Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Hillclimbing (sometimes known as speed hillclimbing) is a branch of motorsport in which drivers compete against the clock to complete an uphill course. It is one of the oldest forms of motorsport, since the first known hillclimb (near Nice, France) took place as long ago as 1897. The hillclimb held at Shelsley Walsh, in Worcestershire, England is the world's oldest continuously-staged motorsport event still staged on its original course, having been first run in 1905.
In the United States and most of Europe, hillclimb courses are usually "mountain climbs" of several miles in length, but in the United Kingdom the tracks are much shorter, being more akin to country lanes up rolling hills.
Hillclimbing in the British Isles
In Britain, hillclimbing is considered a spectator sport, and the most prestigious events, such as those that form part of the British Hillclimb Championship, often attract several thousand enthusiasts to the hills. All the courses in Great Britain are situated on private land, but some events in the Channel Islands and Northern Ireland are held on closed public roads. Track lengths are traditionally quoted in yards: the longest hillclimb course used in the British Championship is Harewood at 1583 yards (1447 metres), and the shortest is Barbon Manor at 880 yards (805m).
A notable feature of hillclimbing is the very wide variety of vehicles used for competition. Both cars and motorcycles (including sidecars) take part in the sport, and in the case of cars these range from almost standard machines (sometimes driven to and from the tracks) with the only modifications being those required on grounds of safety, right through to specially-built single-seater racing cars. Classic and vintage cars are also very popular in hillclimbing. Generally there are separate meetings for cars and bikes, but occasionally both appear at the same event.
There is a system of classes which groups cars into broadly similar categories. For example, the classes for "Racing Cars" (ie single-seaters) are divided into those for cars with engine capacities of under 600cc, 600-1100cc, 1100-1600cc, 1600-2000cc and over 2000cc. The cars in the unlimited capacity class often use engines from, or derived from, Formula One cars, and occasionally F1 cars themselves have competed. Drivers entered for the British Hillclimb Championship may qualify for a "run-off" at the end of each set of class runs, and it is here that BHC points are scored.
It is common for two drivers, often but not always related, to share the same car at a hillclimb. Such entries are known as "dual-driven" (or, occasionally, "double-driven") cars. Usually drivers considered the slower in such partnerships will make the climb first, before the bulk of the class for which they have been entered. This therefore allows their companions to make their ascent at the "correct" time. Other than this, there is no special consideration for drivers in dual-driven cars, and both drivers count their results (and, if appropriate, score points) individually.
Major hillclimb venues in the British Isles
- Barbon Manor, Cumbria (880 yd / 805 m)
- Bouley Bay, Jersey
- Craigantlet, County Down (1460 yd / 1335 m)
- Doune, Perthshire (1476 yd / 1350 m)
- Gurston Down, Wiltshire (1057 yd / 967 m)
- Harewood, Yorkshire (1583 yd / 1447 m)
- Loton Park, Shropshire (1475 yd / 1349 m)
- Prescott, Gloucestershire (1127 yd / 1031 m)
- Shelsley Walsh, Worcestershire (1000 yd / 914 m)
- Val des Terres, Guernsey
- Wiscombe Park, Devon (1000 yd / 914 m)
Hillclimbing in the United States
Most American hillclimbs take place on mountain courses, and in many cases spectators are either banned or heavily restricted for safety or insurance reasons. The most famous hillclimb in the US is that held at Pikes Peak, Colorado. This event has been entered by many internationally renowned drivers, perhaps most famously world rally champion Ari Vatanen.
The "Climb to the Clouds" hillclimb on the 7.4-mile course up the Mount Washington Auto Road at Mount Washington, New Hampshire is the oldest motorsport event in North America, and was first run in 1904. However, this climb has been held only sporadically since 1961.
Hillclimbing in New Zealand
The premiere hillclimb event on the New Zealand motor racing calendar is the Queenstown, New Zealand based "Race to the Sky". It attracts a number of international competitors and is a major draw for local and foreign motor racing enthusiasts.
Held every Easter since 1998 it starts from the floor of the Cardrona Valley and runs uphill for 15 kilometres through 137 corners to the top, climbing from 1,500 ft to 5,000 ft averaging a 1:11 gradient.
The driver with the greatest number of "Race to the Sky" outright wins (6) is Nobuhiro "Monster" Tajima, driving his custom built Suzuki hillclimb special vehicle.
Hillclimbing in Europe
As with America, climbs in Europe are usually held on long courses. Hillclimbing is popular in Switzerland, since motor racing (but not competition against the clock) was banned there in the aftermath of Pierre Levegh's fatal accident at Le Mans in 1955. The most prestigious competition is the European Hillclimb Championship .
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