The Climb to the Eagle

Between 1985 and 1996, Adelaide, the capital of the South Australia, hosted a round of the FIA Formula 1 World Championship. The Grand Prix races were held in the eastern parklands and streets of the city but there were fringe events for sports car fans who wanted to do more than watch.

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One of the most successful events was The Climb to the Eagle, which attracted sports cars of all kinds. It’s still run annually and the 23rd rally in October 2007 drew the largest entry ever, with more than 300 entries.

The late John Blanden created the Climb to the Eagle in 1985 when he was President of the one of Australia’s oldest car clubs, The Sporting Car Club of SA. www.sportingcarclubsa.org.au, The run always leaves from the former Grand Prix start/finish straight and goes through the Adelaide’s downtown at rush hour.

The “Eagle” in the title, refers to an old hotel, the Eagle on the Hill, in the nearby Adelaide hills, which was a roadside inn in the 1800s and early 1900s. The hotel takes its name from a bronze statute of an eagle on its roof. The road to the Eagle is a very steep climb and was once part of the Adelaide-Melbourne highway, though now it has been bypassed by the freeway and the hotel is closed.

The sports car run still uses the old twisty hill road and passes by the Eagle on its way to Hahndorf, an old German town in the Adelaide Hills. Here the cars stop for morning tea at a holiday village. The 2997 run had the largest entry ever, requiring two venues for morning tea.

A wide variety of sports cars took part mostly 1960s and 1970s models. The list included Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, Lancia, Austin Healey, Jaguar E type, Porsche 356 and 911, 1960s Mini Coopers, Lotus and Australian muscle cars such as the Holden Monaro and the Ford Falcon GT. Modern cars included Audi TTs, Mazda Miatas,l Porsches and Mini Coopers.

The 2007 event was boosted by more 60 mostly Australian-made clubman cars from all six Australian States (and two territories). They were in town for their own national rally and are based on the Lotus 7, still sold as kits with under 2-liter Japanese engines.

The cars gathered soon after dawn and at 9 a.m. the field was waved off by Adelaide’s Formula 1 starter Glen Dix. Local police stopped commuter traffic so the rally could head through downtown for the hills, watched by crowds of spectators.

The route looped through steep hills and twisty roads through Hahndorf and back to Victor Harbor, where the Australian Grand Prix was held on public roads in the 1930s, thence back to Adelaide. If you can rent or borrow a car to take part next year, it’s well worth it.

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