By Dave S. Clark
For nearly 60 years, racers have been tearing up Kelowna’s Knox Mountain Hill Climb, a 2.2-mile track that ascends 800 feet through nine white-knuckled turns, and this year, I was able to get a little sample of it.
I had heard about the event many times as lots of racers from Edmonton make the drive to challenge themselves on the course and I finally got a chance to take in the action as I attended Datsun Matsuri 2014, which is held in conjuction with the race.
Although the Datsun show was my first priority for the weekend, I was excited to catch some of the racing and see some of the cars that I was familiar with from the Eurasia Cup at the Edmonton Indy, which I had covered for several years.
At the 2014 race, there were roughly 40 cars at the event including a couple Datsun 510s, a couple MGBs, a pair of Mazda Miatas, a handful of VWs, a Porsche 911, Formula Fords and a Dodge Omni that really did go like hell.
As soon as I heard the cars fire up and start full-throttle up Knox Mountain, I knew I was in for a good event.
Many spectators hung out at the start line, but honestly I found that a little bit dull after seeing the first few cars burn out and race out of sight. Heading up the mountain is a much better idea, not only because it gives you more exciting parts of the track to see, but also because of the great views of Kelowna and the surrounding lake and valley.
If you are going to hike up, definitely be prepared as it can be quite the climb. Bring lots of water (I didn’t), have some decent shoes (mine were garbage) and bring a long lens (I got that part right). Shortly after the start, as the course heads up the hill, there is a spot to cross the track and use the paths to climb up the mountain. If you are going to cross, be very careful, use common sense and listen to the marshals if there are any. You can also stay on the outside of the road and climb up that way. (When I was there, one run actually had to be stopped because of spectators on the track, so don’t be that guy.)
Because I was so underprepared and because I was anxious to get back to Datsun Matsuri, I only made it a little bit past Turn 1. I got some decent photos from the straight just after Turn 1 but it probably isn’t the best vantage point. I climbed up a little bit higher, with the same turn and the following straight still in my sights, and got some panning photos as the cars zoomed by, which I thought turned out well. I met another photographer who really recommended going up to Turn 3, but I didn’t have it in me. Next year, I’ll go higher!
Also, be aware of wildlife, including snakes! I heard lots of rustling in the shrubs and saw a hawk take off with a snake as well, so be careful!
Entry tickets for the Knox Mountain Hill Climb are $20 for the weekend of racing and that also includes the Datsun Matsuri show and another car show with a wide variety of makes and models.
When you get hungry, there was an amazing perogy stand on site and I think there was a burger stand as well. But the perogies were delicious, so don’t bother with anything else! Hopefully it’s back next year too!