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This year’s Race to the Sky hillclimb in New Zealand could be the last, and if the event does survive it may be reincarnated in quite a different form.

That’s the word from New Zealand, where event organiser Grant Aitken has now given up his rights to run the event in order to focus on other motoring-related business interests.

Aitken, who founded the event in 1998, says that he gave up future rights in order to reach agreement to stage this year’s tenth edition of the event. That right will now pass to the Lee family, who are former owners of the Snow Farm access road on which the 15km Cardrona Valley event is run.

According to Aitken, a number of different factors have led to his decision to surrender his right to run the event. They include his team of helpers suffering burnout after a decade running the event, marginal finances, the need to renew resource consents to continue with the event in the future, and changes to the tenure of the land used for the event.

“Each year it is financially touch-and-go, and this year I was very close to pulling the plug about three months ago,” he said. “At that time our title sponsor – Silverstone – was not confirmed for 2007, but they did us proud at the eleventh hour by coming on board for this final time.”

Aitken also admits to a troubled relationship with the Lee family, who no longer own the Snow Farm testing complex at the top of the course, but still control other portions of the course.

“Without wishing to put all of the blame on one side, I think they would agree that we have not managed to achieve the harmonious relationship that is needed to make things run smoothly,” Aitken says. “This has been a headache for the event, and the upshot for 2007 is that we have given up the right to run the event at the venue next year in exchange for using it this year.”

The Lee family say they give the event a 50:50 chance of being held in 2008, but admit that in order for it to be held a person or group with a passion for an event of this type would need to come on board to organize it. Those with a good knowledge of the complexities of the event say that the chances of that happening for next year are slender, and that if the event does survive a more likely scenario would be for it re-emerge in 2009 or 2010.

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