Shelsley Walsh Hillclimb School 26th June 2007
When I heard early in the year that the Midland Automobile Club would run the first Shelsley school in June 2007, I was immediately keen to attend as a sequel to the Curborough school I attended last year. Once again I was able to use my allocated 2007 training fund through work, so my only cost for the day was fuel. Great! 2 of my work colleagues also signed up, Ruari in his Cossie Fury and Jan in his Mustang! We drove over in convoy from Warwick, leaving at about 7.15 and taking the scenic route along the A46 & A422 to Worcester.
After a week of heavy rain we were blessed with a day of clear spells and some cloud, but no rain. However arrival in Worcester demonstrated how bad the floods were around the river. Thankfully the roads were unaffected at this stage, but soon we were to be finding entertaining routes to get over the river to Shelsley Walsh. In Shelsley Beauchamp the road was under more than 4' of water... We eventually found a way around which meant braving a 4" flood which resulted in a rather damp interior for the Mojo, but at least we had arrived (albeit rather later than expected). Thankfully others had arrived late too, so the start of proceedings was delayed by 30 mins.
After signing on and getting a helmet, we were introduced to our instructors for the day: Jim Robinson, Simon Durling, Chris Merrick and Martin Groves - all big names in Hillclimbing. We were then given a series of short presentations on Hillclimbing in general (summary of regulations, safety equipment etc) which were similar to those given at Curborough last year. Martin then took us through a description of each corner on the hill, with tips on the best line. For the morning runs, we were helped with strategically placed marker poles at turn in and apex points and a cone at the approx braking point for the esses.
Click the thumbnail for the track map in a new window:
We then walked the hill in three groups, which was very interesting, and brought home just how steep the tarmac is! Simon led my group, and he talked us through each corner as we walked up. We then returned to the cars and prepared for our first run, clearing out loose items from the cars (I also removed sodden carpet mats & passenger seat base!).
I was number 30 for the day so had to sit and watch the previous 29 cars queue up and then head up the hill. I took my first run cautiously- we had been repeatedly warned in the opening presentations that Shelsley can bite, and bite hard! I had imagined that the narrowness of the tarmac and the size of the banks would be a dominant part of the run, but I actually didn't notice them much, I was trying to concentrate on the line but didn't make a very good job of it really! I made a better fist of the lines on the second run, but still took it fairly easy, but had a bit more fun through the esses (a lovely left - right through a steep sided gap in the hillside which spits you out on the final straight).
It was then time for the first feedback from the instructors. Jim Robinson remembered me well from the 2 events at Curborough last year, and was clearly disappointed at my lack of pace. His opening comment was "You Land Rover boys are all wimps - braking into Kennel (the first corner)!!!". We had been warned to be careful, but that encouraged me to have a bit more of a go the next time round! Feedback from the other instructors was similar - think about the lines more and push a bit harder.
For my third run I still dabbed the brakes into Kennel but was certainly a bit faster, and the lines started to feel more natural. The Esses became more fun too! The Mojo's gearing proved spot on, with the shift light just coming on in second before lifting off into Kennel, then up to third through Crossing, down to second through the Esses, and then back up to third on the final straight. A good exit from the top S would just see the shift light coming on over the line in third (an indicated 95mph). 4 gear changes per run!
It was then time for more feedback before lunch. My brakelights had been spotted illuminated on the entrance to Kennel! Must try harder... Otherwise feedback was definitely improving!
Lunch was great, finished off with a huge portion of bread and butter pudding with custard- real racing driver's food...
Then it was time for 2 more runs. In each I just lifted into Kennel, with no use of the brakes, which went down much better with the instructors! The second of these runs was particularly good, although I wasn't far off running out of road on the exit. Jim's description was that it was "much better, using all of the road" whereas Martin was a bit more circumspect with "you don't want to go much faster...". Certainly both of these runs left me with a big grin on my face once at the finish, the car was now moving around a bit through the corners so I was getting more confident, and it felt good!
Time for one final run which was not as good as my 5th, so left me feeling slightly disappointed. But 6 runs is not that many to learn a hill climb in a day - the experts were saying that they never get what feels like a 'perfect' run (and they have done rather more than 6 runs each...), and that is the challenge of Shelsley- there is always room for improvement.
Overall a very good day. At £155 for 6 runs it sounds fairly expensive, but given it is a fully marshalled day with medical & breakdown crews, the instructors, the catering staff and various other supporting roles, I think it's good value. Even better if you get the company to pay for you to go...