The Prescott story
The Prescott story starts like this: the Bugatti Owner’s Club, which was formed in 1929, had been running hillclimbs on various dusty loose-surfaced courses in the south of England since 1931. It was about 1936 when the committee moved that the Club really needed to have its own course - the objections of local residents to the existing venues were getting stronger all the time, it seemed that the ‘unique sounds’ of un-silenced Bugatti’s on a Summer’s afternoon, was not what local residents wanted!
A couple of venues were considered, but dismissed for various reasons; the majority were to do with local objection. But, in 1937, via the inspiration of a few Vintage Sports Car Club and Bugatti Owner’s Club members, the magnificent Prescott House and Estate was acquired for the purpose of creating a permanent hillclimb course, it was acquired by the BOC but giving the VSCC the rights to run one completely independent event a year, which they have done every year to date.
Prescott is in the mid-west area of England, in the beautiful ‘Cotswold Hills’, just north of the historic city of Cheltenham, and about 100 miles North West of London.
The original [‘short’] course was 880 yards, still used today by the VSCC, but the 1127 yards ‘long’ course, introduced in 1960, is the one used now for all other events.
The very first meeting on April 10th 1938 was for BOC members only and was more like an ‘informal opening of our new property’! The second event on May 15th, one month later, saw the first official FTD by Arthur Baron in a Bugatti Type 51 with a time of 50.70 [he did a 49.60 in practice!], his car had twin rear wheels, second was Jack Lemon Burton in a single rear wheel Type 51 with 50.74! So the scene was set! The next meeting, on July 3rd, was the first ‘open’ meeting with other clubs invited, and with a ‘practice’ day on the Saturday. There was a tremendous tussle between Bugatti, Alta, ERA and Frazer Nash, with George Abecassis in the Alta winning FTD with a thrilling 47.85.
The first VSCC meeting was held on 27th August 1938, times were a bit confused as there were no RAC timekeepers and there was an unofficial time of 47.62 set by a ‘special’, the Freikaiserwagen, with GN chassis and Morgan ifs! ‘But officially a s/c 2 litre Bugatti 35C driven by T. Grimshaw made FTD with 50.74.
The “short” course record today is 39.68 secs set in 2015 set by James Baxter in ERA R4A and the “long” course record is 35.51 secs set in 2014 by Jos Goodyear in his GWR Raptor Extreme.
The Second World War ended all activities in September 1939, and the course remained derelict until 1946, when events started up again.
Every year there are six events held at Prescott, two of them rounds of the British Hillclimb Championship, the VSCC meeting and three ‘club’ events including classes for modern and vintage motorcycle. The Club events include the established French & Italian themed weekend at the end of May and the American themed Autumn Classic in early October.
Prescott also runs a ‘Driving School’ throughout the summer where tuition for newcomers, and experienced hillclimbers, is provided by a team of qualified instructors many of them top drivers.
The course itself is very demanding, from the slightly uphill start, a full blast up to 110 mph [in a Gould] under the footbridge to a sweeping left hander and onto the long 180 degree right hander at Ettore’s, then down-hill and up-hill to the famous Pardon Hairpin, a climbing left hander that then leads into The Esses, a tight left hander, up to ‘Semi-circle, a long right hander which you approach looking at only the sky!, then onto the finish, and unlike most other venues, back to the paddock via the return road.
Overall administration and day- to- day business is handled by a small staff of full-time employees.
On the same site as the hill there is ‘The Bugatti Trust’ building, this was founded in 1987 by the late Bugatti enthusiast Hugh Conway to house a wonderful, and growing, collection of photographs, drawings, books, letters, models, mechanical components ... and complete cars. The Bugatti Trust was set up and exists to encourage research into Ettore Bugatti’s works, his industrial design and invention. These archives and library are available for public and academic research.