2014 Pirelli Ferrari Hillclimb ChampionshipPirelli Ferrari Hillclimb Championship

Round 15



1st Nick Taylor (430 Coupe)
2nd Richard Prior (355)
3rd Richard Allen (355)
report by John Swift
photography by CMdigicams & Prior Art

The final round of the 2014 Pirelli Ferrari Hillclimb Season, on Sunday 12th October at Curborough, had an end-of-term feel about it.

There were lots of this year’s boys there as well as many of the girls, including Caroline Cooper who has been playing truant for most of the term. Head mistress Anne Swift was there to make sure everyone behaved properly and although there were no prizes to be given out on the day, there was a keen effort to do well.

Among those taking part, it was good to see old boy Richard Allen on top form – perhaps a little lighter than before having had some of his best bits confiscated in recent weeks. Classics student, Mike Spicer, was looking confident since he arrived at Curborough as top of his form, but young Shaun Smith harboured a secret desire to steal good marks if he possibly could. But enough of this schoolboy nonsense. Let’s report what actually happened on this splendid day of high-speed sprinting.

The morning started off with the course shrouded in thick mist. So shrouded was it that for the first practice session, the first corner couldn’t be seen from the start line. “Put your lights on,” instructed the MAC official, “Just in case you go off it will help us to find you.” Not really what you want to hear when you are poised to take your turn.

To see just how foggy the first practice run was, click here to watch Richard Preece’s onboard video.

The shared 360 Modena of the Coopers was the first to go. It is shared because the F355 acquired at the beginning of the year for Caroline to drive is still hors de combat while it awaits a new wiring loom to be fitted. The 360’s grigio alloy paintwork blended well with the fog so if you didn’t concentrate you might have missed it.

Tony Attwood’s 308GT4 had a persistent misfire which took the edge off its performance. Spicer, who has been driving beautifully this season, didn’t disappoint and on every run his bright yellow 328GTB hit the rev limiter at exactly 88mph in third. Richard Allen always looked tidy, precise and fast and, with that previously mentioned new lightness, promised to be up with the stars of the show. Jon Goodwin had brought his lovely 250 Lusso out for an airing and he welcomed that instruction to switch on his lights. He lit up everything he had and the Ferrari looked like a fast moving Christmas tree.

Because of the delay in the start due to the mist, the meeting was running about two hours behind schedule and the first official runs didn’t begin until well after 2 o’clock.

Caroline C confessed to feeling a little rusty and although her starting technique improved with every run, she had trouble getting her 360 off the line in a timely fashion. Husband Jeff and Mark Wibberley didn’t fare much better which underlines how tricky this tipo can be to launch (the best protagonist being old hand Peter Rogerson).

Attwood did his best, occasionally locking up in a cloud of tyre smoke but that aforementioned misfire blunted his attack. The Hitchmans arrived with three Ferraris, which is numerically impressive, and all tried hard – Lorraine so much so that she excitedly locked up everything at the crossover and was forced to reverse before completing her first official run.

The Wibberley 360 always looks as if it is ready to win a concours. Although its deep blue shine is sensational Mark was unable to replicate his P2 time when it mattered. Pauline Goodwin, in her ‘race’ 328GTB on Speedline wheels and Pirelli Rossos, was effective but slightly slower than husband Jon in his illuminated Lusso.

Shaun Smith (328GTB) was exciting to watch but overcooked things at the exit to the 180° loop on his first timed run. “Four wheels off,” cried the officials and his time was disallowed. His second effort was much better controlled (69.05) but eclipsed by Mike Spicer’s 68 second times (the best being 68.20) which split the F355 times set by Allen and Richard Preece. Of these Preece clocked an accomplished 68.52, a time beaten by RA’s storming best of 67.68.

Richard Prior was able to relax for this event in the secure knowledge that he had already amassed enough points to make sure of the 2014 Championship. But honour is always at stake and, despite a serious horsepower disadvantage, thought there was an outside chance of claiming the Ferrari FTD from rival Nick Taylor’s sinister black 430. After all, the first run times were close: 64.75 to Taylor, 64.82 to Prior. You could half close your eyes and easily pretend you were watching Hamilton and Rosberg vying for pole position.

The final runs, and Nick went first. Smooth, hugely quick, a whopping 102mph over the finish line, and a time of 64.13 which beat his own class record for this course. Over the years Richard has been in this situation before and produced something quite out of the blue to win the day. But could he do it here, today, with the tarmac cooling rapidly as dusk was falling?

He tried so hard, his howling F355 at peak revs almost everywhere. But the split time was not as quick as Taylor’s and then Lady Luck dealt another blow. The car was a thought wide at the first cross-over corner, the rear end twitched to the right under power, and the right rear wheel hit the grass. Richard extricated the now sideways 355 with armfuls of opposite lock but the moment had gone. But for those of us watching, it was a sight to savour!

So there you have it: Nick Taylor on the podium top step flanked by the two Richards, Prior and Allen. Prior bagged the top 20 Championship points (which gives him a perfect 20 maximum score at every countable round). Mike Spicer was the top man in Classics and everyone, after the traditional group photograph had been taken, went home with a smile on their face. Which is really what it’s all about, isn’t it?

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