Pirelli Ferrari Hillclimb Championship

Round 8

Blyton Park

11 August

1st Paul Booth (458 GTB)
2nd John Swift (355 GTB)
3rd no one...
report by John Swift
photography by Sue Skinner and John Swift

The eighth round of the 2018 Championship took place at Blyton Park, in Lincolnshire, on Saturday, 11 August. The warm sunny weather we have enjoyed in abundance this summer continued, and everything might have been described as perfect.  Except for one thing: the pathetic Ferrari entry numbers.  Never before, in the history of the Championship, have we experienced such a low entry.  In the last weeks prior to the closing date, competitors withdrew their entries, and on the day just two – yes, two – Ferrari drivers turned up.

To be fair, the entry level for the whole meeting was seriously low, resulting in a substantial loss for the organisers, the Longton & District Motor Club. They have now decided that they will cease to run any future sprint meeting at Blyton in August.

The Ferrari drivers who did arrive ready for battle were Paul Booth in his immaculate 458 Italia, and John Swift (F355 berlinetta). Paul had previously taken part in a track day here but for your reporter it was unfamiliar territory.  The layout in use was the Eastern Circuit, the twistier of the two available courses and, at 2.262 km, the marginally shorter.

A bonus of having low entry levels is that competitors had lots of runs.  In addition to the usual two practices, everyone had 8 timed runs – the quickest to count.  This was a big help for those with zero previous experience since the track is very flat and almost featureless, other than marker cones, white lines and occasional polystyrene barriers.   It was a bit like doing a London taxi-drivers’ test with no Knowledge.

The Ferraris were the first to run after the shared cars and the course, after overnight rain, was decidedly slippery.  Booth’s P2 was flagged after the preceding car slid into the timing lights at the finish; being practice he wasn’t offered a re-run.  Swift, having difficulty with the aforesaid navigational problems, was circumspectly slow.  There was time for two official runs before the lunch break, and it was on the second of these that Booth braked  a thought too late at the last corner and wiped the timing gear out once more.  It was early in the meeting and we weren’t sure how many replacement sets of timing equipment there were, but the amiable marshals just shrugged and said ‘just one of those things . . .’

Despite being out in the sticks, Blyton happily has a decent restaurant – one that Paul had told us was high on his gourmet list.  We were joined for lunch by Championship Steward Sue Skinner and husband Paul, who had arrived in their 11,000 mile (sorry, 111,000 mile) pristine 308GTB.  It was good to have their company, not least because it doubled the Ferrari Owners’ Club presence at the track.

As rubber was laid by the cars, so grip levels increased although experienced single-seater drivers told us the track was “running a second-and-a-half slower” than at its best.  So our times improved throughout the afternoon, punctuated by a failed run by Swift on run 6 when the 355 arrived sideways at the dreaded timing area and took to the gravel area to avoid further technical mayhem.  Booth’s very next run emulated exactly this lunacy, again resulting in a ‘fail’.

When all the times were checked, Paul was found to have not only won on scratch (78.41) and PEP corrected time, but had beaten the Eastern Course Ferrari record set by Dave Snelson last year – a singularly impressive effort considering the track was not at its fastest.  The best thing to be said about Swift’s performance was that he was second.

Due to an unfortunate double booking, Longton & DMC had to engage a substitute timing team who were unable to provide the usual split times and speeds.  Hence, few stats as well as competitors in the results page.

Championship Coordinator Anne Swift had an easy time keeping the scoreboard up-to-date and was mystified as to why we fielded so few cars, when the expectancy was for at least 6 to 8 Ferraris.  We have a suspicion as to why this was, which we shall have to consider when next season’s calendar is formulated.

In conclusion, we enjoyed the sunshine, the friendliness and the hectic action.  Some people don’t know what they are missing . . .

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