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Classic sports car accelerating from startline at Kop Hill Climb 2016

KOP HILL CLIMB

KOP HILL CLIMB

Words and pictures by Peter Osborne

were already quite a few vehicles in the car park and a short queue for paying punters to get in.

The paddock, together with the manufacturers and car club display areas, are located on the local school’s playing field on the other side of the public road from the actual hill course, and for any admirer of weird and wonderful machinery this is nirvana.

You could easily spend all your time here looking at an eclectic collection of bikes and cars from the dawn of motoring history up to the present day and chatting to owners.

But that would be to ignore the main event – so back across the road, efficiently marshalled by the stewards with whistles and ropes (I know, it sounds odd; but it works brilliantly), to catch the action up the hill.

There are two sessions of hill runs during the day, separated by a lunch break, So each rider/driver gets two goes up the hill, or four if they’ve booked both Saturday and Sunday.

 

With entry fees at £30 for one day and £40 for both days (£15 and £20 respectively for bikes) that’s extraordinarily good value.

Too much interesting stuff to comment on individually here – we’ll leave that to the slideshow accompanying this report – but an added touch of celebrity glamour was added to Saturday this year with the presence of the Queen of ‘Bake Off’, Mary Berry.

Rallying legend Paddy Hopkirk, a local resident and Patron of Kop Hill, is also Mary’s neighbour and invited her to attend.

Apart from drawing winning raffle tickets and presenting awards, Mary also flagged off the ‘Mods and Rockers’ run of scooters and motorbikes led by a Jaguar Mk.2 police car.

Later on Saturday Mary accompanied Paddy as they tried to ascend the hill in Paddy's 1922 Harding Poultney Motor Chair.

Paddy first experience of driving a car as a young boy in Belfast was in this 250cc JAP-engined invalid carriage, on which he learnt the art of handbrake turns as the

 

Harding only had rear brakes operated by a hand lever!

Many years later Paddy talked about this on a radio programme and a listener phoned the station to say he had a Harding in bits at home. Paddy visited the listener and was astonished to find the box of bits included the original registration plate from his Harding.

Needless to say Paddy bought the bits and has since had the vehicle fully restored.

So a packed weekend, that on the Sunday rewarded us with warm sunshine, and judging by the full to overflowing car parks will have yet again raised loads of dosh for local charities.

If you’re within easy reach of Princes Risborough, or even if you’re not, I’d urge you to go next year. It’s only a tenner to get in and even non-petrolheads will enjoy the day.

 

Peter Osborne

It’s September in Bucks and that can only mean one thing – it’s time for the Kop Hill Climb!

Along with the Silverstone Classic this is my favourite motorsport event as both of them showcase old cars (and drivers) being used as they should be.

At Silverstone that’s competition cars; but at Kop Hill it means largely cars that you and I (had we been around at that time) would have driven on the road, with the addition of a few contemporary competition cars and a scattering of modern exotics.

Kop Hill, on the outskirts of Princes Risborough, is a public road that back in the early 20th Century was a famous hillclimb venue for bikes and cars in which many famous drivers of the time, such as Malcolm Campbell, Raymond Mays and Henry Segrave, took part.

First run in 1910, the Kop Hill Climb was a major event on the motorsport calendar until 1925 when an accident injured a spectator which led to the banning of all competitive speed events on public roads in the UK.

In 2010 the the Kop Hill Revival was staged as a non-competitive event. Organised by an enthusiastic team of local volunteers, Kop Hill is now a very successful family-oriented fun day out that raises significant amounts of cash for local charities – last year’s event alone contributed £75,000 to these worthy causes.

So what’s the difference between Kop Hill today and the same venue 100 years ago? Obviously it’s non-competitive. There is no timing, just an opportunity for enthusiastic owners to pit their bikes and cars against a deceivingly steep incline, 25% (or 1:4 in old money) at one point, up the Chilterns escarpment, and for the public to enjoy the spectacle and wander the paddock admiring these machines from yesteryear.

Also Kop Hill is now a smooth tarmac road, unlike the dirt track with nasty ruts in places of a century ago, plus there are more trees now - old pictures reveal an almost tree-less landscape with a clear view from top to bottom, and hundreds of spectators crowded right up to the track edge!

Arriving early on the Saturday morning to overcast skies and drizzly rain didn’t seem a good omen for a great day, but there

This 1920 picture from the Kop Hill Archives shows a distinct lack of trees – you can see right down to the start – and people standing perilously close to the edge of the narrow, bumpy track.

The car in the picture, a Talbot named ‘Blue Bird’, is driven by Malcolm Campbell.