Nick Dalton captures the rare, warm summer light from a Hill Climb held at a sumptuous estate nestled in the English Countryside, no not that one. This is the Chateau Impney Hill Climb.
On a weekend not short of sporting action - take a bow, Le Mans Classic, the British GP, Wimbledon and the World Cup - you wouldn’t imagine any smaller event looking forward to gain punters’ attention.
Step forward, however, Chateau Impney Hillclimb. Embracing one of the very best traditions in British culture - that of deliberately hurling noisy contraptions of questionable safety up the driveway of a stately home - and combining it with the spirit of a garden party in those grounds, it puts together a show that makes a grand day out for both petrolheads and their families…
It’s a familiar enough format - after all, Goodwood tried their hand at it again the following weekend; yet whilst FoS will always be unrivalled as the most comprehensive assembly of illustrious machinery, Impney conjures a charm all of its own with subtly different ingredients.
A heavy focus on historic wheels nods back to the event’s history (it first ran in 1957 before calling time a decade later), and since its resurrection in 2015 it’s assembled an enormous entry list of racers ranging from Edwardian specials to CanAm wedges, all vying for class wins over the 1100 yard course. Without the need for breaks for competitors to file back down the hill, spectators are treated to rapid fire runs through the painfully pretty settings, the cars returning to the paddock around the back of the grounds.
And what a grounds it is. Completed in 1875 for the wife of local industrialist John Corbett, it was designed by Parisian architects in the style of a Louis XIII chateau - to satisfy her nostalgia for her own Parisian upbringing. Sadly, in the words of the commentary team, “she didn’t like it”, instead opting to take up residence in Wales. And that was before the unsympathetic additions made in the 1970s…
Standout entrants included Chris Williams’ traction-bereft 24 litre Napier Bentley (“the ultimate laxative”), Rachel Williams’ Hardy Special mkII (burning as much oil as fuel, everywhere) and John Harrison’s ’58 Dodge Coronet - a car “completely unsuited to hillclimbing”, lurching theatrically up the road. Don’t forget that this is a serious competitive event - the overall win taken by Malcolm Thorne in a ’65 Lotus F2 car - but sometimes you just can’t beat a bit ofspectacle. And Impney has that in spades.
A tremendous thanks to Nick for sending us these photos and words, if you're interested in working with us please get in touch.