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April 26, 2021
For some, the idea of multiple SCCA Regions working together on one event would be too steep of a hill to climb.
Those of you nodding your heads at that sentence are about to groan at the pun, because the East Tennessee, Blue Ridge and Central Carolinas Regions have done just that, for an already-sold-out HillClimb at Pine Mountain Resort Park in Pineville, Kentucky, May 1 and 2.
It’s a unique arrangement, to be sure, but one that works for each of the Regions involved. East Tennessee hosts National-level autocross events and knows how to carry a big-event load; Blue Ridge is also an autocross region but has the Appalachian Mountains and some easily closed, curvy roads in their backyard, as well as a strong collection of HillClimb participants; and the Central Carolinas Region has HillClimb experience and a host of equipment to put on the event. The marriage is the perfect recipe of strengths.
“The East Tennessee Region has never hosted a HillClimb before,” Mark Pilson, past RE for the East Tennessee Region and current Region Secretary, said. “So after a brief discussion, we were in agreement this was something that would be great for the Club, the HillClimb community, and the Pineville, Kentucky area, but we would definitely need assistance with making this event successful.”
Hence the plan to get the other Regions involved.
“We’ve always had good relations with the Regions that are hopefully going to take this over,” Steve Eckerich, Central Carolinas Region RE said. “We just decided that it made sense to mentor them. We’ve done HillClimbs forever; quite frankly, we’re good at it. We know what it takes. The equipment and the infrastructure is the main thing. We’re bringing all of our radio equipment, backup timing equipment, you name it. Our goal is to provide another Region with the ability to hold an event. Every new HillClimb that we build brings more people into the sport, and at the end will help all of the events grow.”
But a good recipe is more than just a collection of ingredients, and the final piece of the puzzle is SCCA member Brad Gates, a member of the community group “Backroads of Appalachia.” Backroads of Appalachia is a 501(c)3 with a passion and empathy for the Appalachian region driving economic development, job training and opportunity to the poverty stricken areas of Appalachia through tourism and motorsports. In other words, they encourage people to come to a rural area and (safely, it should be noted) play around on some great scenic driving roads. Hopefully, while people are there, they spend some money in restaurants and at hotels.
Gates introduced the Regions to Erik Hubbard, the founder of the organization, to keep the ball rolling.
“I grew up in Eastern Kentucky,” Hubbard said. “The reason we formed Backroads of Appalachia to work with organizations like SCCA and other car groups is real simple: we have the perfect playground for any kind of motorsports.”
But more than that, his tourism work – whether through encouraging motorcycle groups to take rides, or actual sanctioned events – has given him the street cred to put on an event like this. And despite his “aw, shucks” demeaner, it definitely takes the trust of the state to host a HillClimb at a state park.
“I’ve earned the trust of the state throughout the years of tourism and what we do,” Hubbard said. “We’re having this in a state park, so it’s been sanctioned by the state of Kentucky. The state recognizes that SCCA is a professional organization and it will be done right. My job is to coordinate between them to make sure everything is communicated and understands that this is about tourism and economics.”
Located within a 500-mile range of a large majority of the United States, it really is prime real estate for events like the HillClimb, or other rally-type events.
But more than that, this event is a model for Regions to work cooperatively, both with each other and with their local communities. It’s a model that may cause some sacrifice in the short term, but some real long-term growth and gain.
“This kind of partnership is absolutely something that works for other types of events that SCCA puts on,” Pilson said. “While this might be a little unique with having so many regions and other groups involved in an event of this size, there is a lot of collaboration that goes on with national and even divisional events. The road race crowd does this same type of thing. They pull people from different regions to fill official positions and those events run well. Also, large events like the Solo National Championship and the Runoffs pull people together from all over the country which results in events that run very well due to having a large pool of people that are very good at what they do.”
The proof is in the pudding. The first attempt at this HillClimb, which also received noted support from the Pennsylvania HillClimb Association, is sold out. There is already talk of a 2022 event. And if all goes well, the HillClimb crowd will have plenty more places to play in the future.
Photo by Kristen Poole/SCCA Staff
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