T he venue was first used in 1932, and again in 1933, by West Lothian Motorcycle Club (WLMCC) for speed hill climbs which were unregulated, closed to club affairs. They were held with the permission of the landowner, Bo’ness Town Council.
The venue attracted the attention of the Scottish Sporting Car Club (SSCC) and a combined car and motorcycle meeting was held in June 1934. It was jointly promoted by WLMCC, SSCC and Bo’ness Town Council, who were very enthusiastic about the idea of motor sports in their Kinneil Estate. The meeting was a big success and numerous meetings, both for cars and motor cycles, were held on the track from 1934 until the outbreak of the Second World war in 1939.
The track itself was quickly developed from an unsurfaced estate road into a proper motor sports venue with safety banking, covered paddock, a return road and spectators’ grandstands. The SSCC had big plans for Kinneil with a motor racing circuit proposed in 1937 in addition the hill climb track. Sadly, the circuit was never built, mainly due to financial constraints, although the idea kept being occasionally raised as late as 1949.
Racing started again at Bo’ness in 1946 and the SSCC made massive improvements to the venue. This resulted in an International License being granted by the RAC in 1947. The first round of the inaugural RAC British Hill Climb Championship was held at Bo’ness on 17th May 1947. Huge crowds of up to 10,000 spectators flocked to Bo’ness in the late 40’s and early 50’s to watch the stars of British motor racing take on the daunting Courtyard and notorious Snake Bend. By 1954 crowds had started to dwindle and this and a lack of driver entries resulted in a temporary end to competition which lasted for five years.
The Lothian Car Club (LCC) took over running the venue in 1959 and their first meeting featured the up and coming star Jim Clark who drove both the big Border Reivers Jaguar and also his successful Le Mans Lotus Elite. The LCC meetings quickly gained popularity both with drivers and spectators and once again rounds of the British Championship came to the historic Kinneil track. However the writing was on the wall for the Bo’ness Hill Climb and in 1966 Bo’ness Town Council agreed to sell the land at the top of the hill to a housing developer. The final meeting was held in June 1966 and in Feb 1967 the LCC announced that they were abandoning the venue. The LCC quickly sought out a new venue and opened Doune as a hill climb track in 1968.
The full history of the track, including details of every meeting held there, can be found in the recently published book Bo’ness Speed Hill Climb – Scotland’s First Motor Racing Venue” by Kenny Baird. Available direct from the author priced £8.99 and £15.99 for the softback and hardback versions. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to order a copy.