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Race to the Sky: the longest gravel hill-climb event in the world

1 February, 2015

The return of New Zealand’s iconic Race to the Sky hill climb, managed by the team from Highlands Motorsport Park, is heavily anticipated by motorsport fans around the globe. It will take place on April 17–19, 2015, with Repco New Zealand jumping onboard as the main sponsor.

The Repco Race to the Sky is run on the gravel access road, which climbs over 1000m from the floor of Central Otago’s Cardrona Valley up to the Snow Farm and Snow Park in the Pisa mountain range. The Highlands’ team aims to keep the hill-climb course as close as possible to the original 14.5km course, which last ran eight years ago.

Highlands’ business development manager, Josie Spillane, says, “The Repco Race to the Sky presented by Highlands is now the longest gravel hill-climb event in the world since the sealing of America’s famed Pikes Peak hill-climb course. Undoubtedly, motorsport fans around the globe will be tuning into our event.”

Mark Brunton, executive general manager of Repco New Zealand, says, “The Repco team is delighted to be involved with the return of such an iconic New Zealand event as Race to the Sky. Repco has been part of the fabric of the New Zealand automotive industry for over 90 years and this partnership aligns Repco with a premier event on New Zealand’s — and the world’s — motorsport stage.

Under the stewardship of Grant Aitken, the Race to the Sky was last held in 2007 when world-renowned veteran driver Nobuhiro ‘Monster’ Tajima (64) claimed his eighth victory out of nine starts.

Since Tony Quinn and his team at Highlands announced in August that they were resurrecting the Race to the Sky, the interest from competitors and fans has been non-stop. Quinn says, “As we all know, the agreement to use the road accessing the Snow Farm and Snow Park ended, so we’ve spent considerable time talking with the new generation of landowners and other parties now involved and are very pleased a new agreement could be reached.

“It’s exciting to see how much people are looking forward to the event coming back, but I’m cautious not to build it up too much. The important thing is to make sure we run it as well as it should be and let’s see how we go from there.”

No stranger to fast cars, Quinn is having an 800hp, 800kg hill-climb car built by respected race car builder Paul Ceprnich in Melbourne so he can contest the event for the first time against numerous former competitors, including Tajima, who returns with an all-electric vehicle. Queenstown-based Aitken will also be taking the opportunity of contesting the event for the first time, rather than being the event organizer.

Highlands’ general manager Mike Sentch says, “In the first year we want to grow the reputation and legacy of the event with the vision of it holding its own on the world stage and capturing the imagination and competitive spirit of some international stars. We’re absolutely delighted to be working with Repco as we recreate an event that captured the imaginations of motorsport fans around New Zealand and the world.”

Proposed categories for the 2015 event include:


  •    International unlimited
  •    Four-wheel-drive open
  •    Two-wheel-drive 0–2000cc open
  •    Two-wheel-drive 2001cc and over open
  •    Rallycourse (co-driver)
  •    Classic cars (pre-1982)


  •   Lightweight
  •   Middleweight
  •   Heavyweight


  •    Light quads
  •    Super quads

Buggy and off-roader

Side by side

The Jowett Jupiter turns 70

John Ball has always enjoyed tinkering with old boats and cars. He’s old enough to think having gearbox parts on newspaper on the floor of his bedroom, while the relevant car sat waiting on nail boxes, was a normal part of growing up. His passion has always tended towards old British bangers. He reckons he’s fortunate not to have got caught up in the American muscle scene.
John’s love affair with this Jupiter started in December 2015 when, with some time on his hands during a Christchurch trip, he searched online for ‘cars, before 1970 and in Christchurch’.

A passion for classics and customs

In the highly competitive field of New Zealand classic and custom restorations, reputations are won or lost on the ability to maintain consistently high standards of workmanship. A company managing to achieve this is D A Panel beating Ltd, of Rangiora near Christchurch. Is your classic or custom car restoration stalled, or in need of a refresh, or perhaps you are looking for experts to rebuild that recent import project out of Europe or the ‘States?