1999 Queenstown Gold Rush Hillclimb by Ross Hyde
The second running of the Queenstown Gold Rush Hillclimb has attracted a class entry. Arguably the two fastest exponents of the sport, ex Kiwi Rod Millen and Japanese rally driver 'Monster' Tajima, are joined by former World Rally Champion Stig Blomquist in what is dubbed by the organizers as 'the race to the sky'. Climbing from 1,500 ft to 5,000 ft - it is set in the picturesque and remote Cardrona Valley near Queenstown in the South Island on a privately owned road that for most of the year is leased to European and North American car manufactures for winter testing. The Queenstown Gold Rush and the USA sister event, Pikes Peak in Colorado Springs, are being dubbed as "The Twin Peaks Challenge".
Californian ex-pat Kiwi Rod Millen is returning this year with his successful Pikes Peak winning Toyota Celica. The purpose build Celica develops a whooping 1000bhp, and will reach speeds in excess of 200kph on the short straights that the course has to offer. The suspension has been extensively modified from last years car in an effort to avenge his narrow defeat.
Last years winner Nobuhiro 'Monster' Tajima will defend his title in his awesome 900bhp Suzuki Vitara. The US$2.5 million machine bears little resemblance to the four wheel drive production car that shares its name.
The vastly experienced Stig Blomquist of Sweden will be driving a newly built Ford RS200 Evolution Ultra Lightweight. The car also produces the same power as its competitors and as team manager Rowland Jobson admitted "the car is quick.....zero to 140mph in 6 seconds...thats faster that a F1 car".The car is built and run by Mach 2 Racing of Britain.
Snapping at the the heels of the 'big three' are a gaggle of New Zealands top rally drivers. Lead by multi NZ, Australian and Asia Pacific rally champion Possom Bourne in his Subaru Impresa are Joe McAndrew, Ross Meekings, Trevor Crowe and NZ hillclimb Champion the colourful Marty Rosenburg. In addition to these are two Japanese Rallycross Champions Masayuki Akaba (last years group N winner) and Akto Kobayashi.
The hillclimb runs over the Easter holiday break with the course opening on Thursday 1st April for official recce in road cars only. Friday is timed practice morning and afternoon. Saturday is qualifying, with further timed practice in the morning each competitor is allow a sole qualifying run in the afternoon. Race day, Sunday, comprises of one high speed run for each competitor with fastest qualifier running last.
Source - Linear Photographs