Chaos Theory – ‘the branch of mathematics that deals with complex systems whose behaviour is highly sensitive to slight changes in conditions, so that small alterations can give rise to strikingly great consequences’. A seemingly unrelated tangent when discussing the recent Mount Alma Mile hillclimb, but stay with me for a moment. In 1929, if you had told Eric Ashby when he purchased his farm at Inman Valley that 86 years into the future, a bright purple, Nascar V8 powered, four-wheel drive Datsun 260Z with a V8 Supercar front splitter would race to the top of his hill in under 40 seconds and claim another victory at the Willall Pilatus Mount Alma Mile hillclimb, he would have thought you were mad. He probably then would have asked you how he too could reach the top in 40 seconds, and then you would have had to explain what Nascar is and it would have become all too complicated.
Indulgent ramblings about fantastical historical occurrences aside, the point remains that in just six years the Mount Alma Mile hillclimb has become iconic in South Australian motorsport and has lead the historic Mount Alma into a whole new second era. Just punch ‘Mount Alma’ into Google or YouTube and you’ll see what I mean. It’s legendary for the huge range and quality of cars that tackle it each year, for its massive gradient climb, the punishing consequences for drivers who make a mistake and the pain inflicted on the calves of those spectators who trek up the goat tracks to catch a glimpse of the action. Chaos Theory in action.
The effort for spectators is rewarded when you reach the top of the hill with expansive views of the surrounding area, so vast that the cars merely complement the vista. The hill is so steep that I prepared with an extra beer the night before because I thought ‘hey, I’m shooting at Alma tomorrow – I’ll burn this off no worries’.
At Mount Alma the main competition is split between two and four wheel drive, with the sub classes working on engine capacity in each drive type. Outright placings are awarded to the quickest three of each drive type, and the winner of the 2WD competition was the insane 13B turbo powered Austin Healey Sprite of Dean King.
Dean’s Sprite has been around for years and was built before high-powered turbo conversions into every imaginable chassis were commonplace. I can remember watching this thing as a kid, and back in the day it was light-years ahead of anything else out there on the local scene. With the democratisation of speed the competition has somewhat caught up, but it was good to see the Sprite still mixing it with the best and coming out on top.
The Mount Alma Mile Hillclimb is unique in how it counts its results. Rather than using the fastest time of the day like most, the times from the two-day event are cumulative and on Sunday afternoon the quickest twelves cars from each drive type are invited to the shootout. The fastest times from the shootout are used to whittle the field to six, then three cars. Added excitement comes when the final top three shootout decides the outright results for the event.
Nick Streckeisen claimed second place in the 4WD class. Traction control issues on the start line led to an anticlimactic launch and I’m sure Nick was convinced he would be relegated to third as he accelerated up the hill for the final time.
Kevin Weeks’ Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera was hands-down the best sounding car of the weekend, not just for the trademark V10 wail but for the shotgun crack on gear change that resonated through the valley. He was trading times with Mackrell all weekend; both clipped a bollard on Saturday attracting penalties and it could have been anybody’s victory in the shootout. Unfortunately gearbox troubles struck the Gallardo at the last minute, and moments after a brilliant launch Kevin was forced to limp up the hill, stuck in gear. But crucially he made it across the finish line, sealing a third place outright in 4WD.
It seems every time we see the Supaloc Gallardo it has evolved further and further from its showroom tarmac rally beginnings; it is now even more hillclimb oriented, sporting a new turbocharger setup for Mount Alma. These Lamborghini V10’s can make huge power with a turbo or two and lots of boost, however the Supaloc car is rumored to put out sub-1000hp from its single turbo and has been built for bottom end performance and driveability over outright numbers.
Chris Edmondson put in another superb performance and somehow managed to goad his 180SX to second outright in RWD. This was another fine display of commitment from Chris given how this is still very much a road going car and hosed some very serious competition in the process.
International drifter Jake ‘Drift Squid’ Jones once again did demo runs throughout the weekend, blanketing the hill in vast clouds of tyre smoke as he slid sideways up. Say what you will, but it was pretty spectacular to watch and I was disappointed when he was out with harmonic balancer problems before I had the chance to get any decent photos of him in action.
We went into nearby Victor Harbor for dinner on Saturday night and it was pretty cool to see the Mount Alma stickered cars parked outside the various restaurants around town. The restaurants were busy, and as you walked through and caught parts of conversations you’d overhear tall stories of gear ratios, near misses, top speeds and best times. There was no doubt that the race crowd was in town.
Mount Alma highlights the whole gamut of club motorsport from five hundred dollar Subaru’s right through to five hundred thousand dollar Lamborghini’s and GTR’s, racing on an exciting course in a stunning environment. As a driver or spectator or official, that makes for a pretty cool day out.
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