After nearly 50 years a new chapter in motor sport history was written at Chateau Impney with a fiercely competitive hillclimb event. Some 10,000 spectators flocked to what can only be described as one of the most picturesque venues on the calendar to witness 200 drivers board cars from a bygone era, all hoping to top their particular class and get in the running for best time of day. Saturday was practise day and glorious sunshine beamed down on proceedings. A new extended course challenged competitors as times tumbled throughout the day. Sunday, finals day, and the weather added a certain spice, much cooler, then rain, then sunshine, then more rain until once again the sun made the curtain call for the final half of the runs and the presentation of the prizes. It was typical of period Impney events as only two of the original 11 Speed Trials were completely dry.
Best time of the day and new champion driver went to rookie hillclimber Jack Woodhouse in a Lotus 20/22 with a time of 42.42 seconds on the 1,000-yard course. Woodhouse saw off a highly competitive field that included current Historic Monaco champion Matt Grist, ERA drivers Nick Topliss, Paddins Downing and David Morris, as well as his own father, multiple Formula Junior champion Mark Woodhouse.
“It feels pretty special to be the first ever winner of the Chateau Impney Hill Climb,” said Jack afterward. “Having grown up just a few miles away from the Chateau, it’s a bit of a home event for me. It’s been great to be part of something new and even more so as my dad has also competed and my family has been here watching. I aim to be back next year, as long as the invite comes, and have a crack at defending my title!”
In fact, it was a podium “lock-out” for Lotus drivers with 2nd place going to David Gidden in a 23B (43.25 seconds) and Paul Matty in his F2 Lotus 35 3rd, just 4/100ths slower. The Edwardian and Veteran class caused onlookers much drama and excitement with Duncan Pittaway’s fire-spitting Fiat S76 “Beast of Turin” and the driving antics of Mark Walker in the Darracq 200hp. Competition was augmented by demonstration runs headed by Stuart Rolt’s Ferguson P99 4WD, followed by local constructor Morgan with a current Plus 8 model and host Guy Spollon, who drove a Jaguar D-Type. An aerial display by ex-RAF pilot Rich Goodwin in his Union Jack-clad Pitts Special S2S “Muscle Bi-plane” enthralled spectators during the lunch break.
Organizers have already hailed this inaugural event as a huge success, with plans already afoot to turn the meet into an annual occurrence. “What a fantastic weekend!” said Rod Spollon, chairman of the Chateau Impney Hill Climb Club. “When we decided to bring motor sport back to Chateau Impney, we knew the event had great potential, but we have been taken aback by the support and enthusiasm of competitors and the people who came through the gates over the weekend.
“From the outset we wanted to create an event and course to bring something different to the calendar,” continued Spollon, “complementing existing venues, but giving competitors and spectators something different to get excited about. The feedback we received across the weekend directly from drivers and via social media shows we have done just that, and we now have an excellent foundation to be able to look at bringing the event back bigger and better next year.”