MX5 and new tent

What a great little car this Mazda is! I’ve just returned from a 450 mile round trip to Cornwall where I took part in the Werrington Hillclimb organised by the Plymouth Motor Club and it never missed a beat. Four and half hours each way and thrashed up the hill seven times and it never complains or demands any tinkering with at all and I don’t think you could have more fun in a Ferrari!

The house near the top of the hill at Werrington Park

This two day event comprised two separate events with two practice runs on each day followed, after lunch, by two competitive runs. Plymouth Motor Club had divided the roadgoing series production classes into four classes:
A1 up to 1400 cc
A2 1400 to 1800 cc
A3 1800 to 2600 cc
A4 over 2600 cc.
This split the MX5s up though we all ran in the same batch and were parked near each other in the paddock. Unusually there were more Mk2s than Mk1s and I guess as time goes on we’ll see fewer people choosing to race  the old Mk1 1600 like mine.

At Werrington we saw five MX5s: Dennis Cooper in his first hillclimb in a Mk 1 1600. My 1990 1600 cc Mk1. Nigel Hodson in his 1800 cc Mk2 Sport complete with leather seats and ‘wooden’ dash (and no rollover bar – brave man!). Paul Webster with his wolf in sheep’s clothing – Stripey
and Tim Rees (on Sunday only) in a very smart and unmodified Mk 2.5 1800. The cars were all in various states of tune and we all had our own personal targets and people to beat. For me it was to be the fastest MX5 after Paul and to beat Neil Catling’s Lotus Elise (which I foolishly thought I had a chance of doing after practice, but didn’t get near in the end).

Nigel Hodson with his MX-5 Mk2 Sport
Nigel Hodson with his MX-5 Mk2 Sport
Dennis Cooper with his 1600 cc Mk1
Dennis Cooper with his 1600 cc Mk1
Tim Rees with girlfriend Fran and 1800cc MX-5 Mk 2.5
Tim Rees with girlfriend Fran and 1800 cc Mk 2.5

The Werrington Park hill is pretty scary with a narrow gap over a covered cattle grid approached over a brow and at a slight angle, a 90 degree left with no real run off (though there is an escape road to the right, which Fyrth Crosse had to take in his Ensign) and then a very narrow windy section under trees with stone walls close on both sides.

The cattle grid.

The timing equipment failed on Saturday morning so no one got a timed first practice but in the second practice I recorded a time of 51.83 seconds which was encouragingly close to Paul’s practice time. However, I didn’t better this in the afternoon. While queuing for my first competition run it started to drizzle and I was too cautious, braked far too early for the 90 degree left and only managed a 52.69.

The organisation of the event was, how shall we say, ‘relaxed’ and we didn’t get going until after ten in the morning. Maybe this delay was caused by the organisers trying to fix the timing equipment (we were never told) but the long and the short of it was that the timing equipment played up all day and the meeting was halted prematurely at 5pm and we didn’t get a second run. There were lots of very disgruntled drivers in the paddock. I might have been more annoyed if I had travelled all that way and was not staying for the Sunday, but at least I had some more runs to look forward to. Paul Webster also gave me some good news – I had beaten the previous HSA MX5 class record (53.15) and so would get a few extra championship points for that.

The only water supply.
Toilet facilities

The paperwork for the event did say that camping was permitted but that facilities were basic. This was indeed true. A stand pipe and portaloos. On Saturday night I had to make a run for it and find a nice warm pub in Launceston. As usual there was range of accommodation in the paddock – from little one man tents like mine up to luxurious caravans and super motor homes with rooms that slide out of their sides. I had a new larger tent, Paul had a new van conversion with cooker and bed, but the person who stole the show was Mathew Searle with his tiny teardrop caravan which he towed with his competition car, a VW Lupo turbo diesel.

Matthew Searle with race car and teardrop caravan.
Matthew Searle's race car and teardrop caravan.

On Sunday I was encouraged by two practice runs under 51 seconds (50.47, 50.65) but the timing results were showing a speed at the speed trap of about 20 mph while others who were recording a similar time were going through the trap at over 40. The trap is positioned at a very slow part of the hill just after a bend and I thought I might be taking it completely wrong. Paul and I watched one of my in-car videos and couldn’t see a problem and we concluded there was something wrong with this data all weekend. Now, looking at other people’s results, I’m sure this was the case.

After lunch Tim Rees in his first hillclimb, in a standard 1800, beat me with a sub 50 second time, which was an excellent result and was just the kick in the pants I needed to brake later wherever possible in my second run and I finished with a very pleasing 48.58. Unfortunately for Tim it started raining more heavily while he was waiting on the line and he had to be more cautious on his second run.  Here’s a video of my fastest run.

So, another good weekend’s hillclimbing.  Next week I’m not doing the HSA two day round at Shelsley but have opted to do the BARC sprint at Curborough on the Saturday instead. My next HSA event will be Wiscombe Park  on the 21st May.

More photos on my Facebook site.  See here.

Professional photos from Teltphotography

Official results (when published) should be here.

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