Friday, November 28


From Michael Esdaile in Bluff

THERE is no doubt Ken McIntosh is a sharp cookie.  When he learned that the New Zealand Hill Climb Championships run up Motupahoe each year are only available for the Open and 0-600cc classes and that four time Open class champion Ryan Hampton was not entered this year, he switched Cameron Donald’s entry from the pre-1982 class to Open.

He will be glad he did.  Before the day was over, Donald had claimed the New Zealand Open Hill Climb Championship on the pre-1982 class Suzuki GSX1100 powered McIntosh Suzuki machine that was built as an almost exact replica of the bike that took the late Dr Rodger Freeth to victory in the Arai 500 endurance race at Bathurst 1982.

You could say it has taken 32 years for the McIntosh Suzuki to taste success on the two most famous motorsport hills in Australasia:  Mount Panorma, Bathurst (650 metres) and Motupahoe, also known as Bluff Hill (265 metres).

As has been the case since the Motupahoe hillclimb was added to the suite of diverse events that make up the Burt Munro Challenge, it has been accorded New Zealand Championship status.  So we have an Australian as New Zealand Open Hill Climb Championship on a New Zealand-built bike.

How did Donald’s times compare with those of four-times New Zealand Open Hill Climb Champion, Ryan Hampton of Christchurch?

Well, this year’s event was blessed with a roaring westerly gale and for a while, rain.  It was a struggle for the competitors making their two practice runs and many spectators abandoned ship in favour of Bluff’s numerous hostelries.

Still, after recording a first practice run of 60.43 seconds, Donald ran a 54.87 second pass in his second practice.  That made him fastest in the pre-is 1982 class, which was when his entry was changed to the Open class.

Last year Ryan Hampton laid down a record-setting 42.51 second pass on his Castrol Honda CBR1000R to claim his fourth successive national title.

Donald’s first official pass as an Open entrant was 47.48 seconds – almost five seconds slower than Hampton’s record, which was set on a hot sunny day last year.  Not bad for a pre-1982 air-cooled four cylinder racer on wet weather tyres due to the damp racing surface.  Even when the surface dried off, Donald failed to better that time.  Neither did any other Open class entrant, so Aussie Cam Donald is King of the Hill.