Legendary hill climb set to erupt

RACE READY: South East Automobile Club’s Peter Lock, Stephen Saunders and Kevin Raedel and a team of other SEAC volunteers have been hard at work to prepare for this weekend’s 13th Legend of the Lakes Hill Climb event. Picture: JAMES MURPHY

JUST 24 hours remain before the roar of engines again echo through the Blue Lake City, with preparation for the 13th annual Legend of the Lakes Hill Climb almost complete.

With around 3000 hours of labour put into the event, South East Automobile Club volunteers work tirelessly for two weeks every year to ensure the biggest event on their calendar is a success.

Preparation began late last week, with almost 2km of barriers, plus fences brought down in trucks and trailers, not to mention the electrical cables, cameras and control rooms which are put in place to provide power and vision to all areas of the track.

This year also includes big screens for the first time, which allows spectators to see the whole track.

All the preparation takes place while the venue is utilised by the general public, with minimal disruption to its usual daily requirements.

“We do as much around the public as we can, so we do not interfere with the people who are here on the weekend,” SEAC volunteer Stephen Saunders said.

“The place was packed on Sunday, but we managed to do all the stuff on the other side (top) of the track where there were less people.”

There is also the administration work which goes on behind the scenes, which can not go unmentioned.

And the work does not stop when the track is ready to go, with volunteers working hard over the three days to ensure the event runs smoothly.

“When it all works it is good,” SEAC president Kevin Raedel said.

“It is pretty stressful, the weekend itself.”

This year will see a couple of new inclusions to take the hill climb to a new level, with the biggest addition a launch party which will kick off the weekend at the Railway Lands tonight.

“The launch party tonight at the railway lands will be a big thing,” Raedel said.

Fellow volunteer and hill climb entrant Tristan Crowe said from a competitor’s point of view, the effort put into preparation and running the event is all worth while.

“When you are actually running up the hill as a competitor, it is definitely worth it,” he said.

“It is a lot of effort – 13 days straight I will be here.

“That is not just setting up, but competing as well.

“It will take another four days to take it all down again.”

However, there is no denying the work put in has its rewards, with the Legend of the Lakes one of Australia’s best hill climbs.

“Some of the feedback we get from visitors, they rate this as probably one of the best venues they have ever been to anywhere in Australia,” SEAC volunteer Peter Lock said.

“We (SEAC) run 24 events a year, but this is definitely our showcase one.

“It is a non-championship round and we are always at capacity – it is the 13th year and we are still full again.

“People are happy to come even though there are no points on the end of it.”

Currently there are 156 entries for the weekend’s racing and Raedel said there has been a rise in numbers for tomorrow’s runs compared to past years.

There will be 65 drivers take to the track tomorrow, which include older vehicles and club drivers and with free entry for spectators on the day, there is sure to be a crowd gathered.

With drivers travelling from far and wide to compete, it is a massive draw-card for Mount Gambier and the region.

“To have a national class event right on the doorstep, people do not realise how big it is,” Lock said.

“There will be a lot of people down from Adelaide – they come down for the best part of a week and that is part of their annual holidays.”

The support from council over the years is also a key to the event’s success.

“We are very lucky with the council letting us have a week before and a week after to set up and clean up,” Saunders said.

“The City Council has been very good in that respect and the community is behind it as well.

“Everyone should come up and have a look, it is well worth it.”