The hills are alive with the sound of power as Craigantlet sprint returns
THE first Craigantlet Hill Climb competition was ran more than a century ago, with a certain Harry Ferguson setting the fastest time on the short, steep, twisting course on the outskirts of east Belfast, writes William Scholes.
Ferguson went on to carve his name in automotive and engineering folklore and that 1913 victory was just one of his many achievements.
The Hill Climb itself has a long and illustrious history, with this year's event on April 30 set to mark the 90th anniversary of the organisers, the Ulster Automobile Club.
Competitors are divided into categories, with each racing against the clock to set the best time up the 1,335 metres stretch of the Belmont Road as it snakes behind Parliament Buildings at Stormont.
Craigantlet hosts a round of the British Hill Climb Championship, which means single-seat racers with stronger acceleration than Formula One cars will be tearing up the course at incredible speed.
The course record is 39.41 seconds, set by Scott Moran in a specialist hill climb car called a Gould.
Racers constructed by Gould are clearly the cars to have - they have won the championship 17 times since 1985.
Apart from cars which are quite obviously racers, a number of modified road cars take part. Competitors like Ivan McCullough will be putting their cars through their paces up the track.
He drives a heavily modified Nissan GT-R; this road-legal sports car has been tuned to produce 750bhp and treated to a racing brake system, complete with 410mm discs, to keep the speed in check. It's light years ahead of the Vauxhall that Harry Ferguson drove, though he would definitely appreciate the Nissan's engineering, particularly its four-wheel-drive system...
Access to the event on Saturday April 30 is from either the bottom of the course at Belmont Road or at its summit, via Holywood and the Craigantlet hills. Practice sessions start at 9.30am.