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Weekend Larison Rock Hillclimb attracts racers from around the country

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A souped-up 1972 MGB-GT owned by Bob and Marie Sherman awaits Saturday afternoon’s run.

By GEORGE CUSTER/Editor/The Herald  —  TWO MINUTES. That seems to be the time to beat.

One hundred and twenty seconds is a goal for many of the racers who are attending the 34th annual Larison Rock Hillclimb. There were some who achieved. Many have not yet hit that personal goal. Running under two minutes earns you membership in the rather exclusive “Sub-Two Club”, according to the event’s press release.

About the course

The one-point-nine mile run up Forest Service Road 2102, also known as Larison Rock Road, has twenty-three turns. The drivers are presented with a turn-by-turn analysis of the route. Otherwise, drivers, especially drivers who have never run the course, may bite off a little more than they want to. The organizers try to keep accidents to an absolute minimum.

Mike Glass, from Corvallis, one of the organizers of the event, explained that preparing the stretch of pavement begins a couple of weeks out. Volunteers show up weeks before the race to start sweeping, cutting brush and limbs back, and sometimes removing fallen trees from the winter prior. Their permit with the U.S. Forest Service comes with some restrictions. The event must allow travelers on Road 2102 to pass through the event with minimum delays. Also, the fire danger rating can have a significant impact on the hill climb, sometimes restricting heat-of-the-day runs.  Mike was surprised at the lack of mountain bike shuttles during the morning’s event.

A long-standing event in Oakridge

This weekend actually is the 33rd running of the hill climb. COVID Prevented the event from taking place in 2019. However, Bonnie Meuller, one of the other organizers of the event indicated that it’s 34 years since the Larison Rock event started. The Larison Rock event is the longest running hill climb in Oregon. She and her husband Jim have been doing hill climbs since 1973. The two of them now live in Eugene and are members of the Emerald Empire Sports Car Center.

 

The event lasts two days – Saturday and Sunday. Morning attempts at the hill go until a break for lunch. Afternoon runs take place thereafter. The Oakridge Moose Lodge was contracted to provide a sack lunch for the participants who signed up for one during their pre-registration.

Bonnie and Jim Mueller man the race’s headquarters tent where all the times are posted.
Scott Lezchuk of Eureka, CA next to the morning’s results board Herald photo

There are a number of different classes that a car can be entered under. Vehicles ranged from your average unmodified street auto to super-modified racers. I was told that, at times, a contestant might be the only entry in their class. It’s the times that matter most – individual effort.

There is a dizzying number of rules and requirements that go into the hill climb racing events. Helmets, rollbars, specifications for tires allowed, harnesses, and much more go into assuring that the climbers make their runs as safely as possible.

Tesla was star of the morning

The fastest time for the event’s Saturday morning run was a Tesla, driven by Scott Lezchuk. Scott is an engineer for CALTRANS in Eureka, CA. He made the first run of the day in one minute and forty-nine point seven seconds. That’s going to be hard to beat.

Mary Richardson stands next to her damaged Subaru race car. She was uninjured, except for, possibly, her pride. Oakridge paramedics did give a good checkup just to be sure.

As I approached the event area, a car was being towed down the hill with a nasty crunch to its front end. I was able to interview the driver, Mary Richardson. She said that she was pushing for that elusive two-minute time when she lost control and left the pavement.

Mary’s son, Austin, driving the same car earlier, broke the two-minute barrier – a personal best for him. He said that he and his mom, obviously, won’t be making any more runs.

Bob and Marie Sherman next to their MGB-GT. Herald photo
Under the hood of the Sherman’s MGB-GT. The author has a fondness for MGs, having had one in my youth.

There were several families involved in the racing. One, Bob and Marie Sherman, came the farthest to compete in the race. The Shermans are from Arizona via Canada. Marie told me, gleefully, that she had finally received her visa after a long, two-year wait. When I asked Bob what they had done to modify their MGB-GT, he said, “just about everything”.

I asked the couple who of them usually had the best time? Bob indicated that it tilted in his favor, he believed. However, I could see Marie, standing behind her husband, pointing confidently to herself.

 

Tony Chilton’s Toyota World Sports Racer Hersld photo

Exotic racers as well as “sleepers” were at the event

The cars came in all models and level of modifications. From Porsches to Ford compacts. From Corvettes to Subarus. A car that caught my eye turned out to be a Toyota World Sports Racer, fully modified. I spoke to the owner, Tony Chilton of Dexter. He said the car was a limited-production car with few remaining. To me, it looked like something just short of a Formula One car.

The hill climb seemed to be going smoothly. The event coordinators had things under control. Everyone there was having a good time. Later that evening, the group would celebrate a good day of hill climbing at Big Mountain Pizza.

Northwest Hillclimb Association is one of the only hill climb series in North America, and the only series on the West Coast. NHA can be found at www.nhahillclimb.org.

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