Hill climb a peak performance

The Fuchs Coronet Peak Hill Climb, near Queenstown, on Saturday attracted 48 competitors and hundreds of spectators from around New Zealand. Photo by James Beech.
The Fuchs Coronet Peak Hill Climb, near Queenstown, on Saturday attracted 48 competitors and hundreds of spectators from around New Zealand. Photo by James Beech.

The winding access road ascending to the Coronet Peak skifield between Queenstown and Arrowtown presents a challenge to motorists whatever the season, never mind more competitive drivers in supercharged vehicles racing against the clock after a snowstorm.

• Coronet Pek Hill Climb Photos

Tricky as the road can be at the best of times, 48 drivers in 46 cars still thundered up the mountain on Saturday for the return, by popular demand, of the Fuchs Coronet Peak Hill Climb.

Drivers hailed from around the South Island, for the most part, to form the largest field in the prestigious 40-year history of the event.

Individual drivers raced from a standing start about 1km beyond the Skippers Rd turn-off. They navigated at speed an unrelenting series of hairpin bends and chicanes to cross the finish line near the skifield base building.

Hundreds of motorsport fans watched intently from designated areas while stewards and Queenstown firefighters monitored proceedings.

Outram driver Glenn Frew, at the wheel of a red Mitsubishi EVO, clocked the fastest hill climb time of 88.72sec - within half a second of the record set by Dunedin's Bruce Saxton in the 1990s.

Tony Quinn, a Scotsman based in Australia, was second in a black Nissan GT-R in 89.50sec.

Grant Aitken, of Queenstown, was third in a white Mitsubishi EVO 9 at 93.27.

A total of 27 drivers and their modified cars reconvened for the Tucker's Beach Gravel Hill Climb on a private unsealed track for more individual races yesterday.

The hill climbs were hosted by the Queenstown Car Club in association with Motorsport New Zealand.

Stuart Mclean, vice-president, last remaining founding member of the club and steward, said he thought it was "a tremendous day out for motorsport in the Wakatipu".

The Coronet Peak Hill Climb incorporated a qualifying round of the Motorsport NZ National Hill Climb Championship, which holds its sealed final on Denniston Rd, Westport, on February 23 and gravel final on Barnetts Face Rd, Westport, on February 24.