Drivers tame the gully climb


Kaikorai Valley driver James Mitchell remained on top in the Mikes Cars Otago Sports Car Club Speed Championship after recording the fastest time in Sunday’s (18/02/2017) Bethune’s Gully Hill Climb.
Driving his white Mitsubishi Evo 5, Mitchell completed the track in 48.87 seconds. This was just a fraction ahead of Phil Winter, whose fastest time was 49.08 seconds. Matt Hayes was further back in third place with a fastest run time of 52.06 seconds. Each driver had four runs of the track with their fastest
time of the four determining their final placing. Otago Sports Car Club president Daniel Cresswell said times for the annual Bethune’s Gully event had hovered around the late 40s in recent years.  The speed championship runs until July.
The 34 drivers who entered this year’s Bethune’s event was up on the usual numbers of 20-25 in recent years. The increased interest in the event was due to the ease of modern online communication combined with a realisation that such events required little vehicle modification for drivers, Mr Cresswell
said. “There’s not a whole lot involved in being able to do a hill climb. You could enter your mother’s car. All you have to do is bolt a fire extinguisher in that conforms with the rules and have a suitable helmet and overalls and membership and licence and you can enter these events yourself.” Sticking to the road and remembering where the bumps were were the key to securing a good time on the track, he said. This was the third time Mr Mitchell had driven the Bethune’s Gully Hill climb and he said that prior experience had prepared him well to perform better this time. “You know where you can push and where to be a bit more conservative.” Drivers also had to be “a bit brave in a few places” to secure a good time, Mr Mitchell said. The Bethune’s Gully track has been used regularly by the Otago Sports Car Club since the 1940s.
George King Memorial Drive will be the next stop on the speed championship, with a run taking place on March 26.