Thrill of only just being in control

Last updated 11:08 10/04/2014
Southland Times photo
RACHEL ASKEW/Fairfax NZ
Scott family members, from left, Isaac, Robert, Robert and Gregory, shelter from the rain at this year's Bob Scott Memorial Hill Climb.

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It will be as good as a parachute or bungy jump but last longer. That's how Rachel Askew - who has never had any desire to parachute or bungy jump - was convinced to go for a ride in a rally car under race conditions at the annual Bob Scott Memorial Hill Climb. Here's how it played out. 

I didn't scream and I kept my eyes open, which were my only two aims when I maneuvered past the roll bars into the passenger seat of a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 3 to take part in the first run of the day's racing.

I'm wearing a fire-proof suit, a helmet and have just signed a form saying I'm ok with whatever happens next.

Craig Molloy of Dunedin is the owner and driver of the car that I'm being strapped into by his co-driver Geoff McFarlane, who has kindly given me a turn in his seat.

Molloy seems calm, in control, I ask him where I should put my hands, then I stop the numerous questions in case I put him off.

We're go.

The engine booms, the car shakes and leaps forward spitting mud.

Molloy's hands are like lightening on the gears.

It's fast.

We skid around the first corner of this gravel, up hill road that feels no wider than a goat track.

The pine trees are a blur of green.

I think I'm smiling.

It's faster.

Another corner, possibly the tightest one yet and suddenly the trees give way to open sky and the side of a hill that's straight down.

Suddenly I'm nervous and have to remind myself to keep my eyes open - not like the time I went parasailing as a youngster, which was my first and last taste of adventure tourism.

The track is muddy, it's been raining all night.

It's faster still.

Just as I think how much higher can we go, it's over.

Brakes, gear change, quiet.

And one minute, 17 seconds later I think I'm still smiling.

"How was it'?" asks Molloy.

I can't remember my answer but "wow" accompanied by some relieved breathing was involved.

I asked what speed we got up - I forgot to look at the speedometer, 120kph he reckons.

The weather conditions slowed us down, he says.

As we drive down back through the forest (slowly) Molloy, a previous Bob Scott Hill Climb champion and Waimate GT series winner who has been competing for 27 years, told me he hasn't raced on gravel for six months.

Then he tells me about a friend who was killed last year when the side of his car hit a tree.

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He still gets nervous before a race - motor sport is dangerous, he says.

I'm glad we didn't have this conversation any earlier.

Prior to my ride, I asked Molloy and McFarlane why they race.

Molloy talks about the great people you meet and the laughs you have, but perhaps McFarlane sums it up for both of them when he simply says "speed, really".

A couple of racers told me I'd catch the bug after having a go.

I sort of get it now.

While I won't be racing out to invest my meagre savings in a rally car any time soon, I was deeply impressed by how the drivers control these machines with such precision and in such conditions, and that they're game enough to try.

The thrill of being in control - but only just.

The battle they wage against the clock, the track, the car and even themselves.

The rush when you cross the finish line because every time you climb behind the wheel, you know you might not.

As I said, impressive.

 

- The Southland Times

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