Drivers overcome the elements and British Hillclimb season begins

The typical British weather meant there was both rays of sunshine and torrential rain for national meetings at Silverstone and Croft last weekend, while the British Hillclimb Championship finally made its return after a hiatus in 2020.

Fairclough - Fiesta JNR - Croft 16.5.21 (4)

Having waited three years to take his first Mazda MX-5 Championship victory, Jack Brewer left Croft with three under his belt as he dominated the opening round of the season.

Competing at the North Yorkshire circuit for the first time, the Tucker Motorsport driver was immediately on the pace as he qualified on pole and fended off a late charge from Michael Knibbs to take a comprehensive win in race one.

The pair fought for much of the following encounter, until Knibbs lost second to Oliver Allwood after a great battle through Sunny. The time Allwood lost securing the position allowed Brewer to win by more than two seconds.

Securing his hat-trick was anything but comfortable. With a heavy rain shower before the start, Brewer’s pre-race decision to go for stiffer suspension on his Mk1 MX-5 set him up for a difficult race as he tried to fend off a hard-charging Steve Foden.

Foden looked to have secured the lead on the last lap as he went past Brewer on the outside of the left-hander at the start of the Complex but, as the track swung right, Brewer utilised the grippier line to nose ahead going into the hairpin. His better exit gave him a slender speed advantage on their drag to the line.

“I knew I’d gel with this circuit quite well because it suits my strengths, but I didn’t think I’d gel this quickly,” said Brewer. “I’ve done all weathers this weekend, dry on Saturday and then damp and wet for the last two races. From never winning, to having pole, fastest laps and three wins – I wish Silverstone [the next round] was tomorrow!”

There was a first-time winner in the Fiesta Junior Championship too, as Jamsport racer Deagen Fairclough took both wins on his series debut. He showed remarkable racecraft in the opening race as – having lost a place to Jenson Brickley running side-by-side through the high-speed Jim Clark Esses – he shadowed his rival and pulled off a bold move on the inside of Hawthorn a lap later to take victory.

Jack Brewer, Mazda MX-5 Championship 2021, Croft

Jack Brewer, Mazda MX-5 Championship 2021, Croft

Photo by: Ollie Read

His second win was a true test of his wet-weather driving as a heavy downpour deluged the circuit. Launching off the line better than polesitter Alex Ley, Fairclough avoided the high-speed spins that caught out a number of his fellow racers at the Barcroft kink to cross the line ahead of Ley, who was busy defending from Sid Smith.

Patrick Fletcher twice held off Jack Harding to secure victories in the Mazda MX-5 Supercup. Having lost pace in qualifying due to a damaged catalytic converter, Harding twice charged up from the lower reaches of the top 10 to put pressure on Fletcher, but the latter proved too strong defensively to relinquish the top spot.

The partially grid reversed race three went the way of James Cossins – his first series victory. His success was aided by a three-way scrap for second between Harding, Michael Knibbs and reigning champion Sam Smith. Harding and Knibbs ran each other wide at the Complex allowing Smith to pick up two places, but he ran out of laps to chase down Cossins – the latter acknowledging that Knibbs’ defensive driving allowed him to escape the clutches of the faster Smith.

Oliver Faller and Steven Dailly took a win apiece in the BMW Compact Cup. Faller took the first with outstanding defensive driving to keep four-time champion Dailly behind. The Scot struck back in the second, as a better start pulled him clear of Faller.

“Nailing” his first race start in his Ford Fiesta ST allowed Chris Jones to take the first of his two ST-XR Challenge victories on his Croft debut. A last-lap pass at Tower on the Fiesta XR2 of Simon Robinson in race two secured his clean sweep.

John Cooper took a pair of Fiesta wins as he managed rear-end damage and fended off Luke Pinder to take race-one success. His second triumph proved more comfortable as a slight mistake for Rob Smith exiting a soaking wet Tower allowed Cooper to pull clear.

A masterful drive from 31st and last after being a late entry secured Clubsport Trophy success for Fiesta racer Jamie Going, who passed Liam Crilly’s BMW Z4 with six of the 45 minutes remaining.

Silverstone MSVR: Clubmans ace Masters the conditions

Clubmans Championship 2021, Silverstone

Clubmans Championship 2021, Silverstone

Photo by: Mick Walker

A large grid, changeable conditions and the overtaking opportunities of the Silverstone National circuit combined to create some action-packed Clubmans Sports Prototype racing as MotorSport Vision Racing made its first 2021 trip to Northamptonshire.

A massive 32-car entry was assembled – believed to be the largest in almost 20 years – and it was Pete Richings who initially led the way in the opener. But his advantage did not last long as he spun when the leaders ran three abreast into Brooklands on lap two, his slick tyres not giving quite enough grip on the drying surface.

That enabled Paul Masters to grab the lead, before Jonty Hair’s Beagle, which was making a first appearance since 2017, swooped to the front at Copse. But he too was caught out by the conditions, spinning into the barriers exiting Luffield two laps from home.

“I was in the lead and the car was great – I was driving at seven tenths,” said Hair. “I came round Luffield and there were a lot of backmarkers on the outside and one started to slide and move inwards. I took avoiding action and ended up spinning.”

Masters therefore secured top spot, but his second contest was a brief one. Richings was collected from behind on the run to Copse, which sent him into the path of Masters, who was forced out with damage. This left Steve Dickens in a clear lead, which he kept throughout.

The finale featured the best battle as Dickens and Clive Wood ran side by side on multiple occasions, and it was Wood who prevailed as Richings surged from 14th to fourth.

Scott Parkin, Focus Cup 2021, Silverstone

Scott Parkin, Focus Cup 2021, Silverstone

Photo by: Mick Walker

Another strong entry was attracted for the Jim Walsh Trophy and Heritage Formula Ford contests. Walter Hayes Trophy winner Oliver White (Medinasport) resisted everything Alex Walker (Spectrum) and Max Esterson (Ray) could throw at him in the opener, but was caught up in a tangle with Walker at Copse early in the Trophy race.

This left Esterson tussling with the Spectrum of Tom Mills, and the American eventually edged ahead across the startline with five laps to go, Esterson delighted to win as he still has not had much running in damp conditions.

Top Heritage driver Matt Rivett’s Van Diemen RF91 starred against more modern machinery, taking fifth overall.

Faster single-seater action came courtesy of the F3 Cup, and reigning champion Stefano Leaney broke the category’s lap record (setting a best of 50.270s) en route to three victories. Leaney lost out to sportscar racer and former F3 ace James Winslow initially each time, but soon powered ahead to take comfortable wins.

Scott Parkin was another driver to bag a hat-trick, despite his event getting off on the wrong foot. He almost missed the Focus Cup opener, which started half an hour early, and had to enter from the pitlane. But that did not hold him back, as he stormed through to third before winning race two, adding to his VW Golf victories in the Trackday Championship and Trackday Trophy (with brother Ryan). An “ecstatic” Charlie Barre claimed the first Focus spoils after runaway leader Simon Rudd had a turbo failure.

Danny Winstanley and Jason McInulty were the class of the Elise Trophy field and bagged a win apiece. McInulty was hounding Winstanley when he had a moment at Copse in the opener, but the corner was the scene of McInulty’s winning pass in race two.

British Hillclimb Loton Park: Menzies off to a champion start

Wallace Menzies, British Hillclimb Championship 2021, Loton Park

Wallace Menzies, British Hillclimb Championship 2021, Loton Park

Photo by: Paul Lawrence

Wallace Menzies was the toast of the British Hillclimb Championship at Loton Park on Sunday when he won both championship run-offs to take a perfect score as the 2021 season got under way.

The reigning champion sat out 2020 completely when COVID-19 cancelled the championship, but showed he had lost none of his spark during the enforced lay-off, and pulled out two stunning runs up the Shropshire hill to make the perfect start to his title defence.

In the first run-off, ever-changing conditions as the track continued to dry played into Menzies’s hands, with his Gould the last car to run. A blistering climb in 44.11s edged Alex Summers’s DJ Firestorm by a third of a second, with six-time champion Scott Moran making it two Goulds in the top three with a 45.17s climb.

“You had to drive it like it was full dry,” said Menzies, despite the track still harbouring some slightly damp patches under the trees. “We were concerned about rain coming because the temperature had dropped.” His 44.11s was a great run and put down an emphatic early marker that the man from Alloa would like to keep number 1 on his car.

Sean Gould never made it into the first run-off after spinning his Gould at Keepers in the opening class runs. Damage was limited to a wing endplate and he was back out for the afternoon seeking to salvage some early points. “Just pushing on too much,” said Gould of the spin. Richard Spedding never got going at all, with an electrical gremlin leaving his team unable to get his GWR Raptor running.

Alex Summers, British Hillclimb Championship 2021, Loton Park

Alex Summers, British Hillclimb Championship 2021, Loton Park

Photo by: Paul Lawrence

At the end of the afternoon, dark rain clouds circled the parkland venue, but the track stayed dry for the second run-off. Once again, Menzies was the fastest qualifier from the class runs, and therefore the last to go in what would be the final run of a long day.

The pressure was on because immediately before Menzies, hill record holder Gould had put down a 44.27s. But Menzies dug deep and turned in a stunning run in 43.55s to score an emphatic victory and get within a quarter of a second of Gould’s 2019 record. To seal second place in the second run-off was some compensation for Gould after his earlier disappointment.

Summers had a strong weekend to start a serious title bid with a second and a third. In the late afternoon second run-off, the Cosworth-powered DJ Firestorm was 0.05s behind Gould and 0.22s up on the charging Will Hall, who was an excellent fourth in both run-offs in his Force.

Moran backed up his earlier third with fifth, while Trevor Willis, fifth in the morning despite having to come out of the throttle during a big slide at Keepers, dropped to sixth with a run that included a moment at Triangle. With seventh and eighth places, the flying Eynon Price headed the smaller-engined cars with two typically committed runs in his 1600cc Force.

“That’s a cracking start to the season,” said Menzies. “But we were very lucky today as running later in the batch helped with the weather in the morning. I’m just happy it stayed dry for everybody this afternoon and that made it a bit fairer. The boys worked really hard to get the car where it is. It’s not always like that so we’ll take it when it comes and enjoy it!”

Reports by Joe Hudson, Stephen Lickorish and Paul Lawrence. Photos by Ollie Read, Mick Walker and Paul Lawrence. Want all the latest news from the world of national motorsport? Subscribe today and never miss your weekly fix of motorsport with Autosport magazine

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