Adverse weather conditions on February 11th offered every excuse for the fifth annual Paekakariki Hill-Climb to be a failure. The night before the event a thick sea mist had clamped firmly down on the top third of the hill, and recent rain had left a thick deposit of greasy clay on some of the most difficult corners of the two-mile course. However, officials and competitors rose triumphant over these difficulties, and after a two-hour postponement of the starting time in a vain hope that the fog would lift, everyone pressed on regardless, with the result that the absolute hill record and three class records were broken in an accident-free meeting.
The first round opened with a splendid climb by Jack Kennedy in his single-seater Austin in 2 min. 51.75 sec. Basically a standard “Seven,” the little car ran and was handled beautifully and Kennedy can be very proud of his time. Next up was O. B. Cottrell with his totally enveloping bodied Austin Seven. Nice to look at but not enough horses, and 4 min. 4.95 sec. was needed. The Auckland Chatteris/Roycroft Racing Team was represented by Ron Roycroft with the blown “Rubber Duck” Austin and Roycroft made a terrific run, which was unfortunately mistimed.
The 1,100-c.c. class record holder, M. Procter, was spectating, due to trouble with his Riley and Jock Brough had a walkover with his Singer saloon in 3 min. 48.45 sec. However, Jock is a fine driver and a real trier, handicapped by an unsuitable car, so everyone was pleased to see him figure in the awards list.
In the 1,500-c.c. class Hugo Hollis donned a crash hat after boarding his blown TC M.G., showing he really meant business, and a very fast run in 3 min. 31.3 sec. bettered the previous class-record by over 8 seconds. W. Hanna drove a similar car, unblown, and registered 2 min. 50.6 sec., a splendid effort for his first appearance at Paekakariki. His tyre distortion through Cutting Bend was quite incredible. J. H. Cottrell handled his, Ford Ten Special well to record 3 min. 17.85 sec., but more power was obviously needed.
D. Abernethy followed with an Austin A40 saloon in 3 min. 30.3 sec., a good time for a standard car.
In the 3,000-c.c. class, Toby Easterbrook Smith opened with the Sunbeam Special in 3 min. 1.65 sec., a cautious climb for his first effort at the hill. R. Watson conducted his Jeep-engined Fraser-Nash up in 3 min. 6.95 sec. and Roy Cowan jumbled the gears somewhat in the T.T. Sunbeam, needing 3 min. 21.1 sec. He had run down the two-mile hill under his own foot power just prior to his climb, after repairing the p.a. set at the summit, so can be fully excused. Geoff Fasterbrook Smith then took over the Sunbeam Special from brother Toby and essayed an experimental climb in 2 min. 55.2 sec., the short wheelbase chassis appearing to advantage among the corners but the driver obviously in need of a radar screen in the fog.
A. T. Freeman opened the unlimited class in the Thompson Special, caution through the mist but fast and controlled sliding on the corners with this very low car returning 2 min. 41.55 sec. Bert Cresswell’s Ford Special had only been finished on the morning of the event, and a careful run took 3 min. 18.25 sec., the V8 engine boiling vigorously. A. S. Farland with the Buick-engined i.f.s. Singer Special followed, but clutch slip intervened and extended his time to 3 min. 49.75 sec. C. Andrews made a rather incongruous entry with a Morris Twenty-Five station wagon, but a time of 3 min. 23.4 sec. indicated no mean driving ability.
In the second round Roycroft had an extra run to make up for his mistimed first run. A shattering getaway promised a broken record, but a little exuberance at the hairpin turned the Austin right around, in spite of which a time of 2 min. 41 sec. broke his previous class-record by 3.35 sec. Kennedy followed with a very brave one-handed run, holding his ignition switch on with the other. Slightly slower than his first run, 2 min. 53.75 sec. was very good under the circumstances. Cottrell improved with his Austin to 3 min. 42.2 sec. Hollis, with the absolute hill record obviously in mind, gave a polished display of the art of climbing Paekakariki and amid great excitement occupied 2 min. 29.9 sec., beating Faulkner’s 1949 record by 2.95 sec. Hanna was a fraction slower than his first run in 2 min. 50.75 sec., although his slide through Cutting Bend was a joy to watch. J. H. Cottrell improved to 3 min. 16.9 sec. and Abernethy pushed the A40 up faster still in 3 min. 25.75 sec.
Toby Easterbrook Smith was obviously getting the feel of the hill and the Sunbeam Special, improving to 2 min. 55.75 sec., with a very fast run through the Cutting. Watson discarded his second gear chain on the ‘Nash and needed 3 min. 29.2 sec., and Cowan got the T.T. Sunbeam up faster in 3 min. 15.3 sec. With first place in the class safe, Geoff Easterbrook Smith experimented a little more firmly with the Sunbeam Special, came very wide into the hairpin while apprehensive mothers clutched their young and made for trees, held third for a lot longer, blipped through Cutting Bend and reached the top in 2 min. 49.9 sec., a new class-record.
Freeman made sure of the unlimited c.c. class with a very fast run in 2 min. 37.45 sec., and Andrews persuaded the big Morris up in 3 min. 19 sec.—he would go a lot faster with a suitable car.
Then Roycroft made his final run. Spectators at the hairpin reported incredible speed up to, into, and out, of that difficult corner. Up in the mist nothing could be seen below, but the angry Austin screaming marked his progress up the hill. A sudden burst of sound as he came out of the hairpin valley, crescendo as he reached Watertrough Corner, down in the gears again for the right-hander before the Cutting, then a gasp from the spectators as the little car scuttled into sight around the penultimate corner and was locked over for the long slide around Cutting Bend. A short silence while his time came up and Gordon Markham’s excited voice over the p.a. system—”Roycroft has beaten Hollis and set a new hill record in 2 min. 29.6 sec.”
A fitting conclusion to a great day’s motor sport.
750 c.c.: R. J. Roycroft (Austin, s/c) … 2 min. 29.6 sec.
1,100 c.c.: J. Brough (Singer) … 3 min. 48.45 sec.
1,500 c.c.: H. Hollis (M.G., s/c) … 2 min. 29.9 sec.
3,000 c.c.: G. Easterbrook Smith (Sunbeam Special) … 2 min. 49.9 sec.
Unlimited c.c.: A. T. Freeman (Thompson Special) … 2 min. 37.45 sec.