Engines are revving for the historic hill climb at Mount Tarrengower, Maldon

As competitors prepare for the Bendigo Car Club's annual Mount Tarrengower Historic Hill Climb, TOM O'CALLAGHAN discovers what it takes to thunder up the iconic competition's track.

Ian Motley will zip up the mountain this weekend at the Mount Tarrengower Historic Hill Climb and he will do it for the love of racing.

“It’s very competitive with the others (racers). That’s why we all have a banter between us. We are all within half a second, or a second, of each other. Someone only misses a gear change and they are lost,” he says.

The annual hill climb takes place this weekend and will see over 80 competitors surge up Mount Tarrengower.

For Mr Motley, who lives in Adelaide, this and other Victorian events present the chance to take on fellow Austin Seven owners. Mr Motley says there are not enough Austin Seven enthusiasts in his home town to race against.

Competitor Robert Sales ahead of this year's event. Picture: DARREN HOWE

Competitor Robert Sales ahead of this year's event. Picture: DARREN HOWE

The Mount Tarrengower Historic Hill Climb has been running since the late 1920s and is open to older model cars, bikes and sidecars.

For competitors like Robert Sales, who is also on the organising committee, the race takes place in one of those places you want to come back to again and again.

“It’s a beaut hill,” he says.

“If you are a spectator it’s good to see the old cars. There’s no other hill climb in central Victoria, so a lot of people come along (for the spectacle).”

Practice runs will start on Saturday afternoon and timed runs will take place throughout Sunday.

Competitors start at the bottom of the hill and are timed as they wind their way up the scenic road up to a point near the summit.

Not that they have much of a chance to take in the view.

Former clerk of course Barry Pritchett says the really good times would be in the low 50-second-range.

“From memory, a young fella in a Charger did it in about 45 seconds last year. And that’s pretty quick,” he says.

“A lot of the vintage (pre-war) cars take two minutes. They just don’t have the horse-power and acceleration of a more modern car,” he says.

In recent years many of the cars climbing the hill were from the classic period, spanning the period after WW2 through to the 70s, Mr Pritchett says.

Having said that, Mr Sales entries included a Model-T Ford dating from about 1916.

Mt Tarrengower Hill Climb. Picture: BRENDAN McCARTHY

Mt Tarrengower Hill Climb. Picture: BRENDAN McCARTHY

While registrations are closed for this year’s event, organising committee chairman Peter Valentine says anyone coming in off the street could enter the competition as long as they have a suitable car and the right paperwork.

“The enthusiasts who do it, they do it through the Confederation of Australian Motor Sport,” he says.

“Competitors get a motor sport licence through them, they pick out what sort of vehicle they want, then they enter the event.”

Many racers go to multiple events in different parts of the country throughout the year.

“They pamper their cars quite well. They just want to see their cars compete and have a bit of fun,” Mr Valentine says.

What it takes to get into racing

He says while anyone could get started, there are certainly skills that drivers need if they want to make a mark on the competition.

“To be fastest on the day? Yeah, it does take a particular amount of skill and a bit of a knack to feel the car and to feel what it does,” he said.

“I know this sounds stupid, but you do need to feel how the car’s reacting with the track.

“And as well as that, it takes a bit of skill to be able to set the car up so it handles quite well.”

A car arriving ahead of the Mt Tarrangower Historic Hill Climb. Picture: DARREN HOWE

A car arriving ahead of the Mt Tarrangower Historic Hill Climb. Picture: DARREN HOWE

Mr Sales believes if people take part in enough events they will hone their skillset and make an impact.

There’s other hill climbs, track events and what have you,” he says.

“So there’s not a lot you have to do in that sense before the event. You just have to make sure your car is right.”

People like Adelaide’s Ian Motley were regulars at many of the races and would travel large distances to share their passion.

Mr Motley has a van complete with a bed, a fridge and enough room for his Austin Seven.

Many enthusiasts choose to camp in an area at the foot of the mountain.

The action does not just take place on the track

Car lovers are not coming just because they had a need for speed. Many are there because they love history.

“It’s a bit like when people come out to see the Easter Fair. The hill climb has that historical value too,” he says.

“There’s a lot of cars there that people don’t get to see, generally. It depend on the year and the entry, but there are some cars that people will never, ever see again. 

“They might never have seen them before and they might never see them again.”

There were also many people who brought their cars to the event simply to show them to the crowds who came to line the route to the top of Mount Tarrengower.

“We get a lot of spectator cars. Some people have older cars that they like. They bring them out and you can have a wander around and have a look at those too,” Mr Sales says.

The Mount Tarrengower Historic Hill Climb takes place this weekend.

Spectator entry at the foot of Mount Tarrengower, near Maldon, will cost $15 for adults and $5 for children. Practice runs take place from noon Saturday and timed runs begin 9am Sunday, finishing at 4pm.