As with pretty much everything else, 2020 has been a pretty duff year for motorsport. Most of the big championships have started late with a reduced number of venues and events, and a general lack of spectators. Smaller national championships have been called off altogether and a lot of hill climb locations have cancelled everything for the whole year. One exception has been the grandparent of them all, Shelsley Walsh: run by the Midland Automobile Club (MAC), which started planning events as soon as restrictions were lifted sufficiently, and is putting on a full programme of competition events over a shortened season and with some interesting additional classes to encourage a wide range of folk to take part, who might not usually feel confident enough to enter.
The first event was a non-competitive Members Day on the 18th of July, when 100 vehicles took part and each was allowed six runs up the hill. A wide variety of entries encompassed road cars, specialist racing cars, and also motor bikes with drivers and riders including past champions and total newcomers to the hill. A week later came the competitive Summer Spree weekend, streamed live on both Facebook and YouTube, with full recordings still available on the Shelsley Walsh YouTube page.
Following that came a flurry of activity as member volunteers worked hard to put distancing measures in place with every expectation that spectators would be allowed at the next event. Sadly this was not to be, and the annual Vintage Sports Car Club day and Reg Phillips Trophy meeting were held over the weekend of the 8th and 9th of August, witnessed only by each day’s competitors, their one guest each, and the usual Shelsley Walsh Marshalls and Officials.
Restrictions were finally lifted enough for MAC members to attend as spectators in time for the annual Championship Challenge the following weekend. With a the National Championship cancelled for 2020 fewer of the better-known competitors were in attendance (some have been kept busy as key workers, or as manufacturers of equipment for hospitals and healthcare workers); however, I managed to persuade my parents to preregister their attendance with me for the Sunday.
Once again the event was livestreamed on both days, so we had some idea what to expect from watching that on the Saturday, as well as from reading the website instructuctions. We arrived somewhat later than the more local members, and didn’t have to queue long in order to have our temperatures checked through the car windows. Parking was in what is normally the public area, rather than in the members’ area closer to the paddock, but that meant we were already partway up the hill, and Dad was able to walk up to the members’ enclosure for the first time in a couple of years.
A one-way system was in place on much of the hill, and only about half the seating was in use in any given area but the limited number of spectators was very well accommodated. I managed to position myself against the trunk of my usual tree between Top and Bottom Ess for the first Top Ten Run-off, immediately before lunch. I also took photographs from a few spots higher up, since I wasn’t fighting other snappers for the prime locations as tends to happen at regular meetings.
Although there had been some showers before we arrived, the threatened afternoon rain didn’t start to fall until the last seconds of Sean Gould’s winning run rounded off the second Top Ten of the day, and it mostly held off until we were well on our way. At which point the heavens opened, and it was still chucking it down when we arrived at Mum and Dad’s just in time to watch the Spanish GP Highlights on Channel 4 +1. I decided to stay over an extra night, and only arrived home an hour after I would normally have started work (I’m still working from home on flexi-hours, so no one was going to complain). Hence this post is a bit late.
The MAC are planning more three more competitive events at Shelsley Walsh through August and September. Details can be found on the website, along with full results of the events so far. I’m hoping to make it to at least one more, and shall watch any I don’t attend over the internet if the facility is made available.