Pirelli Ferrari Hillclimb Championship

Round Round 11

Shelsley Walsh

22 September 2019

1st Dave Snelson (F430)
2nd Mike Spicer (328GTB)
3rd Richard Preece (360 Modena)
report by Iwan Attwood
photography by James Green

After a glorious week of sunshine the rumbling of thunderstorms over the Worcestershire countryside ushered in race day at Shelsley. It was clear all competitors were prepared for the worst, with everyone turning up with plenty of time to get ready; indeed, everyone was at the track and ready for scrutineering before the first batch practice got under way.

There was, thankfully, a respite from the overnight storms as the paddock prepared – adhesive tape actually managed to stay put when applied to number backgrounds! With more rain predicted, everyone was aware this would be a small window. With the cars prepared attention turned to ensuring the competitors was also suitability set, Anne Swift was seen struggling to slip husband John into a rubber and eventually managed it before turning her attention to the second galosh. There was debate if the extra grip of the rubber soles would make tackling the hill easier or not. Paul Booth was also keen to understand how the PEP would be modified to racing in his wellies.

As first practice rolled round the clouds were definitely building once more, predictions of rain for the middle of the day proving to be accurate. Traction off the line at Shelsley can be a problem even in good conditions given the steep ramp; in the wet it proved extremely challenging.  None of the Ferrari class managed to get below 3 seconds for the 64ft split, with the best time of 3.27 seconds being recorded by Mike Spicer (328GTB) and the slowest, of 4.33, by Mark Wibberley (360 Spider). The shock of just how hard getting the power down was clearly reflected in the times at the top of the hill and all times posted were well into the 40 second bracket, topped by David Snelson in his bellowing 430 at 42.06. Richard Preece (360 Modena) was quite happy with his run, at least on artistic merit. He claimed it would have made Torvill and Dean proud.

The threatening rain almost held off for second practice but as our batch lined up at the start there were spots of rain to be seen on the windscreens. Times were improved across the board, with Paul Booth (458 Spider) managing to be the first to go sub-3 seconds at the 64ft mark. Mood at the top of the hill was very subdued as everyone hid in their cars from the now pouring rain. The rain kept on falling over the lunch break but clearly provided an ample supply to run the Shelsley water wheel, which was up and running.

After lunch the main band of rain had passed and the track, while a long way from dry, was improving for the Ferrari timed runs. Times were coming down fast but the conditions were still treacherous as Iwan Attwood (308GT4) discovered coming out of top Ess, with the back end slipping out leading to a spectacular contact between the N/S rear tyre and the mud bank. Although Iwan continued to the finish line the track was red flagged for Mark’s 360 and he was given an extra chance to get the start right. All the other Ferraris made it to the finish without further incident, posting much improved times. Snelson was still in the lead on scratch followed closely by championship leader Spicer and then Booth. It was, however, clear that Iwan’s impact with the bank had unseated the tyre from the wheel and it was losing pressure rapidly. End of batch, and with all cars returned to the paddock, showed the true spirit of the PFHC with assistance offered all round to help Iwan clean the mud from the bead of the tyre that was stubbornly refusing to seal. Even with the combined weight of Mike and Mark bouncing on the tyre, it proved a futile exercise and ultimately Iwan had to abandon his final run.

With the Championship in the balance going into the final timed run things were very tense, with PEP-adjusted times favouring Spicer on the basis of his first timed run. With the track conditions rapidly improving with use, and the rain holding off, the final runs showed some dramatically improved times. Wibberley, first off the line, went 1.5 seconds faster but it was Richard Preece who made an astonishing leap forward, taking nearly 5 seconds out of his previous best.  That demonstrated just how he is getting to grips with his 360, enough to secure him third on scratch. Booth and Swifty shaved their times a little more which left the two Championship contenders at the sharp end. Snelson put in a blistering 34.76, improving by 2.5 seconds, and turning up the pressure on Spicer who in turn managed to post a 1.9 second improvement at 36.77.

The top three competitors on scratch were the same as those on PEP-adjusted times. Snelson took the 20 championship points, and the fairly hefty bar bill that goes with it.  The excitement of the Championship rolls onto the final round at Curborough on 12th October…

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