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Have you ever found yourself out driving on a sunny afternoon, and purely by chance discover an incredible little section of road you never knew about? You drive it for the first time with a grin on your face, and maybe even double back for another go at it. And then you start to think…. ‘wouldn’t it be cool if we could close this little section of road off for a hillclimb competition?’

That’s precisely how this previously unknown little country track, 10km out of Victor Harbor on the Yankililla road, became the fastest hillclimb course in the state. Now in its fourth year, the two day Mt Alma Mile event has quickly gained a reputation as a showcase for the state’s high performance tuners, as well as an accessible challenge for grassroots amateurs looking to test themselves against both the hill and other competitor’s cars.

You would very rarely ever find yourself at Mt Alma on the other 363 days of the year because it’s a road that kind of links nowhere to nowhere, and the fact that it turns to dirt at its summit even further reduces the likelihood of using it.

This is a huge shame, and every year I attend Mt Alma the sheer beauty of the countryside slaps me in the face, as if almost in laughter that this stunning countryside is just over an hour from the city yet I only ever come here once a year. Motorsport aside, you could just come here for a lazy Sunday picnic and have a great day out.

There are two things that make Mt Alma a special hillclimb venue, and the first is the road itself; it is seriously steep.  The second is the fact that a single farming family owns all of the land on either side of the road for the entire 1.6km length of the hillclimb. Thanks to the incredible support to the event shown by the Ashby family, spectator access is only limited by how far you are willing to perambulate yourself up the mountain.

Winning the event outright in 2013 was Kevin Weeks driving the Supaloc Racing Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera, who fought tooth and nail all weekend with Kevin Mackrell in his V8 powered Datsun 260Z. Most hillclimbs are decided on the fastest single time of the weekend, however Mt Alma is a little different in that it is decided on the total accumulation of all runs, rally style.

Mackrell just had the edge on Weeks for most of the weekend. His times were faster by just a few tenths, and his 171km/h trap speed going into turn one was slightly faster than Week’s 169.  Both drivers made it into the top 6 shootout, which would eliminate 3 cars for the final decider. Mackrell left the line in a fury of acceleration for his second to last run…… while Weeks gridded right behind for his.

But then all of a sudden the roar of the big V8 stopped halfway up the hill, the officials began to talk intently on their radios…… and the tow truck was scrambled. Uh oh.

Weeks was told to shut off the engine of the fire breathing Gallardo…… and the commentators filled the time with an interview.

The return of the truck revealed the damage. Mackrell suffered a major rear suspension failure at the fastest part of the circuit, spinning the 260Z around multiple times. It was a miracle that he avoided the guard rail and rock face on either side of the road, but the famous Z was damaged out of the race.

Weeks then started his run, knowing his main competitor was out, but also aware that he would still need to finish all runs without error to claim victory. But this didn’t slow him down, with Weeks setting a new course record.

Second place went to Matt Dreckow in his Willall prepared Evo 7 RS. His 42.3 second run up the mountain makes Dreckow’s the fastest Evo ever up the hill, an impressive feat considering some of the wild time attack style modified Evo’s that have competed in the past.

Julian Newton claimed third place in his MY11 R35 GTR, which is a pretty good effort considering this is basically a standard car running road tyres, with just a good tune. Most people would be happy with third outright, however Julian missed out on second place by just 0.008 of a second! Poor guy, you should have seen his face on the podium when the times were announced.

Rob Black won the 2WD category in his stunning McLaren MP4-12C. Too many people leave these sorts of cars in their garages or parade them up and down the cafe strips, and it was really refreshing to see one of these getting put through its paces and used as its maker intended. And not on a safe circuit either!

Second in 2WD went to Mark Poole in his classic 911 Turbo Porsche. Mark’s name is synonymous with Porsche tuning and racing in Adelaide, which no doubt goes a long way to describe the sound this 911 makes. It’s a distinctly turbo whooshing noise, but like nothing I’ve heard before. It’s almost painfully loud as it races past, an ear splitting yet strangely addictive noise that just sounds…. evil. I like it.

Chris Edmondson earned a deserving third place outright in 2WD in his daily driven Nissan 180SX, going to show three things: That you don’t need a hugely expensive car to do well at Mt Alma; that the tuning potential of the Nissan SR and S13 platform is huge; and that Chris can really steer this thing very well.
He punted it hard all weekend, never putting a foot wrong. You couldn’t dream of a more diverse 2WD podium if you tried!

The thing that makes Mt Alma so exciting is that the drivers really are right on the edge the whole time. To win you need to push all weekend, but push a little too hard and this place bites.

One big step in the right direction has been the relocation of the flying finish 20m back down the road. The finish used to be right on the corner, and braking over the line to slow in time for the change to gravel surface at such high speed would often send cars spinning off the road, usually ending up as a total wreck. The relocation of the finish line has solved this problem, making the course a lot safer when the red mist descends.

But Mt Alma isn’t just about winning at all costs. For every driver out there trying to win it, there’s another just wanting to enjoy a nice, fast blast in their pride and joy.

The warmup burnout is reason enough for some drivers to enter, I suspect.

But the real heroes of this event are the volunteer officials, who work tirelessly in the weeks leading up to the event to make it all happen, and also the weeks after the event to make sure we can do it again next year. Most competitors and spectators have no idea just how much time and effort goes into making this event a success, and I think we all owe them a debt of gratitude for making this event happen for us all.

Be it as a competitor, spectator or official, support local grassroots motorsport and make attending the Mt Alma Mile a priority next year. This event will only grow from strength to strength, and with your support will turn into something very special.

Find the final event results here:

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