An electrifying experience at Shelsley Walsh

Wednesday 20 September 2023

While bespoke championships such as Formula E and Extreme E are pioneering all-electric motorsport, the best advert for EVs must surely be hillclimbing, where outright speed records at high profile venues such as Pikes Peak and Goodwood are now held by battery propelled cars rather than their petrol-powered forebears.

Their achievements are now being replicated by grass roots motorsport, with a growing number of EVs now competing in various Speed events in the UK.

In 2021 top hill climb venue Shelsley Walsh reintroduced a class for electric vehicles, albeit after the course had been totally cleared of all petrol-engined cars and safety measures introduced, including a recovery vehicle with specially trained experts.

Electric cars are ideal for hill climbs and sprints. The battery weight is below floor height, providing a low centre of gravity, maximum torque is available from zero speed and there are no gears involved to drive from a standing start to over 100mph.

“The initial acceleration is just amazing,” said Jeff Allan, who was one of the first to make the switch to EV. “After campaigning raucous TVRs for many years, I swapped to an all-electric Mitsubishi i-MiEV in 2014 before stepping up to a Tesla two years later.

“I then purchased a rather more affordable second-hand Nissan Leaf in which I competed extensively in 2017.

“Quite often I’m faster than all the others – including the specialist single-seaters on slick racing tyres – to the first time beam at 64 feet. Overall, I’m slightly faster than I ever was in a TVR… and that’s in a two and half ton car! The performance against weight is quite incredible.”

Allan congratulates those at Shelsley for going out of their way to get EVs back on the entry list, not least as it has spurred some other venues and clubs to reintroduce dedicated categories for the growing number of battery powered models now in everyday circulation.

As evidence of that, while Allan was back at Shelsley last weekend, four other EVs were competing with notable success at Watergate Bay in Cornwall.

“Shelsley Walsh has always innovated, so to have EVs competing on the world’s oldest motorsport venue was something we had to do,” revealed Toby Moody, commercial manager at the Midland Automobile Club which runs the facility.

“More and more people are driving them on the road while Pikes Peak and Goodwood records have been taken by EV cars, so for us it was a must to embrace EVs on the hill here in Worcestershire.

“We invested in the correct charging system in the paddock to be used not only during a race weekend but also by visitors arriving in EVs, while special training was given to the marshals in the small chance of anything going wrong on the hill with an electric car.

“As we all know the silence of an EV at speed is almost spooky but to see Jeff in his Tesla speed up Shelsley Walsh with ‘the sound turned off’ is quite surreal yet evolutionary at the same time.”