THE iconic Legend of the Lakes hill climb has arrived for the 14th time and will shake the Valley Lakes precinct today.
All is ready for the green flag to drop after the South East Automobile Club completed the massive 10-day task of setting up the event, with another packed field eager to sprint up the volcano once again.
Today’s action will see 75 Classic and Clubmans Only vehicles race against the clock, along with SEAC members, before the overall contenders fight for the prize on Saturday and Sunday.
The event will finish in style with a thrilling shoot-out at the end of Sunday’s running, which will see the spectacle of the fastest drivers pushing the boundaries during their last crack at the mountain.
All eyes will be on Adelaide’s Dan Day, who will look to take a remarkable fourth consecutive king of the mountain title.
Day and his powerful Subaru STI have been an unstoppable force since he stole the crown from Peter Gazzard in 2016.
Event organiser Kevin Readel said he expects Day to set the time sheets on fire and be the man to beat once again.
“It is going to be very hard to beat Dan Day,” he said.
Readel also believes there are number of other contenders who can take the fight to Day this year led by the popular Kevin Mackrell.
Mackrell has always been a contender in his striking Datsun V8, but he has claimed the unfortunate honour of runner-up every year since 2011.
Readel said Mackrell is desperate to get his hands back on the crown for the first time in nine years.
“Markrell will be a hot contender,” he said.
“I think he is sick of being a bridesmaid and wants to win another one.”
Readel also expects Simon Fiel to feature prominently in his Mitsubishi Evo, while the likes of
Kurt Wilson and Henry Beasley will hope to challenge.
Old favourites such as Robert Vanderkamp and Neil Oatway in their classic Ford Falcon GT’s will impress the crowd, as will the Holden Torana’s of Joe Scanlon and Stephen Havriluk.
Fans will be able to get up close and personal with a legend of this era, with the arrival of seven-time Bathurst 1000 winner Jim Richards.
Richards is an icon of Australian motorsport and will be in attendance on Saturday to meet and greet with spectators.
He won the ‘Great Race’ three times each with fellow legends Peter Brock and Mark Skaife and holds the record for the most starts ever at Mount Panorama with 35.
Readel said it is an honour for a racing legend like Richards attend the South East’s premier event.
“It will be great having him here,” he said.
“Jim is a household name and even the young kids know him.
“Some of the older people can relate to him, so it will be very good to have him here.”
Other concepts around the track will also continue to improve the fan experience.
The big screen televisions will return after a maiden appearance last year, while a number of demonstrations are also lined up to entertain during the breaks.
With over 200 competitors driving a wide range of cars, spectators can expect plenty of high-octane action across the three days.
But the increasing interest in participating at the event is starting to reach boiling point, as Readel believes the numbers are starting to creep over the edge.
He said this year’s record-breaking entry list will be one of the biggest ever, with little room left at the make-shift facility.
“It is pretty much a bumper field again,” Readel said.
“It is the biggest ever Friday field and high 130’s for Saturday and Sunday, which is about as big as it gets.
“The pits are starting to get full and we can not handle many more.”
These ever-growing numbers reflect the enormous success the Legend of the Lakes hill climb has become.
Since the event began in 2007, it has grown into one of the biggest events on the region’s sporting calendar and draws well over 1000 visitors to the South East.
Readel said everyone at SEAC struggles to believe how big it has become.
“I was only involved in the background in the early years, but I do not think any of us believed it would be so big and popular,” he said.
“Even to this day we get more cars every year, which is beyond all our beliefs.
“This really is the back bone of the club.”