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First run in 1905, Cultra Hillclimb is the worlds oldest active speed hillclimb and it is set to return on Saturday 10 June 2023 in the grounds of the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum, at Cultra Manor and is supported by Porsche Centre Belfast who will celebrate 75-years of Porsche at this iconic and historic event.

Organised by the Thoroughbred Sports Car Club of Northern Ireland, who reignited the event twenty-three years ago, around 100 drivers will don their race suits and helmets to charge up the 640-metre-long course against the clock in the most eclectic array of machinery.

From frighteningly quick single-seaters to a 1928 ex-works Aston Martin LM2 racer (one of two LM2’s ever made), with everything in between from road-going saloons to kit cars, there will be something to entertain every petrolhead as well as those who maybe don’t realise the need for speed in their lives.

Showing support for the event in the lead up to what should be a fantastic family day out was the Mayor of Ards and North Down, Councillor Karen Douglas who, having had the opportunity to experience rallying from the navigators seat last year, is excited at the prospect of seeing more motorsport action in Ards and North Down.

Guaranteed to bring the most noise to the venue is Dungiven man Gerard O’Connell, who will be driving his ex-Sebastian Vettel World Series by Renault  – Dallara T02 up the hill in haste. Hot on his heels will be Tim Woodside in his Pilbeam MP82 and, if there is any man that can muscle a big-engine single-seater up a hillclimb in spectacular fashion, Tim will provide the flamboyant style.

This short hill doesn’t provide much in the way of long straights, it’s tight and technical, which will suit smaller single-seater cars equipped with bike engines such as the OMS of Steven Robb. If conditions bode well, you could well see some of the locaterfield’s (Locost/Caterham/Westfield) snapping at the heels of these ‘big cars’ – I note a few on the entry list with more than capable drivers.

A clatter of road cars and rally cars will allow for fierce battles throughout the field. A couple of buggy’s, which are new to the sport in Northern Ireland, could well surprise many. One tin-top car and driver that is always a joy to see on any event is Davy Francis in his rear-wheel-drive Escort Cosworth, with possibly the most power in the paddock.

Onto the classics and you can expect to see MGB-GTs, MG Midget, Hillman Avenger, Morris Oxford and a very unique Austin Metropolitan with an absolute hero in anything he drives, David Mutch at the helm.

On chatting at the photocall, a young Patrick Johnson was incredibly knowledgeable about the supercharged Austin Seven Ulster which he will drive up the hill amongst a sea of vintage cars including local lady, Seelagh Glover in her Riley Special.

As excited as I am at seeing the modern machinery with mind-boggling power go up the hill, this event really is about the nostalgia and history of this great sport and it’s great to see that Simon Thomas will be bringing his Ford TT V8 along for a competitive run alongside Dermot Johnson in his Salmson GS8.

The aforementioned Aston Martin LM2 (International) Team Car is to be driven by its owner, Tudor Roberts and as it isn’t every day that you get to see these vintage cars with racing pedigree being driven, be incredibly grateful to witness them compete on our doorstep.

An action-packed programme will thrill motor enthusiasts and families alike, with vintage, classic and modern cars on display at Cultra Manor, nestled in the grounds of the Ulster Folk Museum site, including a McCandless sports car and 1988 Clan Clover which will be released from Ulster Transport Museum’s private stores.

In between races, circus performers and a samba band will keep the crowd entertained. There’ll also be a festival-themed ‘trailblazer’ BBQ on offer from Craft Event Co.

Leslie King, TSCC Chairman, said: “It’s wonderful to announce the return of our event to Cultra, an event unlike any other in Northern Ireland. Skill and bravery combine as the drivers race to beat the clock in this challenging uphill course. It’s a sight and sound not to be missed.

“The Festival offers a great family day out and a great opportunity for motor enthusiasts of all ages -including those too young to drive – to get together and share their passion. We look forward to welcoming as many friends, old and new, to Ulster Folk Museum for a jam-packed day of mesmerising motors, challenging competition, and family fun.”

Cultra

Pictured outside Cultra Manor is competitor Patrick Johnson with his Austin 7 Ulster; Mayor of Ards and North Down, Councillor Karen Douglas; Porsche Belfast Marketing Manager, Dave Pasco with a Porsche Taycan; TSCC NI committee member, Kieron Smyth; and competitor Tim Woodside with a Pilbeam MP82.

The event runs from 9:30am to 5:00pm on June 10th with tickets priced at £11.50 for adults, £7.00 for children, and from £24.50 for families. Tickets also include admission to Ulster Folk Museum for the day. To book visit www.ulsterfolkmuseum.org

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Graham is a photojournalist and motoring writer with over 20 varied years of coverage from manufacturer press launches to international motorsport and motoring events throughout the world. Graham is a full member of the Guild of Motoring Writers and Ulster Motor Writers Association.