Earlier this year I was fortunate enough to hold some retail stand space for the Classic Nostalgia event at Shelsley Walsh. (At this point, I should apologise for the 'retrospective' nature of this post, the event having been held over the weekend of the 16th/17th of July!)
Now, I have to admit to being fairly - correction, entirely - ignorant of the hillclimb scene in general, and Shelsley Walsh in particular. Clearly, I was aware of the objective of hillclimbing, and the principle has taken my interest before now. Just not enough to actually get off my posterior and visit a hill climb event, but that has all changed now. IT may be my gradual metamorphosis into middle age and the greater appreciation for older, historically significant motorsport machinery, it may also be a reaction to the obscenely affluent, horribly corrupt and downright sterile world of modern Formula One, but either way I find myself drawn more and more to the visceral, tactile experiences of historic racing and nostalgia events such as this.
Before the visit, I was intrigued to discover that Shelsley claims to be the world's oldest active motorsport event, having staged hillclimbs since 1905!
I organised having a stall to sell my t-shirts at the Classic Nostalgia event at fairly late notice, so my prelim research could be described as scant at best. However, intrepid as I am I made my way over to darkest Worcestershire early on the Saturday morning to set up. Leaving the M40 you pass through some charming villages en route, each of which provided further narrative to the story by seemingly plunging me further and further back in time!
Just when I imagined the setting couldn't get any more rural, the brown 'Shelsley Walsh' road sign came into view, which came as some solace to me as I was beginning to wonder how my sat nav could possibly fail to navigate me to an event that has been running since 1905! On arrival at the site I noticed the striking geography firstly. The road that comprises the hillclimb itself meanders up a steep natural valley, with wooded hills to either side of the track. To say it nestles amongst picturesque surroundings is an understatement. I also noticed just how steep the incline is.
Once I had set up, I managed to take a more thorough look over the weekend's itinerary, and was delighted (from both a personal and commercial perspective) to discover that a large portion of the schedule was dedicated to a homage to Group B Rally! I was born in 1979, so when Group B was in full swing I wasn't really old enough to fully appreciate the significance of the period. Nevertheless, it completely captured my imagination later on and still holds an almost mystical quality to me. To find out there would be 20 or so Group B machines there, including 205 T16s, Quattro S1s, (driven by David Llewellin) Renault 5 GT Turbos, Lancia Delta S4s, Ford RS200s and Jimmy McRae reunited with his Prodrive prepared Metro 6R4! Superb.
In addition to this, Hans Joachim Stuck was guest of honour for the weekend, driving an array of machines from his career, including the awesome Audi Quattro IMSA S4 GTO; a 720hp beast, and most notably a special display to mark the 80 year anniversary of his Father's record-breaking Shelsley run in the magical Auto Union Type C grand prix car, its huge V16 roar nearly knocking me off my perch over the track in an attempt to video its accent later that day!
Amateur footage of Hans Joachim Stuck in the Auto Union Type C at Shelsley.
I have to say I was throughly charmed by Shelsley; the event itself, the location, staff and facilities were all superb, and I'd recommend it to anyone seeking an alternative motorsport event. Those seeking exotic and charming machinery from yesteryear should certainly check out the 2017 Classic Nostalgia event.
Those wanting further input could look at joining the MAC (Midlands Automobile Club) who now own the land, ensuring events run there for at least another 90 years, hopefully!
On the Saturday evening, after rubbing shoulders with drivers and officials in the paddock and bar areas, I decided to walk up the hill before bedding down for the evening. One of my fellow stallholders gave me a small bottle of wine, which, coupled with my bottled ales were the perfect accompaniment to watching the sun slowly depart over the Malverns from an excellent vantage point in the now empty Audi VIP area - only the wind in the trees and the local wildlife for company. I often enjoy those quiet, lonely and tranquil moments at race events, imagining the thunder that earlier filled those woods with momentary, head spinning automotive shrieks and compare them to the serenity in which I now sat, glass in hand. Quite a life-affirming moment.
The Audi Quattro S1 driven by David Llewellyn makes a perfect start!
The course is short but tight, and must be a blast to drive! The 1000yard record currently stands at 22.58 seconds which is some achievement!
The current record holder, Martin Groves can be seen in a previous record-breaking run here:-
Martin Groves' record-breaking Shelsley run.
All in all, a wonderful weekend of hillclimb action has left me wanting more. I'll be looking to book on future events, both as a stall holder and a bone fide paying punter! If this post has captured your imagination, Google Shelsley Walsh and start looking at the plethora of info available and begin planning your first trip!
To start, have a look at the story of Hans Stuck and the Auto Union Type C HERE