Motors

Uphill no struggle for Craigantlet hill climbers

A showroom specification Honda Civic Type R will compete in the 2016 Craigantlet Hill Climb, piloted by journalist David Finlay to raise awareness of the work of 'blood bikes'

AS noted in Drive previously, the annual spectacle of the Craigantlet Hill Climb takes place on Saturday on the upper section of the Belmont Road in east Belfast, writes William Scholes.

The premise of hill climbing is as simple today as it was when Harry Ferguson won the first Craigantlet Hill Climb in 1913: to get up a short and twisty hill course as quickly as possible.

The variety of machinery competing is central to this particular form of motorsport's appeal.

Go along on Saturday and you will see everything from modified Nissan GT-Rs and bespoke single-seat open-wheel racers which can - over a short distance, anyway - outsprint a Formula One car to old classics, often with even more classic drivers, and a range of more modern motors.

One of the more interesting entries will be a completely standard, road-legal Honda Civic Type R. The car comes to Craigantlet straight off the Honda press fleet.

It should be said that car companies and their press offices generally aren't too keen on allowing journalists to enter their shiny new cars in whatever motorsport event takes their fancy.

This is eminently sensible, particularly given the propensity of most people lucky enough to write about cars having exaggerated ideas about their ability behind the wheel as well as behind their keyboard.

A glorious exception to this is David Finlay. A gifted writer, David is not only fine company but a competition driver of some considerable repute. And he is Scottish.

David has taken on the challenge of competing in as many rounds as possible of the British Hillclimb Championship - of which Craigantlet is one - using a car from a different manufacturer's press fleet.

The venture is sponsored by Primo insurance and aims to raise awareness, as well as funds, for the Nationwide Association of Blood Bikes.

'Blood bikes' is a free volunteer service which offers hospitals rapid transport of anything from blood, donor milk and surgical instruments to patient's notes, X-rays and MRI scans in urgent and life-threatening scenarios. Some parts of Northern Ireland and the Republic are covered by blood bikes.

The Multi-Car Hillclimb Challenge is a novel idea, for which the press offices deserve considerable credit for supporting.

Lexus, for example, provided a GS F for the season-opening round at Prescott, outside Cheltenham, last weekend.

:: The Craigantlet Hill Climb takes place on Saturday April 30. 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.

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