Paddon push to break White Horse hill climb record time

Drift specialist Shane Allen’s 2008 Ford Mustang throws a bit of colour up at last year’s Waimate 50. Photo: Hamish MacLean
Drift specialist Shane Allen’s 2008 Ford Mustang throws a bit of colour up at last year’s Waimate 50. Photo: Hamish MacLean
This afternoon New Zealand's best rally driver will attempt to ''smash the record'' in a gravel road hill climb up to Waimate's White Horse Monument.

Hayden Paddon's attempt to best the 2min 20sec record climb of Centrewood Park Rd - known this weekend as ''Horsepower Hill'' - shortly after 4pm today will also open the 10th consecutive modern-era Waimate 50 since its ''rebirth'' in 2010.

Waimate 50 event director Rob Aikman and a team of about 200 volunteers had again converted the central business district of the South Canterbury town of about 3000 people into a 2.5km fully enclosed constructed track of steel and concrete where from now until Sunday 10,000 people are expected to converge.

The event, a throwback to simpler times when in 1959 Bruce McLaren won the first ever Waimate 50, had grown to the point it almost took over the town.

''This is the biggest show Waimate 50 has ever put on - and it's the biggest event for Waimate that's probably ever been,'' he said.

''It does - it takes over the whole town. And we're lucky that the residents are sort of OK with that. There is a bit of disruption but I think everybody, they get into it. They say 'This is really cool'. This brings a lot of economic impact to the town. We're televised, we're going live production this year, going to beam it around the world. We've got big screens. There's nothing like it (for Waimate). It's off the scale.''

Over winter - with the accommodation crunch - an appeal was made and about 30 locals had put their houses up for rent to help absorb some of the visitor numbers.

Online ticket sales were up 150% from last year.

''It's not like the old days with the old hay bales when people sat on them,'' Mr Aikman said, but ''Waimate hasn't changed dramatically since that time.''

hamish.maclean@odt.co.nz

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