Golden Cross Road, Waihi (Tarmac)
So the next round of the NZ Hill Climb Champs arrived, and we headed off to Waihi early in the morning. Having never been to this event before, myself and Paul (Dad) had no idea what to expect, or what vantage points there might be.
We arrived with a good hour before the drivers briefing in the hope of finding the road still open for us to drive up and find a good spot. We did however, go and find the Clerk of the Course and let her know what we were doing so she would know we were out on the course for safety. I would strongly suggest that if you ever want to come and spectate, head for the service/pit area and ask for the Clerk of the Course and let them know you want to walk up the course to spectate.
After driving the course, we picked what we thought was the best spot we could find just after a bridge. We parked the car well out of the way and set up. The plan for the event was one recce run then a practice run, followed by three timed runs.
I set up the movie camera on a static tripod so I could at least capture some footage as well as taking photos. I’m glad I did as I found cars difficult to shoot on tar seal, as they look like they are just parked.
The cars came past slowly on the recce run. Sloan Cox took a different line to everyone else, running wider out onto the gravel at the side of the road. At first I thought nothing of it, but then on the way back down from the recce run he did the same thing again. He must have been checking it out as a possible bit of road to use coming off the bridge.
Practice kicked off and the cars started coming through – some with a bit of pace, and others just taking it easy, getting the feel of their car and checking out the course. That was until Sloan arrived! You could already hear him coming with a lot more pace than anyone had. He flew across the bridge and onto the bit of gravel he had been looking at. His car was nearly completely off the road.
The gravel led onto a drainage ditch which was about 3ft deep.
His car took off and cleared this ditch with his tyre marks landing about 6ft further along. I was shooting with a longer lens which meant I could zoom out to capture the whole thing on camera as I was too close to get the whole car in as it was in the air, but caught the back end. I have no idea how he didn’t end up in the ditch, but man was he fast through there! Check out some footage of it in Part One.
I figured the fastest guys at the this event were going to be Sloan Cox (Mitsubishi EVO 10), Ben Thomasen (Subaru Impreza WRX) and Lance Williams (Subaru Impreza WRX), and as the event progressed they proved to be very fast but there were also some other very quick drivers: Graham Featherstone (Mitsubishi EVO 7), Allan Fretwell (Subaru Legacy RS RA) and Dave Loughlin (Subaru WRX H6).
Phils Jones looked to be extremely quick in his Mitsubishi Galant. The Galant looks to have seen better days on the outside, but boy can it accelerate quick. It’s still got it going on under the bonnet!
As a photographer I really wasn’t happy with the shots I was getting so the only thing to do was move. I walked a little further into the stage and set up the camera looking at the crest of a hill dropping into a left hander.
I left the movie camera running and crawled into a drainage ditch to see if I could get a better vantage point whilst remaining safe. Part Two of the movie is from this angle, and got some good stuff. Unfortunately due to the camera being in a dangerous place I couldn’t stop / start for each car so just had to hit record and leave it, which did kill the battery before all cars had gone though.
I enjoyed watching this round, but am a little disappointed I couldn’t get the cars to look better in the photos. The event seemed to run real smooth once it got going, so a big thanks to all those involved in making it happen.
Keep scrolling down for Day two – after the photos and videos.
Manawahe Road, Rotorua (Gravel)
Today I would be driving and not taking photos. I was pretty nervous having not been in the car on gravel for some 6 months. I had seen this course last year, (as a photographer) and knew it was going to be cool. This used to be one of the old WRC stages, so it had to be good.
With the top 3 drivers from Day 1 here it was going to be good day, especially as there were many other quick drivers to give them a run for their money.
Paul (Dad) came along with his camera, and got up into the course nice and early to try and find a good spot, so we were going to get some good photos. The conditons were pretty tough for photograpy with all the dust and bright sunlight and shade.
As the event got underway with the recce run I was trying to look for markers, something I could use to remind me there was a tight corner etc. Turns out there were so many I gave up. Danny James mentioned to me that there was a Department of Conservation sign which he used as a marker to let him know one of the tighter corners was coming up. I sure am glad of this advice as I’m pretty sure I’d have been in the bank without it – thanks Danny!
It was pretty clear from the recce run that dust was going to play a major part, causing the organisers to change from 1 minute intervals between cars to 2 minute intervals. This might not sound much, but it certainly added to the time taken to run the event with 25 cars running.
It was no surprise to see Sloan Cox and Ben Thomasen pushing extremely hard with Phil Jones, Graham Featherstone and Cameron Young nipping at their heels.
Danny James jumped in my car to sit with me for the first timed run. I was nervous as hell as he is an Escort driver with many years’ experience and the man responsible for me taking up this sport. I wanted to impress and go as fast as I could but definitely didn’t want to screw up. I know we got the back end real close to a couple of banks (was just waiting for the bang on one of them) but got to the top of the hill nearly 6 seconds quicker than my first run. I’ve been learning to flick the car into corners (the old Scandinavian Flick) but Danny suggested that I try to start the flick just a little earlier to improve the exit speed and position of the car. I gave it a go on the next couple of runs and did improve my times. The road was just awesome for the old Escort. Lock to lock stuff all the way. Fantastic!
As the day progressed it got hotter and hotter. According to my car it was 28°c in the shade which made sitting in the rally car in fireproof suits and helmets unbearable. The dust got worse as the day wore on, and on some runs made visibility pretty hard!
I’m still a newcomer to this sport, but would class this as my best event yet. Not only was it a great road, but the confidence is growing, and the car ran well on its new clutch setup. It was also a great event from a social side.
After we all packed up, it was decided to stop off of the Okere Falls Store on the way home as there is a beer garden at the rear. What a neat little place it turned out to be. Ideal to sit around and have a cold drink after a long, hot and dusty day. Perfect end to a great days racing.
Thanks heaps to Motorsport BOP, Thames Valley Car Club and Rotorua Car Club for putting on a great weekend’s motorsport, and thanks to all the marshals and time keepers – awesome job!