GOING UP...SPEED HILL CLIMBS
SHELSLEY WALSH HILL CLIMB COURSE - RACES SINCE 1905!
Pub quiz question. Where is the oldest motor sport venue in continuous use...Monza, Le Mans, Indianapolis, Brands Hatch?
All good guesses, but it is the Shelsley Walsh Hill Climb course; where racing has been happening since 1905. It climbs up on one side of a wooded valley in the Worcestershire countryside near the Severn river, and it would be hard to find a more picturesque and captivating English landscape.
It's late September and time for the final meeting of the season, with cars and motorcycles preparing to run the hill. The course is swaddled in misty, drifting, low cloud though the air is warm and humid creating an almost tropical feel.
The 1000 yard (914 metre) course is damp, and small conglomerations of leaves lying on a couple of bends creates a slick surface that causes wheel spin for the more powerful cars and caution for the bikes as they begin the first of two practice runs before the afternoon's timed runs.
The winner of the first event in 1905 was one Ernest Instone driving a 35hp Daimler. He completed the course in 77.6 seconds, a speed of 25.15mph. Instone was one half of a partnership formed with the eccentrically named Undesimus Stratton, which became the Stratstone car dealers, which now sells Triumph and Harley Davidson motorcycles too. They still retain a strong link with Shelsley Walsh.
The outright car record for the course currently stands at 22.58 seconds; and the motorcycle record is at 30.16 - achieved by a rider named Ben Wilkins riding a 998cc Aprilia.
Round the bends
As the morning moves on and the cloud fades, the cars begin to dry the Tarmac, allowing the motorcycles to ride the bends with more confidence. At the start of the hill there are two shallow sweeping bends that give competitors the chance to build up speed before knocking back through the gears at a pair of tricky S bends overhung by dense woods. Before emerging onto a final drag to the finish.
The motorcycle section is organised by the National Hill Climb Association www.nhca.co.uk who run a full programme of events throughout the year and across the country from Yorkshire to Cornwall, and in Wales too. There are around thirty bikes competing, including a couple of sidecars. With the faster runners choosing Super Motard type bikes powered by big V Twin units from KTM, Ducati and Aprilla.
In the pink
Because the runs are against the clock and yourself, riders are here to have cheap fun too, and there's a Yamaha RD350 in the field along with a replica Honda six racer, a couple of road bikes and an interesting Suzuki single cylinder two stroke listed as a 402cc. Of the two sidecars, a 780cc Honda is adorned in the brightest of bright pink livery, and just so you don't miss the point has the graphic label 'Pinky Race Team' on the side.
As a permanent race course the facilities here are good, with spectator seating enclosures all the way up the course, along with toilets and refreshment stands. It's a steep but necessary climb if you want to view the best action, and the swiftest up the course were the single seat race cars with chain driven final drive and powered by Yamaha R1 and Suzuki GSXR engines.
Giving it some spin
In the start area competitors are allowed to bring their bikes and cars onto the piece of Tarmac that has 'spin' painted on it. Giving it maximum revs, the tires are smoked and warmed for the run with the bike riders dismounting and laying the bike down on each side side to get as much heat into the sidewalls as possible. The spectators loved it.
Kill the Hill!
Not every competitor engaged in this practice. One of the exceptions being the electric Mitsubishi IMIEV which left the start line with a scarcely noticeable whistle from the motor, bringing wry smiles from the assembled petrol heads. But almost directly connected is the news that KTM will be displaying a new electric motor powered Super Motard the Freeride e-SM at the Cologne bike show on September 30th. Kill the hill! Quietly.
If you think you'd like to join the hill climb boys and girls, The National Hill Climb Association have a special try-out offer on their website. For £30 you can enter one of their events and receive the necessary one day race licenses...go for it!
John Newman for Wemoto News
Been to one of these events? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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