SUMMERS OPTS FOR A FRESH CHALLENGE
Hillclimb title winner looks to a new venture. By Matt James A
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.”