Ditcham Park Hillclimb 1968-1973
From 1968, Chichester Motor Club ran a speed hill climb just off the B2146 between South Harting and Petersfield.
It was a meaningful event for my brother and I as we both went to school at Ditcham Park, about 3⁄43/4 mile further up the hill.
The organising team had Brian Sykes from Cedo tyres in Chichester and Pat Mann a farmer from further down the Ditcham south drive, near Rowlands Castle. They were the Clerks of Course. The course was 800 yards, and fast as the central section was fairly flat. The course was opened in June 1968 by Tony Marsh the reigning national hill climb champion in 30.22 seconds, although the course was lengthened a little later.
It was also important to us, in that it was my brother Edward and I’s first speed event, having previously, competed in trials, driving tests, and rallies. Edward was in his 1936 Austin Nippy, which he still owns, and I drove a 1,100cc frog-eye Sprite.
Ditcham was a good clubby event supported by many of the southern motorclubs, but it was not without problems to organise.
The bottom paddock and spectators’ carpark was prone to flooding, causing one event to be cancelled and another with a delayed start.
The top paddock was further up the hill and was cut out of the woods, so not a good surface. Communication was by a temporarily installed cable and field telephone system, which was not terribly reliable, as was the timing system.
Runs were held on Saturdays, Sunday events being not permitted, and one problem was the Postman’s van. He would turn up mid-morning and drive up the course to the school at the top of the road, stopping off at Sunwood farm and Downly, where Tony Marsh’s wife happened to live. On one occasion, the postman on his way down the hill, drove through the finish line and continued down the hill. The telephone system failed to stop a competitor starting on his run. That year, June 1973, the Bentley drivers club were invited and had their own class including Rusty Russ-Turner in what was listed as a 2 seater sports Bentley, 4398cc.
I was marshalling at the hairpin that day, the steepest part of the course. Rusty was hurtling up the hill and I happened to look to my right further up the hill and saw the post office van on a mission coming down the hill.
I had no option other to grab a red flag and jump out onto the track, waving like fury. Rusty screeched to a halt, moustache twitching, muttering that I had spoilt his best run! That I believe was the last event at Ditcham.
Many BRMC members entered the event including Alan Abrams, Mike Holding, Martin Neal, Clive Sayer, Lunger Pullen, Peter Brierley, Neil Worsfold, Alastair McHardy in the Adcocks of Chichester Hillman Imp, John Green, Roy Gillingham, John Waymark and many others.
The hill was not a great climb, and with all the difficulties, only around 100 entries could be run. The entry fee my records show, was £2.50!
Poster available from https://www.sussexpictures.co.uk/west-sussex-record-office/additional-manuscript/chichester-motoring-club-speed-hill-climb-ditcham-9184013.html