The 2007 Silverstone Race to the Sky marks its 10 year milestone when it is staged in the Cardrona Valley at Easter (April 7 and 8) and competition will be intense for the honour of winning the prestigious King of the Mountain title.
Event promoter Grant Aitken says the premiere international hillclimb, which is held annually on the Waiorau Snow Farm road, has developed into a major event on the national motor racing circuit.
“It is a far cry today from the first race held back in 1998. The support from New Zealand competitors and an increasing number of offshore drivers has grown significantly during those 10 years and it is now widely recognised as one of the most challenging races on the calendar.”
The title has been won seven times by high profile Japanese competitor ‘Monster’ Nobuhiro Tajima whose name is synonymous with the Race to the Sky.
“We certainly expect that ‘Monster’ will return this year in his distinctive Suzuki to try and take the tenth anniversary crown,” says Mr Aitken.
Ex-pat Kiwi Rod Millen whose gutsy driving in his infamous Toyota Hiace truck is always a drawcard is one of only two winners other than Tajima, the other being New Zealand’s best known rally driver Possum Bourne, who took the honours in 2002. He was tragically killed in an accident prior to the Race to the Sky the following year.
“Rod and Possum along with ‘Monster’ gave the event some incredible profile in the early days,” says Mr Aitken. “Obviously Possum’s death was the toughest time we have had to face during the history of the race. He really was a living legend but at the same time a down to earth Kiwi guy who was a fantastic supporter of our race.”
Today a life size bronze sculpture of Possum Bourne stands high on a hill overlooking the course, commissioned by Race to the Sky in his memory.
“We always feel, and I know that many of the drivers feel the same way, as if Possum is still there in spirit looking over the course he loved competing on.”
Mr Aitken says the Possum Bourne Memorial trophy for the fastest New Zealand entry is the most hotly sought after trophy amongst the Kiwi drivers.
In latter years former World Rally ace Kenneth Eriksson of Sweden has created a lot of interest racing in the ex Possum Bourne WRC Subaru. Last year he was forced out of the race with engine problems in the final championship run, but is expected to return and make the challenge again this year.
Top Kiwi competitor Andrew Hawkeswood who was runner up to Monster in 2006 signalled following the race that he would return this year with a purpose built car capable of taking on the Japanese Suzuki.
The ‘world’s fastest Maori’ Marty Roestenberg was on the podium in third place last year and is likely to return along with Super Quad rider Ian Ffitch, who is regularly in the top five in the field, and has competed in every event bar the first when he was still competing as a professional rider.
Australians Brett Hayward, Steve Riley and Greg Ackland have indicated they will be back this year to mark the tenth anniversary.
“It’s always great to have some good old Trans-Tasman rivalry,” says Mr Aitken. “These three have always put on a great show in the past and it will be fantastic to have them back.”
Other Race to the Sky stalwarts like Rocket Ron Kirkman who will be 71 this year is tipped to return on his quad bike as the oldest but certainly not the slowest competitor on the course.
“Rocket has been an incredible supporter of the race over the years and we hope to see him back competing this year. He is certainly a big crowd puller as well.”
Entries for the 2007 Silverstone Race to the Sky open today and entry forms are available on line at www.racetothesky.com