Six tips to improve your hillclimb times in 2021
Whether you’re a seasoned pro or looking for a new sport, these will guide you through
Given that none of us have really done anything in 2020, you might be finding it a little difficult to come up with a New Year’s resolution for 2021. If that is the case – might we suggest a little look at hillclimbing. It doesn’t matter whether you fancy yourself as a bit of a pro driver or are yet to try your hand at any form of motorsport, pretty much anyone can drive up a hill, and we’re here to help with some top tips to improve your times in 2021…Advertisement - Page continues below
… Except it won’t be us dishing out the advice. Trust us, you don’t want that. Earlier this year we took the dinky little Abarth 595 to Shelsley Walsh – the oldest surviving motor sport venue in the world – and commandeered Shelsley’s Chief Instructor Gary Thomas to impart some wisdom.
1. Smooth inputs
“The number one thing I would say for hillclimbing is to make all of your inputs smooth, and to minimise your inputs too. The more steering, accelerating and braking inputs you make, the more unsettled the car will be.”Advertisement - Page continues below
2. Walk the course
“My number two tip is to always walk the course. I always tell our students that. No matter how many times you’ve raced at a track, walk it if you get the chance. Often, I’ll walk it both in the morning before practice and at lunch time as well.
“You can often tell the people that haven’t walked it. Perhaps quite cheekily I’ll say, ‘isn’t it interesting that they’ve put a chicane in after the third corner?’ You can see the look of dismay on their face.”
3. Hand positioning
“Tip three would be to remember your hand position on the steering wheel. Too often I see drivers with their hands towards the middle of the top of the steering wheel. I see this on in-car videos all the time.
“There was a classic hillclimb event that I did recently too. I’d been there a couple of years earlier and taken some photos, and there was one particular driver who had a really bad accident in his car. The year I was then competing he’d borrowed a really valuable car from a friend, and he crashed that one too. I went back and looked at the photos and realised his hands were next to each other on the top of the steering wheel. That’s not the way to control a car.
“Have your hands as wide as you can and try not to take them off the steering wheel. Crossing your arms helps you to put smoother steering inputs in and helps you straighten the car. Go for the quarter-to-three position rather than the ten-to-two.”
4. The start line
“With hillclimbing you don’t have to go the instant the light turns green. So, when the light goes, set your own revs and make sure you’re comfortable with how you’re starting rather than going at the ‘B’ of bang.
“The more revs you set, generally the slower your start. Often we see the quickest 64ft times from people who set off like they’re just driving away from the traffic lights. We measure to 64ft in hillclimbing because if you get there in two seconds then that’s equivalent to 1G.”
“You can lose a small amount of time changing gear but the gains in getting up the rev range can be massive. Gearing is important but of course each car is different. When we do the school days people always ask which gear they should be in at each part of the course.
“That’s a question we can never answer truly because it depends on the car and the driver. I would often take slightly higher gearing around some corners because I know that the car can cope with the speed, but also because higher gearing makes the car less sensitive if you happen to blip the throttle. If you’re in a lower gear it may unsettle the car. A higher gear can make the car more stable, but you have to have the speed to get to that higher gear. It’s all about learning, and in hillclimbing you’re always competing against your own PB.”Advertisement - Page continues below
“One quirky little thing that I always tell people is to take a spare pair of socks. If you’re in the UK, you may have noticed that it sometimes rains…
“Lots of hillclimbs have grass paddocks, so if it’s rained then your feet are going to get wet. Put a clean, dry pair of socks in your bag and use them to compete in in the afternoon. You’ll always go quicker with dry feet.”