Step forward the nice people at Mercedes-Benz UK and their A45 AMG for the first meeting of the year at Prescott. For a road-going car, the A45 has all the right elements to be a belting hillclimb machine. It has four-wheel drive for traction off the line, a 360hp 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine and seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox for fast, smooth shifts. We've decided to run every car in showroom spec, so the car was still using its standard Bridgestone 235/40R18 tyres all round.
The only things added were series sponsor logos, a timing strut, and stickers for the ignition and tow points in the event of an off. We also added one other crucial piece - decals for the The National Association of Blood Bikes. This fine charity provides free transport for blood, X-rays and other vital documents to the NHS. It's entirely run by volunteers and is one of those excellent ideas that too often go unnoticed and unfunded, so it's our intention to make more people aware of Blood Bikes and, hopefully, donate a little bit. Check out their website for more information.
Stickers applied, the first run on Saturday morning was a fact-finding mission to see how grippy Prescott's 1,127-yard course was. A 58.32sec run was nothing to write home about, but it showed the AMG's Race Start function could shave a whole second from starting without it. It also showed the A45's steering doesn't provide much feel and downchanges with the steering wheel paddles needed careful timing to avoid the car deciding to stay in a higher gear.
A new dawn
Sunday started with a damp track, so there was nothing to do except keep the car in one piece and try to perfect the right line through the Ettores and Pardon hairpins.
Sadly, the event was interrupted mid-morning by a crash involving Steve Hemingway's Pilbeam MP50 that resulted in the Great Western Air Ambulance taking him to hospital. Here's to a speedy recovery for driver and car, and a huge thank you to all of the emergency crews whose work means we can take part in motorsport.
When the meeting resumed, a first timed run of 51.78 was a personal best. I was hoping to get into the 50-second bracket, so this was as frustrating as it was pleasing.
The AMG's Race Start recorded its best time of the weekend at 2.09sec for the first 64ft. Then it was a small lift and push through Orchard, hold the understeer before braking hard for Ettores, down the dip and brake as late as possible for Pardon hairpin. Then it's flat towards the Esses, brake, turn and use the kerbs, and the drive as hard as I dared round Semi Circle to the finish line without falling off.
All of this ended with a 50.04sec time and that immensely satisfying feeling of knowing I'd made big gains and set a new PB. Teammate David then went and put in a 49.67sec, which is all credit to him and the car.
The Mercedes A45 AMG was a great car to dust off the cobwebs. It was fast, secure and surprisingly competitive, ending up only half a second behind a Porsche 997 Turbo. Next stop is Harewood Hillclimb on May 9-10 and we have something very different lined up for that. Back to the start of that learning curve...
Watch the clip here.
Photos: Richard Danby