King of the Hills

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17 November 2023
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Shelsley Walsh hosts its own celebration of Land Rover’s 75th anniversary : credit: © Martin Domoney
Martin enjoys the vibe of the Lucas Classic at the Shelsley Walsh hill climb

In the UK, we’re blessed with a fair few motorsport venues considering the relatively small size of the lumps of rock in the sea we live on. Of course, some have fallen by the wayside over the years, but one that survives and continues to host some of the most exciting motorsport events in the country is the Shelsley Walsh hill climb.

Despite its name, and perhaps disappointingly to some of us, the hill climb isn’t a steep muddy trail or massive sand dune. Instead, it’s a 1000-yard strip of tarmac that snakes up between the Worcestershire hills, elevating a whopping 328 feet in the process. At its narrowest point it’s only 12 feet wide, which makes the demanding course even more buttock-clenching for the drivers hell-bent on shaving off tenths of a second. The oldest motorsport track in the world, it was first run competitively in 1905 and the high-octane action hasn’t slowed since.

This is all well and good, I hear you say, but what does it have to do with Land Rovers? Well, back in June, LRM was lucky enough to be invited to the inaugural Lucas Classic event at Shelsley, by our friends at Britpart. Having never been to Shelsley Walsh before, there was no way I was passing up this opportunity – not that I needed my arm bending any further, but the promise of some tasty Land Rovers on display was the icing on the cake.

Huge variety of Land Rovers on the Britpart stand

I hopped aboard the trusty Freelander 2 early on Sunday morning and headed to Worcestershire. The drive gave me time to take stock of the miles I’ve covered in the Freelander over the years of owning it (it’s rapidly approaching 200,000 of them) and although there’s a hub bearing whirr developing from somewhere, and the power transfer unit, Haldex coupling and rear diff are desperately overdue an oil change, I continue to be impressed by the old girl’s dependability.

Shelsley Walsh is nestled in stunning countryside, and the paddock area is already teeming with diverse and mouthwatering machinery when I arrive. A lightweight Jaguar E-Type rubs shoulders with a fire-breathing Cosworth-powered Ford Anglia 100E, and while tempted to take a closer look, the Britpart stand and its group of Solihull’s finest is calling, so I bypass the ‘normal’ cars and make a beeline for the Land Rovers.

Lovely Range Rover restomod created by Twenty-Ten Engineering

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After chatting to Britpart’s MD Paul Myers and marketing manager Richard Pigg, I take time to admire the incredible line-up of Series, Defenders, Range Rover Classics and off-road racers on display and meet up with LRM’s Steve Miller and his wife, Louise, who have also come along to soak up the atmosphere. I bump into Phil Holland of Range Rover specialist Twenty-Ten Engineering, who shows me around his dad’s stunning red two-door restomod, subtly lowered on dishy five-spoke alloy wheels.

A voice comes over the Tannoy announcing the track opening at 10am for the first group of drivers, and I spot Paul zipping up his race suit and clambering into the Britpart racer. We hurry up the path that runs alongside the track for a better vantage point, just in time for the distinctive blue race car to blast past in a cacophony of V8 anger and tyre howl. In stark contrast, the next Land Rover up the hill is the fully electric convertible Defender 90 of Electric Classic Cars, which blends mind-bending acceleration and speed with eerie silence as it disappears off up the technical track followed by a TDV8 Range Rover, Series IIA and more.

Later there’s a much more sedate pass up the tarmac, as the Land Rovers form an orderly procession to help mark the 75th anniversary of the company. A great mix of vehicles filter past, from 80in Series Is to Disco 2s to new Defenders and everything in between, with the compere giving a brilliant running history on each vehicle.

After a bite to eat, it’s time for a mooch around the paddock area before heading for home – an absolutely brilliant day and one I would recommend to anyone.

 

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