The Hagley & District Light Car Club run a fabulous Drivers' School at Loton Park Hillclimb, set in a beautiful deer park outside Shrewsbury, writes Oscar Rink. Picture credits: Tony Adams
“Missed the apex!”.
This was how my morning began at the Loton Park Drivers’ School, in stunning countryside just outside Shrewsbury.
In a county blessed with some of the finest Great British B-roads, Loton Park’s speed hillclimb course offers the tuition and venue to fully exploit the tarmac on this green and pleasant land.
At 1,349m long, with an average gradient of 4% rising to 14% in the steepest part, it is rated one of the country’s most demanding hills by competitors. But you’ve got to start somewhere. Loton Park Drivers’ School offers a brilliant and supported introduction to the hill’s fearsome corners such as the notorious ‘Triangle’ and tricky ‘Museum’ (‘it turns to the right, it always turns to the right…it always will turn to the right’!). No-one is timed; this is all about learning the correct lines and technique to allow you to gradually improve your speed.
A family affair! Oscar with mum Katy and dad James at the Loton Park Drivers' School
Stepping out of my 22-year-old Suzuki Jimny into a Lotus Elise was a daunting prospect for an 18 year-old driver. All the more so, given that it was just a year to the day since I passed my driving test; rear wheel drive with no ‘nanny state’ traction control or ABS might be a seasoned motoring journalist’s dream, but might be a disaster waiting to happen for me.
My first few laps were nothing special. I drove cautiously as I was worried about damaging the car (no doubt a relief for my spectator mum).
Each time our group returned to the bottom of the hill, we found the instructor waiting to give feedback. This was collated from the marshals and delivered in a very candid manner. Leave your pride at the gate and take it on the chin - because the ‘carrot and stick’ approach works! The lack of sugar-coating of the commentary fuels the desire to improve, and the resulting ‘uplift’ each time becomes utterly addictive. Shaving off a little time in each corner, carrying more speed and working the car harder each time feels like wringing out a dishcloth to get the best you can give.
It’s about finding the happy medium between skill and confidence - get it right, and both will improve over time. Too much confidence with too little skill, you crash. Too much skill and not enough confidence, you’re slow.
As someone with zero track experience but significant enthusiasm, the day was perfect for me. No-one expects you to pull off Verstappen-esque laps - the instructors are happy if you show willing, take advice and try to improve (less so if you screech and slide your way around.). All cars were welcome too, from regular hatchbacks to Ferrari’s latest mid-engined supercars. Lunch was another highlight - pulled pork tortillas, charcuterie, several salads and a slew of tempting desserts meant that Lotus founder Colin Chapman’s motto of ‘add lightness’ was duly ignored.
By the afternoon, I was ready to take off the mental stabilisers and make some serious progress. This was in no small part due to having seen video footage of my first lap at lunch - equal parts educational and embarrassing. Pushing on, the car felt ever more rewarding and utterly nimble, with the engine revving hard for longer behind my head. Feedback became “very good, excellent”. By the end of the day, my video was far more flattering, earning me the ‘most improved’ prize.
The day was thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish - with participants, instructors and marshals contributing to a convivial and welcoming atmosphere.
Car nut or not, Loton Park Drivers’ School is a wonderful day out within spitting distance of Shrewsbury. Believe me, your money is far better spent here than at a so-called ‘supercar experience day’- you’ll have more fun ragging a hatchback here than you will ‘driving by numbers’ in a tattered Ferrari elsewhere. Register online - but be quick, as places book up fast…
- Anybody over the age of 16 can take part in the Drivers' School. You will need to bring a road legal car that is taxed, with a current MOT, plus suitable clothing (torso, arms & legs must be fully covered) and a motorsport crash helmet, although these are also available to borrow. The cost for the full day is £230. For more information contact Neil Hancox at email@example.com
Image credit: Hagley & District Light Car Club
Events at Loton Park
Loton Park runs a number of events throughout the season - from Easter to the end of September - including the MSA British Championship and Midland Hill Climb Championship events, along with events aimed at specific makes. Watching the action makes for a great day out, with refreshments on tap.
August 5th & 6th - An Interclub meeting including rounds 9 & 10 of the Allswage & Titan-X Championships, Aston Martin Owners Club Speed Series, Paul Matty Sports Cars Lotus Championship and the Historic Rally Car Register Hill Climb & Sprint Championship.
Gates open 9am to 6pm. Tickets £12.50 (£15 on the gate)
August 26th & 27th - British & Midland Hillclimb Championships - a National meeting featuring two rounds of the Avon Tyres British Hillclimb Championship, Footman James BHC Cup, and the Avon BMTR Midland Hillclimb Championship.
Gates open 9am to 6pm. Tickets £12.50 (£15 on the gate)
September 9th/10th - Vintage Sports Car Club Hill Climb
September 23rd/24th - MSUK British Hill Climb Championship Meeting
All tickets and further information from from https://www.hdlcc.com/
- Loton Hillclimb is at Hagley & District Light Car Club, Alberbury, Shrewsbury SY5 9AG.