Updated April 1 2005 When Japan’s Nobuhiro “Monster” Tajima crossed the finish line of New Zealand’s annual ‘Race to the Sky’ hillclimb last Sunday, it was his sixth “King of the Mountain” crown in the fabled event. Monster’s Suzuki Escudo is almost as legendary as he is, producing 981 bhp at 8100 rpm and 95kg-m of torque at 6500 rpm from the twin-turbo 2.7 litre V6. The most amazing thing though, is the space-frame car with carbon fibre and Kevlar bodywork. Monster’s Monster weighs just 1020kg fueled up with Nobuhiro strapped in.
The Silverstone ‘Race to the Sky’ is becoming recognised as one of the great hill climbs on the international calendar each year, and is held over a 14.5km course near Queenstown in New Zealand starting at 450m above sea level and climbing steeply through 135 sharp corners to 1500m.
Tajima’s time of 8:10.8 secs was set using stock-standard Pirelli Scorpion A/T 235/70 R16 Scorpion tyres, beating the 8.22.53 set by Swedish rally ace Kenneth Eriksson driving the ex-Possum Bourne WRC Subaru complete with the latest Pirelli WRC gravel rally tyres fitted with Pirelli’s run flat system and narrowly failing to beat his own course record of 8.10.02, set two years ago.
“The Pirelli Scorpion A/T’s fitted to Monsters Suzuki performed faultlessly all weekend. It is remarkable for a standard production tyre to survive and perform so well in these conditions,” said Simon Pool, Pirelli Australia’s Motorsport Manager. “We handcut the tyres to give a square edge to the block to try to get some extra traction because of the extreme forces the car was putting through them, but they performed as we’d hoped. We knew we were taking a chance of a puncture due to the nature of the course, but we felt that running a heavy duty tyre would have added different problems and in the end, the decision was the right one,” said pool.
"We just needed a little better, drier weather to make a new record time," said Tajima, who had hoped to go under eight minutes but found the conditions on the challenging Waiorau Snow Farm road did not favour it – in some parts the road was not dry enough and some corners were slippery.
Despite his global achievements in motorsport over many decades, Nobuhiro “Monster” Tajima is actually a humble man. His English is limited, and he jokes that after all these years the only English he truly commands are three words – “yes, no and thank-you.”
Just the same, he published a statement following the event that read as follows: “I have entered this race with Suzuki Escudo Hill Climb Special and has achieved 6th win, 3 wins in a row. I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you for all the help and cheers which has been given to me. It was not an easy race, as thick fog and rain - which was unusual - made the race more difficult than ever, but with my long experience in motorsport, I have managed to overcome these obstacles and make a great result. I would like to continue as much as possible as a driver and enter the race to achieve more records. Once again, thank you very much for all of your support!
Nobuhiro’s business began in Japan supplying go-fast goodies for the local market but has since become a global business with subsidiaries in the UK and Australia, and a strong relationship with Suzuki motorsport. Monster Sport Europe Suzuki drivers Guy Wilks and P-G Andersson currently stand first and second in the Junior World Rally Championship points table (after the Rally of Mexico).
Third place in the Silverstone ‘Race to the Sky’ went to Andrew Hawkeswood in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 8 which also earned him the Possum Bourne Memorial Trophy awarded to the fastest New Zealand competitor. Possum Bourne died after a crash on the course prior to the start of the event in 2003. His wife Peggy entered the race this year as a tribute to Possum. She was delighted with the performance of her Subaru Impreza WRX in her debut race.
"I am a little sad not to be standing here," said Eriksson, pointing to the top step on the podium. "But I cannot complain about the car or my driving in the final: there was nothing I could do to stop Monster.”
The quad bike title went to Ian Ffitch who was sixth overall in 8.41.36 and the motorcycle title was won by Nathan McAlwee who finished 19th in 9.19.13 toppling long time title holder Craig Hyde who was close behind in 20th place in 9.19.67.