Monday, August 10, 2015

Repost from 2002: First ever hill climb, Mount Burke, July 20, 2002

Here is a repost of the short report I wrote following my first (and only) participation in a hill climb event. It turns out the Civic I used for the event was probably the one least suited to a hill climb that I have ever owned!

First ever hill climb, Mount Burke, NEHA, July 20, 2002

Well, this weekend, our 3-man team and support group/crew headed from Montreal down to Vermont for our first ever hill climb at Mt. Burke. The event is organized by the New England Hillclimb Association and Killington Sports Car Club. For those who aren't exactly sure what a hill climb is, it's a time trial on a closed mountain road, sometimes paved (as was the case at Burke) and sometimes unpaved (like Pike's Peak). You get several runs against the clock on the same road and your best run counts towards the final result. The participants drive either rally cars, road race cars, street cars, or Hill climb Specials (tube-framed 500 hp beasts with huge slicks).

I was driving my 88 Civic DX hatch and my buddies were driving an A4 (Will, KO4 turbo swap + Porsche brakes) and a 93 Civic (Rob, B18 swap). Since the event is held in a quasi-wilderness area, you can camp near the starting line. When we got to the campground on Friday night, it was pouring rain so we decided to cram 6 people into a motel room and come back the next day. While looking for a motel, we saw a Group N Lancer Evo 5 and Austin Healy 3000 race car at one motel. Did we feel outclassed? Maybe a little.

Saturday we woke up at 5:15 (!) to make sure we would be early enough to register and tech the cars. This went well. They put me in the slowest Street Prepared class (with a Civic Si, Neon, 914 and 2 Rabbit GTi's), Rob in Unprepared 2 (we had to negotiate to get a swap Civic into the lowest class!) and Will was put in U1 (with a Porsche 996 Turbo, the eventual overall winner). We had a reconnaissance run at low speed and I was behind a WRX. The guy in the WRX was taking in the scenery while I was flooring it just to keep up. It might seem foolish, but I had not realized the hill was going to be so steep! This is when it dawned on me that my 1.5 liter car would not shine this weekend. You needed light weight (I had that), torque (nope) and good gearing (also no). Brakes were not an asset, as gravity was enough to brake the car a lot. Anyway, on my first practice run, I was happy not to be last (maybe 63rd out of 70). Will and Rob did OK as well. However, a Civic Si of the same generation as my car was 25 seconds faster than me… I couldn't believe it! He had run a 2:37 and I ran a 3:02! It was a humbling experience. Anyway, by the second run, I had shaved off 5 seconds. I was flooring it for a large percentage of the run. The start involved a long series of straights and fast turns. I would floor it to the redline in 2nd at about 60 mph, shift into 3rd, floor it, and watch the speedometer slowly drop! The hill was too steep for me to accelerate above 65 mph on that stretch. I was downshifting into 1st for several hairpins. I eventually knocked another 5 seconds off my time to finish 4th in class (the Si did not improve, but he ended up walloping me by 15 seconds anyway) out of 6. Rob and Will did quite well for rookies. They finished about halfway down the order, which was not bad considering the competition.

 photo burke.jpg
The 92 hp Civic on the hill
One memorable aspect of the event was the amazing atmosphere in the campground: all the sites were taken by racers. There was a huge variety of cars on hand. All in all, we had a good time, the organization was excellent (as was the free lunch!) and the other competitors were extremely nice and helpful. They kept asking us how we found their club and or how we had heard of them and I answered "internet". We were all happy with our results considering we were hill climb virgins. I would have had more fun with more torque, but I would still highly recommend the event to any enthusiast, whether it be in a road car or road race car.

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