Yes, it is Rob Roy Hillclimb. Situated towards the eastern end of Clintons Road , Smiths Gully, not far off the Eltham – Yarra Glen Road adjacent to Sugarloaf reservoir.
Hillclimbing is almost as old as the motorcar itself. With man’s “ need for speed”, timed trials in the UK in particular, were run on inclines or hills on public roads.
As the sport grew and attracted the public’s imagination the events progressed to purpose built venues that were somewhat safer for drivers and definitely so for the public.
Enthusiasts in Australia were not slow to follow the action.
In 1935 representatives from the then Light Car Club of Australia inspected a property known as Clinton’s Pleasure Grounds with the view to establishing a suitable venue for car hill climb meetings.
The property had been used for several years prior for motorbike events.
An agreement was reached, and on the 1st February 1937 the first event for cars was conducted on the gravel surface used by the motorbikes.
In 1939 the track was bitumenised. At this time, Rob Roy shared the distinction of being one of only three specially designed, bitumen surfaced hill climbs in the world.
The other two, being Shelsley Walsh and Prescott both in the UK.
In 1938 the first Victorian and Australian Hill Climb Championships were conducted at Rob Roy.
Coincidentally, the largest trophy held by the Victorian Confederation of Motorsport ( CAMS ) is the Hill climb trophy.
Rob Roy is the oldest hillclimb in Australia and is the only seriously known Australian hill climb in the UK where hill climbing is still a very big motor sport discipline.
It is so big there are numerous specialist manufacturers of competition vehicles.
Prior to the track’s closure in 1962, as a consequence of the disastrous bushfires, eight of the Record holders had also been winners of the Australian Grand Prix including ( Sir) Jack Brabham, Stan Jones, Lex Davison, Bill Patterson, John Crouch and Peter Whitehead.
Australia’s first Grand Prix driver, Tony Gaze was also a regular competitor at Rob Roy.
In these early days of motorsport drivers mixed circuit racing with hill climbing, unlike today, where they tend to specialize in one particular discipline.
It is hard to imagine today, but events attracted crowds of several thousand with ladies in their best dresses and men in hats, coats and ties.
Drivers strangely enough were often in shirtsleeves ( but still with tie on ) but sometimes without even a helmet.
After the 1962 bush fires, the property fell into disrepair and was occasionally used in its dilapidated state by some enthusiasts.
In 1992, the MG Car Club of Victoria, after long discussions with Melbourne Water and the then Shire of Eltham obtained an initial lease on the property.
Almost immediately reconstruction started which involved re-laying the entire surface, improving internal access roads and the installation of guardrail in some places .
The original Timing box was resurrected together with toilet facilities. The result was a faithful re-creation of the original venue.
This resurrection could not have taken place without the support of the wider motorsport community who made up a group named The Friends of Rob Roy.
Huge support was received from two likeminded clubs being The Victorian Historic Racing Register and The Vintage Sports Car Club.
These clubs promote their own large annual events at Rob Roy in April and August respectively.
With the closure of the famous, but much younger, Templestowe hill climb track in 1987, the club had the foresight to acquire the iconic PBR brake shoes that stood over the Start Line.
After languishing for many years, they were eventually restored as a result of public subscription and sponsorship by PBR, and re –erected near the Start line at Rob Roy in 2011.
On the 27th -28th February 1993 the first “Return to Rob Roy” meeting was run by the Club. Special guests who had run at Rob Roy in the glory days were given a Tribute parade.
Harry Firth, Lou Molina, Tony Gaze and his wife Dianna (Davison) who held the Ladies record for many years.
Three drivers who competed in the 1937 event were also present. Bill Leech, Derry George and Keith Laity.
In 1996, to avoid clashing with other historic motoring events associated with the Australian Grand Prix that had come to Melbourne, the annual Historic & Classic meeting was moved to November.
In 2007 the property was recognised as having sufficient heritage significance to be included in the Shire’s of Nillumbuk’s heritage overlay register.
The November Historic & Classic meeting is the largest conducted annually, although there are other meetings during the year including one, if not two rounds, of the Victorian Hillclimb Championship.
At last years November meeting ,two milestones were celebrated. Rob Roy’s 80th anniversary and 25 years of MG stewardship of the property.
This year, on Sunday 18th November, will be the 27th running of this premier event incorporating an international component being Round 4 of the Brake Shoes Challenge.
The challenge grew from an “association” created in 2008 between Prescott and Rob Roy to “Promote the interests of hillclimbing between Australia and the UK”.
The idea came from ex-pat Australian, and long time Bugatti Owners Club member John Passmore who had attended Rob Roy meetings in the 1950’s /early 60’s in his MGTC and had also been a Prescott competitor during 1994- 98 in an Austin Healey Sprite.
John was soon joined by fellow ex-pat Joy Rainey a former ladies hillclimb champion. Joy’s late father Murray was a class record holder at Rob Roy in various cars during the 1950’s including an s/c Cooper 500.
The idea evolved and soon the Prescott / Rob Roy Challenge was launched as a bi annual event.
The first was held at Prescott in June 2013 using Morgan Sports cars and was won by the home team. In Feb 2015 a return bout was held at Rob Roy using MGF Sports cars.
This event was won by the home team.
Each Club will field a team of 6 and everyone will compete in the same three identical cars.
MG Motor Australia has been gracious enough to provide these newly released small MG sedans for competition.
The Brake Shoes Trophy has important historical significance.
In the 1950’s Melbourne had two main hillclimb venues, Rob Roy and Templestowe, the latter constructed in 1951 by the Victorian Sporting Car Club ceased operation in 1987 at an event ironically promoted by the MG Car Club.
Templestowe had an iconic large pair of brake shoes over the Start line. These were built and donated by Patons Brake Replacement ( PBR ) and when Templestowe closed the “shoes” were rescued by the MG Club and later refurbished and re-erected in 2011 near the Rob Roy Start line.
The Australian Hillclimb history lives on , and is also reflected in the perpetual trophy for the “ Challenge Series”.
The actual shoes forming the trophy are from a 1953 Holden, the original GMH slogan said “ Holden – Australia’s Own Car”
This event is open to the public and spectators will see a variety of makes and models including Austin 7’s , Ford flat heads, Alvis’, Austins,, Bentleys, Bugattis Jaguars, Oldsmobiles, Renaults, Rileys, Vauxhalls , to name a few.
Admission is $10 for single entry or $20 per car. Competition commences 9-00 am
No matter which way you approach Rob Roy it is a very scenic drive.
Competition is open to anyone holding a CAMS Level 2 speed licence and Clubs are encouraged to participate either as competitors or as spectators.
A dedicated Club Display parking area, adjacent to the Marshsalling area, in the centre of the property will be provided for this.
Very importantly, full catering will be provided on site, by the local Panton Hill CFA, who will receive all the catering proceeds.
For further information on the November meeting please visit: robroyhillclimb.com.au