Story and photos by Jonathan Sharp
Click on photos to see large color images!
We are probably all familiar with the Prescott and Shelsley Walsh hill climbs, venues which have been running events right up to today. But what is Kop Hill? It is actually one of the oldest hill climb venues in England and was one of several hill climb locations in the Chiltern Hills during the early years of the past century.
First run in 1910, the hill climb became a major event on the motor sport calendar. It attracted many of the star names during its heyday, such as Captain Malcolm Campbell who drove his 12hp Talbot “Blue Bird” , Raymond Mays (in a Bugatti), Henry Segrave in his 2 liter GP Sunbeam, and Count Zborowski in an 8 cylinder Ballot. It was Zborowski who clocked the fastest time for motor cars in 1922 driving an aero-engined Ballot with a time of 26.8 seconds. However, the bikes were faster, with a 22.8 second time being the record set by Freddy Dixon on his 736cc Douglas, an average speed of 81 mph. Unlike Prescott, the climb is fairly straight but does have a 1 in 5 gradient.
The golden days ended abruptly on the 28th March, 1925, following a minor accident in which a spectator was injured. As this was a result of virtually uncontrollable crowds, the RAC (Royal Automobile Club, the sanctioning body) banned all forms of motor sport on public roads in the U.K.
In 1999, the local town council, in association with the Bean Car Club (a British club open to all cars made before 1941) held a commemorative run up the once famous hill. Ten years later in 2009, under the leadership of Tony Davies, the first revival meeting was held. Five years on and the event goes from strength to strength and does seem to have the ability to attract the cars that you do not normally see at other events.
As the hill is a closed public road, the runs are not timed, but this does not seem to slow the competitors down. The return to the start involves the cars having to descend the hill via a route that takes in a run through the middle of the nearby village. The entry list fpr the two-day event numbers around 400 cars and bikes and includes everything from a 750cc Austin 7 to the 24 liter Napier Railton.
During the afternoon runs on Sunday the skies above the climb where filled with the sights and sounds of the RAF Battle of Britain Memorial flights with Hurricanes and Spitfires. All money raised goes to local charities.
For further information about the history of the event I would recommend taking a look at the event’s website which contains many period articles about the heyday of the climb. www.kophillclimb.org.uk