Bent metal but no tears at 'best' hill climb

By NATHAN EVANS

THERE was speed, there was excitement, there was the odd rollover and the occasional crash as the throaty chorus of some 175 rare and prized race-bred vintage motors echoed through the Tewantin State Forest on Saturday and Sunday for the Noosa Beach Car Club's Classic Hill Climb.

Car lovers from as far south as Sydney and as far north as Cairns converged on the winding Gyndier Drive, to test out their veteran beasts' oomph and precision handling against the 1.5 kilometre road's 14 corners and narrow lanes ? all the while striving for the fastest time.

That honour ultimately went to Neil Farr for his captivating performance aboard his Bowin-Hay P6, while several others fared a little worse in a number of injury-free spectacles that made for thrilling viewing for the sizeable crowds.

"The first day was marred by a few incidents," said spokesperson Ian Marshall.

"The key thing was that no one was hurt, we had a bit of bent metal, a Mini rolled over and an Alpha went over the edge."

At least one southern competitor's car went home slightly worse for wear after a run in with some bollards, but his race wasn't over.

"He grazed the wall but was able to straighten out for the last run," Ian said.

The annual hill climb, arguably the best in Australia, enjoys a growing profile each year, with organisers yesterday branding the 2006 event a huge success.

While crowds were up on last year, the event has also set a precedent for vehicle speed timing, with the introduction of a brand-new Olympic-style timing system engineered in Sydney.

"They've now got six other hill climb circuits looking to buy timers with the same specifications and we also installed huge 60 inch plasma TVs to give the drivers instant feedback on their times when they pulled up in the pit," Ian said.

Local charities will benefit from the annual climb, which has raised $170,000 in funds since the starting gun was first fired 19 years ago.

As in past years, there was no shortage of classic motors in town for the race, including Monaros, Mustangs, Jaguars, BMWs and MGs.

"There was a fantastic old 1926 Bugati racing car there, as well as a 1973 Porsche 911 RSR, which is a very, very valuable car that was raced by Alan Hamilton," Ian said.

Behind the wheel of it this time was Noosa Mayor Bob Abbot, who has driven in the hill climb for three years running and this year knocked more than 15 seconds of his best time.

"It's just as exciting as it ever was," he said of racing the $300,000 car.

"My quickest time was 72.79 seconds, which is about 4.5 seconds slower than the winner of the class which was the Datsun 240Z," he said.

Another familiar local face was Noosa's Rob Van Wegan, in his British racing green 1952 Fraser Nash Le Mans ? a car made famous by legendary race car driver Stirling Moss, whose signature actually adorns Rob's car.