The Sunshine Coast had another taste of club motorsport at its best on the weekend of November 20/21, with the running of the second Historic Noosa Hillclimb. Once again jointly organised by the Historic Racing Car Club of Queensland and the Noosa Beach Classic Car Club, this event is shaping up to be the favourite on the Queensland historic scene.
Last year's inaugural event was the culmination of a number of years of planning and aborted attempts to get the event up and running. While CAMS approval had been given previously, the biggest hurdles to overcome were with local authorities and the Department of the Environment, which has control over the area. The 1998 event proved to be a great success, and showed the authorities that the use of the area was viable and provided valuable tourist revenue to the surrounding districts.
The course is located in the Tewantin State Forest, and climbs a steep section of the old Tewantin-Cooroy Road. This is a typical twisty, two-lane mountain road, with lots of tight turns, camber changes and indifferent surfaces combining to make it both challenging for the drivers and very entertaining for the spectators.
With a record entry of 168 cars (up from 126 at the inaugural event) and near perfect weather, the weekend was a success for all involved. The organising committees have done a lot of hard work in the past year to make needed improvements for competitors and spectators alike.
These included re-arranging the course so that the pit area was at the start, and making the main spectator entry at the top of the hill. To achieve this, the course was lengthened to 1500 metres by locating the start further down the hill. There, a five-acre pit area had been cleared to allow parking for up to 180 cars and their support vehicles. This was a vast improvement over last year's arrangements, as it allowed cars to start from the pits, have their runs, then be held at the finish to finally return to the pits in groups of around twenty. Track conditions have also been improved with some re-surfacing work being completed and by the addition of another 120 concrete blocks to line some of the more daunting stretches.
Saturday's early runs were mainly quite uneventful, as everyone was still feeling their way around the new sections of the course and discretion ruled. However, as the Group N cars came out for their third run late in the afternoon the times tumbled. For a short period the track was still warm and with the air cooling conditions were perfect for fast runs.
Sunday dawned fine and warm, and stayed that way except for the obligatory shower around lunchtime. Fortunately this only affected a few competitors, as the track dried quickly. However, the slippery conditions caught a few drivers unawares and certainly kept the spectators entertained.
Pre 1965 cars were well represented in the record field, with 11 Group J and K pre-war cars and 22 cars in Groups L, Na, Sb and M. A large contingent of Nc, Sb and Marque sports made up the bulk of the remainder of the field, together with a variety of others, including Groups C, Q and Sc, hillclimb specials, Geminis and HQ's, Sports 1300's, and various invited sports, touring and rally cars.
Overall winner was Ivan Tighe in the Kaditcha. His winning time of 62.80 was set late on Sunday after a close tussle all weekend with John Boyce in his Kaditcha VW.
The invited rally cars put on a good show, and it was very entertaining to watch the different driving styles and car set-ups compared to the rest of the runners. Bruce Dummett in the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 3 played with different tyre combinations over the weekend, and by Sunday was flying up the hill in four wheel drifts through every corner to record a fastest time of 65.89. The Datsun 1600 of Raymond Curtis (69.74) and the Ford Escort of Steve Emson (71.13) kept up surprisingly well, and were certainly doing their best to entertain the crowd through the twisty bits!
A number of competitors had mechanical misfortunes that curtailed their activities earlier than expected, and there were also the inevitable excursions into the scenery. The track has so far proved to be safe in that all of these episodes have only bent panels and egos, but it is very unforgiving in places with concrete barriers in place to prevent cars from damaging the trees! While at the time it must feel disheartening, smacking the concrete is a much better alternative to collecting a tree or going down a cliff!
The organising committees of both clubs should be congratulated for the efforts they have made to make this event a success. The Department of the Environment has given permission for the permanent use of the new pit area and this should help guarantee good attendance in future years. Further improvements in spectator access and safety will no doubt also be made over the next twelve months to make Noosa a fitting finale to the Queensland Historic Racing Calendar.