Pirelli Ferrari Hillclimb Championship

Round Round 6

Loton Park

10 July 2021

1st Dave Snelson (F430)
2nd John Kennedy (California T)
3rd Brian Jackson (308GTB)
report by John Swift
photography by Dave Rose

Following a year’s absence due to the pandemic, Loton Park in Shropshire was open for business (but no spectators) on Saturday, 10 July.  It was a welcome return for the Ferraris to this normally very popular track.  Those familiar with it would probably give it a ‘5 out of 5’ for complexity (with ultra-high velocity Shelsley Walsh rating perhaps a ‘2’).  Disagreements with this assessment on a postcard please.

Just to remind you of the layout of the hill, you launch your car off the start-line in the direction of the out-of-sight 90⁰ tight left-hand corner (named Hall, and with no run-off to speak of).  The course then heads off slightly downhill via a couple of swoopy left-hand swerves: Loggerheads and Fletchers Dellow, which reward precision if you are not to veer into the undergrowth and perhaps startle a somnolent deer.  Then you see the famous Triangle confronting you, delaying your braking for the 90⁰ right-hander as long as your nerve permits.  From here it is max. acceleration through the wiggle called Keepers, which demands lots of kerb-hopping in order to straight-line it as much as possible.  Then, perhaps to your relief, you are into the fastest (perhaps 80+ mph) part of the course.  This is misleadingly called Cedar Straight – misleading because straight it is not, as it incorporates a fast sweep to the left.  Ahead you see Fallow – a slow left-hand elbow – fast approaching and you must gauge your braking point to a nicety if you are to get your car pointing generally in the right direction for a quick burst of power to the final right-hander, Museum.  If you have managed to keep everything together you should be quickly on the throttle to accelerate to the Finish line. Glance at the display on your right to check your run time, and you react with elation or bitter disappointment, as the case may be. 

The Ferrari dramatis personae numbered 10, with the Attwoods (Tony and Iwan) sharing the former’s  rosso rubino 308GT4.  In no particular order, Phil Whitehead had popped over the border with Wales in his rosso chiaro F355, joining the similar car of your reporter in nero metallica (with, unusually, a hint of marrone – delicious!).  Brian Jackson was in his famous giallo 308GTB, and Pauline Goodwin was driving her 328GTB of similar fly-attracting hue.  Everyone’s favourite Ferrari – Jon Goodwin’s delightful 250 Lusso, now in its original factory pale blu livery – was on parade.  More modern machinery was the Tour de France blue 360 of Peter Rogerson and the mafia black California T of John Kennedy.  Finally, current PFHC joint champion, Dave Snelson had brought not one but two Ferraris: his regular 430 (to compete in) and his latest Pista (to drool over) – both in racing red but of slightly different shades.  The reason I have dwelt on the Italian colour palette is that they made a lovely rainbow-like sight as the cars were lined up in the paddock.

The track was slightly wet for first practice, so everyone drove with circumspection to gauge the amount of grip.  Most drivers clocked over 70 secs except Snelson (66.23). By the time P2 arrived, just before the lunch break, conditions had significantly improved and times fell accordingly.  John Kennedy got slightly crossed up as he exited the left-hander at Fletchers, so he neatly turned left instead of right at Triangle and returned to the paddock.  Peter Rogerson was baffled to find his second run time was significantly slower than his first.  “It definitely felt faster” he mumbled.  With a 6 second advantage on his nearest rival, Snelson could look forward to an easy afternoon.

Official timed runs showed some improvements on practice.  Kennedy got the hang of Triangle this time, posting a competitive 65.03, followed by Jackson who really got his trotter to work to record an outstanding 65.97, some 2 seconds ahead of Pauline Goodwin’s similar (but younger) yellow peril machine.  Phil Whitehead had the misfortune to have his 355’s alternator warning light flash ‘danger’.  He slowed down, mistaking it for his brake warning light.  Snelson had a good tilt at Nick Taylor’s class record of 58.28 but was just 1.53 secs shy. 

Pauline G. got her act together (66.89), but still short of Brian Jackson’s 308GTB times.  Iwan Attwood was quick (67.70) but reported that the 308GT4’s steering felt heavy as he returned down the hill.  He had apparently run over some debris and had suffered a puncture.  Sadly, his dad became an enforced non-starter for R2.  So, as the results sheet shows, Dave Snelson collected the 20 Championship points, with Brian Jackson in his venerable 308GTB capturing 17 for second spot.  Pauline Goodwin was rewarded with the Club’s handicap award, and Dave Snelson the special Loton Park Alfonso de Portago trophy (for the fastest Ferrari scratch time on the Saturday).  This was presented by Jon Goodwin, who gave us a resume of the exploits of one of the most colourful characters ever to have been seen in motor racing.

Most of us returned to the Albrighton Hotel at Abberley for our traditional post-Loton Ferrari Dinner.  Numbers were a bit down on the usual, the service a touch hit-and-miss due to the pandemic, the pre-dinner Pimms lacked the essential fruit, and a slightly bizarre fire alarm had us all running to the car park and a prolonged roll-call, when some equipment in the kitchens decided to explode.  But we all managed to return safely to the second course of our dinner and enjoy one another’s company.  Next year, we said, it will be all back to normal.  I certainly hope so.   

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