It will never be as popular as Formula 1, but the humble world of hillclimbing is home to some of the most – and, to be fair, least – powerful cars in the world and some of the closest competition.
There aren’t many other echelons of motorsport where you can walk around the same paddock to find an OMS 28 and a Citroën 2CV, and this is one of the fundamental allures of hillclimbing for many. The breadth and depth of cars in any one event is impressive, and for enthusiasts, it’s often a joyous combination of bangers and flash.
The essentials of hillclimbing are as simple as they come: to drive your car from the bottom of a hill to the top of it as quickly as possible. No wonder it’s one of the oldest forms of motorsport.
There are just under 30 hillclimb venues in the UK, mostly privately owned venues, with Harewood in Yorkshire being the longest, at 0.86 miles. The most powerful cars can complete most hills in well under a minute.
The hillclimb season across Britain runs from late spring to the end of summer, in theory capitalising on the best of the weather, but usually a round or two is spent huddling under an umbrella questioning your life choices. Hey, we did say the season took place in the British summer.
Hillclimbing is like endurance racing, having multiple classes, but with less in the way of sleep deprivation and only one car on the track at a time – such is the nature of a ‘time trial’-style event. The classes are there to separate the different types of cars into fairer groups of competition. This is usually done based on engine size and modifications within each type of car; for example, a road-going 1.8-litre car will be in a separate class to a 1.1-litre equivalent.
All areas are accessible in the paddock. There’s no VIP section, and any fettling is done outdoors, under the glances of those walking past as they scramble to take a look at the modified engine bays and toy mascots hanging from the interior. Tyres are scrubbed of marbles and tents and small trailers play host to drivers seeking cover from the rain or a rest between runs.