April 17, 2006 It’s not surprising that Japan’s Nobuhiro “Monster” Tajima won the ‘Race to the Sky’ hillclimb last Sunday, one of the great hill climbs on the international calendar. Monster has now won the Silverstone ‘Race to the Sky’ seven times in his 1000 horsepower Suzuki so he’s getting to know the 14.5km course near Queenstown pretty well. Just the same, he exceeded all expectations when he smashed his own record set in 2003 by nine seconds, to win the title for the seventh time clocking 8. 01.17. 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 which weighs just 1020kg fueled up with Nobuhiro strapped in.
Tajima blitzed the field in his powerful Suzuki Escudo and while he was expected to come under strong pressure from Swedish rally ace Kenneth Eriksson, in a WRC Subaru, Eriksson was dogged by bad luck and had to withdraw after engine problems. Eriksson won the qualifying round in the morning of the event in 8.26.02 while Tajima finished second in 8.27.60 and there was an air of anticipation in the final as Eriksson followed Tajima up the hill following the shootout. The shoot out on the flats at the bottom of the course proved to be a crowd pleaser and Eriksson in particular provided spectacular action with some incredible air over the jump. Eriksson was fastest around the course in 1.16.09 which was almost two seconds faster than Tajima. Following the shoot out drivers were able to choose their start positions for the Race to the Sky with Eriksson opting to run last in the event behind Tajima. While it was all disappointment for Eriksson, for top Kiwi driver Andrew Hawkeswood it was a well earned runner up position. In his Mitsubishi Evo 9 he crossed the finish in 8.28.71 and has signalled he will be returning next year with a purpose built car to take on Tajima.
Third place went to the ‘world’s fastest Maori’ Marty Roestenberg, who got to the top in his H6 Subaru Impreza WRX in 8.39.45 to put him on the podium ahead of Super Quad rider Ian Ffitch, who was fourth in 8.40.80 and overall winner of the Quad Bike title. The only woman driver in the field, Emma Gilmour, had a big crowd following in her very quick ex factory Subaru Impreza Sti. She finished sixth overall in 8.48.12 an improvement on her ninth placing in her inaugural Race to the Sky last year. The motorcycle title was won by Nathan McAlwee of Auckland who was defending his 2005 title. He proved too strong for the rest of the field finishing in 9.14.08. Lots of images and details of the Monstermobile in last year’s report.