1999 Queenstown, New Zealand Goldrush Hillclimb 2 - 4 April
Leading Entries 'Monster' Tajima Suzuki Rod Millen Toyota Possum Bourne Subaru Stiq Blomqvist Ford RS200
For the second year running 'Monster' Tajima won the Queenstown Goldrush Hillclimb in his purpose built Suzuki Vitara, with Possum Borune second after a disappointed Rod Millen punctured.
After three timed practice sessions on Friday and Saturday morning a pattern started to emerge with Monster fastest followed by Millen and Bourne. Both Monster and Millen experienced problems in timed practice.
Millen suffered punctures, complaining that his tyres were not suitable for the rough surface. Because of the suspension configuration of his Celica and the brake size he was unable to fit more suitable rally tyres. Little had been done to the car since last years hillclimb, although his crew had been able to lift the ride height to cope with the surface. Millen admitted "we are disadvantaged by a car that is essentially designed for the smoother surface of Pikes Peak". Monster suffered a broken drive shaft, but he was not concerned by only missing one timed practice run.
Another not able to practice was Stig Blomquist, troubled by an engine fire on Fridays last run his team worked through the night to repair the car. It was first thought to be superficial damage but turned out to be much more serious. The crew replaced the cylinder head and turbo along with the belts and hoses on the Ford RS200. After consulting with race officials about qualifying team boss Graham Hathaway decided to forgo qualifying and prepare the car for the race. Unfortunately the problems were not rectified in time for the race on Sunday and the car was withdrawn. A disappointed Blomquist said " for sure we will have to come back next year....this car is very suited for this course".
Tajimas team had learnt much from last years event and had made significant changes to the car. A computer controlled diff had been added along with suspension modifications and detail changes to aerodynamics. Monster admitted "I am getting more traction out of the hairpins, but the improved aerodynamics is causing the car to bottom out on the fastest sections of the course".
Possum Borune sailed through timed practice and qualifying without problems. A great deal of work had been done on the car since last year and Possum was delighted with it. "I know I can't match Millen and Tajima on horsepower but the Subaru is a better handling car for this road" he said. The Impresa had been on a diet, losing just on 100 kilograms in weight and increasing power from 300bhp to just under 400bhp.
Prior to his qualilfing run Millen asked officials if he could start in front of Possum Bourne. Millen said that Possum car was digging up rocks in the course and this was hampering his performance. Millen , who said Bourne was "driving in a racing style using all the road, which he is certainly allowed to do" was more than happy with his qualifying run of 8:45. With a small power steering problem to remedy and new tyres to fit, Millen was confident his times would come down further for the final.
The last car to qualitify was defending champion Monster. He powered through the lower section of the course 1.4 seconds quicker than Millen. Tajima scorched up the mountain in a record breaking 8.33.4 and still felt that with a bit more fine tuning he could go faster.
A great battle was developing in Group N class, 3 seconds covered the top four cars with last years class winner Masayuki Akaba 100th of a second faster that local Ross Meekings.
With Monster confortably faster in qualifying Millen would have to put in a stunning run in the final to win. But only 3kms into his run he punctured yet again, a disappointed Millen said "I hit another rock ... its almost impossible not to". Again gentleman Bourne agreed to go last not to disadvantage Millen and Tajima with his 'rock throwing" style and went last. Monster had decided to change some suspension settings for his final run. He wanted to get more traction out of the tight hairpins and it worked as he blitzed the course with a time equalling is qualifying run to win in 8:33.3. Last man Bourne left the start line knowing that something drastic would have to happen to Tajima and Millen for him to win. He knew he was second after passing Millens punctured car but continued on in his unsual "full on" style to shave seven seconds of his qualifying time to do a 8:50.54. Local man Marty Roestenburg was third in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 3. Group N was won by Ross Meekings after Akaba broke a wheel just after the start.
Ross Hyde Linear Photographs.