Willis seeks winning response to Prescott crash
The mighty machines of the British Hillclimb Championship return to Belfast this weekend to tackle the historic sprint course of little more than three-quarters of a mile at the top of the Belmont Road.
Punching out more than 600 horse power, the fastest cars will take little more than 40 seconds to climb up into the Craigantlet hills, a far cry from the day back in 1913 when Harry Ferguson, of tractor fame, took almost three times as long to become the first winner.
Nowadays, few know how to master the hill better than Trevor Willis, the reigning Avon Tyres British champion from Worcester, who has won for the past two years in his 150mph OMS and four times in total.
True, he has lost his record time for the hill to Scott Moran (39.12 seconds) but there is only a blink of an eye between them, and the former champion is not in the published entry list for Saturday even though he is second in the points table behind leader Wallace Menzies after the first four rounds.
Willis is back in seventh after last weekend's Prescott rounds, where he crashed during the first of the top 12 championship run offs and failed to score any points.
He remains confident the car - which suffered some suspension damage in the incident - will be repaired in time to be shipped to Belfast, where he will be joined by Menzies and more than two dozen cross-channel contenders, including Alex Summers, Will Hall, Richard Spedding and David Uren, who won the first of the Top 12 run offs last year.
The Ulster Automobile Club-organised event is also part of the Millers Oils Northern Ireland Championship which is being led after the first two rounds by Richard McGimpsey in his RMG Turbo despite having yet to register a win.
He lost out to the OMS of former champion Chris Houston at Croft and was edged into second again at Drumhorc by Seamus Morris in his Pilbeam.
The packed entry list includes the Radical of 2018 NI champion Seamus O'Connell, and taking part too is Simon Brien, whose east Belfast estate agency is sponsoring the event.
Roads close at 7.30am on Saturday with practice scheduled to get underway from 9am.