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Knox Mountain Hill Climb

Motorsport is an incredibly diverse pool of insanity.

For most, racing against others on a track is the ultimate thrill. Bumper to bumper, driver against driver. Formula 1, NASCAR, Indy, overtaking madness with the occasional contact and crash is as good as it gets. For others, the ultimate race is against time itself. For 62 years, the city of Kelowna, British Columbia has been home to the Knox Mountain Hill Climb, the oldest paved hill climb in North America. Competitors from all over western Canada and America trailer (or drive) their modified cars to attack the winding mountain road.

The 3.5km course snakes its way up the mountain with a 245 m climb in elevation. To break 2 minutes is a feat that few people have claimed. As the officials suggest, to achieve top times, speeds in excess of 160kph must be reached in the short straights. The record, set by John Haftner in 2007, is 1m 37.065.

Almost all of the cars that compete are heavily modified. From massive wings, engine upgrades and race tires, every modification helps the drivers gain advantage of the literal uphill battle they face. The most impressive are the cars that arrive not on trailers, but are driven to the event. In one case, a mustang was driven from Seattle to Kelowna to compete. The driver knows full well that if he goes off the course, that’s his ride home.

2019 brought out a plethora of competitors eager to break the record. Top contenders included Aran Cook from Edmonton in an open wheel Arco X10 and Wouter Bouman in his insanely modified Mazda RX7. Both ran a 1:45.311 and 1:47.214 respectively. These teams will come back year after year in search of the fastest time, always looking to break the 1:37 set 12 years ago.

The event itself is incredibly entertaining. A small show and shine takes place on the grass and local food trucks supply the crowds with delicious food. Walking by the starting line, the aroma of deep fry, high octane gas and burning rubber hits you all at once. As a Motorsport fan, there’s not much else you could ask for.

Words & Photography: Lochlan Walker

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