The Chelsea Walsh Hill Climb

Today seen as one of New Zealand’s most elegant and delightful hill climbs.

The Chelsea event was dreamt up 35 years ago by the late Barry Gay, who though contacts at the NZ Sugar Refinery managed to persuade the Company that their private access road would make an excellent motorsport venue. Reluctantly they agreed to trial the idea and it was agreed that Sunday 31st October 1976 was a suitable date.

The name “Chelsea Walsh” was of course a play on words by John Hearne in homage to the famous Shelsley Walsh Hill climb in England. Like its namesake the road rises away from a flat start beside the cooling ponds, cuts right over a small concrete bridge and then climbs steadily up through a heavily wooded thicket to burst out onto the bottom of the left hand Hairpin. This is a non constant curve and its double camber twist has been the bête noir that exercises the driving skills of all the competitors. Exiting the hairpin the road continues up through the parkland and flicks right to go past the Sugar Works cottages. Over the finish line, a snappy throttle off and a judicious application of retardation before pulling off to the left and into the upper parking reserve.

The first couple of years were a bit rocky with the inclusion of the Sugar Works Social Club allowing some pretty hairy cars and drivers loose on the hill. The extended practice sessions taken by the local staff lead to the Refinery management cancelling the event after 1980.

However a few years later, after the formation of the Waitemata Branch VCCNZ, a renewed approach was made to the NZ Sugar Co to see if the event could be reestablished under more “Vintage” regulations. This new regime was approved by the Refinery management again on a trial basis and has since proved to be the right mix with the right cars and no crowding!

Cars are now restricted to VCC approved vehicles that are pre 1960 with suitable sound muffling and robust speed to braking ratios. The hill is ideally suited to most 1920’s& 30’s cars with these sort of cars completing the course in the 40 to 50 second bracket. Of course some of the 1950’s era cars such as the numerous Bucklers can do sub 40sec times. We have regular visiting competitors from neighboring branches and often some from further afield like the Mainland! Like wise we have attracted the occasional special guest appearances of some of New Zealand’s most historic and prestigious vintage restorations. For the spectator or marshals, Chelsea offers a multitude of vantage points, both for viewing, motorsport photography and picnic spots.

The Event is nearly always held in the early part of November each year but is subject to the Sugar Works Production Schedule and the final date can vary.

These days the a large part of the park grounds that the road traverses has become Council Reserve and with the cooperation of the local authority the Waitemata Branch has been able to preserve this unique event for the near future.



2011 2012 2013