Matt Kimberley profile picture Matt Kimberley 2 years ago 50

Is Racing Priceless Old Cars Up Tricky Hill Climbs An Acceptable Risk?

After a Ford RS200 driven by a long-standing professional bit the dust at this year's Goodwood Festival of Speed this week, we starting asking ourselves whether this sort of thing is a risk we can live with

Remind me later
Is Racing Priceless Old Cars Up Tricky Hill Climbs An Acceptable Risk? - Blog

You might already know where we stand on the issue of driving old, rare cars instead of just hiding them under a sheet in a locked garage. Events at Goodwood this week have led us to ask another question, though: is it really an acceptable risk to fling near-priceless old automotive legends up a hill climb course?

If you haven’t seen the video yet, watch it below. Rallycross expert Pat Doran was piloting a gorgeous 1986 Ford RS200 Evo 2 up the famous – and often famously tricky – Goodwood hill when he lost the back end on the brakes on the way into Molecomb corner, getting onto the grass and losing all ability to slow down. The end result… well, it’s not pretty (update: the car was repaired and back out on the hill climb on Saturday).

Whether you want to listen to it or not, there’s a solid argument for keeping cars like this away from high-risk events like this, where a single wheel on the green stuff can mean the difference between a new personal best and a seriously awkward phone call to the car’s owner, followed by hellish amount of paperwork.

It’s a valid point to make, but we’re going to choose to ignore it. Seeing cars like the RS200 going at full tilt up the narrow, frequently slippery and technically awkward hills at the likes of Goodwood, Loton Park and Shelsley Walsh, among others, is one of life’s big pleasures. We know these are machines from a bygone age but they’re legends, as loud as anything and staggeringly difficult to pilot quickly compared to modern cars.

Is Racing Priceless Old Cars Up Tricky Hill Climbs An Acceptable Risk? - Blog

Seeing them in action on narrow, potentially dangerous race and rally courses means, more often than not, watching proper, undiluted driving skill. It strips back the ever-increasing safety margins you see on newer courses and combines it with spikier cars; far less manageable things that reintroduce a real knife-edge factor that Pat Duran fell victim to. Even the idea of putting any kind of stop to this brilliant madness; this outrageous willingness to drive such valuable and rare cars just the way the manufacturer intended, gets us angrier than a badger who’s been kicked in the nuts, shoved into a barrel and rolled down a hill.

We may not be driving these classics ourselves, much as we’d like to, but their existence alone; their physical presence doing what they were designed for is, for car guys and girls everywhere, a slice of what actually living life is all about. For the crowd it’s an experience to remember, whether you’re five or 50.

Is Racing Priceless Old Cars Up Tricky Hill Climbs An Acceptable Risk? - Blog

We’re not really ignoring the perils facing the cars and their drivers. Clearly, accidents are going to happen, but that’s one of the reasons why hill climbs are so awesome. They’re a ruthless test of skill and bravery, with consequences if you get it wrong. Driving a good course at ten tenths takes a lot more than talent. It’s a metaphor for the human spirit of adventure; of seeking out risk and of overcoming challenges. We can never let that go.

We’re pinning our colours to the mast, here, and saying that we think the risk of racing valuable motors is more than acceptable. Even the occasional destruction of a mighty four-wheeled warrior is a price worth paying to make sure this sort of joy keeps spreading. Until we’re down to the very last example of any one cherished automotive legend, at least one example needs to be thrashed like it was designed to be. That way we can pass our passion on to new eyes and ears, set new pulses racing and keep this wonderful spectacle alive.