Julian Newton has put the incredible talents of the new Porsche 991 GT3 to full and brutally effective use taking the outright victory in the 2015 running of the Willunga Hillclimb, held in South Australia’s McLaren Vale wine region. With a 1.39sec lead at the conclusion of four competitive runs, Newton displayed the commitment of actually driving the latest generation of modern supercar right up to its insanely quick limit.
The Willunga Hillclimb differs from most competitions of its type in that the outright result is determined by combining all timed runs, meaning competitors who want a shot at outright glory need to push hard from the very first run and have a consistently quick day. The fastest time of the day, a 1.24.17 pass, was set by Daniel Smith on his last run in his Mitsubishi Evolution 7. He went on to finish fifth outright.
But as is usually the case with many club motorsport events, most competitors are purely out to have a fun day and set the fastest time they can. For those without prepared tarmac rally cars and the resources to run serious tarmac campaigns, events like the Willunga Hillclimb provide a rare chance to have a proper (legal) crack on an excellent bit of hills road.
Many AGR readers will no doubt be familiar with photographer Mark Williams who has been a well-known face behind his camera at events over the past few years. Mark has slowly been building up a giant killing ST185 Celica GT-Four, running a slightly insane E85 fueled torque-boss 2.2 litre turbo motor, and this was one of his first events out in it.
If I’m honest I was slightly bummed that I didn’t get organised in time and get an entry in myself. The entry list was completely full within a few hours of opening, so I made sure to jump in with Mark on a sighting run up the hill before the road was officially closed. It did nothing to cure my regret – I competed last year and it was easily one of the best events I’ve done. You don’t realise just how much faster you can go on a properly closed road until you’ve tried it; it’s highly addictive. I guess there’s always next year – can I reserve my spot now?
The town oval was used as the paddock for refueling and repairs, saving the main street as the formup area where the competition cars would assemble well before their run. It created some pretty cool scenes and a nice relaxed motorsport atmosphere to wander through.
The town was packed with a huge variety of cool machinery throughout the day as spectators came and went. Some stayed all day, and some just passed through as part of their Sunday hills drive or ride.
Shannons Insurance brought along their ‘big rig’ semi-trailer mobile grandstand and set it up right on the start line, opening the doors to anyone who wanted a higher vantage point from which to see the action.
Any Given Reason is offering a special deal for Willunga Hillclimb competitors this year. I made sure to get a photo of each and every car in this spot – $18 will get you the unwatermarked, full resolution versions of your car in both the wide angle with the view over the McLaren Vale region in the background, and a closer shot right on the apex of the corner.
As famous as Old Willunga Hill is as a rally stage and now a hillclimb, on a world scale it’s far better known as one of cycling’s greatest climbs. You can pick the cyclists amongst the spectators – those who refer to the main spectator point as Cadel’s Corner, so named after cycling legend Cadel Evans.
In fact, the last time I spent any time with a camera on Willunga Hill was during the Tour Down Under in January. It looked completly different lined with thousands of spectators on the road back then – if you were to pretend the spectators were all standing there for the hillclimb last weekend it’s strikingly similar to the Group B rally days.
It’s an interesting point to consider that a fair percentage of road cyclists are also huge petrol heads – there’s a reason why car companies like Jaguar are so heavily involved in cycling. And a reasonable number of petrol heads are also avid cyclists.
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