This August Bank Holiday just gone was time for the Summer Championship Hillclimb at Harewood Hill and of course Mini Sport regular Mike Garstang was there in his Mk1 1275 Mini Cooper S and was kind enough to send us a report:

After  a couple of events back in the left hand seat of the rally car it was time to blow the dust off the “S” and ready it for Harewood on the August Bank Holiday weekend.

A quick call to Mini Sport and a set of taper roller wheel bearings for each front hub came whistling through the post. I knew the nearside was a bit suspect but I decided to do both sides on the basis of good preventive maintenance – just as well because when I dismantled the offside it was worse than the nearside bearing. All the other checks were fine and after a quick road test I was ready to rock and roll (on second thoughts, perhaps we’d give the roll bit a miss!).

For the Bank Holiday event the Class contained two quick modern Peugeots, a beautiful 1970’s Renault Alpine, me and two other Minis, both were Clubmans with one running a 1293 engine and the other a 1310.

Practice took place on a showery morning with a cool strong wind (yes, summer had returned). Over the 2 practice runs I couldn’t get within 1.5 sec’s of my PB but I was a good 3 sec’s ahead of the other two Minis. With a big field including about 20 TVRs (running in the TVR hillclimb championship) and about 50 motorbikes we were only going to get two timed runs after lunch so it was going to be important to get it right.

I cruised down to the line for the first timed run in my Class position with both in Minis line astern behind me. The marshals rolled me into place and I sat waiting for the red light to go green (no, this isn’t a GP). Suddenly, two amber lights came on and started flashing dementedly… so I waited and I waited and I waited (it appears the previous car had gone on safari to explore the Harewood scenery). Suddenly, the red lights were back on, thumbs up from the marshals… GREEN and we’re off!

Well, I pushed hard all the way and got to within ½ sec of my PB – it could have been tidier but was it enough to beat the other Minis? I just had time to get out of the car and nip across the paddock to watch the Minis go by. Happily I was still 2-3 sec’s ahead but there was one more run to go.

I really should know better but……from the start it was off across the contour and into Clark’s, hard right with all four wheels drifting through the apex; down the slope, change up from 2nd to 3rd and deep into the first element of the esses before braking, dropping back into 2nd and turning into the right hander; the back end started to come round so I kept the power on as I drifted right and left through the esses into the bottom hairpin(all exciting stuff and dramatic to watch but it slows you down); well, with some time lost I had to keep pushing hard so it was lots of understeer through the hairpin then off up the hill; a bit deep into the first 90 left and then off across the contour again before a very long double apex right – drifting, drifting; a 90 right then back off across the contour through the farm complex before a long left hairpin – drifting again, keep the power on and then off up the last part of the climb before a long tightening right into the 90 right and over finish line. Phew! But, with the sideways motoring and the red mist the time was slower than the 1st run – it just wasn’t quite tidy enough.

Anyway, I stayed–The Peugeots took the Class (40 years of engineering evolution makes quite a difference!) with the Alpine 3rd and me 4th  about 1.5 sec’s ahead of the 1310 Clubman and 3 sec’s ahead of the 1293.

With some comparable Minis in the Class I was happy that at last I’d been able to benchmark the work done last winter and during the spring at Mini Sport (thanks chaps).

Happy? Very – I can’t wait to get out on the hills again.

Mike Garstang.