Day one at the Leadfoot Festival in the Coromandel was punctuated by occasional showers but they did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm of Ben Hunt (1999 Subaru WRX STi Coupe) and Scottish rally legend Alister McRae (1998 Vantage Motorsport Subaru) as they hurtled up the hillclimb for their practice runs.
Hunt was making his debut in the Subaru WRX, which was designed predominantly for 4WD drifting by its owner Dan Kane, who has built and tuned the 2015 national rally champion’s engines for him.
Having only turned a few laps around Hampton Downs in it earlier in the week, Hunt was focused on finding that delicate balance of grip versus horsepower. The Subaru WRX Coupe runs about 250kW of power but Hunt had another 200kW he could call on through dialing up the turbo boost.
“Today is about learning the car and tomorrow is about setting some good times,” Hunt says.
“It makes it a lot more special competing at Leadfoot this second time around. A lot of the Subaru team are here and it feels great to be able to drive in this amazing event in front of my sponsors Subaru, Hydraulink, Motul and Gull,” Hunt says.
For McRae, he was just thrilled to be back in the ex-Possum Bourne Subaru that he raced to victory in the 2014 Race to the Sky. Although the British Rally Champion admitted that gravel was his preferred medium to drive on, he certainly wasn’t a slouch in the now tarmac-spec Subaru.
“I think 750 horsepower in the wet might be a bit much but its good fun to drive,” McRae says.
He got increasingly faster as the day wore on and the track dried up, with his fastest time in the Vantage Subaru an impressive 52.51secs.
Another man who, unsurprisingly scorched up the 1.6km hillclimb was none other than the driveway’s owner himself, Rod Millen, in his 1994 Toyota Pikes Peak Hillclimb Celica. He clocked a 50.31secs, which was the day’s fastest time and his runs are expected to drop into the 40sec bracket tomorrow.
Today all vehicles, regardless of their class ran the hillclimb in mixed batches. Each run was timed, with the competitors having multiple chances to set their best time.
The forecast looks to be improving tomorrow and should be clear by the time the fastest drivers lay everything on the line for the Top Ten Shootout at 5pm. The shootouts will be run in three groups: Pre 1965; Pre 1975 and Overall Top 10.
Gate sales are available tomorrow with gates open at 7am and racing starting at 8am.