Luton – Vauxhall’s assault on the 2013 British Leaders Hillclimb Championship in a completely standard Astra VXR road car is reaping huge rewards for the company, with its drivers running first and second in their class with just three rounds to go.
David Finlay and Alisdair Suttie, both motoring journalists from southern Scotland, have campaigned the stock 280PS Astra at hillclimb venues throughout England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, fighting off more powerful – and often highly modified – competition.
The object of their extended press loan was to prove that grass-roots motorsport was accessible to drivers on very tight budgets, and how well a standard car could perform in competition, yet still be durable and comfortable enough for the daily commute.
Highlights of the championship so far have included not only a class win, but taking the overall class record at the challenging Harewood course in appalling weather conditions. There have also been notable successes at Gurston Down, Burbon and David and Alisdair’s local track at Doune.
The Astra has never had it easy, either. The only cars that have beaten it have been modified, such as an Audi Quattro with 400bhp and a Sierra Cosworth with over 500bhp – but the differences in times have often been into the fractions of a second.
And the cars that the Scottish duo has beaten have included a variety of Porsche 911s, a race-prepared Porsche Boxster, a Nissan 350Z and a TVR Griffith. Not bad for a factory-standard hot-hatch.
‘The Astra has performed brilliantly,’ said David. ‘For a completely standard car it’s punched well above its weight, often to the great surprise of both spectators and rivals.’
And the VXR has also racked over 10,000 miles since David and Alisdair took on the car in April, with the far-from gentle running-in miles not affecting its performance at all. ‘The Astra has been a superbly comfortable and easy-going long distance cruiser for getting to hillclimbs,’ said Alisdair. ‘It hasn’t used a drop of oil, despite the hard racing, and makes the ideal everyday hot hatch to live with. I’m always amazed at the attention the car gets at events, and on the road it’s definitely one the enthusiasts seem to take to heart.’
The Astra VXR was launched last year, its 2.0-litre turbocharged engine producing 280PS and 400Nm of torque. Unlike many of its rivals, the VXR uses a sophisticated mechanical limited-slip differential, which provides class-leading traction for a front-wheel drive car, and also offers significant benefits for drivers competing in hillclimbs. The Astra VXR costs £27,010.