US CLIMB A DREAM CHALLENGE FOR SPRINTS DRIVER

ONE of the stalwarts of historic motorsport in Queensland will enjoy a dream preparation for the annual Leyburn Sprints in August when he contests the world-famous Pikes Peak hillclimb in Colorado.
Leyburn Sprints founder and regular competitor Mike Collins will be one of just a handful of internationals in a field of 99 car drivers and 102 motorcycle riders in the US event on 8 July, six weeks before the 17th Leyburn Sprints.

Collins and fellow Queenslander and Leyburn competitor Jim Hodgson have been accepted from hundreds of applicants to race a pair of 1960s Ford Mustangs in the Vintage class.
One of their rivals in a similar Mustang will be Bobby Unser Junior, a member of America’s First Family of motor racing, which has taken a record 38 wins on the mountain since 1926.

“It’s a dream come true. They could only take 20 cars in the historic class and had over 50 entries. If by any chance I can knock off an Unser into the bargain it would be the ultimate,” Collins joked after being advised of his selection.

“Pike Peak International Hill Climb is one of the world’s most famous, challenging and historic motorsport events. It’s called the Race to the Clouds and over a distance of 20 kilometres it offers 156 corners and a climb from 2860 metres to 4300m.

“Jim and I will be trying to drive fast at altitudes almost twice as high as the tallest mountain in Australia with no protection from falling a very long way. It will be the challenge of a lifetime.”

Although the scale of the two events is vastly different, Collins said he would be promoting the Leyburn Sprints as one of Australia’s historic motor racing institutions during his US visit.

“The Sprints commemorates the weekend in 1949 when 30,000 spectators came to watch the Australian Grand Prix on the Darling Downs,” he said.

“Although we have moved the track from a nearby wartime airfield to the streets of Leyburn itself, it continues to draw strong crowds, twice as many car entries as Pikes Peak and is respected as one of the longest-running historic motorsport events in Australia.

“Wouldn’t it be great if we could attract a couple of the US competitors to come down and try our event?”

Another Darling Downs connection at Pikes Peak International Hillclimb will be the entry of a Toowoomba-built Skelta sports car for Sydney driver Jeff Denmeade.

The Leyburn Sprints time trials will be run on 18-19 August on a one-kilometre course around the closed public streets of the tiny former gold town between Warwick and Toowoomba.

Proceeds from the not-for-profit event benefit community organisations and projects.

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