Am I dreaming? That was the first thought that ran through my head when I heard the famed Race To The Sky was making a triumphant return. Yes, the 9 mile all-gravel climb up the Cardona valley hillside, would once again would be challenged by man and machine. The event (last ran in 2007) is truly unique in that it is now the longest gravel hill climb in the world. This is due to Pikes Pikes becoming a full tarmac course.
So this past weekend drivers and riders from across the globe competed to become king of the mountain. It could be argued that the true kind of the mountain will always be Nobuhiro Tajima of Japan. The legendary driver has won the event a record eight times, but suffered a scary crash during Sunday’s qualifying run that put him out of the event.
Alister McRae, former WRC driver and younger brother to the late Colin McRae, drove as hard as he could in the ex Possum Borne Subaru WRC 98 hill climb car. The car was driven to victory by Possum Borne in the 2001 event, and harked back to many Subarus of racing’s past; including cars Alister’s older brother Colin drove during his WRC career.
The car suffered engine gremlins during the morning runs, and the PBMS crew had to scramble to get the car back together in time for the final afternoon run.
Brett Hayward from Australia, in his home built Suzuki hill climb car was fast and consistent the whole weekend. This consistency netted Hayward at time of 8.24.574, good enough for second place overall. Not to be forgotten, Kiwi quad racer Ian Fitch put up a spectacular time on Sunday of 8:35.273, slotting him into third place overall.
In the end though it was McRae victorious, with a blisteringly fast time of 8:17.616 in a car with so much history. The Scottsman was quite pleased, along with everyone involved including event promoter Tony Quinn.
Watching a stunning gravel hill climb like the Repco Race To The Sky get resurrected gives petrol heads like me hope for the future of motor racing. We can all rest easy knowing that the race “will definitely run next year” – Tony Quinn. An event that ran smoothly, had good media coverage, and most importantly, created a friendly environment for the fans. Similar events may want to take some notes.
In the meantime, get your blood pumping with day to day highlights brought to you by Highlands Motorsport Park.
Full results: http://www.racetothesky.co.nz/assets/Uploads/Event-documents/Repco-RTTS-final-overall-19-April-2015.pdf
Steve Riley – Race to the Sky