Event > Fiat Club Waikato Tarmac Series - Sainsbury Road Hillclimb
The third round of the 2013 Fiat Club Waikato Tarmac Series was held on Sunday the 12th of August, and featured a short and exciting hillclimb event on Sainsbury Road in Pirongia. Much like the motorkhana of round 1, and round 2's autocross at Hampton Downs a few weeks ago, the weather forecast predicted rain, and lots of it. This was my first ever hillclimb, and I was a bit nervous about racing on a wet and slippery road.
Our first 2 events of the series were slow-speed challenges on the skidpad at Hampton Downs, so there was really nothing that you could hit if you spun out. But a hillclimb can be a bit dangerous at the best of times, with fences, banks and trees to contend with if you get it wrong.
Sunday morning began with very light showers of rain, but nothing like what was predicted. Thirty of us started the event, with a interesting selection of vehicles including a Mini, a few Escorts, Heath Simone in last year's series winning Peugeot 205 GTI...
...a Renault Dauphine...
...Craig Benton's Subaru WRX, which sees plenty of action at the circuit, as well as events like this...
...and the usual Hamilton Car Club regulars like Richard Sutherland in his BMW E30 325, and Julie Mitchell in her Toyota Trueno.
Looking through the competitor list, there were 11 different makes of cars represented, from the early 1960s right up to the late 2000s. How's that for variety?
It was great to see a few spectators turn up to watch too, and the local residents were very accommodating as we took over the closed road for the day.
The first run of the day was a casual practice and we were told to take it easy, as the event organisers were not keen on removing damaged vehicles so early in the day. Thankfully everyone did as they were told, and it was cool to see a rare car like Mark Burrow's Datsun 240K being driven with a bit of passion.
For me, it was an odd feeling driving at a reasonably fast speed on a road I had never driven on before, and I was left wondering what to expect as I approached each corner. The road was still very slippery, but there was a good chance that it was going to dry out as the day went on. My first timed run was a 1:02.13 - about 3.5 seconds quicker than my practice run.
The road was really starting to dry out by the time our 2nd run came around, and I managed to drop another 3.5 seconds or so off the previous time with a 58.48. I was very happy to break the sub-minute mark, and while I still hadn't memorised the entire road, my confidence was high and I knew I could do better. My last timed run of the day resulted in a time of 57.25, putting me in 5th place overall.
Allen Fretwell (pictured in the opening shot) blitzed the field in his extremely quick Subaru Legacy, powered by a 3 litre turbo flat-6 engine. Series newcomer Matt Buer came second in his 4WD turbo Mitsubishi Mirage, and third place went to another 4WD turbo - the Subaru WRX of Marcus Heke. Fourth place (and the first of the 2WDs) went to Heath Simone in his Peugeot 205 GTI, giving him valuable points in the overall series.
With such a short course, a lack of major incidents, and the usual clockwork organising skills that the Fiat Club Waikato are known for, the event was over pretty quickly, with all cars loaded up on their trailers or driven home by mid-afternoon. The only significant damage of the day was to Daniel Maezler's Nissan Pulsar VZ-R, which had an argument with a bank and lost. This road-legal car was driven to the event, but unfortunately had to catch a trailer ride home.
I've had a reluctance to get involved in hillclimb events in the past, as I feared that I would damage my car and put it out of action for the circuit-based events that I usually compete in. This fear of the unknown has disappeared for me now though, and I can honestly call myself a 'hillclimb convert'. I've learnt that it's possible to drive fast and have fun without pushing the limits too far, and a little bit of self control will generally mean that an event like this can be completed without any major danger. I'm really looking forward to competing in more hillclimb events like this in the future.
- Brent Shaw