AUSTRALIA'S Toughest Hill Climb.
That's what the sign says as you enter the two-day festival of Sunshine Coast motor sport where 130 wildly varied race-prepared cars tackle a punishingly twisty 1.5km course.
Tough yes, but highly addictive. Hence why you'll find the usual four-wheeled suspects in the picturesque Tewantin State Forest, returning each year with their thrill-seeking drivers to compete against the clock...and the conditions.
This was my third Noosa Hill Climb (two are held annually along the closed road bitumen Gyndier Dr course typically only used by cyclists and skateboarders the rest of the year) and the weather gods were not kind. The 14-corner climb is lined with concrete barriers, unforgiving steep, grassy banks or drops off the road into the forest. There really is scant margin for error here, and the weekend's on-off rain showers didn't help matters.
This year I'd shown my competing 1989 Peugeot 205 GTi a bit of love in its preparation, hoping to give it a competitive edge. It's all about improving your times up the hill year on year, and marginal gains are key. A set of new semi-slick tyres and some suspension fettling had been (very early) Christmas presents for my little racer, and I was expecting great things from the fragile Frenchie.
Arriving at a busy pit area on Saturday morning under threatening skies, the range of racers was typically brilliant.
A tiny 1938 Triumph Wolseley beside a giant 5.7-litre 1959 Watson Indy Roadster, a hugely valuable 1958 Porsche 356A, a 6.0-litre 1979 Jaguar XJS with a rear wing the size of a Fiat 500, numerous Nissan Skylines and Lotuses - even a brand new $100,000 BMW M2 on special racing tyres.
My Peugeot, as lovely as it is, looked as daunted as its driver. Even more so when the rain started in earnest.
The first cars to tackle the soggy surface were entrants in the Aussie Muscle Car Run, raising funds for the Leukaemia Foundation.
Traction was clearly in short supply as the V8 Holden Monaro, Ford Falcon GTs and Valiant Charger smoked their rear tyres on the start line. They may not have gotten away terribly fast but gave wheel-spinning treats to spectators.
Wet and wild
The rain got heavier by the time of my first run and word from other drivers suggested the road surface was akin to an ice rink. Having your car slide towards concrete barriers at speed is no fun at all, so it was tip-toe time for my first bash up the course.
A bit of sliding here and there had me on full alert, but already the fun factor was in overdrive. No speed limits, no oncoming traffic and this lovely stretch of road all to myself. It's a wonderful sensation.
All drivers had the chance to run five times on Saturday, with the track remaining wet or damp. Sunday morning started the same way and sadly a few cars came a cropper in the slippery conditions.
I spotted a few missing bumpers and a little Clubman without its front wheel or suspension.
As the track dried and the sun dared to pop out, my race times started dropping, as did everyone else's. Fastest of all was a 1992 Dallara Hayabusa single-seater, which rocketed up the hill in 53.07 seconds: the only car to go under one minute.
Closest behind was an all-wheel drive 1998 Subaru Impreza WRX at 60.13 seconds - a stunning effort for a tin top.
Grassroots motor sport
My humble little Peugeot eventually found a time of 73.08 seconds - enough for 79th overall out of 130, and a third place in class; scoring me a bronze medal certificate along with a post-race beer.
Beside the thrill of the race up the hill, mixing with like-minded grassroots motor sport fans is great fun, there's excellent camaraderie amongst the drivers and a wonderfully eclectic mix of race cars to enjoy.
The next event - The Hill Summer Challenge - is set for November 5-6 this year and promises to be another winner, thanks to the always excellent organisation by the Noosa Classic Car Club.
And for us competitors, hopefully it will be under sunny summer skies.
Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.