Tuesday 13 June 2017


The forecast hadn’t been good – heavy rain overnight & showers on the day I was booked into the Gurston Down hillclimb school. When I got up the “heavy rain overnight” was just starting & coming from the west – the direction I was going in.

By the time I’d put the soft top & side windows on I was running a little late, by the time I’d turned round & gone back for my wallet & phone I was very late, the SatNav forecasting my arrival time as 09:15 (“Arrive at -8:30 for 09:00”). I decided to dump the plans for a scenic ride & let the SatNav take the direct route, but when I was sat in stationary traffic on the A331 with the car steaming up in spite of having the windows open, the wipers & screen heater on & trying not to breathe I came to rue my decision.
I shall gloss over the hell that was the M3 roadworks in heavy rain, by jiggling the route, I’d got the ETA down to 09:00, which was OK, but hadn’t read the last paragraph of the “GETTING HERE” instructions, which wasn’t. By the time I’d driven through Broad Chalke three times, found the small sign for Gurston Down farm & arrived properly it was 09:10.

Race number & a crash hat!
This didn’t seem to matter to the jovial old sort in a dayglow sou’wester who greeted me in the car-park, waved me into the assigned parking bay & showed me to the official shed for signing on. He even taped the race numbers to the side of the car to save me time. I was asked for the car’s MoT which I’d seen moments before when I got out of the car, but couldn’t find it, fortunately the glowing yellow chap found it still in the car & bought it over.
I was provided with a rather natty multi coloured crash-hat & pointed in the direction of the restaurant where the hill climbing sales pitch drivers briefing was happening. A couple of folks arrived after me, so at least I wasn’t the last.

In the '50s they did kit cars properly ......
....... here's another.
After a detailed description of the track, we were split into groups & taken on a walk along it, with the instructors telling us which cones to aim for, where to brake, where the car should be at any particular point, as well as what ridiculous speed the record holder was doing at that point. After this & another couple of showers, we got in the cars - myself & the ex-colleague I’d gone with struggling to get in wearing a helmet - & followed an instructor car along the track at about ½ race speed, desperately trying to remember where I should be & when. What did bother me was the oil light coming on while accelerating up Deer’s Leap, if this carried on the sensible thing would be to abandon & watch from the side-lines. After arrival at the top we all processed back to the bottom & did that again but faster, again the oil light came on. I thought the problem was the oil was being held in the baffled compartment, but the amount of time I was accelerating uphill meant the engine was using all the oil in that area & the rest was staying at the back. In theory, doing it faster should cure the problem. Hmmm

Then we were let out for real.

Suddenly it all looks different, but I fumbled the car through the bend, & was relieved when the oil light stayed resolutely off. Up at the top I parked in the wrong queue & waited. The car had felt very stable & would carry a lot more speed yet. Convoy back to the bottom & form up (in the right queue), move the GoPro positions, take a few photos, talk to the others a bit, then engines start & we go again.
This time I was able to concentrate on some of the finer points & tried to put the car where it should be & again, the oil light stayed dark. Park at the top, convoy to the bottom, form up. Then the instructors walked the line of cars & gave advice, I was OK through Hollow Bend, good through karousel, not so good through Ashes – but I attributed that to staring at the oil light, not through the screen.
Another couple of runs saw me gaining in confidence, especially round Karousel, which the Fury seemed happy to take in one long drift (or so it felt to me). I still wasn’t getting Ashes quite right though. Back at the bottom & park up in the pits as Lunch was ready. Lunch was good with a choice of puddings (I had TWO) after which with the car slightly heavier we headed back to the track where the sighting & braking cones had been removed. The instructors were still at their vantage points, but now they weren’t looking to give us advice, they were looking to give us points.

Yes, a Panamera.
Well, the last four runs saw me increasing in confidence – even when the door opened at ashes - & having chatted & picked up my certificate (72% - no idea if that’s good or bad), I handed back my crash hat (the woman behind the desk checked it of with my name & "large helmet" which I felt was un-called for) I rushed home to look at the video. The runs aren’t timed, presumably because that would make it a “competition” but I could get a reasonable approximation from the GoPro.
So my run times looked like this:

45s 43s 44s 44s 45s 42s 43s - & the last run wasn't recorded by either camera. So in spite of trying harder & feeling like I was going much much faster, I wasn't. I guess the reason would be I was just trying too hard at times, the earlier runs were smoother, particularly round karousel, where on the last four runs I clipped the curb with the inner rear wheel & set the car wheelspinning.

But, the main thing was it was a good experience & the Fury was 5sec faster that my friend’s 1800 MkIII MX5. Looking at some of the previous competition day results, if I could shave another 3 sec off my fastest time, I’d be in among the hill climb Caterhams, which feels about right.

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