On February 7th, 1943, the N.Z.S. and R.C.C. held its first competitive event, in the form of a speed hill climb. The venue was a 1,300 yard long section of narrow, twisty, gravel-surfaced road, some twenty miles out of Wellington. The climb embraced every type or bend, right- and left-hand, acute and gradual, plus a climbing hairpin, providing a very adequate test of men and machinery.
The surface is hard-packed gravel, but due to recent wet weather, clay worked its way to the surface as the meeting proceeded, resulting in some unpremeditated sliding. However, no one ran out of road, and a high bank on one side, plus a stout fence on the other, provided a good safety factor.
Due to petrol shortage, competitors were small in number, but they certainly made up for this in enthusiasm. Each competitor made one practice run and two official runs.
First away in practice was Easterbrook-Smith (1.85-litre Ansaldo). who clocked 2.01,2/5. The Ansaldo was running with the Arnott carburetter fitted down-draught, tank pressure being provided by a hand-pump mounted on the off side of the body. This appeared to be of rather too small a capacity, the driver having to pump rather frantically. The Ansaldo ran less spare wheels, battery and rear seats, and appeared to sit down very well.
Next run was made Jock Brough (3-litre short-chassis Bentley), his time being 1.54,2/5. The Bentley looked and sounded magnificent and cornered very neatly, in true Nuvolari style, in a succession of short skids, instantly corrected. This car is a very fine example of a — “Red Label” Bentley, and is notable for its enormous rev. counter. which, by the way, is no mere ornament, as it was registering “three-five” on more than one occasion.
The Bentley was followed by Barney Ferrier’s 2.5-litre S.S. Jaguar saloon, a very potent motor car, which, in spite of’ its driver’s almost complete ignorance of’ the course, took only 1.50,2/5 a very creditable first it tempt. The S.S. was particularly steady.
After all cars had returned to the foot of the hill, Brough made another fine run in the Bentley, reducing his time to 1.48,1/5. A perfectly judged climb, the Bentley’s war cry echoing off the hills, beautifully controlled sliding–in short, an excellent driver taking very full advantage of a fine vintage car.
The S.S. went away next, sans silencer and sounding much better, recording the splendid time of 1.45,1/5. For sheer urge the S.S. was unbeatable and was very ably conducted by its enthusiastic owner. The S.S. is a far better marque than it is given credit for and Ferrier’s 2.5-litre is a really fine example.
In the meantime, Red Hansen had arrived after severe trouble with an inlet manifold blowing in his long-chassis 3-litre Bentley. He elected to run as a beau geste, the gasket still blowing badly, and the carburetter hopeless in consequence; but, in spite of this being his first run up the hill, plus a 10′ 10″ chassis, which was really far too long for such a twisty course, clocked 2.01, which, under the circumstances, must be considered very creditable.
The last run before lunch was made by Easterbrook-Smith, the Ansaldo sounding very healthy, much vigour again being expended on the air-pump, a time of 1.58,1/5 recording hard physical labour.
After a pleasant picnic lunch, Hansen’s Bentley made first run, but failed near the top due to lack of fuel – the gasket trouble had played havoc with the petrol consumption and the meagre monthly ration simply could not cope.
Easterbrook-Smith made his final run in the Ansaldo in 1.56,2/5, the 9′ 1″ wheelbase showing to advantage on the hairpin.
Brough followed in the Bentley with Sybil Lupp, enthusiastic 4.5 owner from Blenheim, as ballast in the back seat. What would have been a very fast climb was spoilt by a violent overslide at the hairpin which brought the car almost to a stop, his time being 1.57,1/5.
Ferrier’s final climb was the fastest of the day, a beautifully judged effort in 1.43,4/5. He was going faster and faster as he learned the hill and made full use of his car’s very evident power. He thus becomes “bergmeister” of the N.Z.S.and R.C.C., and he and the S.S. will be a hard combination to beat in future events.
Petrol being particularly short, members had abandoned pleasure motoring for some months previously and saved hard for one glorious day’s sport.