David West first competed at Chateau Impney in the last ever Hagley & District Light Car Club sprint event in 1967. He wasn’t meant to be competing but jumped in the car at the last second to replace Fred Jones, a driver for Team Autoquip, who was called away due to an emergency.
With no time or thought to inform the organisers, David drove Jones’s 1275cc Morris Mini Cooper S up the old 550-yard course, going up against six other Mini drivers, as well as a more powerful Triumph 1300, completing the course in an outstanding time of 28.49 seconds.
Despite David’s win, it was Fred’s name that was added to the Chateau Impney records. And with no further events held for almost half a century, the wrong remained unrighted.
Nearly 50 years later, David was able to put tyres to tarmac at Chateau Impney once again at the inaugural Hill Climb in 2015.
Taking on the more challenging course in his own 1967 Austin Mini Cooper S – he was ready to make his mark and earn his rightful place in the venue’s record books. However, he was pipped at the post by Richard Parsons, who competed in a Morris Mini Cooper S, by just a quarter of a second.
Although David came a credible second in his class, it wasn’t the result he craved and so he is returning to the 2016 event knowing exactly what he needs to do to get a chance at the top spot: “I’m not going to fluff it on the line, like I did last year!”
SEE MORE: Click on the player below to see David compete at the 2015 Hill Climb
After getting a taste for victory in the 1967 sprint, David has gone on to earn over 500 class wins in hill climbs and sprints driving the Austin Mini Cooper S. He was the outright winner of the Midlands Speed Championship in 1997, 1998 and 2000 and has also been outright winner of the MSA Sprint Leaders Trophy Championship. The car, which had a complete rebuild in 2008, has also held a number of course records over the years, including David’s Loton Park record from 2000, which still stands.
Unsurprisingly, David noticed quite a few changes between the event in 1967 and its revival in 2015 – and not just the length of the course. “Health and safety at today’s events is far superior to what it was in those days. We used to be able to get into a car and just put a crash helmet on – you could literally just turn up on the day and drive. Now the records have to show the right names and permit numbers. What happened to me in 1967 couldn’t happen now.”
David also feels that the whole experience and atmosphere has really improved since the 1960s: “There’s a lot more going on and there’s a real buzz around the place. Last year, the atmosphere was fantastic. It wasn’t just a club meet, it was something that was trying to be different and I think, with all the hard work that went into it, it worked.
“Lots of people were coming over and talking to me and asking questions. They all love the Mini because they’re used to seeing them driving on the roads. You don’t see most of the other cars out on the road, but people remember the saloon cars from the late 50s and 60s and relate to them.”
And although David has his eyes on the prize, he’s most excited about getting back in the driving seat for a hometown event: “It’s nice to win, but you don’t do for that. It’s just really great to take part in an event like Chateau Impney, especially after all this time.”