Mt Alexander Gravel Sprint 2014

Some drivers daunted by Mt Alexander in 2014

By Ross Teesdale

The 2014 running of the Mt Alexandra Road Hillclimb in North Canterbury provided this year’s last chance for a skid for many, and a shake down for the Silver Fern Rally for one. Mt Alexandra Road serves one farm and one communications tower. It provides a varied sweeping road with some fast bits, a couple of surprise tight rights, several dry Fords and a significant climb at the end.

With the Targa still winding up and the Silver Fern less than a week away, participation was lower than usual, with 22 drivers taking the start. This included Jeff Judd who was shaking his BDA down before its marathon rally adventure, which was then six days away.

Gary Hawkes set the pace in the first of three timed runs in his Evo9, while Michael Tall ran second – 2.5 seconds behind. Robert McCullum was the other to go under three minutes in his first run, setting an impressive third fastest during the first go at the road in his 2WD Escort. Two of the 1300cc class Starlets failed to make it to the top of the hill, Kyle Robertson having found he needed more brakes than he used at the first Ford and Graham Wilson having an engine issue. Robertson had gone off the road and sustained some chassis damage, both he and Wilson would be out for the day.

Things stayed the same for the top 3 in run two, but Tall had closed the gap from Hawkes to half a second. Matt Penrose climbed the order to run fifth in his WRX, behind David Clearwater’s Evo4 by around one second. Judd was next, with Ross Teesdale third of the 2WD’s in seventh. Josh Mitchell held a good lead in the 1600 cc Class and Barry Deuart was well in charge of the 1300cc Class so far. Things were about to change.

Hawkes found another 2 seconds in run three, but Tall found 3, changing a half second deficit into a win for Michael Tall in his fast Evo4 at the fifth and last round of the Autosport Club Sprint Series. Gary Hawkes did enough though, with second allowing him to win the Sprint Series for 2014. David Clearwater managed to push McCullum back to fourth in the last run, but McCullum would be the clear winner in the open 2WD class in his Kennelly Nissan powered Escort.

Ross Teesdale in his AE86 climbed over Jeff Judd in the final run to take second 2WD and sixth overall behind Matt Penrose. Judd was 7th and third of the 2WD’s, having successfully given the BDA a shakedown. Josh Mitchell won the 1600 cc Class with another fired up drive in his 4AGE powered Starlet, but had strong competition from Nigel Tyson in his Corolla as the day wore on. James Hunter was pleased to get his Chevette up to 3rd of the 1600’s come the final result.

Barry Deuart held on to the 1300 class win but only just, with Grant Goile getting within 2/10ths of a second in the last run. Murray Christofferson was also pleased with his 3rd in Class in his Suzuki Swift.

Richard Towse continued his consistent run across all five rounds, his 5th place in class just enough to win the Sprint Series Open 2WD class by one point from Ross Teesdale. Josh Mitchell was a clear winner in the series for the 1600cc class, while Graham Wilson’s DNF did not stop him winning the series for the 1300cc Class from Goile.

Mt Alex is a bit daunting until you learn it – there were some fast drivers who have missed a mention here as they were new to the road. Keep coming back guys, it’s a magic bit of road once you are sure you know where it goes.

Mt Alexander Gravel Sprint Results

Click for a copy of the Overall and Class Results.