Northwest Hillclimb Association held the Maryhill Hillclimb presented by Willamette Motor Club and NWAutoSports Association.
Maryhill loops road is a private road with a lot of history. The road was the first paved road in Washington State and the racecourse gains 900 ft of elevation in 2 miles with 25 turns. The road follows a canyon so in most places if you run off the road, you’re in for a flight and rough landing.
This was my first ever hill climb event and I entered in SCCA SSM class. I knew going in that the SSM class record was 2:06.473 so that was my stretch goal.
I arrived on Friday to setup camp at the bottom of the hill and figure out how this all works. There was a novice meeting Friday night which included a drive up the hill in a van. The main take away was to start conservatively and build speed slowly over the weekend as this hill is unforgiving. I was surprised to see the prep level of the roughly 60 cars entered. Lots of race tires including Hoosier and Avon slicks as well as DOT-R Comps. A handful of purpose built racecars including a hill climb prepped Legends car with front and rear wings and Hoosiers. Also, the current overall record holder was there in his Lotus 7 style Locost with an LS engine, massive wings and steamroller slicks (~335ish rears, ~1900 lbs, ~450 hp). There were also several 911’s including a 997 GT3, RSR Replica with a 3.5 liter, Loti, Exocet, Z06’s, STi’s, Evo, etc. Many racers came with prepped cars and lots of hill climb experience including previous events at Maryhill. Perhaps beating the SSM class record would be harder than I thought.
I started out on Saturday using some older Hoosier A7’s that I last used at the Ridge. The tires were old but all four were consistent so balance was good. The morning group got four runs in but the afternoon group, which I was running in, only got three runs as the sun was setting behind the hills and made for blinding light conditions. My first run was a conservative 2:15. Second run was a 2:12 and third run was a 2:09. The 2:09 felt fast and I was pushing hard enough to get loose in a few corners. I watched #68 Cayman R tear up the track from the top. The Cayman pilot was driving the wheels off that Porsche and he set a time of 2:06 on street tires (RE-71R’s). Really impressive driving and had me questioning my own lap times. Overnight, I swapped to my 10″ wheels with fresh 245 Hoosier A7’s. I didn’t want any excuses as to why I was off pace.
Sunday morning was much warmer but a beautiful day. It was decided that the morning group would get 4 runs and the afternoon group would get 3 so everyone had a total of 7 for the weekend. My group ran first and I chose to take it easy for the first run as the tires were cold and had never been scrubbed in. The launch was slow but the grip felt great after the first few corners. Run one was a 2:04! Now we’re talkin’. A 5 second improvement from Saturday and a new SSM record. I was still learning the course. Maryhill is a difficult course to memorize as many corners look the same and the desert landscape doesn’t help. Many corners had aggressive banking but the entire road has a pronounced crown so a traditional line starts out off-camber, transitions to on-camber at apex, and goes off-camber on exit. The S turns included a wicked transition over the crown that needed to be managed carefully. Run two was a 2:02.00 which, according to some of the regulars, was a new record for production based cars (i.e. Door Slammers). Run three was a 2:00.280 and included a few mistakes on the bottom half. The current top time of the event was #8 Locost with a 2:00.038 which was set on Saturday before engine problems put the car on the trailer for the rest of the weekend. At this point, I had dropped at least 2 seconds every run so I was confident I could clean up the bottom of the course and run a sub 2 minute time. 4th and final lap started off well and the bottom half felt better. Top half felt about the same but I was pretty sure I’d see a 1:5X on the readout at the finish but the time was a 2:00.475. I still need to review the data to see where I slowed down.
Overall, I was ecstatic to take the class win, earn the “Fastest Door Slammer” award, beat the previous SSM record by 6 seconds, and beat the “Door Slammer” record by 2 seconds. However, that sub two minute lap was right there and I couldn’t quite get it and it’s taunting me to return and I missed out on the “King of the Hill” crown by only 2 tenths of a second. The S2000 was flawless all weekend. There were lots of cars with more power, more tire, and more aero but this car is beautifully balanced and very consistent – I think the rookie in the Honda raised a few eyebrows on the hill.
There were two minor “offs” but no injuries (search Youtube for VW Rabbit crash – really nice guy and I feel bad for him but the video is hilarious) and a few mechanical failures but overall I’d consider it a very successful event. The road is incredible and it really is a privilege to race there. The competition seems like a tight-knit group as many of them compete in all of the hill climb events in the series and have for several years. Competitors came from California, Montana, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, and Canada. Lots of friendly and talented folks. A big “Thank You” to WMC, NWAA, NHA, and Maryhill Museum of Art.
Link to Results: http://www.wmclub.org/results/15MaryhillResults.shtml
Link to some nice pictures from “valvecovergasket”: https://www.flickr.com/photos/valvecovergasket/albums/72157658873177792
1st Place SSM, 2:00.280, SSM Record, Door Slammer Record