Many of you are familiar with the Prescott Hill Climbs, fewer, I am sure, with La Vie en Bleu. Read On!
First, for the uninitiated, what is a Hill Climb? While not particularly common in the US, hill climbs are wildly popular in Europe and the UK. Basically, a hill climb is a road race up a hillside race track, one car at a time, against the clock. The course has all the features of a regular race track, including straights, hairpins, esses, etc., except that they are all UP HILL. Most cars do the Prescott course in about a minute and cars are sent off at 30 second intervals, so a lot of cars get on the track over the course of a day. And there is almost continuous action for spectators too. Cars are broken into classes according to type, age, engine size and a lot of other attributes to make for fair competition.
Prescott Hill Climbs are some of the most famous in the UK and have been run on this site pretty much continuously for over 70 years. The course is located near Tewkesbury in Oxfordshire, about an hour from my cottage on gorgeous rolling and wooded hills, as you will see. Prescott hosts about a dozen events throughout the season, some themed, some just open run days. La Vie en Bleu is a celebration of all things French. The Bugatti Owner’s Club is headquartered at the track and it seems they run the track and the Clubhouse so Bugatti being French, this is their day!
SOME OF THE FRENCH “ENTERTAINMENT”. THEY MUST HAVE BEEN FREEZING!
While there were plenty of Bugatti’s on the track, vintage and new (including a Veyron and a Chinon), English and Italian cars were also in evidence. Ferrari had their own class and MG had two classes. There was also a class for ERA built cars for those who know their racing history. In all about 140 cars ran on Saturday (when I was there) with another 100+ scheduled for Sunday. Most appeared to be serious, purpose-built racers, but I am sure some of the cars could have been driven to the event.
The day started out grey and drizzly (what’s new?). Racing was supposed to start at 8:30, but when I got to the track about 10, things were awfully quiet. After making my way to the hillside clubhouse for a coffee, I learned that racing had been suspended (actually never started) due to “conditions”. I said, “oh you don’t race in the rain?”, to which I was informed, yes, they do race in the rain, the problem was the fog. There are five sets of marshals on the course and each set must not only be able to see the one immediately above or below them but also the next one up or down…. confused? Me too.
A COLD AND DRIZZLY START TO THE DAY
In any case eventually it was decided to bring cars up the track in convoys of about a dozen or so and scratch practice run #1. Some of the video shows a few convoys. As is usually the case, the weather immediately started to improve, so by 11 practice session #2 was underway with solo runs. The lunch hour was cut short and by afternoon conditions had greatly improved and the racing was on in earnest.
I won’t bore you with more race details, except to say that there seems to be two clear cut formulas to hillclimb success, horsepower or finesse. The big, powerful cars with lots of torque can handle the elevation changes without a problem, even if they are not great in the corners. The small displacement cars rely on maintaining momentum and revs to keep from bogging down on the steep bits, so they use superior handling to take the corners fast. It all makes for very interesting spectating. Yes, there were two “off course” incidents right in front of me.
The video that follows is a bit of a chopped-up mess. I didn’t bring my GoPro as I am having difficulty transferring files from it to my computer. So, I shot video with my SLR. What I didn’t know before yesterday was that it will only take ten seconds of video before it has to stop and take a breath. So, what you see is a compilation of ten second, or shorter, videos, most of which cut off right at the good part! Anyway, you will get the flavor of the event. I also apologize for the “watermark”. I used a new program to edit the videos together, and until they process my payment, they won’t send me the key to removing their ad from the screen.
Anyway, today was supposed to be golf, but I just heard the lightning siren go off, so looks like my round may be scratched. It’s raining like crazy at the moment, so I don’t envy those folks at the track! Tomorrow it’s off to Amsterdam!
AS THE DAY WORE ON, CONDITIONS IMPROVED AND PICNIC BASKETS EMERGED
THE FIRST “OFF COURSE” INCIDENT, JUST A LITTLE SPIN OUT IN THE WET GRASS
THE SECOND “OFF COURSE” INCIDENT, THIS ONE MUCH MORE SERIOUS. NOTE THE TIRE TRACKS LEADING TO THE GUARD RAIL……IMPACT!
BATTLE OF BRITAIN MEMORIAL FLYOVER, A DAKOTA
SEBRING SPRITE FOR TERRY C
OK the video should be here: