Pirelli Ferrari Hillclimb Championship

Round Round 8


8 August 2021

1st Dave Snelson (F430)
2nd Paul Booth (458Spider)
3rd John Kennedy (California T)
report by Paul Booth with John Swift
photography by Paul Booth

Last time the Ferrari Owners’ Club visited Hethel was in 2015, when only three competitors made an appearance. This time six made their way across the cabbage, carrot and grain plains of Norfolk to a track that sits next to the Lotus Factory.

The flat north-to-south circuit is sited on an old airfield. It is very fast, with some beautiful flowing corners that allow space for the cars to move about on the edge of grip, without the fear of imminent disaster.

Pauline Goodwin turned up in her blue California, and this was perfectly colour-coordinated with her blue and cream race suit.  It is possible that this influenced the scrutineers, who decided that Pauline deserved the Paddock Cup for the best turned out car.  Brian Jackson opted for his eye-catching burgundy Portofino, while Jeff Cooper arrived in his trusty 360.   Paul Booth was in his 458 Spider, John Kennedy in his California T, and David Snelson in his usual F430.

When competitors first arrived, it was windswept and cold with tractors toiling in the distance, bringing a powerful agricultural aroma to the track.  Booth regretted bringing his new, thin racesuit, as the old, thick, warm one was definitely the better choice.  Pauline was unhappy with her choice of car, as its boot, containing essential items, was stuck; it only opened after various attempts by a number of helpful people.

The practice run saw Jackson struggling to keep to the tarmac, Booth and Cooper guessing at the route around the track, and Snelson spinning on the first set of bends.  Kennedy and Goodwin, however, benefitted from being the only ones with the wisdom to walk the track in the morning, with Kennedy a full 10 seconds faster than Booth’s 458.

The format for this very well-run meeting was one practice run, and four timed runs.  Yet, with just one practice, not all of the competitors really knew the circuit.  In the first timed run both Cooper and Booth braked far too early for the first chicane, while Jackson and Booth were convinced that the second chicane was really the last turn before the race for home.   Only a large grass bank prevented their intended short cut.  Snelson, Jackson and Goodwin, however, all put in impressive runs, with Snelson on 90.91 and Kennedy just behind on 92.40.

The second timed run saw Kennedy over-cook the chicane, clip the grass and spin, but everyone else improved.  Snelson took 0.7 seconds off his already fast time while Jackson and Goodwin both took over three seconds off their times.  Cooper was a full 6 seconds faster than his practice, while Booth knocked almost 5 seconds off his first timed run to slip into second place on scratch, 0.42 seconds behind Snelson.

The third timed runs went less well for Cooper and Booth.  The latter made up time on the straights with better braking points, but went too deep on the corners.  Cooper initially went well, until the prancing horse under the bonnet decided to refuse at the chicane.  According to his horse with its overly-intrusive safety electronics, Cooper deserved only half-power, and this was clearly reflected in his much slower time.  Goodwin and Jackson also struggled to improve, both posting slightly slower times.  Kennedy and Snelson, on the other hand, were the improvers, with the latter posting an impressive 88.75, while Kennedy managed 90.77, just 0.15 seconds slower than Booth.

Lunch came and went quickly at this well-organised meeting.   After each run the competitors discovered their times and started to relax, only to find themselves readied for the next run.  Now, just the last run remained. Jackson, Goodwin and Booth were looking to improve their cornering. Jackson had twice crossed the finishing line at 113.5mph and thought a significant improvement in time was possible.  Cooper was hoping he had calmed his temperamental prancing horse, and some suspected he might be fitting blinkers.  Snelson was intent on extending his lead, while Kennedy had Snelson’s time in his sights.

Unfortunately, the long-promised rain then arrived, essentially destroying any chance of improvement following the dry sunshine of previous runs.  The drivers in the Lotus group of cars all declined run R4, and Snelson joined them and decided not to compete.  The rest of the Ferrari class decided to race, and Booth even completed his lap with the roof down as the rain had eased, for which he received a minor reprimand, as he had not checked this with the scrutineers.

Snelson took the scratch and PEP win with another impressive drive.  Booth took the handicap, mainly by being so slow on the first timed run, from which the handicap baselines were set.  Overall, it was a fun day on in the cabbage plains of Norfolk.

[editor’s note: photography is not permitted at Hethel]


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