Reigning champion saves best for last in three-peat quest

THREE-PEAT: Day Day powers out of the chicane on his way to a third straight Legend of the Lakes Hill Climb victory. Picture: TREVOR JACKSON

IT was a case of history repeating itself on Sunday when Adelaide driver Dan Day claimed his third straight Legend of the Lakes Hill Climb.

Day set a blistering 49.98 seconds time on his final run to stamp his authority on the event in his Subaru STi.

But he did not have it all his own way, with arch rival Kevin Mackrell pushing his V8-powered Datsun 260z hard across the weekend, with a personal best time of 50.20s set on Sunday afternoon.

By that stage Day had dropped his best time to 50.01 and went on from there, with his final run of the weekend the fastest.

“Going into the weekend the aim was to win three in a row, but it was definitely challenging,” Day said.

“Mackrell put up the closest fight we have had in the three years.

“It was neck-and-neck all weekend.”

It was a battle the crowd has become accustomed to over the last few events, with Day raising the bar each year in his heavily-modified Subaru.

This year saw wider tyres and suspension tweaks designed for more grip and a sharper turn-in, which meant Saturday was set aside to learn the set up, with Day’s best time a 51.42s.

From there the times began to tumble and he was quickly down into the low 50s, before the final run of the weekend, where he opened the Subaru up and completed an almost flawless run.

“We just kept pushing it and Saturday night had a look at the tune of the car,” Day said.

“It was a lot about learning the car on Saturday – we ran on low power for me to learn the new suspension set up and the big wheels.

“It was quite a bit different car to the last couple of years, but once we got on top of that, every run we crept a little bit more boost into it until we got it back up to where it was last year.”

With just a handful of runs on Saturday, Day needed to adjust to the new set up quickly, with Mackrell fast straight out of the box.

After a modest 52.24s run to open proceedings, Mackrell was straight down into the mid-50-second bracket, throwing down the gauntlet to the reigning champion.

“All Saturday Mackrell was a second faster than us,” Day said.

“I was a little bit nervous on Saturday afternoon, then the last run on Saturday we jumped in front of him by 0.02 of a second, but it did not count due to a crash later.”

“We managed to climb back up on Sunday and in the last run in the shootout we cracked the 49s – but only just.”

That time was not good enough to claim a new record, which Day set last year after an impressive 49.89s run.

“On the shootout run I made a little mistake in the middle of the course,” Day said.

“I pushed a little bit wide on one of the slower corners, which upset the car a bit on the way up the hill.

“I think there was a little bit more in it, but I was still stoked to crack the sub-50s again.

“We are the only car to have done it – a couple of times now.”

To ensure a perfect run up the course drivers must have nerves of steel and the ideal car set up.

Running such high horsepower means and mistake can destroy the run – or the car.

Day said it is all about concentration and attacking the course.

“Out of the esses I try to line it up so I can hold it flat from the bottom while pulling fourth gear,” he said.

“With the horsepower and the bumps in the track it is a real handful to keep it on the black stuff.

“It is a bit wild, but I try to stay committed and pick the right line and it seems to work.

“Then we grab fifth gear before the left hander and run fifth up the hill.

“We were cracking 202kph up there on Sunday.”

Having claimed the honours three years in a row, you would expect that in itself to be a highlight for Day.

However, he said there is more to it than just setting a blistering time.

“Having that piece of road to yourself is like nothing else really,” he said.

“I normally do circuit racing, sharing the track with 25 or 30 other cars and you have someone on the radio to you.

“With this, no one is on the radio and you have the piece of road to yourself.

“The highlight is not being the fastest, but just driving up there in that type of car.”

Despite such an impressive record, Day has no plans to back off from the event.

“We are always keen to do the event, not only to come back and try to win, but we just love doing it as a team and a social side of it,” he said.

“We love the weekend away there and we would not miss it.

“We will see what Mackrell has next year – he is getting closer each year – so we have to always be more prepared.

“We cannot just settle and relax.”

Legend of the Lakes Hill Climb top 10 outright results: Dan Day, fastest time 49.98 seconds; Kevin Mackrell, 50.20; Kurt Wilson, 52.89; Henry Beasley, 53.43; Mirko Grbic, 53.53; Luke Bosman, 54.16; Damien Brand, 54.59; Scott Limbert, 55.00; Anthony Wallis, 55.22; Oscar Matthews, 55.32.