Mt Leura is one of the most picturesque hillclimb venues on the calendar. As you approach Camperdown from the east you see this ancient volcanic cinder cone rising from the plains, and as you come closer it’s possible to make out a thin ribbon of road winding its way up and around its circumference. From the top of the mount is a magnificent view of the huge caldera and several other cinder cones around its edge, there’s also a number of lakes and a vast volcanic plain stretching out to the north.
Competitors don’t race all the way to the top of this hill, the finish line is about half way up and corresponds to where the safety fencing ends. After crossing the finish line competitors continue on at a much reduced pace to the lookout carpark at the top where they turn around and park on the side of the road, back down the hill near the finish line. When about 20 vehicles are assembled, the racing stops to allow these cars back down the track and into the pit area.
The track is narrow and quite deceptive; with only 3 corners it initially looks very easy to master, but to get it exactly right takes a great deal of skill and bravado. Turn one is 90 degree up-hill left hander with a blind apex and exit that leads into a short straight and a nicely banked right-hand, up-hill hairpin. After exiting this corner you climb uphill along what’s known as the ‘Shelf” which crests and flattens out a bit into a bumpy breaking area for the ‘Cutting’ which is a tight left-hand hairpin with tall, imposing rock walls on each side. It’s quite a climb out of the cutting and around a sweeping right hand curve to the finish line. It’s all second and third gear in the Cooper S which probably reaches about 120km/h at the fastest point along the ‘Shelf’.
This year, like last year, the Ballarat Light Car Club conducted two rounds of the Vic Hillclimb Championship over the two days of this meeting. Saturday’s event was the ‘Short Track’ with the start line up near Turn One, on Sunday they reverted to the regular ‘Long Track’ where the start line is a couple of hundred metres back from Turn One. The difference this makes to the times is only about 4 seconds, but it’s sufficient to change your car’s attitude into both Turns One and Two and an interesting variation of the track. Saturday was fine and dry albeit quite windy, but Sunday threw some rain into the mix and gave the competitors a couple of slippery runs on the normally very grippy track.
There were up to 70 competitors contesting these two rounds; from the Sporting Register we had Jane Vollebregt (MGBGT) and David Anderson (MGB) in the Sports Cars 1600 – 2000cc class; Ian Holdsworth (RX7) in the Sports Cars over 3000cc class; Steve Schmidt (Cooper S) in the Historic Touring Cars under 2000cc class and Jim McNiven (Honda S2000) in the Non-logbook, non championship class.
On Saturday’s Short Track event, David, Ian and Steve won their respective classes with Jane picking up a third and Jim a forth behind some very fast all-wheel-drive Evo and STi competition. Jim’s S2000 is looking far more purposeful having now shed it’s oriental pink skin for a stealthy satin black, a carbon-fibre bonnet is also on due soon to help reduce the porky Honda’s weight.
The Sporting Register team didn’t fare as well on Sunday’s Long Track. Dave Ian and Steve all came second in their classes, with Jane and Jim coming home with forth places.
The Ballarat Light Car Club put on a great event each year and the despite a minor incident involving a BMW and a rock wall in the Cutting on Saturday, and the rain dampening the enthusiasm on Sunday, it all ran very smoothly thanks to their club members and officials.
Action Pictures by Gary Hill – ELGEE WORDS & PICTURES www.elgeewordsandpictures.com.au
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