Fancy learning how to hillclimb? The Association of Hillclimb and Sprint Schools (AHSS) school at Prescott, which is on the outskirts of Cheltenham, has four normal school days available for anyone to use, as well as a refresher day early in the year post winter lay up.
Having made the choice to make a move into motorsport, and after watching several events on the hill, I decided to have a go. I got a national speed B licence from the MSA, with plans to upgrade it to a national A licence, as this is a service offered by the school -- the hillclimb school day counts as a MSA instructional signature day. The way it works is that the upgradee does involve a test after lunch, pre-reading of the 'blue book' in the relevant sections, as well as driving assessment during the day.
The Prescott Hillclimb Drivers School was established in 1984 providing expert tuition both to those with existing experience of hillclimb driving and to newcomers to the sport. Hillclimbing is now more popular than ever before. More and more drivers are taking to the hills where true sportsmanship thrives and where motorsport can be enjoyed without the pressure of commercialism so often found in other sections of the sport.
Prescott has a unique place in the history of hillclimbing. Here Stirling Moss had his first drive in a racing car, the first ever Cooper made its competition debut and in later years Peter Collins and Graham Hill and many other famous names joined the ranks of Prescott competitors.
Its objective is to develop the driver's existing skills and to teach new ones. The school records each ascent is recorded on video, and receives individual comments by the instruction team. The aim is to allow pupils to follow their progress through the day, to correct mistakes and improve car control.
08:45 Arrive and sign in at office Coffee in Prescott Lodge Restaurant (look around as per normal, trying to work out who's driving what. Watch the Vintage Sports-Car Club (VSCC) members unloading like mad before the coffee vanishes. Rain on track at this point, not looking too good.
09:30 Introduction to the school, introductions to the instructors, followed by the health and safety briefing, key point being that we recognise that it is not a race day. An introduction to the instructors, Russ Ward, Mark Waldron, and Dave Parr.
09:45 Blackboard instruction (not death by PowerPoint), very useful instruction by the instructors who all race on the track. It had stopped raining and was starting to dry.
10:10 Walk the course with instructors. At this point the school split into three groups: MSA upgrades, short course (VSCC), and long course groups. I went up with Mark Waldron who is currently running a Lotus Elise and may be known to many TVR owners as a Tuscan driver.
11:00 Convoy runs, with pupils in their own cars. Two runs at low speed with or without helmets, and a passenger if you have a guest with you. The track was now mostly dry but still a little damp under the trees.
11:10 Individual runs, four runs with storage for cars that either are taken off or fall off, as well as drinks in the paddock while waiting for your next run. There's a constant flow of runs.
11:30 Review of first runs by instructor, constructive line and route evaluations given. Questions were called for.
11:45 Individual runs continue. With the track consisting of a long complex set of corners, it is very easy to get one corner wrong and spend too long thinking about it. Before you know it, the car is off line for the next and it can get worse from there. There's a lesson to be learned...
12:45 Lunch, video playback of morning runs, comment by instructors, dry humour appreciation essential for very useful and constructive comments. Also very funny at times, with the dread of working out if the next run being shown is yours.
14:00 Individual runs continue. I started with a slow line-finding run -- this is a great way to really discover the track and it's possible to take your time to get as much out of your car and the track as possible. As I intend to race on the BOC track, I wanted and got the most out of the day.
16:00 Tea in the restaurant, with video playback of afternoon runs. As with the morning runs plus the invaluable chance to see if your line had improved. Each session is recorded from different locations as the camera and instructors move up the course. This has the advantage of ensuring that you don't just try to keep a tidy line past the camera. Presentation of Certificates with a point score for the overall day's performance per driver.
16:30 Dispersal -- as with many events where like minded people get together, there's a slight air of disappointment due to the fact that a great fun and well-organised day was over.
Now as a member of the Bugatti Owners' Club, must make note to self to buy a lottery ticket and hope, as the Veyron has now moved to production status...