Words and photos by Peter Kay
Held on day one of the Adelaide Motorsport Festival, the Prima Tour is the introductory event for those interested in rally events – a bite sized taster, if you will. It is a non-timed event but with four closed road special stages and a run up the legendary Collingrove Hillclimb, it promised to offer the drivers plenty of quality wheel time.
We were due to meet at 7am for the drivers briefing, but in reality, the event had started the day before with sign in and scrutineering. For me this was my first motorsport event so I was a little nervous about the whole process, the Nissan R34 GTR I would be driving was relatively stock but there were still some nerves as I lined up with my co-driver. Once the scrutineers started their checks I began to really worry. However, it turned out that they were assessing my car against the general rally requirements, not the more relaxed Prima rules! Once this was cleared up the GTR passed with no qualms… phew!
I was part amused and part horrified when I came back to the car to see the rear spoiler being used as a bench, with a group of men pouring over a map laid out on it! I have seen what I always assumed were staged (& greatly exaggerated) pictures across the internet of people using spoilers as tables but this was happening right in front of me! With their map packed up it was home time and an early start the next day for the event proper.
We woke the next day to unseasonably grey and wet weather but made our way to Victoria Park in high spirits. Once we got there the mix of cars lining up for Prima, not to mention the other classes, really got us excited. We were joined by Craig Lowndes, Molly Taylor, Nick Percat, Cameron Waters and Tim Slade as our tour leaders for the day, so there were plenty of selfies being taken as we waited for the drivers briefing. The main message given to us at the briefing was that we weren’t racing for sheep stations, and the roads were likely to be slippery. On that note we took our positions on pit straight and waited for the flag to drop.
We made our way out of the Adelaide CBD and headed North East for our first three special stages on Gorge road. We briefly paused as the tour regrouped, and shortly after the howl of the V12 in Craig Lowndes’ Ferrari GTC4 Lusso echoed up the Gorge, we were off.
Having driven Gorge Road multiple times over the years the thought of having the road to yourself was slightly unnerving at first, with no oncoming traffic to be worried about. Once you got your mind around this, it was just pure joy as the snaking corners and various elevation changes made for some of the best driving one could hope for.
With the special stages over we proceeded to head north, our destination the infamous Collingrove hill climb. Getting there took in some of the most picturesque roads that the Adelaide Hills and surrounds have to offer, however being on public roads meant the Tour Leader was limited to the signposted speed limits.
As we arrived at Collingrove there was still the threat of more rain, as it had been intermittently sprinkling all morning. Fortunately, the rain held off as we lined up for our pass up the hill. Having never driven Collingrove it was a daunting prospect looking up the hill at the first imposing straight that turned into a series of corners – not much wider than a car. With our cue to leave we bogged down slightly off the line, the wet concrete requiring a milder launch than a dry course would allow. The 4WD and twin turbos of the GTR soon kicked in and slingshot us up the straight into a slight right, followed by a left dipper as it turns out!
A sighting lap would have been great, but with the large number of cars that had to complete the course it was unrealistic to get everyone up and down twice in the allocated time – a real shame as it would be great fun to attack the course with a rough idea of where one was going! Regardless, it was still a lot of fun and was the perfect end to the morning session as we broke for morning tea in the clubrooms.
What is better than fresh scones and a caffeinated beverage of your choice? Enjoying them against the backdrop of the hillclimb as the other classes that made up the Adelaide Rally launched up the course! We were all too happy to watch as the marque classes such as Audi, Ferrari and BMW all went barrelling up the hill. The variation of sounds, speeds and shapes was great to watch and as true petrol heads we appreciated every minute of it.
From here we headed back towards Adelaide for our lunch stop at Deviation Road Winery, and getting there involved more of the delightful Adelaide Hills roads. A stand out in particular was the section of Piccadilly Road between Summertown and Crafers, the twisting road in the open allowed us to view a range of fellow competitors in front of (as well as behind) us as we all made our way through the open paddocks. After what seemed like no time at all we were at Deviation Road.
Unfortunately, it was about that time when the rain really started coming down. We all ran for cover as the smell of warm paella called us in. After a delicious lunch the decision was made to cut the lunch break short; with no relief from the rain likely anytime soon, we couldn’t take advantage of the winery’s lovely setting and hence were all cramped into a smaller area.
We headed off to our last special stage of the day, again with a closed road it meant we could take full advantage of the bitumen before us. This stage that led us back into Stirling was much tighter than the morning’s stages on Gorge road but still offered plenty of thrills. From here we headed down the South Eastern Freeway back to Victoria Park to enjoy one final drink and chance to swap stories from the final drive of the day.
Whilst the weather was uncontrollable, the organisers did a good job at everything else they had control over. As a taste of motorsport, it was a fun day out and definitely gets you thinking about your next drive… that has to be a good thing, right?
Words and photos by Peter Kay.
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