasing and he felt perhaps he should have a go. Hillclimbing seemed an easy way into the sport and when Chris mentioned that his father might have two Velos for sale, Arnold and Peter visited him at his place up near Gloucester. Mike Thomkinson sold one of the Velos, a 500cc Venom ex-Barcelona class winner to Arnold who then sold it on to Peter when he went to join the Merchant Navy. As Peter says, it went really well, having been properly screwed together in the first place. It was a well-known bike, engine VM1044, registered SOX 631.
By today’s standards there were relatively fewer opportunities available for hillclimbers. Individual clubs ran some events for their members; otherwise hillclimbers were catered for as part of the National Sprint Association, which mainly organised the straight-line stuff. Peter recalls his first event at Dyrham Park about 10 miles north of Bath, which was run by the Bristol Motor Cycle Club. By this time Arnold Gimblett had built himself a Triton and competed with Peter at Wiscombe Park in 1967. Peter busied himself by stripping the Velo, removing all the unnecessary items and entering every event in sight. This included some road racing as well; apparently the road race at St Eval was dubbed “the Cornish Grand Prix”! He also ran at Prescott, but unfortunately the then organisers at this lovely Gloucestershire hill seemed to have a preference for sidecars and three-wheelers, so it was several years before the solos were able to get back in there. I was surprised to hear that in his early competitive days, Peter passengered in outfits in both road racing and hillclimbing.
Events in the late ’60s took Peter such venues as Packington Park on the east side of Birmingham and Barbon in Northumberland. A faithful Ford Thames van provided the transport with the luxury of a bed along one side and room for the bike along the other. Peter still remembers the Thames with a lot of affection. It was large enough to get the bike and all the kit in, but a more handy size than the Transits that later became fashionable race transport.
A fall at a practice day started an unlikely sequence of events that ended up with Peter, and Arnold and Christine Gimblett becoming heavily involved in the organisational side of things. In 1969 the first all-bike Wiscombe took place, Peter having spent some time negotiating with Majors Chichester and Lambton, the owners of the house and grounds. The annual event at this lovely Devon venue has become the premier event for motorcycle hillclimbers over the years. Peter recalls that, at about this time Denis Jenkinson became involved, entering on his Triumph twin. As the calendar expanded the Hillclimb section of the NSA grew from strength to strength; soon there was a proper championship with awards and an annual social to mark the occasion.
Over the years since then Peter has been pleased that there has been steady continual growth of interest. Of course, people have dropped out as family demands have increased or as their interests have changed, but the trend has been steadily upwards. He reflects that, in the late ’60s he would never have thought that motorcycle hillclimbing would have such a large number of participants and followers as it has today. He is pleased that the sport has never become commercialised. Hillclimb events organised by the club always have what Peter calls “a proper motorcycling atmosphere”. Without the club or its members being stuck in the past, it is almost as if the world of ever-increasing professionalism has passed it by. He sees this as a benefit of the NHCA having a relatively low profile. Peter thinks that there is a careful balance to be struck between generating sufficient interest in the sport to attract a steady flow of new competitors without the club growing too fast to be able to accommodate them. He derives a great deal of satisfaction from seeing a second generation of hillclimbers – the Sims, Chapmans, Mitchells, Wills and Lumleys and others.
As the 70s and 80s rolled by there was a steady increase in venues. This meant that, although some events were restricted, it was always possible for a newcomer to get a fair number of rides through the season. With a little bit of common sense being exercised by secretaries and entrants alike, it was rare for anyone to be turned away.
The turning point, Peter believes, was the formation of the NHCA as an independent entity. Operating as the Hillclimb Section of the NSA worked surprisingly well. There was no friction; several NSA stalwarts such as Ernie Woods were also great hillclimb enthusiasts and past competitors. Nevertheless by the mid-80s the Hillclimb Section became as large as the nucleus of straight line sprinters. It made little sense for subscriptions to be passed across from hillclimbers to the central NSA only to be withdrawn again to fund hillclimb events. Also, there were fewer riders interested in doing both types of events. Fortunately there was excellent support from the NSA, which graciously agreed a severance. This amicable separation formally occurred at the end of the 1986 season.
Peter realised that one of the first things the newly formed National Hill Climb Association needed was a sound financial base. By this time Jenks had become closely interested in the well-being of motorcycle hillclimbing and gave the club a £1,000 contribution by way of a loan with no strings attached which later became a gift. This meant that there were no money worries and the club has always been able to manage its financial affairs with confidence and prudence. As we know, when Jenks passed away relatively recently, the NHCA was one of the beneficiaries, along with the Midland Auto Club, the Vintage Sports Car Club and the British Racing Drivers’ Club – so we are in very good company!
Peter is pleased that the Hillclimb Section and now the NHCA have always enjoyed the support of ex-hillclimbers such as George Buck, Neville Higgins, Ernie Woods and others. Over the years Peter has spent, and continues to spend, a great deal of time liasing with venue owners, agents and secretaries of other clubs to ensure that the motorcycle point of view is put across in the most positive manner and to maintain our high reputation in the car hill climbing world. One gets the impression that a lot of work is done behind the scenes by Peter and a number of others – work that pays dividends for the ordinary competing member in terms of new venues and repeat invitations. Reputation is all. Many years ago bikes were dropped from Shelsley events and it took a great deal of work getting us back into that uniquely historic hill in the 1970s. The invitation to twelve bikes has slowly risen to fifteen. Last May it was great to be given a second invitation to Shelsley by the MAC for thirty or so bikes and three-wheelers. Peter believes that reputation of the NHCA is extremely high, particularly with the car clubs upon whom we rely for many of our invitations, and that it is very important that we maintain this.
I ask if he has noticed any changes for the worse. He reflects quietly for a moment. A small smile appears and he says with disarming honestly, “Nothing, really”. He sees the NHCA today at its highest level of activity that there has ever been, but wonders, “Can we maintain this steady expansion whilst retaining the same family atmosphere? Now that Herman is dropping out of the organisational side, can we carry on in the same way? ” On reflection he feels we can continue from strength to strength because the NHCA is a club where there is support of one sort or another from almost every member.
The NHCA’s relatively low profile has assisted our not having to make too many re-adjustments as requirements change. However, it is important to remain alive to environmental issues such as noise and other forms of pollution. Safety is the one area that causes Peter most concern. The NHCA has an excellent record in this area and strives for the highest standards of safety towards its competitors, marshals and others, but motor sport is dangerous and accidents do happen. Peter is not unreasonably cautious, but is alert to the unfortunate consequences that might occur if an unforeseen incident occurred which was seen by the powers-that-be, with the benefit of hindsight, as avoidable.
Peter has been involved in motorcycling and the sport for so long that I expected him to have a ‘stable’ rivalling the National Motorcycle Museum. It turns out that his ex-Barcelona 500cc Venom is virtually his only bike. There is a 200cc Ducati Elite in the garage, but it’s a project at present. To what extent does he carry out his own maintenance and/or rebuilding? The general mechanical work he does himself; fabricating items he farms out. When he used to compete more often he used to take the Velo apart every year, but it’s been together now for five years or so. He thinks that either he’s got it dead right, or maybe he’s not trying so hard any more!
So, what about some advice? “Leave the throttle open a bit longer” he says, which has got to be right when you recall how much momentum is lost closing off too early for the first esse at Shelsley. He recalls a sage comment made by car hill climb champion David Grace at last year’s NHCA dinner – “Carry your speed through the corners.” Peter is rather shy about demon tweeks, but he learned in his early days that gearing could be critical. His methodical nature is evidenced by the fact that he used to have a notebook in which he wrote everything down. Clearly, careful preparation has been very important. He hates working on the bike at meetings, believing that the time between runs is better spent thinking about how to go quicker on the next run. The greatest difference he has noticed over the years is in the quality of the tyres that have become available. He thinks that this has helped his times to remain respectable – as he slows down, the tyres perform better and the results are still the same!
When I asked him to recall his greatest cock-up, he could only remember leaving the line with the fuel turned off and puttering to a halt some yards further up the track – no big deal in the scheme of things. Maybe this is why his hillclimbing career includes five 500cc championships.
Finally, what is Peter’s favourite hill? Silly question really – after all he named his house “Wiscombe” – but he also likes Loton, Prescott and Gurston for different reasons. He thinks that Hartland is in many respects a favourite venue, not that the hill itself is particularly special, but its setting is both dramatic and beautiful. Most of all, he loves the people involved and derives a genuine satisfaction from seeing them riding and enjoying the hills. As to the future he believes that, if we continue to maintain our good reputation, motorcycle hill climbing can only go from strength to strength.
Would still consider selling 350cc Armstrong hillclimber. Well sorted. Guaranteed to be the fastest 4 stroke 350. Must correct error in last Hillclimber where David Childs claimed 350 class last won by 4 stroke by Mitch in 72. Actually it was this very Armstrong in the hands of Pat Sefton in 95 (or was it 96?) Offer me £1,000 and I will be tempted. Ready to race, good tyres, etc.
Jim Rolt – 01527 579735
JAP V-twin racing engine or any parts whatsoever.
Tony Quinn – 01275 854789 (see header for details)
Pre-war supercharger – vane or Roots type considered, preferably with swept volume of 1,000 to 1400 cc.
Tony Quinn – 01275 854789 (see header for details)
Adverts – don’t forget that private ads are free in ‘The Hillclimber’
Please send, phone or email your ads to Tony
Unless I get deluged with articles – which would be very nice – I expect the next Hillclimber will be in April or May, just after the start of the 2000 season.