A NOSTALGIC crowd sat perched on the slope of King Edward Park on Sunday to witness the end of an era for one of Newcastle’s great traditions.
The iconic Mattara Hill Climb, being held for the 58th and final time in the park overlooking the sea, attracted its biggest crowd in more than a decade. Among them were petrol heads, occasional fans and those who hadn’t been to the event in years.
But the sentiment among those gathered was pretty much the same. Disappointment and sadness that the storied hill climb would never be the same again.
The Newcastle Herald revealed in August that this year’s event would be the last in King Edward Park before Newcastle council reconfigures the park’s roads and racing-favoured bends as it continues to work on its ambitious Bather’s Way coastal walk project.
It’s a blow, but it’s progress, say the old revheads in Newcastle’s MG Car Club, which has organised the annual jaunt every October long weekend.
Newcastle MG Car Club publicity officer Peter Robinson said Sunday’s impressive turn-out could be credited to the event changing locations and the warm weather.
‘‘There were a lot of people talking, going past the pits and saying they were sad to see it gone,’’ Mr Robinson said. ‘‘It’s the biggest crowd I’ve seen in ages, a decade at least. ‘‘There had to of been five or six thousand up there.
‘‘People were telling us you couldn’t get a park for a kilometre or more away.’’
For the record, Sunday’s winner was Queenslander Dean Tighe who raced up the hill in 34.10 seconds. That mark was outside of the hill climb record of 32.9 seconds. The event will be held next year at a newly built course at Ringwood near Raymond Terrace.
The final day of the event will be held on Monday.