12 Feb – Pipers Valley Rd Gravel Hillclimb

For 2017 Pipers Valley Rd Gravel Hillclimb was south island qualifying round 2 of the NZ Hillclimb Championship. For more info on the championship go to http://www.hillclimbchampionship.co.nz/

It was a sunny, dust Canterbury day with 34 drivers giving it everything on the twisty gravel road to the top of the hill.

Congratulations to Mike Tall (Mirage) for taking out 1st place overall & class 4 4WD. Well done to the other class winners Chris Herdman (Starlet) class 1 0-1300cc, Taylor Judd (Corolla) class 2 1301-1600cc, Jeff Judd (Corolla) class 3 1601+cc. 

Port Hills Peaks provide perilous playground

The Autosport Club’s first gravel sprint for 2017 was held in February at Piper Valley Rd on Banks Peninsula. Starting at sea level the gravel road climbs gently along the valley for the first 1.5 km’s, before becoming very steep for the second 1.5 km’s and reaching around 400m altitude at the finish. The road becomes narrow as it climbs and has wonderful views back down into the valley, the huge drops making it a perilous place to be reaching high speeds in a Rally Car.

The event was also the second qualifying round for the 2017 NZ Hillclimb Championship attracting 34 entries. A few of Canterbury’s regular sprint and rally teams were missing though, with season rebuilds yet to be completed by some.

From the outset, Mike Tall set the pace in his Turbo Mirage which uses the running gear from his Evo4, the lightweight and big horsepower car ideally suited for the steep road. Matt Penrose was three seconds behind Tall after run one in his Impreza with Job Quantock third initially in the family Evo8. Keith Anderson was also on the pace in the 2016 NZRC winning Evo 8 he has acquired from David Holder.

In the 2WD’s Jeff Judd turned up in the Evo powered KE70 Corolla developed by the Buist Brothers some years back. The Evo engine has its turbo removed but works well and less the turbo sounds quite like a BDA. Judd set the pace in the first run but was chased hard by Dave Quantock who dragged a 1990’s RX7 out of the garage. Brent Rawstron and Garry Hawkes were also on the front pace in their MK2 BDA’s.

Times would drop dramatically for some in run two. Matt Penrose took 11 seconds off his time and hoped to move ahead of Tall. But Tall had found 9 seconds, which was enough to keep his nose in front. Job Quantock and Anderson had some work to do in the last run having not found the same gain, while in the 2WD’s Dave Quantock had spun which conceded second in 2WD to Garry Hawkes. Jeff Judd held a 6 second lead in Open 2WD, while his oldest son Taylor had the 1600cc class in hand. In the 1300’s Grant Goile’s initial lead had evaporated with electrical problems slowing the car in run two.

All the drivers were eager to make the most of the third and final run up the road. There were friendly battles of ego’s in progress throughout the field. It would be Mike Tall’s weekend. He had won the Tar Seal Sprint contested across the valley the day before and would win the Piper Valley Road event by 3 seconds. Matt Penrose was reasonably pleased with his second place both days, while Keith Anderson was happy to take third, the first of the NZRC spec cars home. Job Quantcok was narrowly pushed back to fourth while Jason McConnell took home one of his best results since moving from Stockcars, with fifth.

With 15 x 4WD’s in the field the rivalry ran deep. A personal battle raged hot all day between friends Garret Thomas and Hamish Dykes, along with Garrets father-in-law Dave Ollis. Garet and Hamish are both recent rookies while Dave has been in pause mode with his Rallying for a couple of decades. Garet had their measure going into run three with Dave second and Hamish a wee way back, even after Hamish found 8 seconds in run two. To finish it off, Garet made sure of bragging rights by going 7 seconds quicker in run three to take 6th outright behind McConnell. Meanwhile Dave was lost for words when Hamish found another 13 seconds to end up 3 seconds ahead of him in 7th. Motorsport NZ organiser David Kirk also finished in the top 10 ahead of Ollis.

Things went wrong for Jeff Judd in the last run up the hill in the Corolla, with an off song engine blunting his attack. Dave Quantock put in a clean run in the RX7 but Judd kept his nose just in front with his run two time, to win the 2WD Open Class from Quantock. Brent Rawstron jumped ahead of Hawkes to take home third in his BDA, Hawkes ended just half a second behind for fourth place. Richard Towse took a pleasing fifth of the ten Open Class 2WD entrants, in the Datsun Sunny Coupe that he has competed in largely unchanged since the early 1990’s.

Taylor Judd won the 1600cc Class in his KE70 Corolla, 6.5 seconds ahead of second placed Kevin Knowles in a similar car. Only two 1600 cc Class cars took part but there was an upsurge in entries in the under 1300cc Class with seven starters. Chris Herdman again won the class in his Starlet, helped by Goile’s KE30 Corolla running sick. Having decided against parking the car after run two, Goile’s car again coughed and stuttered its way up the hill, but it was just quick enough for him to hold onto second in class. Third was a great result for young rookie Jayden Tainui who had his first proper go in his KE70. The newly acquired cars engine had blown up in run one at his last attempt to start his driving career. Peter Murch achieved fourth in class in his Starlet, ahead of Johnathon Taylor who missed the last run in his Hayabusa powered KE30.

Things are going in the right direction for Canterbury’s Autosport Club, with a new breed of younger drivers making their presence felt and challenging the old hands who continue to compete. Fathers and sons are competing in the same events and a few daughters too. The 2017 season has begun with things in a good place.