Published Monday, 28 May 2012
On the 6th May 1905, the gentlemen of the Royal North of Ireland Yacht Club Cultra, gathered at the estate of Mr. Robert Kennedy for a motoring hillclimb event. A circular course was laid out in the extensive grounds of the manor and the event became an annual feature of the RNIYC season.
With the onset of the First World War, it was run over various courses in the Cultra and Craigavon areas and, in 1931, the Cultra Hill-Climb moved to the Creighton's Green Road nearer Holywood and was renamed the Croft Hillclimb, which was "gifted" to the Thoroughbred Sports Car Club (NI) in 1989 thereby establishing the link between the Club and the Hillclimb. The Kennedy estate was subsequently gifted to the Nation and became the site of the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum.
The royal synergy makes a return this year, as the Cultra Hillclimb event will be falling on the 2nd of June, the Queen's Diamond Jubilee weekend. On the day, a field of 60+, made up from the country's leading speed hillclimb competitors joined by their racing, rallying and sprinting counterparts will contest the Lyness Trophy.
The event this year will follow two themes. Firstly celebrating 50 years of the MGB, in collaboration with local MG car clubs, who will have around forty cars on prominent display. The more significant models will be taking pride of place outside the manor house.
The second theme '4WD' is being showcased work through the legacy of two of Ulster's greatest engineers Harry Ferguson and Rex McCandless. In support of this the TSCC has secured the appearance of the Ferguson P99 4WD Formula 1 car, which will be returning to Northern Ireland for the first time in fifty years.
This car is still the only 4WD car ever to win an F1 race, when Stirling Moss drove it to success in the 1961 F1 Gold Cup at Oulton Park and it will be displayed alongside the museum's own Ferguson aeroplane.
In addition to the Museum showcasing it's 4WD McCandless race car and McCandless "Mule" 4WD Military Prototype, 4X4 Production cars also get a nod through the presence of the first non all-terrain production car equipped with 4WD, the Jensen FF's.
Produced between 1966 and 1971 only 320 were made, with the event having one example on static display and the other being driven on the hill. Making a headlining appearance will be Group B rallying royalty in the form of the iconic MG Metro 6R4 No.1 which will be making its debut at the event.
This beast of a car will be competed on the hill by the owners son, 2010 NI Rally Champion Stuart Biggerstaff. The family owned car was acquired in 1988 by Stuart's father Denis Biggerstaff with records showing that the upgraded chassis 00184, Reg. No. A658 NJO was the first 6R4 built. No.1 was driven by Tony Pond and David Llewllyn in Group B's rallying heyday.
The car has an extensive competition history at the hands of Denis and was driven to British, Northern Irish and Irish Rallycross Championship title wins and NI Hillclimb and Sprint Championships. The car still holds the outright record for the Spelga Hillclimb in the Mournes and in later years the car won two NI Rally Championships.
Bolstering the theme and making a rare public appearance will be the only 4WD 1293cc 8-pot Mini Clubman built by the BMC Competitions Department and subject to final confirmation (if it's not sold) the clubman will be joined by the very latest competition 4x4 Mini, Derek McGarrity's JCW WRC MINI giving visitors a very rare and unique photo opportunity.
The main display area will be filled by rare and modern agricultural machinery with civilian and military 4WD vehicles. Sporting Trials demonstrations will be held during the day with an Autotest demo being held on the hill for the first time.
One of the event's staunchest supporters Andy Cooper will again return to entertain the crowds, showcasing his car control skills in the 420bhp Nissan S14a, RMS Drift Car. Also hoping to make an impact will be two Bowler Off-Roaders and a MX5 Modsports trackday car.
As always, Go Motorsport NI will be on hand to offer advice on getting involved in the sport and a static display will be showcasing entry-level motorsport opportunities.
The event takes place Saturday 2nd June in the grounds of the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum, Cultra, Co Down, further information can be found at www.nmni.com & www.tsccni.info.