Variety the spice of life at La Vie en Bleu


Thousands of spectators flocked to Prescott Hillclimb on 23-24 May, for a weekend packed full of exciting hillclimb action and displays of French rarities. Ian Seabrook was there.

Cars from the early years of the 20th Century battled just as convincingly with Prescott's technically demanding course as much more modern machinery, with racing legend Barrie 'Whizzo' Williams sharing a road-spec Renault ZOE electric car with Autocar Editor-in-Chief Steve Cropley on the Sunday.

Tom Walker enjoys a sideways moment in this Amilcar, equipped with a 12-litre Hispano Suiza engine

Race action was complemented by Bugatti Veyron demonstration runs, and the sheer drama of Zef Eisenberg's land speed record-winning turbine motorbike. This remarkable machine is street legal, and was clocked last year at 224.9mph at Elvington Airfield. 

La Vie en Pleu? David Wheeler battles hill and conditions in his Renault 8 Gordini

The real magic of Prescott comes from the fact that spectators can get very close to the action, whether on the hill or when wandering amongst the race vehicles in the paddock, watching owners frantically tinkering, or happily answering queries from the public. Sometimes both. 

This 1971 Volkswagen-Porsche 914 was an unusual choice. It was driven by Peter Hall of Hucclecote

On the Sunday, Vintage Sports Car Club members thrilled the crowd as they heroically did battle with gravity in cars ranging from the tiny 1911 950cc De Dion Bouton of John Harrison, to Mark Walker's exploits in his 200bhp 1905 Darracq. Watching Walker hurling this 25-litre leviathan around the course, with exposed rocker gear chattering away and with only rear wheel braking, was a sight to please any crowd. Even more so when wet weather further reduced grip levels, but not bravery. Incredibly, Mark also drives to the events from his home in Lutterworth.

Perched atop this delightful 1907 Berliet/Curtiss is owner John Dennis. The V8 engine displaces 8238cc

A rather less frantic cavalcade of largely-French automobiles provided plenty of colour at the midway point of each day, with still enough speed for Citroëns to show off their bodyroll antics. 

A Rover V8 helped Brian Goodban's MGB Roadster up the hill in speedy style

Italian beauty, in the form of Lawrence Alexander's Alfa Romeo Giulia Coupé

A 1948 Allard J1, still equipped with a sidevalve Ford V8. Very smooth, and quick with it

Even a gentle cavalcade is enough to get a 2CV's body rolling!

Glorious Citroën SM was only recently purchased in France

A TVR Chimaera makes for a very good hillclimber straight out of the box

Ian Stainburn was pedalling his Reliant Scimitar Coupé hard 

Martin Harrold's 2CV Race car is the current UK Champion and last year's 24-hour race winner

Sparrow Automotive also prepared this beautiful BMW-powered 2CV of Alex de Vries. It uses the boxer motorcycle engine and produces around 100bhp

Barrie 'Whizzo' Williams enjoys a very different racing experience, in this road-standard Renault ZOE electric car

This MG Midget was driven very well by Philip Stader, and was great fun to watch. Brisk, despite only 1275cc

Only eight Costin Amigos were ever built. Frank Costin's unusual design matches a Vauxhall slant four to a wooden monocoque

Alistair Dent falls victim to a greasy track after light rain. His Cooper Mk6 uses a 500cc JAP engine

The Citroën Car Club gathered three colourful DSs to mark 60 years of the still-remarkable DS. The blue example belongs to club chairman Brian Drummond (see C&SC, March 2009)

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