Spent a very sunny Saturday mixing with the automotive gentry and disarmingly amiable paddock occupants at Prescott’s end of term Autumn Classic hillclimb.
It’s a stunning little venue, tucked away on a hillside (well, it would have to be, wouldn’t it?) in an almost sickeningly picturesque and leafy part of the Cotswolds. I even got to strut around in racing overalls, pretending I knew what I was doing, as a guest driver courtesy of Abarth UK.
The good and kind people at Abarth invited Autocar to compete in a sprint event at Goodwood back in April, in a brace of Grande Punto Abarths. Presumably because I didn’t crash and didn’t use very much petrol first time round – it certainly wasn’t because of my driving ability – I was invited back for another go, this time in a real, actual hillclimb.
Once again, Abarth UK was using the event to prove the point that its really rather tasty cars – in this case the Grande Punto and the little 500 Abarth – can be driven to a motorsport event, competed in, and then driven home again. And that’s precisely what happened.
Of course a spanner could have been thrown in the works had anyone headed off-piste and crashed, but fortunately none of the day’s invitees even entertained the idea of doing anything so silly.
And how did I do? Well, I didn’t win, but wasn’t expecting to given that I was a postcode or two outside my comfort zone. I hadn’t even spectated at a hillclimb before, never mind competed in one, but I had a whale of a time in genuinely pleasant surroundings and with a great bunch of people.
And the Grande Punto Abarth was a riot up Prescott’s hill; quick, rorty and responsive, and flattered my best efforts to make it go in approximately the right direction as quickly as possible.
Most importantly (for me), I went faster on each run, didn’t crash, had a cracking baked potato for lunch and went home a happy man.
As did the wholly welcoming entourage from Abarth UK, who once again pulled off a neat publicity coup for its overtly sporting yet immensely fun and usable motor cars.
Unwittingly, however, at least as much good PR was done for the sport of hillclimbing. If you’ve heard Autocar staffers bang on before about how accessible a form of motorsport hillclimbing is, you’ll have to bear with me for a moment.
Because it’s easily the most accessible – and friendly – form of motorsport you can shake your ignition keys at, whether you plan on spectating or competing. This year’s events are winding down now, but put it in your diary for 2010. You won’t regret it.