Drivers vie for legend status

READY FOR ACTION: The Legend of the Lakes Hill Climb is fast approaching, with everything coming together well for the 13th running of the iconic event.

THE 13th running of the Legend of the Lakes Hill Climb is fast approaching, with everything set for another blockbuster weekend in what has become an iconic event on the Australian hill climb calendar.

The event kicks off on Friday November 9 and runs through to Sunday November 10 over the unique Valley Lakes course.

Before race weekend the event will have a launch party at the Mount Gambier Rail Lands on Thursday November 8 from 4pm through to 9pm.

Included will be plenty of food and drinks, live music for entertainment, face painting and games for the youngsters, plus car and trade displays.

The hill climb is run by the South Eastern Automobile Club and president – and race director – Kevin Raedel said the launch party was a way to provide extra exposure for the event, along with giving more to the competitors.

“We hope the launch party will be a fairly big thing for the event,” he said.

“It is designed for the corporate support we have, the town itself and to give our competitors a bit more from the weekend.

“Hopefully this will add to their experience.”

Also new this year are extra screens to watch the race, with two massive setups for the top and bottom of the course to allow spectators a better viewing experience.

The whole track is covered by video for the safety aspect, with the general public the winners as far as vision is concerned.

“Spectators will be able to see the whole track on these big screens,” event secretary Kate Pohlner said.

“We have had smaller screens in the past, but these are huge.

“We have had feedback in the past where spectators can only see the start or the finish, so this will be a big inclusion.”

A shuttle bus will also run this year from Archery Park to the main entrance, to provide spectators easier access.

The usual shuttle buses will continue to run up and down the course throughout the day.

As far as the competition itself is concerned, a long list of entrants has again been received, with over 200 expected for the three days of competition.

That includes back-to-back champion Dan Day in his fast Subaru WRX.

He will attempt a three-peat this year, but will certainly have plenty of opposition.

Kevin Mackrell will again return, along with the likes of Simon Feil, Damien Brand, Luke Bosman, Henry and John Beasley and Gavin Farley, who Raedel said are all expected to be fast.

Day set a blistering time last year of 49.89 seconds, but Raedel said he expected that to drop even further this year.

“I think Mackrell will do a 49, but I think we will see a 48 from Dan,” he said.

“If you had everything play out right, you could do a low 46, but to get that to happen would be hard.”

In the 12 years of the event there have been no major accidents, which Raedel puts down to a combination of the efforts put in by club members, who volunteer their time to ensure all runs to plan, plus respect by the drivers.

“The drivers are there to go as fast as they can, but they have to respect the track,” he said.

“It can bite.

“The first half is all swooping esses, then the climb up the mountain is stupidly fast if you have the horsepower.

“Some of those guys are doing 200kph at the breaking markers, which is fast.”

To ensure the event runs smoothly, Raedel said something in the order of 3000 hours goes into the organising.

That includes concrete and plastic barriers, fencing, line marking and a myriad of electronics.

“There is no power up there, so the power has to be put in underground from a generator,” Raedel said.

“That is a massive issue – it takes two days to set that up.

“It takes a week to run the cables up the hill for the timing and TV screens, then there is all the behind the scenes work, the admin stuff.”

That is one part of the weekend that caught Pohlner by surprise.

It is her first official CAMS sanctioned event since taking over the secretary position for the club recently.

She became involved through her husband, who runs a Subaru WRX and is enjoying the extra involvement this year.

“It has surprised me how much is involved,” Pohlner said.

“I am lucky I do not work full time – I do not know how this has been done in the past by people who have a full time job.

“I have put a lot of hours into it, but I love doing it and I am enjoying it.

“I do not think the public understands what really goes into it.

“From the outside you see all the barriers and fencing, but behind the scenes it is huge.”

Raedel said the event was conducted under the CAMS rules and run like any other in the country.

However, the difference here is the magnitude of the event.

“This is the biggest hill climb in Australia,” Raedel said.

“It is also the biggest single car event in Australia.

“We run close to 210 cars over three days, which is huge.

“We basically run it like a V8 Supercars event.”

From the outside the event always seems to run smoothly, with a few interruptions for minor incidents.

In order to achieve that Raedel has a simple philosophy.

“Last year a driver broke an oil line on the start,” he said.

“That took 10 minutes to clean up, but you just get in and do it.

“Every 30 seconds a car is supposed to be going up the hill.

“I believe you just have to make a decision at the time and work it out later.”

With the level of commitment from SEAC members second to none and the desire to provide a first-class event for the region, this year’s Legend of the Lakes Hill Climb is set to be another big success for the region.