Kop on the up

Ian Kerr
December 2, 2011
Kop Hill in Buckinghamshire

Nowadays, Kop Hill is just a relatively steep, well surfaced road on the outskirts of Princes Risborough in Buckinghamshire nestling in the heart of the Chiltern Hills. Once though it was one of the most famous motorsport hill climbs used at the beginning of the 20th century.

At that time it was just a hard-packed 1-in-4 climb at the top, lasting just over three-quarters of a mile, rising some 304 feet and was first used for competitive motorsport in April 1910. There were 60 competitors in the inaugural meeting, but it quickly went on to establish itself as a popular event.

And it was a motorcycle that held the outright record for the climb. Despite an Aero engined car managing a 26.8 second climb, in 1924 Freddie Dixon recorded a time of 24.8 on a 997cc Harley-Davidson. Not content, a year later Fred reduced it still further to 22.8 seconds on a 736cc Douglas motorcycle, averaging 81mph.

The records were never beaten due to an incident on the hill, in March 1925, when first a bike crashed into the crowd of 3000 spectators, followed by a Brescia Bugatti car, fortunately neither causing any serious injuries. However, as a result the RAC (then the governing body of motorsport) decided to ban all motor sport on public roads.

A revival was held in 1999 and another in 2009, which was well supported, but the turnout for the centennial event in 2010 exceeded all expectations with 350 vehicles having a run, watched by 8000 spectators.

This year 11,500 spectators enjoyed two days of sun-kissed action and helped to raise £40,000 for local charities. Oldest bike was a 1913 Rudge Multi, the newest a 1972 Norton Commando.

The 55 motorcycle entrants were split into pre and postwar classes with most riders managing two runs in the morning and two in the afternoon, spending time in between in the action-packed paddock along with the cars.

There is no doubt this event is on the up, and the motorcycle content increasing, and already a provisional date of September 22-23, 2012 has been set for next year’s event. See you there!

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