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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

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