Race to Sky grounded after decade

Efforts to find new organisers for the annual Race to the Sky hillclimb from the Cardrona Valley to the Snow Farm atop the Pisa Range have failed, so the winding gravel road will remain quiet this Easter.

The event has been an Easter favourite with motorsport fans over the past decade.

However, some competitors are planning to revive the hillclimb at Easter next year.

A combination of costly and ‘‘unbelievable'' red tape requirements, road and land access issues, resource consent costs, and personality clashes have contributed to the event's demise, but the majority of those involved say the hillclimb will return.

Grant Aitken, of Queenstown, founded the Race to the Sky in 1998, but surrendered his rights to host the event past 2008 after difficulties negotiating access to the mountain road.

Cardrona entrepreneur and skifield owner John Lee has worked with Mr Aitken since 1998, when the pair first hosted the hillclimb on the Pisa Range access road to the Snow Farm.

In the past decade, Mr Lee has divided his property, which forced Mr Aitken to negotiate and deal with four different tenants to secure access to the entire length of the twisting 15km ascending gravel mountain road.

Mr Lee said there were no plans to hold the hillclimb on the Snow Farm access road this year and he was sad to see the event lapse.

Mr Aitken had always done a ‘‘very professional'' and wonderful job of organising the event, but Mr Lee conceded the pair experienced personality clashes during the end of their tenure together.

Mr Lee said he ‘‘was no petrolhead at 71 years of age'', but he hoped some motorsport fans would try to resurrect the event and source a sponsor.

However, he said future organisers would face ‘‘big challenges'', costs of about ‘‘half a million dollars'' and would take on a very different beast compared to when the hillclimb first started.

Resource consent to hold the race needs to be renewed from the Queenstown Lakes District Council, and several different tenants, such as the Southern Hemisphere Proving Ground, adventure motoring outfit Monster Trucks, and leasehold farmers, all need to be consulted about the hillclimb, Mr Lee said.

Mr Aitken has moved on from organising the annual event and is now a director of the Cromwell Motorsport Park Trust, the outfit responsible for developing a speedway and motorsport venue in the Central Otago town.

He could not be contacted by the Otago Daily Times yesterday. Southland Sports Car Club secretary Wendy Jenks, of Invercargill, has been involved with organising the event alongside Mr Aitken.

‘‘There was just an unbelievable amount of red tape to comply with as the years progressed,'' she said.

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