Updated: Apr 23
Whilst Brooklands in Surrey may lay claim to being the world’s first purpose-built motor-racing circuit, it is the hillclimb at Shelsley Walsh in Worcestershire which is the oldest venue in the world still running motorsport events on its original course.
First used in August 1905, almost two years before the first race at Brooklands, Shelsley Walsh was pressed into service by the Midland Automobile Club as an alternative to their previous hillclimb venue at Sun Rising Hill on the main route between Banbury and Stratford upon Avon. Since that time, the Club has continuously run competitive hillclimbs there using the same route. The location of the start-line, the corners and the views have remained essentially unchanged for over 100 years.
The steepest section is a 1 in 6 gradient and, with a minimum width of 12 feet, the Shelsley Walsh Hill Climb course is 1,000 yards long. These nice round imperial measurements have to be abandoned, however, when we look at the actual height climbed, which is 328 feet. Happily for anyone now fully metric, this gain can be expressed as a nice round 100m..
The outright hill record of 22.58 seconds has stood for over 12 years and is held by Martin Groves driving a Gould GR55B hillclimb-racer with a 3.5-litre Nicholson-McLaren engine.
There are 18 different classes of hillclimbing at Shelsley Walsh which encompass everything from road-legal production cars up to 2-litres to large capacity racing cars with all manner of variations including Sports Libre hillclimb specials in between.
Hill climbs are essentially the same as sprint races, where competitors drive one at a time on a measured section of tarmac against the clock. The only difference is the presence of a significant gradient. It is one of the oldest forms of motorsport; the first known hill climb took place in January 1897 at La Turbie near Nice in France.
The historic Shelsley Walsh Hill Climb is no stranger to the E-type, as can be seen in our gallery [link] of action on the famous hill. This includes video footage from our successful 2018 XK70 event where Chris Ward of JD Classics (now Woodham Mortimer) had a lucky escape when he clipped the nearside at Crossing sending Series I Lightweight Roadster ‘1196 WK’ into the banking.