SUM­MERS OPTS FOR A FRESH CHAL­LENGE

Hillclimb ti­tle win­ner looks to a new ven­ture. By Matt James A

Motor Sport News - - Sporting Scene -

lex Sum­mers caused some­thing of a storm in the Bri­tish Hillclimb Cham­pi­onship last sea­son by claim­ing the ti­tle in his maiden sea­son in the top flight.

It cer­tainly wasn’t some­thing he thought was pos­si­ble when he first grad­u­ated into the cat­e­gory for the most pow­er­ful over 2.5-litre cars at the end of 2014. He shared the Gould GR61X, pow­ered by a Ni­chol­son Mclaren-tuned 3.5-litre V8, with five-time cham­pion Scott Mo­ran but thought he might have taken on too much.

“When I first tested the car at the end of ’14, I just couldn’t get on with it,” ad­mits the 24-year-old. “I was get­ting stuck in gear off the line and just couldn’t get to grips with the car. I was won­der­ing about the de­ci­sion I had made. I went away and had a long think about it, vi­su­al­is­ing the tech­niques and go­ing through ev­ery­thing in my mind. That helped it to click.”

Hav­ing stunned in the up-to-two-litre class with a 1.3-litre su­per­charged Hayabusa-pow­ered DJ Fire­hawk with an out­right vic­tory in 2011, Sum­mers was ea­ger to move up, and shar­ing with part-timer Mo­ran was an ideal plat­form.

He took eight wins across the 34 rounds dur­ing the sea­son and he was com­fort­ably clear of ri­val Trevor Wil­lis at the sea­son’s end at Lo­ton Park. It was a tri­umph for a fam­ily that is very in­volved in the sport.

His mother and father, Lind­say and Richard, are both well-known com­peti­tors and Alex’s in­ter­est in the sport was fired from a young age. “I guess there was only one thing I was go­ing to do,” says the Sun­bury Wells-based racer.

“The Gould was a bit of a mon­ster in terms of power, re­ally,” he ex­plains. “It puts out north of 650bhp and when I first drove it, it felt hor­ri­ble. If you drive it at 70 or 80 per cent, then it is all out of sorts. It felt like it had square wheels.

“It is not un­til you have the con­fi­dence to push it to its max­i­mum that it comes alive. The grip is amaz­ing and the power it great. Th­ese cars are just not de­signed to be driven slowly.”

Sum­mers cer­tainly did get to grips with it and has ce­mented his place as the next wave of tal­ent on the hills.

Af­ter achiev­ing the big­gest prize in the sport, the sim­ple thing would have been to keep go­ing in the same di­rec­tion, but Sum­mers clearly likes a chal­lenge. With Mo­ran step­ping down due to busi­ness com­mit­ments, it meant that the reign­ing cham­pion had to think again.

He will swap to a DJ Fire­hawk for the 2016 sea­son, but this time fit­ted with an EX-DTM 2.5-litre V6 Cos­worth en­gine. He will drive the car along­side dad Richard, and knows that there is, par­don the pun, a moun­tain to climb to reach the pin­na­cle again. “Of course I want to be com­pet­i­tive,” he says. “But new cars do take a while to get on top of. We have got to be look­ing at this as a longer term pro­ject.

“We will prob­a­bly spend the first part of the sea­son get­ting to grips with the aero­dy­nam­ics, the springs and the dif­fer­en­tial set­tings, things like that. Then we will find out if the en­gine, which puts out just un­der 500bhp, is good enough. There are lots of power hills so it might be that when we have the chas­sis sorted, we then change the pow­er­plant.”

It is a chal­lenge, that is cer­tain, but it is one that Sum­mers says will give him an even greater sat­is­fac­tion. “The most ex­cit­ing thing for me is to win the cham­pi­onship in a car that I have de­vel­oped. It is great to have won the ti­tle, but when you are in the best car you are ex­pected to do well. I wanted the tech­ni­cal chal­lenge and al­though I know it might be a while un­til we get the car to the place that we want it to be, but the jour­ney will make it all worth­while.”

Sum­mers shared the Gould GR61X- NME with Mo­ran in 2015

Sum­mers and his mum and dad

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