The opening round of the Tran-X British Hill Climb Championship kicked off at Loton Park in Shropshire at the end of April under indifferent skies full of perfect sunshine and heavy rain. A whole host of brand new machinery was present as well as new drivers in new cars, but the attention was all taken by two people. Reigning title holder Graeme Wight Jnr in the Gould V6 sped to a double victory, whilst Mike Pilbeam and 1997 Champion Roger Moran brought out their new MP88 2.5 V6 into the public eye for the very first time. Although the new car from Bourne suffered niggling problems, Moran finished the day in 3rd position overall in the championship table. The other new fad of the weekend were the Avon radial tyres, developed over the winter by BMTR.

Graeme Wight Jnr got the first run off of the year in relatively dry conditions after sporadic showers early in the day, but he was chased hard by Team Tim in second and third. The Gould V6 team marked their win in the afternoon as more significant, with full points coming in streaming wet conditions after a torrential downpour. Traction off the line has been a problem of the relatively stiffly sprung baby Gould but after the rebuild late last year after Wight Snr's accident at Loton, modifications were added then rather than over the winter. Hence Jnr's 46.55 outright record at the last meeting at Loton in 2001 with those mods.

"I didn't feel that the last run was fast enough but these new radial wets are so good. Very happy indeed to get the wins." The Scot said.

Click here for a full size viewHowever, the loser of the first run off was Roy Lane when it rained just as he came to the line causing the Warwick driver just to wait a few moments and decide if it was worth the drive or worth waiting.... Or tyres... or what. In the end he bagged 11th and no points with a set of circumstances out of his hands. Phil Jefferies will not remember the run off for other reasons when his 1400 Hi Tech threw a con rod spectacularly towards triangle in a cloud of smoke. New block then...

Adam Fleetwood scored his first ever Championship point in his 1100 OMS, whilst Mark Budgett got 8th in the afternoon affair in his now Suzuki engined Force pushing out even more power than last year.

Mark Coley scored in the morning in his 2 litre MP62 only to out-brake himself in the afternoon slither. Paul Ranson and Colin Le Maitre also held up 2 litre pride in the afternoon with 9th and 10th respectively, but again it was the quiet one you have to watch. Trevor Willis qualified 3rd in the morning with his 2 litre OMS to then finish 5th and then qualified 6th to finish in the same place in the afternoon. Giant killing stuff indeed...

Tim Coventry was first up in the morning run off before a short shower so it looked for a moment that he could nip under the door, but a 3rd will do him well. Creeping off the line in a big V8 was not easy in the afternoon class runs, and it caught him out. Kangarooing over the line just a little too far before the rear wheels had crossed the strip of paint... and that was a run. No run off for the Falmouth driver.
Tim Mason pushed Jnr hard in the morning with second, but spun off in the afternoon at Fallow. Only one set of points for each driver.

Rob Turnbull is a new driver with the radial tyres. Suiting his turn in sharp, power out rally style of driving, he hopes the days of terminal understeer through slow to medium speed corners is gone. 3rd place in the afternoon proves that fact. He can't wait to get to the tracks that suit him, such as Shelsley.

Martin Groves was using the older cross ply tyres on the ATOL Judd, but that didn't stop it still sounding one of the best cars out there. 7th and 4th were the results. Quick off the line in the second run off it looked like he could repeat a win such as he did in Guernsey last year, but the front understeered and time was lost. He hopes a new nose on the car will make further differences and improvements.

Roger Moran in the new Pilbeam V6 was 6th and equal 4th. Not bad for a new car out there with the usual shakedown type problems. You can read all about the car on the news page, but it will be something to be reckoned with in the hands of the quick-but-no-heroics driver. It never really ran perfectly all day with a misfire and then a dragging clutch which had to be altered on the line a couple of times, but Mike Pilbeam was happy.

Star of the day though was Simon Durling who crept up behind them all to take 4th and a 2nd in the perfectly red Gould. Having never driven the new radial tyres in the wet before the day, he was half a second ahead of third. Will this be the year where he can crack the top spot? We certainly hope so...!

The next round of the championship is at Prescott near Cheltenham on May 5th before a double header at Barbon and Harewood over May 11th and 12th.

Round 1
Graeme Wight Jnr 47.23
Tim Mason 48.09
Tim Coventry 48.91
Simon Durling 49.35
Trevor Willis 50.52
Roger Moran 50.59
Martin Groves 50.75
Rob Turnbull 52.14
Mark Coley 52.15
Adam Fleetwood 54.86
Roy Lane 57.26
Phil Jeffries Fail
Round 2
Graeme Wight Jnr 57.52
Simon Durling 59.01
Rob Turnbull 59.52
Martin Groves 59.92
Roger Moran 59.92
Trevor Willis 60.55
Roy Lane 61.39
Mark Budgett 61.6
Paul Ranson 64.65
Colin Le Maitre 65.38
Mark Coley Fail
Tim Mason Fail