HAUNTED HILLS HILLCLIMB, Sunday 14th March

This was the Gippsland Car Club’s first hillclimb hosting event in over twelve months and they were rewarded by perfect weather and a healthy turnout of competitors. From the Sporting Register we had Jim McNiven in the Mazda RX2 (Historic Touring Cars over 2-litre), Ian Maud with his Fiat X1/9 (Sports Cars up to 2-lire) and yours truly giving the old Fiat 124 Coupe tarmac rally car an outing in the same class as Ian.

This event used the popular, long clockwise figure-eight track which is about 1600 metres in length. Jim had been racing the RX2 at the Phillip Island Historics the previous weekend and was pleased with the way the car had been performing. Ian had decided, prior to the cancelled round of the Victorian Championship a month ago, to open his wallet wide and purchase a set of Avon hillclimb tyres on a new set of rims. He was keen to see what type of improvement some good rubber would make to his times. Your correspondent left the Cooper S at home and was interested in comparing its times with that of his Fiat.

Drivers’ Briefing went well and we were told to expect seven timed runs for the day following a number of earlier practice runs. During the first runs Jim was unhappy about his brakes, but his time was quite respectable, the 124 coupe surprised its driver with a time only a few seconds shy of the best the Cooper S can do, but Ian only made it half way around before shattering the X1/9’s bellhousing and spewing gearbox oil all over the track. At this stage we what don’t know what let go, but a postmortem will be carried out soon. Ian’s day was over and the car was pushed onto its trailer. Jim recorded a similar time on his second run, but broke either an axle or a diff on his third run – retiring his car to its trailer too. The 124 ran well all day, getting faster on each run as the driver came to grips again with rear-wheel-drive. By the close of play the Fiat’s time was only 1.4 seconds slower than what the Cooper S had managed previously.

Obviously mixed fortunes for our members, but a very successful event for the GCC. Many thanks to all those involved in managing this event under the Covid regulations still in force, and a special thanks to the track marshals, timekeepers and BBQ chefs who donated their time to ensure we have a good one.

Steve Schmidt

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