At the weekend, in the mountains above the tiny villlage of Cairncastle, Jedis battled with Avengers for ultimate supremacy. But this wasn’t the latest blockbuster production from the burgeoning Northern Ireland film industry. This was something even more primal and dramatic – the world of hill climb.
It’s an incredibly simple concept. The car which reaches the summit in the fastest time wins. Perhaps this is actually over simplifying what happens, because each hill in the Millers Oils Northern Ireland hill climb championship has its own unique challenge. In the case of Cairncastle, it’s the longest course in the UK and Ireland, as the ribbon tricky tarmac winds its way skywards for over 1.65 miles.
The fastest cars complete the course in not much over a minute and almost anything goes in the world of hill climbs. Classic sports cars line up against specialist single seaters, rally cars run off against kit cars. The result is a wonderful symphony of screaming, high revving bike-engined machines, accompanied by the chirps and cracks of the evergreen and ever powerful Escort Cosworths. All set against the stunning back drop of the County Antrim coast.
The driving is spectacular, especially in the perfect sunshine. Competitors can really push the limits and get right to the edge of grip limits. Or, when it comes to the iconic Ford Escort Mark II, exceeding the limit is perfectly acceptable!
As for the Jedis, well they attacked the hill with considerable force! Despite looking like it might be more at home on a circuit, the origins of the Jedi are deeply entwined with hill climbs and sprints. Each evolution of the car brought increasingly sophisticated engineering, but still within reach of the club man racer, The end result is an incredibly powerful and lightweight package. The MK6 model can hit 60mph in 3 seconds and top 150mph with the correct gearing.
The crazy Maguire Mini of Roger Gage also defies belief. Whilst it looks like a Mini, the chopped and widened shell hides a skeleton of tubes, which link together to form a sturdy spaceframe. The original cars were developed during the 1970s for saloon car racing, but just like the Jedis, they have found a home on the hills. The sight of the cheeky face of the Mini charging over a crest, wheels cocked in the air, is a joy to behold.
Across the board and no matter what class, times were no more than a few seconds apart. In terms of the Northern Ireland championship, Graham Thompson continues to forge ahead in his GTR Turbo and dominated the double header. Hot on his heels was the Pilbeam of Seamus Morris, followed by the RMG of Richard McGimpsey.
Pictures courtesy of David Harrigan Photography. For more event coverage, please check out the gallery below.
Results – Saturday (Fastest overall)
1. Graham Thompson – GTR Turbo
2. Seamus Morris – Pilbeam
3. Richard McGimpsey – RMG