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Motorsport

The short and winding road

4 weeks ago

not bookmarked

Writer:

Dan Prosser | Ti co-founder

Date:

25 April 2024

Twenty two and a bit seconds. Nobody has ever flashed across the finish line at Shelsley Walsh after leaving the start line 1000 yards back down the road in less time than that. The outright record is 22.37 seconds, to be exact, set by Sean Gould three years ago. He tells me he arrived at the first corner, where I’m braking and slowing to less than 60mph, at more than 100mph with barely a lift. And while I crossed the finish line at 101mph, he was flying along at more than 150mph.

Gould’s record-breaking run is extraordinary to watch, his hillclimb projectile dashing so furiously between the mud banks and railway sleepers that you’d swear the footage had been fiddled with. It’s hard not to pay it more attention than I should. But it’s a distraction. I’m supposed to be focusing on a very different record, that for showroom-specification estate cars, which was set in the summer of 2016 by an Audi RS6 Performance. The magic number is 32.41 seconds, 10 whole seconds off Gould’s astonishing record time.

First used in 1905, Shelsley Walsh is the world’s oldest motorsport venue. More accurately, it’s the oldest motorsport venue in the world still in use today on its original course. Despite those qualifications that really is some claim to fame. You sense the history as you wander around this place, weaving through the spindly wooden shacks that substitute for pit buildings or, if you have it in your legs, hiking right to the top of the course. Auto Union brought a 16-cylinder Grand Prix machine here for the great Hans Stuck in 1936 and Stirling Moss won here in 1948, the year Murray Walker made his commentating debut at this very venue.

The pretty farm buildings nestled within these rolling Worcestershire hills and the handsome manor house at the foot of the course – and even the regal-looking pheasants that have made the surrounding woodland their home – offer a backdrop far more picturesque than anything you might see at Silverstone, Brands Hatch or Donington Park, especially in the soft morning light. Shelsley Walsh is one of the steepest courses in the country, rising 328 feet and averaging one foot in elevation change for every 9.14 feet travelled across the ground. At its steepest point, where you climb one foot for every 6.24 feet in the horizontal plane, your legs scream at you and you think your shoes won’t grip.

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