I had a break from racing the Vauxhall during the summer while driving other cars, but also to concentrate on making sure the VX4/90 was reliable. The hiatus enabled us to deal with the misfire, variable oil pressure and other issues - all of which came to a head at the last outing at Oulton Park. I have accepted that gremlins such as I had are par for the course when developing a car.
Its first outing once sorted was to the Kop Hill Climb Revival meeting at the end of September. The popularity of the event meant that there was a selection process for the hill, with numbers restricted to about 450 entries – more than 200 hopefuls were turned away!
I was lucky to be invited to run the Vauxhall on the Saturday and be a static display on the Sunday. I was allocated two runs - I did the morning and magazine editor James Page did the afternoon run, both of which took place in warm sunshine.
The hill is about 1300 yards long and rises about 300 feet, with a gradient of 1 in 4 at it steepest. It is generally straight, with a kink left and right and two blind ridges, and if competitive it would be very fast and extremely testing.
The weekend was topped off for me by being invited to travel up the hill as a passenger in Vauxhall Heritage’s 1926 30-98, which James drove.
We really enjoyed this friendly event - thank you to the organisers for inviting me!
I had decided to re-fit the original low-ratio back axle, which I think suits the car better and would be good at the short and tight Mallory Park, which was our next outing. It would, for once, enable me to pull much nearer maximum revs in top gear - something I could never do with the higher ratio.
I entered two events at Mallory with Julius Thurgood’s HRDC Series: a 30-minute race with the All Stars field, and a 45-minutes one with Touring Greats.
After an early start, towing the car from Oxfordshire, we arrived at a dry but cold Mallory in time for registration and scrutineering. Unfortunately, I had left my timing transponder at home. I won’t forget again because I had to hire one at the cost of £30!
The 15-minute practice session for the All Stars race went well, but I was seriously outclassed by the likes of some very quick Minis and Lotus Cortinas.
The Touring Greats session was 30 minutes long, with a full grid plus reserves. They say variety is the spice of life, and among 34 entries that made up the grid there were 18 different car types!
As a result of the numbers, the circuit was very congested and it was difficult to get a clear lap, particularly because the tight hairpin creates a bit of a bottleneck. With a time of 1 min 5 secs, I qualified 27th, which was OK; a similar time in All Stars placed me 22nd out of 31.
Both encounters were fast and furious, and highly competitive. I had an ‘off’ in the All Stars race after making up places, but I still managed to finish 17th and third in class. It was no contest against the specialist cars and the speed difference was considerable - 950kg and 135bhp against a Lotus Cortina weighing nearer 700kg with something approaching 200bhp tells its own story!
The 45-minute Touring Greats race was no different, but this time I won my class, again finishing 17th with a best lap of 1 min 4 secs. I had plenty of battles with different makes of cars, particularly the A35s, which are very quick and handle in a way that belies their origin. They are also reliable, even when driven to the limit race after race.
I’d like to thank Julius Thurgood for running such good, competitive, no-contact racing. The Vauxhall ran perfectly and I was pleased to finish the season on a high.
And particular thanks must go to Classic and Sportscar and Vauxhall for their support throughout the year. I’m already looking forward to 2016.