Summers shines in wet Scotland

Monday 17 June 2024

This year’s British Hillclimb Championship presented by Nova Motorsport has already delivered more than its fair share of drama and excitement, even though there are still nine rounds remaining on the 2024 calendar. 

After persistent rain forced the cancellation of the opening round at Craigantlet outside Belfast in early May, the action kicked off for real with rounds at Harewood, Gurston Down and Shelsley Walsh running up to last weekend’s first of two visits to Doune in Scotland. 

Wallace Menzies commenced the campaign gunning for a fifth consecutive crown. The Scot’s hopes, however, were derailed early on by an accident at Craigantlet and he now has a mountain to climb to get himself back into contention. 

Menzies’ misfortune handed the early initiative to Matthew Ryder who started the season in sensational style with three wins in his Judd-engined Gould GR59 but he, too, then suffered a major accident, this time at Shelsley. 

Although his team burnt the midnight oil just to get the car ready for the long trip north, Ryder also has ground to recover if he’s to get his title bid back on track. 

With multiple champion Menzies and Ryder both in recovery mode, Alex Summers has been making hay… and, with the current British weather, not always in the sunshine!  

The 2015 champion arrived in Scotland on the back of four straight wins in his nimble 600+bhp DJ Firestorm which is propelled in stirring style by a 2.6-litre Cosworth XD Indycar engine. And on-form Summers maintained his momentum at Doune with a second place in the dry on Saturday followed by another win, this time in the wet on Sunday, to make it five victories from nine run-offs to date and thus extending his impressive championship lead. 

Ryder rewarded his crew with a handy fourth in the opener but he lost out in the second run-off when he ran first on what was a very wet track and could only finish a lowly tenth – a disappointing result that sees him slip to third overall behind the consistently quick Will Hall who has moved his Gould GR59 into second place in the season standings, albeit 16 points adrift of the on-form Summers.  

In the dry on Saturday, Sean Gould was stunning and pipped Summers by eleven hundredths of a second to bag another Doune victory in the car he shares with Ryder. Hall took the final podium place, ahead of Ryder but Menzies was back in seventh behind Trevor Willis and David Warburton. 

However, when the rain came down on Sunday afternoon, Summers qualified fastest and ran last. Being able to see what everyone else had done was an advantage and Summers was quick in the lower part of the hill before carrying that speed all the way to the finish. His mighty 39.46s was the only sub-40s climb in the second run-off and this time eclipsed Gould and everyone else by over half a second. Warburton was sensational in his 1600cc Gould GR59 and bagged third ahead of Menzies for what was his best finish of a challenging season so far. 

As ever the over-subscribed Doune meeting was expertly organised by the Lothian Car Club and also included rounds of the Guyson Scottish Hillclimb and Lowland Speed Championships. 

Further underlining the enormous appeal and popularity of hillclimbing as a sport, last weekend’s BARC SW Hillclimb at Gurston Down also enjoyed a bumper entry with more than 100 cars battling it out against the clock and contours.  

Paul Haimes was fastest overall on Saturday in his Gould GR59 with Nicholas Mann taking the Top 12 Run-Off honours on Sunday in his amazing home-built 4WD Nic Mann Mannic-Beattie. 

(Photo: Ben Lawrence)