Hillclimb entries are by invite only, which means you have to be a member of a club that gets invited to events in order to enter. We joined the Bugatti Owners Club – don’t be fooled by its name, anyone can join – which is based at Prescott. Full membership is £76 for the year, and entry to a Prescott event costs £110.
If you really want to compete on a budget, there’s nothing stopping you from turning up in a few grands’ worth of used hatchback and heading up the hill. If a car is completely unmodified, scrutineers are only interested in ensuring the car is safe and roadworthy.
Generally, if a car has an MOT, it’s safe to compete, but hillclimb scrutineers are unsurprisingly more scrupulous than MOT station workers with their checks. Even our nearly new Seat is subjected to a thorough going-over that takes five minutes, illustrating just how important safety is. If your budget is bigger, you can modify your car, of course, but once you do, it may move across into a more serious category where the requirements for scrutineering become stricter.
Removing the rear seats, for example, means the car is classed as modified and therefore required to conform to specialist car rules. This can make roll cages, fire extinguishers and other additional safety features mandatory.
It’s not a legal requirement, but if you wanting to avoid potential bills following a shunt, you should insure your car for hillclimbing before taking part. It cost us £180 to insure our car for the day with a well-known motorsport insurer.
As demonstrated by Autocar’s Cupra, which arrives at Prescott completely unmodified apart from a set of race numbers, there’s a class for almost every car to compete in.
Top categories feature singleseat models with 700bhp-plus F1 powertrains, but below this there is a large number of classes that include GT racers, highly modified road machines and historic cars.
The Ibiza is the newest car to take to the hill on our day at Prescott. The oldest is a 1929 MG M-Type.
The difference in driver experience levels is similarly massive. Our Prescott run marks a hillclimb debut for yours truly, but at the business end of the paddock is reigning British hillclimb champion Alex Summers.
With just four runs up the hill, the first two of which are practice runs, a walk up the course in the morning is highly recommended, because there’s no time to build up slowly once in the car; every run has to be maximised. As the pros tell us later in the day, the key is finding that balance between ultimate pace and ensuring you don’t end up having an accident.