Tracks in Time Hunt­ley Hill Climb

While never as pop­u­lar here as in Europe, hill climb­ing on tar-sealed roads nev­er­the­less flour­ished for a while in New South Wales, with the main cities of Sydney, New­cas­tle and Wol­lon­gong all host­ing such venues.

Old Bike Australasia - - CONTENTS - Story & Pho­tos Neville Stum­bles

The Wol­lon­gong Sport­ing Car Club has been con­duct­ing hill climb events for cars of var­i­ous classes at Hunt­ley Hill since 1953, and the Wol­lon­gong Mo­tor­cy­cle Club be­gan ne­go­ti­a­tions with the car club in the late 1950s to de­ter­mine if it was fea­si­ble to run such an event for mo­tor­cy­cles.

Hunt­ley Hill is sit­u­ated at the west­ern ex­trem­ity of Avon­dale Road, at the south­ern perime­ter of Dapto, which is around 20 kilo­me­tres south of Wol­lon­gong. The hill is part of the road for­merly used by coal trucks to ac­cess the old Hunt­ley mine, an area now des­tined to be a Greg Nor­man-de­signed golf course, plus town houses and other fa­cil­i­ties. The part of the road used for hill climbs is ap­prox­i­mately 4/10 mile in length. At that time, there were few road rac­ing events in N.S.W. and the lo­cal mo­tor­cy­cle club mem­bers be­lieved that a hill climb on a bi­tu­men track would be well sup­ported by the road rac­ing fra­ter­nity. Af­ter pro­tracted ne­go­ti­a­tions, the Wol­lon­gong Sport­ing Car Club in­vited the Wol­lon­gong Mo­tor­cy­cle Club to pro­mote a num­ber of mo­tor­cy­cle events for the first time as part of the pro­gramme for cars on Sun­day, 6th Au­gust 1961. Only eight rid­ers were listed on the of­fi­cial pro­gramme, but late en­tries were ac­cepted. Rid­ers who com­peted on the day in­cluded Alan Byrnes, Fred Hamil­ton, Terry Sruhan, Nev Stum­bles, and Peter Fack­ender. It was re­ported at the time that “the mo­tor­cy­cle brigade cre­ated an ex­cel­lent im­pres­sion as all ma­chines were im­mac­u­late, thor­oughly pre­pared, and neatly rid­den”. The best times for cars were 29.3 sec­onds for Jack My­ers (Cooper fit­ted with two su­per­charged Thun­der­bird mo­tors) and 33.1 sec­onds for Tom Sul­man (As­ton Martin DB3S), while lo­cal Wol­lon­gong club rider, Alan Byrnes distin­guished him­self with a 29.51 sec­ond ride on a stan­dard road Tri­umph Bon­neville. Fol­low­ing a re­port of the event to the Auto Cy­cle Union of N.S.W. Ltd, the Gen­eral Sec­re­tary, Alan Ve­ness wrote to the Wol­lon­gong club com­pli­ment­ing the mem­bers for the day’s suc­cess and their sub­se­quent com­pre­hen­sive re­port. The im­pe­tus from this first foray re­sulted in Wol­lon­gong MCC be­ing granted a date for an all-mo­tor­cy­cle event, which took place on Sun­day, 6th May 1962, al­though the Wol­lon­gong Sport­ing Car Club mem­bers as­sisted on the day with tim­ing equip­ment and tele­phones. This event at­tracted a much big­ger en­try, with some big name rid­ers in the list,

no­tably Eric Hin­ton who had re­turned to Aus­tralia af­ter many sea­sons in Europe. Eric rode the card, on a 125cc Honda Benly, a 250cc NSU, and his 350cc and 500cc Manx Nor­tons. On the 500 Nor­ton, he set the fastest time of the day at 29.36 sec­onds. In his re­port for the

Mo­tor­cy­cle Club­man mag­a­zine, Paul Giles, who also acted as an­nouncer at the meet­ing, and de­scribed the climb as fol­lows. “With a short fast ap­proach on level ground it starts with a tight sweep­ing right hand bend lead­ing into ‘the Esses’, out of which a rather tight left-han­der around a tree pre­cedes the last very steep climb to the fin­ish line.” Af­ter the fin­ish line, the road be­comes un­sealed, then turns a full left to re­turn to the start via the main Avon­dale Road. As ex­pected, Hin­ton was the star of the day, win­ning the 125 class from Alan Ak­ers on the Clem Daniel spe­cial, and Kevin Cass on his BSA. In the 250 class, Hin­ton’s colours were low­ered by Jack Saun­ders on the ex-Sid Wil­lis Ve­lo­cette, who nar­rowly edged out Hin­ton. In both the 350 and 500 classes Hin­ton won com­fort­ably, from Phil O’Brien and Gor­don Hunt re­spec­tively. A 650cc class saw Hin­ton take on the big twins, and with a record run of 29.36 he led home Brian Coomber’s Tri­umph and Vince Tier­ney on the Nor­ton 650SS on which he had won the Bathurst Pro­duc­tion Race just 3 weeks prior. The Side­car class was a tight bat­tle be­tween Nev Stum­bles and Max Evans, both Tri­umph mounted, with the ver­dict go­ing to Stum­bles by 1.5 sec­onds. At the pre­sen­ta­tion of awards, Eric Hin­ton re­ceived a spe­cial tro­phy do­nated by the Dapto C.W.A. for achiev­ing the fastest time of the day. Such was the suc­cess of the event, a sec­ond date for 1962 was set for 12th Au­gust, and this event was given the sta­tus of New South Wales Hill Climb Cham­pi­onships, un­der A.C.C.A. pa­tron­age. Of­fi­cials on the day in­cluded Bob Keen, Paul Giles, Jon Van Bockel, Clem Daniel, and War­ren Stum­bles. A record 126 en­tries were re­ceived and even with mis­er­able wet weather, plenty of spec­ta­tors turned out. De­spite the rain there were no ac­ci­dents but nat­u­rally slower times, with the day’s fastest time recorded by Eric Hin­ton at 31.60. Kevin Cass took his Ban­tam to vic­tory in the 125 class, while Jack Saun­ders beat Allen Burt and Stan Og­den in a Ve­lo­cette tri­fecta of the 250 class. Hin­ton de­feated Saun­ders and Burt in the 350 class while the 500ccc class was won by Sid Lawrence on his very fast Ve­lo­cette. Two

ex­tra events, the 650cc Cham­pi­onship and the Pro­duc­tion Cham­pi­onship, were won by Brian Coomber (Tri­umph) and Bob Al­ston (Tri­umph) re­spec­tively. Side­car win­ners were Neville Stum­bles (650cc) and Ron Young (1200cc). The fourth Hunt­ley Hill Climb was held on Sun­day, 16th June 1963, and this also was given the sta­tus of “N.S.W. Tar Hill Climb Cham­pi­onships”, au­tho­rised by the A.C.U. of N.S.W. En­tries were slightly less than for the pre­vi­ous event, but did in­clude some of the best rid­ers of the time. Good weather favoured fast times, and Eric Hin­ton duly dropped the mo­tor­cy­cle record to 29.61 to win the 500cc class, and make it a dou­ble by tak­ing the 350 as well. Peter Bauskis won the 125cc class on his Honda, while Stan Og­den took his NSU up the hill fastest in the 250 class. Stan was for­tu­nate to es­cape se­ri­ous in­jury when his car was de­stroyed in a head-on col­li­sion on the way home from the meet­ing. The Ju­nior Side­car class re­ceived only one en­try and was can­celled, but peren­nial win­ner Ron Young set a new record to win the Se­nior Side­car on his Vin­cent with a time of 33.39. Late in the day a fault de­vel­oped in the tim­ing gear trans­mis­sion lines, and with dark­ness de­cend­ing, the 650cc class was not run. Again ti­tled the NSW Hill Climb Cham­pi­onship, the fifth and fi­nal mo­tor­cy­cle event at Hunt­ley took place on Novem­ber 8th, 1964. Through­out the runs, Sid Lawrence (Ve­lo­cette) and Ron Toombs (AJS 7R) bat­tled it out for the fastest time of the day, break­ing Eric Hin­ton’s pre­vi­ous record of 29.57 sec­onds on no less than five oc­ca­sions. Lawrence even­tu­ally got down to 28.45 but in a late burst, Phil O’Brien took his 7R to a scorch­ing run of 27.13 sec­onds - an ab­so­lute record for both cars and bikes at Hunt­ley. Lawrence won the 500cc class, Kevin Cass the 125 and 250, and the Se­nior Side­car once again by Ron Young on his Vin­cent. For nu­mer­ous rea­sons, this was the last mo­tor­cy­cle event on Hunt­ley Hill. By now the state was flush with road rac­ing cir­cuits, with Oran Park hold­ing up to six meet­ings per year and both Catalina

Park and Ama­roo Park com­ing on stream. How­ever cars have con­tin­ued to use the venue and the im­me­di­ate fu­ture for car rac­ing on the hill ap­pears to be se­cure. The cur­rent out­right record for the climb is held by Tim Ed­mond­son at 18.54 sec­onds. The car club has a cur­rent lease with the Wol­lon­gong Coun­cil, but any fu­ture de­vel­op­ment of the old mine site could see in­creased pub­lic use of the road which would un­doubt­edly con­strain the coun­cil to re-visit the present leas­ing ar­range­ment. How­ever, for the five events that were so well or­gan­ised by the Wol­lon­gong Mo­tor­cy­cle Club, it was a won­der­ful time of close com­pe­ti­tion, good fel­low­ship, and build­ing re­la­tion­ships with the lo­cal sport­ing car fra­ter­nity. Re­cently I walked up the hill and took the coloured pho­to­graphs that ac­com­pany this story. The de­mount­able can­teen can be seen at the bot­tom of the hill and the tower at the fin­ish line is also vis­i­ble.

TOP Eric Hin­ton on Brian O’Con­nor’s 125 Honda. ABOVE Eric Hin­ton blasts his 350 Nor­ton off the line in 1962.

At the base of the hill, spec­ta­tors and com­peti­tors await the ac­tion. BE­LOW Pro­gram cover from the 1963 event.

ABOVE Prom­i­nent Wol­lon­gong tuner and spon­sor Clem Daniel (white over­alls) be­side Vince Tier­ney on the 650SS Nor­ton owned by Barry Ryan.

ABOVE Gor­don Hunt waits for his turn on his Manx Nor­ton.

RIGHT Ron Toombs pre­pares to depart on his 7R AJS.

BE­LOW Nev Stum­bles and Terry Sruhan ne­go­ti­ate the first right han­der on their Tri­umph.

Most suc­cess­ful side­car ex­po­nent at Hunt­ley, Ron Young on his Vin­cent. Kevin Cass gets un­der way on Ge­off Martin’s Cot­ton Tel­star. Eric Har­ri­son and Ron Ward on their Vin­cent out­fit.

ABOVE On his 500 Nor­ton, Eric Hin­ton heads for fastest time in 1963. ABOVE Noel Man­ning and pas­sen­ger Les John­son await their turn on their Vin­cent out­fit. BE­LOW The same spot 56 years later.

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