Alister McRae has secured a popular victory at the resurrected Repco Race to the Sky, becoming the new King of the Mountain in a Subaru WRC car once raced and driven to victory in this very event by Kiwi rally icon Possum Bourne.
It wasn’t an easy victory for the Perth-based Scotsman when his engine failed on the morning’s first run requiring the Possum Bourne Motor Sport team to work at top speed to replace it with the spare motor just in time for the afternoon’s all important final run.
Nor was it an easy day for several big name competitors in the Cardrona hillclimb with eight-time champion Nobuhiro ‘Monster’ Tajima suffering a problem which sent him flying off several hundred metres off the road and leaving his Super 86 hillclimb machine damaged and unable to continue. Tajima, who escaped unscathed from the high speed incident, said: “My car is broken. My heart is broken.”
Star super quad racer Ian Ffitch, from Amberley, also suffered an engine failure this morning, and thanks to his crew’s swift work, the seven-time quad champion was ready to return for the final where he secured third place overall and won the Possum Bourne Memorial Trophy as the fastest New Zealander.
Australian racer Brett Hayward had one of the most consistent and fast campaigns of the weekend. Fastest yesterday and again in the morning’s run up the 14.5 km gravel hillclimb course, Hayward piloted his self-built supercharged Suzuki-powered open wheeler into a well-deserved second place.
McRae’s grin on the podium said it all. “The whole event’s been great. Yesterday was like a learning experience, but then to stop on today’s qualifying, well, I’ll not tell you what I said to myself because there’s kids here but obviously I was very, very disappointed. But then you think, well, hold on, we’ve got a spare engine. The time to change that was very tight, but the Possum Bourne Motor Sport boys did a tremendous job. I know what Possum means to the motorsport community here so to do that in his car, for Craig to invite me down here, it’s been a great weekend!”
Hayward described his second place as “just phenomenal. It’s a bit daunting for me, all these people. I know we’re from across the ditch, but we’ve had a lot of support and that’s just incredible. I just want to say a huge congratulations to Alister and Ffitchy. To have your name mentioned up here beside these guys, wow. That last run was as good as I could get, I threw everything at it. Alister thoroughly deserves that win, and Ffitchy in third place, that’s awesome.”
“Top three is awesome,” said Ffitch. “But really it’s all about the Possum Bourne Memorial Trophy. I was lucky to win it the first year and that was very special. And then with what went on this morning, that makes this win even more special. To win it, I’ve got to thank my crew, especially Jase, without his support you just can’t do this sort of thing.”
Ffitch was presented with the fastest Kiwi trophy by Possum and Peggy Bourne’s youngest son, Spencer. The 16-year-old is a huge fan of the Race to the Sky and proud to represent his family. When asked what he thought of his ride up the course which climbs 1050 metres from the Cardrona Valley into the Pisa Range, he said: “We went too slow in the safety car.”
With several thousand spectators, the support of a major brand like Repco and 108 competitors riding motorcycles and quads, and driving rally cars, homebuilt cars and off-roaders, the first Race to the Sky event to be run since 2007 has been a huge success.
Event promoter Tony Quinn, owner of Highlands Motorsport Park nearby in Cromwell, told fans gathered at the podium presentation that the event will definitely run again next year.
“Thank you everyone, it’s been a great job!” said Quinn who raced his brand-new Pace Innovations Repco RTTS Extreme 4WD hillclimb into a commendable 12th place overall. “There’s a thousand stories there, Monster’s got a story, I’ve got a story, everyone’s got a story. A great weekend was had by all. We’ve had great response from sponsors, public and competitors. Everyone wants to do it again.”
A key feature of national and international hillclimbs of this nature is the diverse array of machinery being raced. With McRae taking the unlimited class victory and Hayward second, Rotorua’s Sloan Cox took third in this class. The open 2WD class victory went, again, to Christchurch’s Trevor Crowe using a Subaru Justy. The Open 4WD win went to Christchurch’s Michael Tall using a Mitsubishi Evo. The rallycourse class win went to Geraldine’s Kieran Hall in a Subaru STI while Daniel Callinan took the historic rally win in a Ford Escort. Te Kuiti’s Jim McIndoe took the motorcycle class win and Clim Tristam Lammer, from Whangarei, won the off-roader section.