Keith Beningfield at the Bo’ness Hill Climb Revival, 31 August-1 September 2019

Not Keith this time, but the 6 Litre V8 Bentley that he beat on the second day!

My final event of the year was the 2-day Bo’ness Hill Climb Revival held on the Kinneil Estate at Bo’ness just west of Edinburgh.

The history of Scotland’s first motor racing venue is interesting. The venue was first used in 1932, by West Lothian Motorcycle Club (WLMCC) for speed hill climbs.  The venue attracted the attention of the Scottish Sporting Car Club (SSCC) and a combined car and motorcycle meeting was held in June 1934. The meeting was a big success and numerous meetings, both for cars and motorcycles, were held on the track from 1934 until the outbreak of the Second World war in 1939.

Competition started again at Bo’ness in 1946 and the SSCC had made massive improvements to the 880-yard venue. This resulted in an International License being granted by the RAC in 1947, and the first round of the inaugural RAC British Hill Climb Championship was held at Bo’ness on 17th May 1947. Huge crowds of up to 10,000 spectators flocked to Bo’ness in the late 40’s and early 50’s to watch the stars of British motor racing take on the daunting Courtyard and notorious Snake Bend. 

After a 5-year break, the Lothian Car Club (LCC) took over running the venue in 1959 and their first meeting featured the up and coming star Jim Clark who drove both the big Border Reivers Jaguar and his successful Le Mans Lotus Elite.

However, the writing was on the wall for the Bo’ness Hill Climb and in 1966 land at the top of the hill was sold to a housing developer. The final meeting was held in June 1966.

In 2007 the Bo’ness Hill Climb Revival was formed, and the first revival meeting held in 2008 on a slightly shorter course of 600 yards.

It’s grim up north, and only one other pre 55 MG managed to make it over of the border – Ian Goddard in a PA/B. After the glorious sun of the previous week the Saturday started with heavy rain making the grassed paddock somewhat reminiscent of the Somme! I was competing in the Saloon and Sports Cars 1947 to 1961 Class, a rather eclectic mix of 5 cars – a turbocharged Bentley Mk 6 V8 Special, an MGA, a Lotus 6, and a Buckler Mk 5. 

Saturday practise was a rather restrained affair, everybody just trying to stay on the black stuff, all safe in our class. In the afternoon timed runs began with somewhat drier conditions, a mixture of wet and dry track. Previous experience at this event suggested that it would be nip and tuck with Fraser Ewart in the 6.2 litre Bentley (300 plus horsepower of turbocharged V8 against a meagre 120 hp) – David and Goliath!

I do not have any practice times, but results of the Saturday timed runs were as follows: –

Run 1 Run 2
Keith Beningfield MG TC s/c 38.47 37.30
Fraser Ewart Bentley MK 6 t/c 36.79 37.32
Keith Thomas Buckler Mk 5 s/c 41.55 40.67
Mark Milne Lotus MK 6 43.48 42.55
Ian Goddard MG PA/B s/c 41.33 41.78

As predicted, it was close, beaten by 0.51 of a second, Goliath won, just. Still there was always tomorrow. 

Sunday dawned dry; the paddock was improved by laying vast amounts of haylage on the service roads making it look more like the yellow brick road. For Sunday we lost the Lotus 6 but gained the MGA of Lorraine Noble-Thompson an MGCC Caledonian Centre committee member.

Again, no dramas in practice and no times either. The omens for timed runs were good, the track was drying out well, even under the trees.

After the first timed runs it was still very close, and again I was beaten by Fraser in the Bentley by 0.04 of a second, the pressure was really on not to do anything stupid on the second run, especially with the track now fully dry but compromised by an oil and water spillage at the entrance to the courtyard. Still, good things come to those that wait and I finally I managed to beat Fraser by 0.12 of a second – I knew it was going to be close and it could have gone either way.

Run 1 Run2
Keith Beningfield MG TC s/c 35.03 34.54
Fraser Ewart Bentley MK 6 t/c 34.99 34.66
Keith Thomas Buckler Mk 5 s/c 39.76 39.24
Lorraine Noble-Thompson MGA 44.31 45.36
Ian Goddard MG PA/B s/c 39.03 39.19

All in all an excellent end to the season despite the indifferent weather, a 2nd and 1st place award, and I was also recipient of the Dr M R Chassels Trophy for the fastest pre 1953 car.

The final instalment of the bacon roll saga as I predicted would result in a win for north of the border, the same price as south of the border but presented in a Scottish Breakfast roll, a light non-doughy roll, plenty of bacon crisped to order, and with the fat cut off – a real winner in my books.

So that’s it for another year, 10 events, the car still in one piece with minimal expenditure, can’t be bad! Only one more event to participate in – the T Reg Autumn Tour in Rutland, just to prove the car is just as happy on the road as it is on the hills.

(And it was! – Ed)