25 years of Wiscombe 5-Clubs

Plymouth’s Frank McKenna, who has sadly recently passed on, chaired that inaugural meeting, where we were represented by Maurice Chivers, our chairman at the time, and myself. Maurice became the first Secretary of the Meeting and the others bullied me into being Clerk of the Course. Of all those present at that meeting, I am now the sole remaining survivor.

We agreed with Woolbridge that, to allow them the maximum time to get themselves together for a solo effort, we would take the May slot and they would run in September. So on 8th May 1976 the first “5-Clubs Wiscombe” took place. It was a great success and set the scene for a long-term future.

For that first weekend we had managed to secure a round in ASWMC’s hillclimb championship for the Sunday, with Saturday as a ‘Club’ day. The next year, 1977, we were very pleased to go one step further and welcome on board, the Guyson-BARC Championship which was then the second most important hillclimb championship in the country behind the RAC’s. The two championships gave us an expanded competitor base and we had a full entry both days.

BARC continued with us for 1978 and we then applied for the event to be observed for possible inclusion in the country’s premier hillclimb championship, that of the RAC. We knew this would mean moving the date, as May was already chock-a-block. To our surprise we were accepted at the first attempt, provided we could offer an acceptable date. With no additional dates available, we approached Woolbridge, who by this time had run three successful weekends of their own, to see if we could arrange a swap, and they very helpfully agreed to our request.

For 1979 then, we moved to September, with Woolbridge taking over our May slot, and we have both remained in more-or-less these positions ever since. In some ways I think Woolbridge may have regretted this swap, for we have been luckier over the years with the somewhat capricious Wiscombe weather. We haven’t had it all our own way though for, as recently as 1995, our Sunday British Championship round was abandoned after practice, with several streams running along the course and standing water on the bridge after the start.

So began in 1979 nineteen years of British Championship status, though our tenure has not always been as happy as it might have been. I am aware that driving a ‘championship car’ is more than a little bit different from your average road saloon. This does not however excuse the excesses and time-wasting rituals practised by a small but very conspicuous minority. More particularly, their blatant refusal to comply with organisers’ requirements and officials’ instructions was becoming unacceptable. The whole run-off procedure thereby tended to descend into a pantomime, which in turn gave rise to the Prima Donna appellation. This problem was not confined to Wiscombe either.