It’s been a while since Paul Whitworth strapped into the single seat of his Caldwell D13 Formula Vee and blasted up Little Saanich Mountain in just a minute and a half.
“I was facing the late afternoon sun and the car clipped hay bales and turned over itself going 60 miles per hour,” Whitworth said.
He survived the early attempt up Observatory Hill and went on to become reigning champion of the race. That was 1977, but Victoria’s connection to the motor sport of hill climbing – which sees drivers race the clock in an uphill climb – goes back to 1962.
From ’62 until ’69, spectators would meet at Mount Douglas and line the winding road while drivers from across the Island raced to the summit – or close to it, said Vince Howlett, motor sport historian and co-organizer of the reunion. The finish line was set back from the very top of the hill to avoid a tragic end.
“It was a little rugged, but it was exciting,” said Howlett, a long-time announcer for the sport. “It was just a lot of fun and exciting to be there and meet the drivers. It was quite an adventure for everybody.”
Deteriorating road conditions eventually led to the end of the race in 1969. Original participants of the Mount Douglas hill climb, including vets such as Bud Inglin, Dave Cooper and Tommy Hamilton, will return to Mount Doug this Sunday (July 8) to commemorate those early years.
Howlett, Whitworth and the Victoria Motor Sports Club are hoping to find other participants and spectators from back in the day to join them for a little hill climb down memory lane. There won’t be any live racing, but drivers will have the opportunity to show off their cars and catch up.
At 67 years old, Whitworth doesn’t plan on careening into hay bales in his Caldwell D13 anymore, but he’s still the proud owner of the vehicle and active member of the racing community.
“It’s becoming an old man sport,” Whitworth said.
The 50-year reunion of the Mount Douglas and Little Saanich Mountain hill climbs starts at 10 a.m. at the picnic area of Mount Douglas Park (near Ash Road).
The event wraps up at The Beach House restaurant (formerly McMorran’s) at 5 p.m. For more information, call Howlett at 250-478-6198 or firstname.lastname@example.org.