Wheeler in top form...

THE FIRST two hill climb meetings of the season at Wiscombe Park provided a stern challenge for all the drivers.

Two passages of a mechanical road sweeper removed much of the winter detritus but the track surface offered little grip particularly during the practice runs for the Saturday event.

Such issues did not deter Ben Wheeler from getting his season underway in the most positive manner by securing the Fastest Time of The Day in both events and returning home to Kilmington with The Channon and The Mark Salter trophies. Wheeler’s pace was such that he was the only driver in the entry of 120 competitors to record a sub 40 second time in each event with a best of 39.13 to claim victory on the Saturday.

Single-seater exponent Andrew Forsyth claimed a double in the 1100cc-1600cc Racing Car class in his OMS CF04. The Shillingstone driver battled hard during the two Woolbridge Motor Club organised events which opened the Wiscombe Park season but was unable to defeat Ben Wheeler.

In the classes, Jon Langmead claimed two runner-up finishes in the 1400cc-1800cc division of the Road-going Series Production category. The golf professional from Exminster unable to get on terms with Jonathan Wright at the wheel of a Volkswagen Golf GTi. Third in the Saturday event was claimed by Ottery St Mary’s James Hudson in another Golf.

The over 2600cc split of the road-going category saw wins for Ashclyst farmer Martin Glover taking his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo4 RS to the fore on Saturday with a winning time of 45.20 seconds with son Simon shadowing him all the way to take second place just over 0.6 of a second in arrears.

Twenty-four hours later the dairy farmer had to settle for a third place with Exeter garage proprietor Steve Clark taking the victory in his Subaru Imprezza with a climb of 43.22 seconds.

The strength of the family was never more obvious than with brothers Anthony and Jonathan Wright each forging to two class wins in the Audi A3 and Volkswagen Golf GTi respectively. The brothers from Wellington both compete in the Road-going Series Production Car category with retail area manager Anthony contesting the 1800cc to 2600cc division and printer Jonathan the 1400cc to 1800cc split. Their efforts have made them the pacesetters in the 2018 Wiscombe Park Hill climb Championship sponsored by Tillicoultry Quarries with Anthony enjoying a slender lead of 0.62 of a point.

Tony and Ben Bonfield provided another family dynamic. This time a father and son relationship. Having raced a Mini for many seasons, they enjoyed success in 2016 with Ben becoming the sprint champion in the Association of South West Motor Clubs series. Having secured such a success stock was taken and a new course was decided upon and that was to join the rans of the single-seater racing car drivers. Last season was spent driving the Mini in hill climbs and the new machine, a Honda powered Jedi, in sprint events with the plan of then concentrating on the Jedi in both disciplines come 2018. Their Wiscombe season started well with product design and workshop engineer Ben taking two wins in the up to 1100cc Racing Car class with a fastest time of 40.89 seconds being achieved during the Sunday event with improving track conditions.  Father and mentor Tony took second and third finishes across the weekend.

Father and son duo David and Jan Yeo campaigned their Westfield Sei in the large capacity split. In the Modified Limited Production category with Jan claiming two second places behind the rapid Caterham Seven of Paul Reynolds. Jan, a quantity surveyor by profession was followed by his father in the first event of the weekend.

The 1600cc to 2000cc Racing Car class was the province of Honiton driver Dave Gardner who did the double in his Vauxhall two litre engined Pilbeam MP62 to defeat the MP82 of Andrew Dinner during the first event and Crediton engineer Kevin Frost aboard his KMD 004 at the second time of asking.

This weekend (May 12th/13th) sees the main focus of attention being the annual Vintage Sports Car Club meeting on the Sunday. Always a first class event for enthusiasts of pre-war and historic racing cars from such manufacturers as Riley, Bentley, Bugatti, Alvis, Morgan and many others.

The previous day will see the 500 Owners Association make their annual visit to Wiscombe Park with a variety of machines, many with motor cycle derived engines in addition to a selection of the vintage runners taking the opportunity for early running on the course.


This article first appeared in the Independent. To get the latest articles when they appear, buy the print edition every Sunday or subscribe to our online edition HERE.