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27th February 2012


Kop Hill Revival 2012
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Veteran and vintage motorcycles let rip on one of the country's oldest hill climb courses. More pre-war entrants are invited to attend by the organisers...

Speed fiends have been roaring up Kop Hill near Princes Risborough in the Chilterns since 1910, and the modern reinvention of the event as a non-competitive 'just for fun' vintage hill climb has proved hugely popular. Last year this two-day commemorative cavalcade attracted over 400 hill climbers, with 200 vehicles on display in the paddock and an astonishing 12,000 spectators enjoying the sights and sounds. The event also helped to raise £40,000 for local charities.

For 2012 the organisers want to see even more historic motorcycles on site. So they're seeking pre-war sporting and road-legal racing machines to help to celebrate the first competitive run up the hill on two wheels, which took place 102 years ago. Individual owners and clubs are therefore invited to enter their vintage and veteran machines for the weekend of 22nd and 23rd September 2012.

A real classic image... Kop Hill, 1910

Kop Hill is one of the oldest hill climb venues in England. The first races recorded were in the 2nd May 1910 issue of Motor Cycling magazine. You had to be brave to ride up Kop Hill at full bore back then; in the early days Kop Hill was just a dirt track up the open scarp of the Chilterns. Its surface was loose, stony, hard and bumpy. Near the top was a substantial rut, so deep that it could tear off motorcycle tyres, and a hump which sent many machines flying into the air. Clubs from all around the UK held events at Kop Hill, including the Motor Cycle Club who still run competitive on/off road trials to this day.

Almost abstract, definitely gripping... 1922 OHV Sunbeam

'The very straightness of Kop Hill is deceptive' declared Motor Cycling in 1910, 'because the lack of trees or houses provides no comparison of grade… many of those who declared prior to the contest that it was not much of a climb had to admit that it is a really severe test.' By 1913 the Kop Hill climb was considered 'a great test of flexibility as well as speed' because in that climb was divided into two sections: as slow as possible for the first part and then a flat-out race to the top. The class winners included a Sunbeam, a couple of Douglases, various Ariels, a Bradbury and so forth. The slow-riding section provided much entertainment and it was suggested that one entrant 'be debarred from attending hill climbs for baulking the competitors with his sarcasm…'

They don't make 'em like that any more... Freddie Dixon on his 736cc Douglas in 1925

In subsequent years Kop Hill became well used by both motor-cars and motorcyclists. Famous drivers such as Malcolm Campbell, Raymond Mays, Henry Segrave and Archie Frazer Nash all tested their mettle on Kop Hill. But the motorcycles were fastest, and Freddie Dixon holds the record for the hill on his 736cc Douglas with a speed of 80mph, set in 1925.

No doubt higher speeds could have been recorded, but 1925 was the final year of competitive riding at Kop Hill. Following a minor accident to a spectator, the RAC and ACU banned racing on public roads in Great Britain.

The Kop Hill Revival initially revved up in 2009, reintroducing the event as a relaxed, un-timed enjoyable day out. The organisers say that it's only as competitive as you want it to be, and entrants are welcome to run up the hill and/or meet as a club in the display area.

That was then, this is now...
Off-Road Classics on

The hill climb itself is now administered by the British Motorsport Marshals Club and these days it has a smooth tarmac surface. Kop Hill currently weaves through gentle bends set between wooded verges. It starts with a gradual slope and hits an incline of 1-in-6 at the halfway mark. The road then eases off before getting even steeper at 1-in-4 for a short section just before the summit. Sounds like fun on a 2.75hp two-speed machine…

There's no official dress code for Kop Hill, but the organisers encourage everyone to get into the vintage spirit of things. So they say that if you would like to come in period clothing it would add to the fun, spectacle and atmosphere, and you won't be on your own! Drivers and mechanics can be seen sporting white overalls, while some of the ladies wear period clothes to match that of their vehicle. Spectators are welcome to wear period country clothing, too.

There appears to be smoke emmanating from the, ahem, rear of the rider's trousers...

The day features a display of archive material about the heyday of hill-climbing at Kop, musical and family entertainment and refreshments, as well as the vintage bikes and classic cars on display and in action on the hill itself. Spectator admission usually costs around a tenner, and the gates open at 9am. The hill climbing happens between 10am and 1pm, then from 2pm to 5pm. Most sessions start with a very special vehicle being waved off by a celebrity, so it's worth turning up early for each session.

If you have a suitably veteran or vintage motorcycle which you'd like to ride up Kop Hill, you'd better register your interest early. Last year, it cost £12.50 to enter a bike for a single day or £20 for both. There are special arrangements for clubs; to register as an individual or a club, see www.kophillclimb.info

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