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Aussie racers take on Repco Race to the Sky

Three Victoria-based Australians will soon ‘cross the ditch’ to tackle New Zealand’s iconic Race to the Sky event when it runs for the first time since 2007 with the support of trans-Tasman auto supplies company Repco.

The three competitors will compete in varied machinery – a purpose-built open wheel hillclimb racer, a Holden 4w4 ute and a 4WD Nissan buggy – for the 18-19 April Repco Race to the Sky, while all being categorised in the unlimited class of the international hillclimb division up against eight-time King of the Mountain champion Nobuhiro ‘Monster’ Tajima.

Brett Hayward brings a brand-new purpose-built open wheel racer he dubs the ‘RTTS Special’. Hayward contested the event five times previously in two different cars, both open wheelers built by his business Hayward Engineering. At the last event in 2007 when there was a class specifically for open wheelers, he set the record of 8 min, 41 sec for the 14.5 km hillclimb course in the Cardrona Valley.

“I used my knowledge from the previous five attempts, and during the eight year break since the last event, I’ve designed and tested new components and technology on several other self-built race cars in which I’ve contented numerous hillclimb events in Australia,” says Hayward who is the current state hillclimb champion and outright record-holder in South Australia, Queensland and New South Wales events.

“The new 2015-spec car took an intense six-month build. It’s longer in the wheelbase and wider in the track to improve stability for the higher anticipated speeds. It has better front to rear weight balance and is lighter overall than my previous vehicles – well under 500 kg. It runs a supercharged Suzuki engine using E85 fuel, which develops in excess of 400 hp. Other major changes from previous cars include auto torque bias front and rear differentials and a complete aerodynamic package developed and tested to maximise ground effects and downforce.”

Hayward says his goal this year is to improve on his previous best time. “I’m also looking forward to once again catching up with all the other competitors and great friends we made at previous visits to the Race to the Sky.”

Dairy farmer Steve Riley and his team have built a 4x4 cross-country spec Holden ute which they debuted in the Australasian Safari Rally last August. Since then, Riley says they’ve modified the ute for Race to the Sky. It now features a 7-litre engine with an Australian-made Harrop Engineering supercharger producing close to 1000 hp.

A former Australian off-road motorcycle champ, Riley turned to cross-country rallying with considerable success nationally and internationally with three Australian rally championship titles to his name. He’s also a two-time finisher of the Dakar Rally and competed in Race to the Sky back in 2002 when he placed second overall.

The third Victorian is Anthony Kovco who began competing in hillclimb events when he was 14. With a range of Australian national hillclimb and autocross events to his credit, Kovco makes his Race to the Sky debut in a purpose-built 4WD Nissan buggy built by a former Race to the Sky competitor Greg Ackland. Kovco bought the buggy about three years ago, and it runs a turbocharged Nissan SR20 turbo through a Falcon T5 gearbox and custom transfer case to drive front and rear diffs.

“I have not previously competed in Race to the Sky, so this will be my first attempt of hopefully many,” says Kovco. “What I most look forward to at this year’s Repco Race to the Sky is the chance to race on an amazing piece of road in the Cardrona Valley.”

Tickets are now on sale online from Ticket Direct – simply search for Highlands – or from the Highlands Motorsport Park offices. An adult one-day pass, valid for Saturday or Sunday, costs $50 and a two-day adult pass $80. Children under 16 years of age have free entry when accompanied by a paying adult. Commemorative programmes can be purchased on-site for $10.

More information about the Repco Race to the Sky and all regular Highlands Motorsport Park attractions is available on the venue’s website, the event website, or visit the Facebook page