After taking a sabbatical from hillclimb racing in 2015, Mudgee’s Doug Barry returned to the driver’s seat with vengeance on the weekend, in the opening two rounds of the NSW Hillclimb Championship run by the Bathurst Light Car Club at Mount Panorama.
Round one was run on the Esses course on Saturday, and the second on Sunday.
Both events have attracted fully subscribed field, 100 on the Esses and 90 on Sunday.
After spending last season running his own team with a young and promising in the Kumho V8 Touring Car Series for de-registered V8 Supercar’s, the urge to return to the wheel was too strong, so Barry dusted off his Lola T8750 in an attempt to achieve a long time dream.
“I’ve still got unfinished business in hillclimbs.” he said.
“After seven seasons of trying, I’m going back for an eighth attempt to win that elusive first Australian championship, and this is the start of that program.”
While he hasn’t won an Australian title, the Mudgee grazier, who spends three days a week on his property and the remainder running his own Doug Barry Specials business in Sydney, did win the NSW championship of 2012, and has finished runner-up on another five occasions.
Barry’s Lola has won four Australian titles, with its original Australian owner Alan Hamilton winning at Gippsland Park in 1989, and by West Australian Gary West also at Gippsland in 2004 and again at Bathurst in 2006.
Originally the Lola was raced in European Formula 3000 events as curtain raisers to Formula One GP’s, and the powerplant a V6 Buick which came from an IndyCar background in the United States.
Barry, who has always competed as a member of the Bathurst Light Car Club, has always had a local on his crew in fellow competitor Scott Tutton, who will be with him on this journey that they hope will reward them with a national title.
While he has never won that elusive title, Barry did come agonisingly close in 2012, at Bathurst on the Mountain Straight course when he finished second.
The event was a two-way battle between Barry in his Lola and Sydney driver Tim Edmondson behind the wheel of his fully imported Gould on the 1.7km Mountain Straight climb.
Edmondson had electric gremlins set in on his Gould GR55B on Saturday, and Barry took advantage of this and wrestled the Lola up the hill to the cheers of the crowd breaking the record on his every run, and looking as if his championship winning drought may have ended.
But on the final run of the two days of competition the British car fired and Edmondson made an incredible run to break the record and Barry’s heart as he blasted his way to a win against all odds
“That’s motor racing,” Barry said of that championship/
“To be leading the event until the last run of the weekend and then get beaten was soul destroying at the time, but we were beaten by a better car and driver on the day.”
This weekend was the start of his program which he hopes will see him finally win the elusive championship at Bryant Park in Victoria from October 27-30.
Following the dual Bathurst rounds, the Barry team will compete in the third round at Kempsey’s Mt Cooperabung, but after that he has not made a decision on whether he will compete in all rounds.
“I know we’re going to Kempsey, but after that I’m not sure except that we’re going to Bryant Park in July for a Victorian state round, in what will effectively be a test weekend.
“We’ve got a new nose-cone we’re going to test this weekend, and we’re building a bigger rear wing for the Bryant Park event.
Pitted against Barry on the weekend was the strongest field assembled at Bathurst for some time, headed by Sydney’s Malcolm Oastler, a former Formula One race engineer who was victorious in both 2015 Bathurst rounds ahead of clinching the NSW and Australian championships.
Outright record holder on both the Esses and Mountain Straight courses and four time NSW champion as well as the 2012 national title holder, Tim Edmondson was back in the Gould GR55B, while Queenslander Dean Tighe has made the trip south and will be a threat in his Dallara D375.
On his last racing visit to a NSW state title round he won last year’s final ever hillclimb at Newcastle’s Mattara climb.