We have been saying for a while that it would be good to do a Hillclimb, and with the spec of the ZR better suiting such an event. We choose to try out Loton Park Hillclimb, but before this we thought it best to try out the car on a more forgiving speed based event.
So after months of hot weather we headed to North Weald for a sprint in heavy wind and rain. The track at North Weald airfield would give us a chance to try out the car at speed with a greater margin of run off compared to Loton Park which is a thin strip of tarmac.
The classes at North Weald were a little odd and put us up against cars up to 2.3Ltrs, on the day this consisted of a Honda S2000 (standard this has 240bhp) and a modified Fiesta ST 1.6 Turbo with even more power. The ZR had when new at best 160bhp on a good day, with a following wind….
In the wet it was clear power was not key and by the end of the first practice runs, I was about 6th overall. However as the day progresses the weather dried out, and combined with the wind the course soon started to dry out. This then handed back the advantage to the cars with power. By the time for the final and third timed run of the day the course was almost fully dry, it was good to try out the car in dry conditions. The Fiesta which up to this stage I had been beating changed over to stickier List 1B tyres (all we had were some old List 1A tyres (road tyres) which we use for nearly everything). Going into this run I knew I had to push on hard to try and stay ahead, in the end I took the class win by about half a second from the Turbo charged Fiesta, and 14th overall out of ~45 entries.
A different style of video for this, Suze who was also competing at the event made these comparision videos to compare our driving styles. I think you can see my rallying background in places….!
Less than a week later it was time to head NW towards Loton Park and our first ever hillclimb. We got there just in time to sign on before signing on closed on the Friday evening, after this was done we then walked the course. It was interesting to find that there was a lot more elevation changes than the YouTube onboards I had been watching. The course went downhill as well as up. It was clear that it was a real technical course, and experience would be key here.
It was an early start as I was set to be one of the first drivers up the hill, the first few runs went all ok with each run getting faster as I learn the hill and how to extract time from the course. There were just two timed runs, and with the timing of the event the first of these was at the end of the morning just before lunch. This run felt good and felt like a continuing of the morning progress. However due to a wedding in the church opposite the venue, there was a long lunch break and then all the cars that ran after us. This meant nearly a three hour gap…. Although I tried to think hard about where to extract more time out of the course, it just felt all a bit cold when it came to my final run which ended up slightly slower than my previous time.
All in all it was good to experience a new branch of the sport, and I can see how it can take a lot of practice to get the top results in Hillclimbs. Below you can see my fastest run of the day and below that you can see a comparison video like the one from North Weald.