A time for reflection on what has been one of the best seasons ever for the Ferrari Owners Club hillclimbers and sprinters. Most meetings attracted very strong entry levels, and rather refreshingly we have been seeing the recent intake of new younger drivers coming along to challenge the older Ferrari drivers that have monopolised the scene for many years. There has been close competition at all levels, and a particularly intriguing and often exciting contest for the outright series win.
Nick Frost, our 2003 Ferrari Hill Climb Champion with his immaculate 348GTC, had to work hard in early to mid-season as he strove to haul in points leader Richard Prior. He soon got in to his stride though, producing a very convincing string of class wins and maximum point scores. Strong at most venues, we knew Nick would do the business at the Harewood rounds, but he was great at Loton too, with maximum scores for both meetings. Nick's 348 is always well prepared and turned out, and together with his attention to detail, and determined but cerebral approach, he proved mostly unbeatable and thoroughly deserves this year’s title.
Richard Prior, second overall in 2003 with his 348ts was a revelation in the first half of the season as he romped away in the cumulative points chart. He took a maximum point score in Bouley Bay and maximums at both Prescott meetings – the one place where he had an edge over Nick Frost. Richard was strong at all the Harewood and Curborough rounds too, with only Nick ahead. His great enthusiasm, good humour and generally exhuberant driving added immensely to the fun of the series. Richard always gives it everything, and can usually be relied on to throw his 348 in to the weeds from time to time!
Inevitably Richard Allen and Geoff Dark, old old hands at the hill climbing business would wind up near the top of the chart and this they duly did. Nick Taylor was tied on points with Geoff by season's end, following many strong and consistent results with his Mondial 3.4T. Mike Spicer holding third overall for much of the year with his 308GTB slipped back in the last few rounds – he had good scores at Prescott and particularly the second Loton, but was off the pace a little in the last events.
The new 2003 intake provided some promising performances, with Andy Grier, Barry Wood and Jolyon Harrison all showing surprising speed. It was young Chris Butler though who really lifted the eyebrows with his F355. He produced some amazingly fast times on his first visits to most of our venues, finished high in the points table, and looks very much like a future championship winner.
The regular runners were all at it, some more than others. Regrettably we did not see much of 2002 Champion Jon Goodwin, busy cycling somewhere around the globe, and we lost Peter Hayman as a competitor after he finally destroyed his 512TR in a road accident. However the variety of tipos seen in action during the season was as usual impressive, even though the threat of Len Watsons F40 never materialised. It is noticeable that there is a decline in 308s and even 328s, with more of the larger engined Ferraris in evidence over this last season. In contradiction though it was great to see a couple of Dino 246s in action in the hands of Tony Willis and Colin Campbell.
The 2003 season got underway in March with the opening round at North Weald - a less than charismatic motor sport venue in Essex. Previously famed as an RAF fighter airfield there are now various activities going on, including some latter day Biggles who pester the surrounding area with their very noisy Harvard WW2 trainers, some even got up as Japanese Zeros! North Weald was notable for an amazing entry of no less than eighteen Ferraris, and for Nick Frost (348GTC) making his mark right at the outset with a win on scratch ahead of 2002 Championship winner Jon Goodwin (F355). Richard Prior (348ts) was there too in third giving an early indication of things to come. Andy Grier made a very impressive debut finishing high up the chart ahead of many more experienced competitors.
During the Easter holiday in April fifteen FHCC Ferraris were shipped over to Jersey by Sea Cat for the Bouley Bay hill climb. Brilliant weather made for a most enjoyable short holiday never mind the motorsport. Jon Goodwin had to substitute his 360 Modena Spyder when his F355 gave trouble on the way down to Poole harbour. He was predictably quick at Bouley winning the class on scratch with his first official run, but neglected to take a chain saw on his second! Richard Prior showing he meant business this season, took second overall ahead of Richard Allens F355, and maximum points with the 348ts, to take the lead in the cumulative points chart
Next up was Prescott in May and another scratch win for Jon Goodwins F355 in a close contest with Geoffrey Rollason who took second with his 360 Modena Spyder. Nick Frosts 348GTC was third, with Richard Prior fourth - close enough to collar the twenty points to further increase his lead in the cumulative points chart. Notable too was the debut of new player Barry Wood from Devon with his 308GTS.
The Ferraris were out in force again a week later at Harewood - this time no less than twenty. Nick Frost in his element here, romped off to a class win and maximum point score, though his best time was both a long way short of his own mark and the absent Goodwin's class record. Richard Prior of course was hanging in there, second on scratch and points, with Peter Hayman in what was to be his last appearance with the 512TR third. New boy Chris Butler (F355) on his first ever hill climb surprised every body with his speed to finish fourth.
May was a busy month with the MIRA Sprint next. Ten cars this time and yet another scratch win plus maximum points for Nick Frosts 348GTC. Peter Hitchman surprised everybody and maybe himself, getting in to an excellent second overall with his 360 Modena Chris Butler (F355) was third, whilst Chris Dixon fourth overall, took second on points with his Mondial 3.4T. Richard Prior's spin with the 348 on the first official probably blunted his efforts as he slipped down the finishing order.
June opened early with the big National meeting at Shelsley Walsh and a twelve car Ferrari class. Nick Frost stayed away and Geoffrey Rollason comprehensively out -gunned the opposition with the 360 Modena. He took the scratch win, but not the maximum points - that went to Richard Allen's 328GTB in second. Geoff Dark placed third with his 308GTB ahead of Richard Prior's 348ts. Chris Dixon practised on Saturday with his Mondial, but disappeared early to go to a wedding and was not seen again until the FHCC Prizegiving Dinner!
The second Prescott later in June with twelve runners was another class win for Geoffrey Rollason and his 360 Modena, and a great result for Richard Prior – he finished ahead of Nick Frost on scratch! He took another twenty points too, and rather handily for Richard, Geoff Dark with a strong performance in fifth took second on points. Nick Frost finished third overall with Chris Butler again very impressive as a venue newcomer coming fourth. This Prescott was the seventh 2003 round, and the season half way mark. Richard Prior on 122 points looked very comfortable ahead of Nick Frost on 90, though this was misleading as he had seven scores against Nick's five. (The best seven count).
Gurston Down years ago used to attract good entries, but this time only eight Ferraris turned out – maybe people preferred to go to the British GP on at the same time. Gurston old hands Richard Allen (328GTB) and Geoff Dark (308GTB) took first and second respectively on both scratch and points. Richard Prior third overall was behind Mike Spicer (308GTB) on points – Mike by now had moved in to third overall in the cumulative chart.
Loton Park was next on the agenda in July, and this was the weekend of the Loton Motoring Festival and the Dinner with Sir Michael Leighton at Loton Hall. A record entry of sixteen Ferraris turned out for this jamboree, and on the hill it was Jon Goodwin taking the class honours with his F355 from second place man Nick Frost and his 348GTC. Nick took the twenty to close in on points leader Richard Prior who had a traumatic time, going off-piste on both his officials to earn a pretty useless three points! Nick Taylor went well here with the Mondial to take third on points and fifth overall.
Curborough sprint mid August was next and just eight cars turned out - maybe as nobody gets too excited about this somewhat prosaic venue. Anyway the serious players were at it, with Nick Frost now putting the pressure on with a stunning time, taking both the class win and the maximum points of only eighteen available due to the small number of runners. Chris Butler again amazingly fast on another first venue visit with his F355 was second, with Richard Prior third.
Back to Loton Park again at the end of August for a really close contest between our two series front runners. Nick Frost, surely now with enough trophies on his mantelpiece, pulled off another Ferrari class win and twenty points, but only by a tenth or so as Richard Prior made no mistakes and was very close behind in second overall. Notable too was Nick Taylor placing third in his Mondial in this eleven car class. When adding in these latest scores Nick notably moved ahead of Richard for the first time in the cumulative points.
Harewood was on the menu again in September, and it was here with another even more convincing class win, easily taking the twenty points that Nick effectively secured this years Ferrari Hill Climb Championship – his points lead now being sufficient to be unassailable in the remaining events. Chris Butler came second again with his 355 and a very well behaved Richard Prior third and second on points. Most of the others were not so well behaved with Nick Taylor. Mike Haigh, Chris Butler and even Nick, no less, all throwing their cars at the scenery!
The penultimate round at Longleat had thirteen runners and witnessed another close contest for the class between Nick Frost and Chris Butler. This time it was Chris Butler taking the class win for a change though, and Richard Allen the maximum points with his 328. Nick was second on scratch and second on points. Peter and Chris Hitchman sharing their F355 were also up the top of the time chart.
The last outing at Curborough saw Nick Frost turn in a true Champion's performance with his superbly presented 348GTC, finishing off the season with another big score! It was a fitting end to a great season.
Finally, it would be churlish to conclude without expressing our thanks to the organising clubs, officials and marshals who make this fine sport possible. If you are an FOC member and fancy joining in the fun, you can get in touch via the website or the Club Office. See you in 2004.
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