One of the biggest divisions in club motorsport is that between circuit racing and rallying. The ultimate aim of covering a specified distance as quickly as possible is the same, but other than that the differences run far deeper than just the style and facilities of the venue.
It comes down to a mindset. Circuit racing is about precision and perfection, tuning both the car and your own performance in an attempt to deliver the mathematically best lap time or result from a given situation. Rallying, on the other hand, is more reactionary. You don’t know what’s around the next corner, and the winners are often not the fastest but the those who can best react to that given circumstance.
Adelaide’s Willunga Hillclimb, run in 2014 for the second time, is unique in that it takes one of the most well-known tarmac rally stages in South Australia, old Willunga Hill, and runs it as a hillclimb event.
The rally guys are used to getting only one crack at getting it right, and the circuit/hillclimb guys aren’t really used to the bumps, tree roots, camber and close guardrails that are the hallmark of closed public roads. It’s a new challenge for everyone.
Any Given Reason’s coverage of the Willunga Hillclimb is a little limited this year because instead of staying behind the camera I jumped behind the wheel and had a crack myself, driving my Dad’s Alfa Romeo Sprint. Between actually competing, driving the transport to the start via Main South Road, a long lunch and a few checkovers of the car, there wasn’t a huge amount of time for photography. But that’s okay – it was huge fun.
I’ve co-driven this stage several times during tarmac rallies in a few different cars but have never had a proper go myself until now. Competing on a closed public road for the first time was a daunting, exciting, surprising and hugely addictive experience. I must have driven Willunga Hill seven or eight times before the event, trying to work out lines, but that still didn’t prepare me for competition. The speeds you actually arrive at corners when you can use the whole road are a lot higher than I expected, and it took me at least three runs to use the full width on entry and exit. People think they drive fast in the hills, but it’s not a patch on what you can do with a legally closed road. I never thought Willunga Hill was that fast, but I was unexpectedly finding the top of fourth gear in some places.
The top corners don’t seem outrageously tight at fast road speeds, but when you can use the whole road you pick up a lot more speed between them than you normally can. I was hard on the brakes into most, back to second gear and really relying on the diff to pull the car around.
And when it came time for lunch, there wasn’t a circuit burger to be seen. We just rolled down the hill to the Golden Fleece Cafe in Willunga, joined by some pretty impressive machinery. This is how motorsport is meant to be!
Pre-scruitiny is a great idea because not only does it save valuable time on the morning of the event when the officials are at their busiest, but it gives competitors a second chance to fix any problems that might be picked up.
It’s also a good excuse to spend a Friday night checking out some of the cars that you might otherwise be too busy to see on the event day. This WRX was absolutely on point. The fitment of the wheels and that lip spoiler is perfect in my eyes, and the condition of the gloss black paint was superb. The perfect melting pot of form and function.
This Ferrari 360 Challenge must have been running somewhere close to me because I never managed to actually see it run up the hill, but it certainly looked impressive at scruitineering. The 360 Challenge isn’t really competitive in modern GT racing anymore, however it would still be one of the most entertaining and aurally thrilling track day cars around.
The event was won outright by Nick Streckeisen in an R35 GTR, who managed the four runs up the 2.6km course in just 5:30.57. Just over six seconds behind, in second outright, was Kevin Weeks in the Supaloc Racing Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera.
Competing at Willunga Hill was certainly one of the highlights of my motorsport year, and I’d like to extend a huge thanks to both the event organisers and the people of Willunga for letting us play on their road. It was a blast.
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