Feature Mark Walker May 25, 2024 (Comments off) (320)

Australia’s Steepest Racetrack

While the climb up Mount Panorama is revered for its incredible elevation change, one former motorsport circuit placed a literal wall in front of competitors – and best of all, energetic motorsport enthusiasts can still explore this relic from the past today.

Introducing the Templestowe Hillclimb, an incredible ribbon of asphalt north of downtown Melbourne, with a walk along its remnants providing visitors with strong Catalina Park vibes.

While the length of the track affectionately referred to as The Wall was typically reported as having a 1 in 2.5 slope, or a 40 per cent grade, modern equipment has registered a grade of up to 46 per cent, which is frankly difficult to walk up.

For perspective, The Cutting in Bathurst has a 1 in 6 slope, which is a 16 per cent grade, while research suggests that The Mineshaft feature of many rallies near Canberra had a 1 in 3 slope or an 18.4-degree grade.

One thing is rather certain—it is hard to make asphalt stick to the side of slopes much steeper than those in Templestowe…

If you know of a steeper section of track used by motorsport in Australia, we’d love to hear about it! Hit us up via social media at @theracetorque!

A Walk Up Memory Lane

After the war, motorsport in Victoria desperately needed venues, and to that end, you can read some of our earlier yarns about suburban venues such as Fisherman’s Bend or Cherry Lake.

The Victorian Sporting Car Club, which had existed since the 1930s, stumbled across a block at Templestowe that would be suitable for a hillclimb, a popular discipline at the time.

The original plans called for a multi-use venue, which would have featured a circuit of around 1.8km in length, and a 1.1km hillclimb, with the two running in opposing directions.

The Age 30/8/54

While two car or bike demonstrations were occasionally run, the racing circuit concept never caught on, and the final hillclimb was 969 m long.

The first meeting at the venue was held in March 1951, with the unsealed surface, especially at The Wall, presenting multiple challenges for competitors.

It became apparent that the loop required a coat of black top, so competition resumed in June 1952 once sealing was complete, and the venue quickly joined the nearby Rob Roy as a favourite amongst local competitors.

Crowds of up to 20,000 were noted as attending, such was the thirst for motorsport at the time.

In 1958, Templestowe shared the Australian Hillclimb Championship with Rob Roy, with the event held over two days at the venues, while Templestowe stood alone as host of the title in 1968.

However, by the close of the 1960s, the venue fell into rather sporadic use with its event count nearing 100.

After the initial announcement that the block was sold off in 1983, there were up to six John Farnham-esque final events culminating in 1987’s last hurrah, with suburbia fast encroaching on the block.

Pictures from the State Library of Victoria

Templestowe attracted the cream of the crop throughout the era, with outright records at times being held by luminaries such as Bib Stillwell, Stan Jones, Lex Davison, Bruce Walton, and Alan Hamilton, with Dick White holding the ultimate fastest time at 47.6sec from September 1969.

Others to take to the hill included Peter Brock, Alan Jones, Norm Beechey, Harry Firth, Bob Jane, Reg Hunt, Brian Sampson, Bill Patterson, Tim Schenken, Alf Costanzo, Jim McKeown, Ivan Tighe and many more.

The above video from the Moke Owners Association of Victoria was recorded just before the final event was completed, and in itself, it was a rather eventful day…

Hillclimb Success

During the years of Templestowe, success in the hillclimbing arena was something worth crowing about, as denoted in the press of the day…

News (Adelaide) 12/9/52, The Argus 1/10/56, The Argus, 7/5/56, and The Canberra Times 5/8/66.

Hitting the Wall

The climb started under the famed PBR brake shoes, which have in recent times been relocated some 15km northeast to Rob Roy, now marking the launch pad of that historic venue.

Weighing 3.5 tons, the landmark was installed in 1958 before being acquired by the MG Car Club in 1989, and erected at its new home in 2009.

With the start positioned along the back fences where modern housing now sits on The Parkway, after a straight run up the hill, the track crested its first rise before sweeping downhill left into the Esses, as depicted above.

Beautifully cambered corners brought competitors back down onto the flat for the curving and cambered “Banana Straight.”

Monk’s Corner rose hard to the right before the track flattened out for The Shelf.

The Wall was next, and it remains a confronting 100m stretch to this day.

Even after the passage of time, gouges on the tarmac are witness to those who hit the obstacle at speed – images simply do no do it justice.

Once at the top of The Wall, the track sharply dropped away to the right into the aptly named Hole, with the visible signs of the track ending at a modern property back fence, above.

The road then would have swept back up to the left before plateauing on what is now Arlunya Place, before one final right-hand hairpin at Baron’s Corner and a quick blast to the finish line.

Walk it Yourself

To reach the remnants of the Hillclimb, make your way to The Parkway in the Templestowe housing estate known as The Domain and park at the bottom of the hill, just before you reach the rows of plush new homes.

You will want to walk along the path to the north of the road, which is well-signposted in recognition of the Hillclimb Walk above.

Once around the first home on the walkway, off-piste, however, there is still a length of the original starting straight along the back fences of the properties.

Back along the path, you pass by a large open paddock, which was clearly popular with spectators of the day, before you arrive at a T-intersection— this is the old track. The direction of travel was from right to left, with a short stroll around to the right revealing The Esses length of the climb.

Our suggestion is to walk up the Hillclimb to Arlunya Place and then back down to your car via the modern road network—descending The Wall is somehow worse than going up, especially if it is damp, with moss growing across the asphalt making things slick.

At the top of the hill, another short length of concrete appears to have been left from the original track.

Old race tracks are cool, and this is an absolute ripper – check it out before the bushland claims the last remnants.

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