VICTORIAN HILLCLIMB CHAMPIONSHIP, Round 5 – DECA Shepparton, Sunday 22nd May.

Shepparton is a fairly long haul from Warragul, especially if you try to avoid Melbourne’s traffic and tolls by skirting around the city through Gembrook, Cockatoo, Woori Yallock, Lilydale and Yarra Glen before crossing over the ranges to Yea and Seymour where you meet up with the Goulburn Valley Highway. But this is an event that’s been hosted annually for last 10 years by the Shepparton and District Car Club and they’re always welcoming and run a terrific meeting. This year was no different, the organisation, catering, timing and facilities were brilliant, there were no complaints about the beautiful weather and with six official runs each, the 68 competitors were well satisfied.

DECA is a huge driving training complex on the outskirts of Shep, it features a massive concrete skidpan as well as several road courses used for training motorcycle, truck and car drivers. The hillclimb utilises an 800 metre-long section of one of the road courses. It starts on top of a small rise, the cars then race downhill into a tight, second-gear, right-left-right chicane before climbing the ‘Shepparton Hill’ which quickly becomes a blind crest as the road drops away into a fast left-hand turn. It’s then hard onto the brakes and back to second gear for a long sweeping right-hand 180 degree turn that leads onto the back straight where another chicane slows the pace prior to the short sprint to the finish line. The road is narrow and uneven with several surface changes over its length; but it’s great fun to drive.

Four members of the Sporting Register contested this closely-fought round of the Championship. It wasn’t until the final, 6th run of the day, that many class winners were decided, and it was often only by the smallest of margins. Ian Holdsworth was the fastest of our group in his turbo-charged Mazda RX7, but even with a blistering time of 34.88 seconds, which placed him 7th outright, he was unable to match the speed of Glenn Latter in a similar RX7 turbo.  Ian placed second in the Over 3-Litre Sports Car class. In the Under 2-Litre Sports Car class David Anderson (MGB) fought hard all day against Mark Patane in a 2-litre Alfa GTV. David’s best time of 35.67 was on his final run. It placed him 11th outright and first in class, but only by 0.01 of a second ahead of the Alfa which also posted its fastest time on that 6th run. Jane Vollebregt (MGB) was heading for what seemed like a secure second place in the Marque Sports Car category behind a Mazda MX5, until fellow MGB driver, Don Woods, relegated her to third in class by beating her best time of 39.32 by 0.01 of a second on his final run. Steve Schmidt also had a battle on his hands trying to beat fellow Historic Touring Car driver Peter Weymouth-Wilson in a similar Mini Cooper S. The lead of the class would alternate between the two Mini drivers on each run, but it was Steve’s final run time of 36.51 that clinched the class win by 0.12 of a second from Peter. Steve was also pleased to place 19th outright.

The Victorian Hillclimb Championship has only one more round to go and that’s being held at One Tree Hill (Ararat) on the Queen’s Birthday long weekend next month. Following that, preparations will step up a notch for the Australian Hillclimb Championship at Bryant Park (Haunted Hills) on the last weekend in October.

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